I recently listened to a podcast with Laura Munson, author of This Isn't the Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness.
Munson's husband came to her one day with words that hit her like a sucker punch. "I'm not in love with you. I'm not sure I ever was." He told her he was leaving the family.
She refused to let him. She didn't rage or beg, scream or cry; she simply said no. There was no other woman but her husband was dealing with the failure of his role as breadwinner. She insisted on a "responsible separation", guided by rules that would protect the children but allow him the space to figure out his crisis.
But one thing she said really resonated. It's the difference, she says, between want and create. Want, she points out, is about reaching for something outside ourselves. It's dis-empowering. Create, on the other hand, is about holding on to the power to determine what they can control and letting go of what they can't.
Munson took some flak from readers who considered her a doormat, believing that her husband was having an affair – and that she was giving him free rein to continue.
But, says Munson, quite the contrary. Instead of fighting for something outside of her control, she took care of herself and her kids the best she could. She created as much happiness as she could apart from her husband's behaviour.
It wasn't easy.
She also experienced a frightening experience falling out of a raft in a Class 3 rapid on her 42nd birthday. Her choice? To completely surrender. "I was supposed to be scared but I didn't feel fear."
She needed, she says, to be her own safety, her own support.
The result, she says, is that she felt so much more powerful.
She had her moments of breakdown, crying frequently in the woods outside her Montana home.
The single most powerful question I know is "what can I create?"
It's nothing grand.
It's possible to create space for yourself by saying 'no' to obligations. Or create joy for yourself by playing with your child or your pet. Or create peace for yourself by taking time to exercise or meditate. Or create community for yourself by reaching out to a good friend.
Whatever it is, give it to yourself. Don't want it -- which puts the power in others' hands (we want love, we want support, we want designer shoes...). Create it.
For nobody else but yourself.