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The theme of this month’s magazine is “brrrr.” As I sit in the quiet of my living room to write this piece, my mind shifts to the coldest times of my life. I think of the ice storm from a few years back when I lost power for two weeks, or a Thanksgiving snowstorm when I was a child in Troy and the snow was taller than the mailbox, or winters in Oswego during college when the wind whipped so hard off the lake that you were sure it would peel your skin. But if we’re being honest, the coldest time in most people’s lives has nothing to do with weather. It comes during a divorce.
I wish I could tell you I know nothing about the subject but that wouldn’t be true. Sadly, I’ve been down this road and I know from experience every pothole, dark corner and mistake a wounded or well-intentioned person can make. I’ve seen good people behave badly because they are hurt or angry, not realizing at the moment that there is almost always collateral damage to those they love, especially children.
My mom was fond of saying you can’t put an old head on young shoulders—meaning the wisdom that comes with age and experience can’t be transferred to someone else to help them deal with a difficult time—but you can offer advice with the hope it will help soften the path. Here’s what I know.
First and foremost, don’t forget who you are. Your heart, your values. There is good in you that will want to be overshadowed by this temporary bad. Don’t let it. No matter how much you think you’ve been wronged, it is important you don’t let the anger infect you like virus and turn you into someone you wouldn’t be proud to be. I won’t say “just forgive and move on” because that’s impossible for most (at least initially), but make decisions that are best for you and the children, not the ones that will inflict the most damage on the person you’re angry with.
Hire a good lawyer and talk to your friends but never forget this is your life and these are your decisions. Most lawyers are honorable but there are a few out there who know the more animosity between you and your ex, the more billable hours they’ll see. Hire wisely. And crying on a friend’s shoulder is fine but don’t go public with your torment. Most of the people on your Facebook page are not really your friends and many will secretly enjoy watching your misery while writing on your page for all to see how sorry they are for you.
Once the battle is done, cut your enemy some slack. There are people who want to take an ex to court because he/she is 15 minutes late dropping a child off or a day late paying a medical bill. Even if you are right, it isn’t a license to be vindictive. Trust me, you’ll have more love in your life if you spend less time hating and trying to figure out ways to hurt your ex.
Don’t divorce everyone. You’re ex’s parents and siblings had little or nothing to do with this, so don’t punish them out of spite. If grandpa and grandma want to take your child for ice cream, you don’t need to consult the divorce papers to see whose weekend it is for visitation. This isn’t prison; it’s family that loves your child and maintaining those relationships only betters your little one emotionally.
Lastly, grieve, pray, go to Vegas with your friends and do unspeakable things, if that’s what works for you, but then get on with your life. You only get one spin on this big blue marble we call Earth and no matter how badly you were wronged in your mind, at some point, you have to put it in the rearview mirror and focus on what’s ahead. Trust me, if you ever want to love again, no one of worth will want to be with you if your soul is filled with bile from a past relationship.
It’s the darkest time in your life, next to losing someone you love to death, so grieve but don’t let it define you. Don’t let the darkness leave a stain on you that you can’t wash away. And eventually when the ink is dry and the pretend-friends have long moved on to the next train wreck to ogle over, forgive. That includes you.
I hate to leave things on such a dour note, so let me share a joke. Do you know why Adam and Eve had the perfect marriage? Because he didn’t have to hear from her about all the other guys she could have married and she didn’t have to hear how great his mother’s cooking was compared to hers. Give anyone you love an extra tight squeeze and have a wonderful November.
John Gray is weekly columnist for the Troy Record and the Saratogian newspapers and news anchor at ABC 10 and FOX 23. He can be reached at johngray@fox23news.com.

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