The list by Diane McKay

I remember the day so clearly. My BFF, my “sista from another Mister” arrived at my house in a huff. I opened the front door for her and she headed straight for the kitchen. She pulled up a chair for me and ordered me: “sit down and listen”. She proceeded to pour me a glass of wine and warm up some leftovers. She was efficient and bossy all at once.

“Ok, I’ve watched as you’ve gone from curvaceous to pre teen. I’ve watched your sad eyes and I’ve missed your infectious laughter. I’ve watched as you rage and spew hatred and bitterness at your very-deserving ex husband. I’ve watched as you hinged your happiness on the hopeful failure of his extra-marital relationship. I’ve watched as you obsess about ten ways to kill the mistress. I’ve watched as you long for time out from your children but then pine when they are away. I’ve seen this all and all I want is to see your smile, to hear you laugh again. This suffering, sadness, pity party and raging tantrum has to stop. Please. Now”

At this point I was quite ready to show her the door. Lucky for her, she is rather bossy and for her to leave was not on her agenda. She quickly produced a pad of paper and a pen. She basically bossed me into listing every issue I had in the left column of a table she had drawn. In her brilliance, she had come up with a table with three columns. They read:
1. What’s your issue?
2. Do you have control over this?
3. How are you going to fix / change this?

It took me about two hours to complete the table. Once I had written out where my fears and problems lay, it was easier to take a step back. At this point, most of my day was consumed with plotting how to foil my ex’s relationship with his mistress – I was literally obsessed. In column two of this particular issue, I marked “no”. The next step, which was not so easy, was to make a conscious decision that if I had no control over a situation, I was not allowed to obsess about it.

What was so interesting is that there were so many thoughts and fears that consumed me yet I had no control over their outcome. I realised that I was dedicating so much energy to problems that I had no control over. My bossy BFF made me pinkie swear that if I caught myself obsessing about anything that was beyond my control, I would snap myself into reality and literally change the subject.

The empowering part of the list was that I also landed up with a plan for the things that I could control. I could eat three meals a day to avoid starving myself to death. I could make arrangements with friends to avoid loneliness. I could make sure I saw my therapist regularly to assist me with processing grief and anger. I could call on my support system to help me with my kids when I needed time out.

So…..that list didn’t change things in an instant, but it allowed me to analyze what was going on and to act almost as an observer of my own life. The list created some distance for me between myself and my situation and it made me feel as if I had direction and a plan. Whenever I felt myself slipping, I would revisit my list and force myself to refocus.

I would highly recommend this to anyone going through a divorce and you could do this at any stage of your process. A big shout out goes to my bossy BFF – thanks for pushing me to make my list!


  1. munjoo ganesh

    Unfortunately it seems as if u ar relying my life story. I dont hav a suppory system in place but started divorce proceedings this December.

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