One of the most renowned pieces of sculpture in the world is Michelangelo’s statue of David. Supposedly, when Michelangelo was asked how he created the magnificent statue David from a block of stone, he replied that he did not create David from the stone; rather he saw David in the stone and merely chipped away at the unneeded pieces until David emerged. Human beings are like that. Underneath all the things we were taught to feel and think about ourselves, our relationships and the world lies our authentic true self.

      When coming out of an unhappy marriage, many women feel as if they have lost themselves. They felt entombed in the roles of the family mores and the larger, societal culture. After years of acquiescence and trying to bring harmony to the marriage, many feel as if they have lost themselves. Having put the needs of others first for so long, they are amazed to find they do not feel connected with themselves. When I ask, “What do you like to do?” many women report that they simply do not know. It has been so long since they had the opportunity to attend to themselves, their wishes and desires that they stopped listening to their own emotions.

      Start listening again. Like Michelangelo chipping away at the stone that encased David, you must chip away at those things which keep you trapped. Criticism, negativity, fear, and abuses of all kinds are what entomb us and prohibit us from being our beautiful, free, authentic selves. Divorce can be the chisel to chip away at those unwanted pieces that impede our growth and joy. The process of  breaking up is difficult and painful but it can be the opportunity to free you from the stone. The lessons learned in the demise of a marriage can provide you with answers to questions that keep you stuck; it can strengthen your voice; it can free you to be yourself.

      Like the freeing of David, this does not happen overnight. It takes patience, dedication, attention to the task and focus. Michelangelo’s determination and vision were what freed David, along with his absolute belief that he could make it happen as he envisioned.

 Today I will acknowledge that this process is difficult. But like Michelangelo, I will stay focused on the absolute belief that I am hidden underneath all this weighty excess of guilt, self-doubt, and fear. Little by little, I will work to chip away at those unwanted pieces. I will close my eyes and affirm that I am becoming the woman I want to be— the woman I have always been.

The above essay was originally published in my book From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce, but the metaphor can be easily applied to other areas of our life as well. For example, addictions, family of origin conflicts, secrets and body image obsessions can also keep us entombed and disconnected from our authentic selves- What has kept you trapped and what is the chisel that can free or has freed you?

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  1. Annie on the 28. Feb, 2010 remarked #

    It’s funny how you think you know “who you are”, until you realize, you were “what all others wanted you to be”. Between family views, being a wife (care-giver), a daughter, a friend. a niece, a good employee, etc…I have found a person wear so many hats. But, which hat is the right one for you? Personally, I don’t like hats. After my divorce, I found I didn’t know who I was. I had too many labels and hats that were stripped away. I was left with no self, no self worth. I turned 40, 3 1/2 years ago, and realized I did not know who I am. I am taking my 40 decade and working on discovering me. I’m still chipping away at the stone of hats and labels that has locked up “myself”. It’s a long process, I have only made inches into the layers of my discoveries. I think you spend your life time chipping away those layers, so enough each discovery you find.

  2. Cindy on the 28. Feb, 2010 remarked #

    I am currently working with a therapist whom is treating me for PTSS. I am reading a book written by Terry Cole-Whittaker. “What You Think Of Me Is None Of My Business”. I am finding it helpful as I explore who I really am.

    Thank You for sending this reminder to me.
    Forever grateful,

  3. Nicola - Divorce Coach on the 28. Feb, 2010 remarked #

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Divorce can be the start of a complete change for many people and the chipping away of layers of accumulated toppings is a freeing experience.

  4. kathleen on the 28. Feb, 2010 remarked #

    I love your metaphor. Isn’t it a miracle that as we age we become wise enough to know that it is our true self that finally emerges after letting go of everything we do to impress others or to fit in! I love getting older!

  5. Danna Dyer on the 28. Feb, 2010 remarked #

    Discovering or rediscovering your true essence is not necessarily triggered by divorce or solved by aging. It is a chipping away of layers, and it may take a lifetime. Some authors and therapists suggest thinking back to when you were 10. What were your loves and dreams then? Are they still a part of you? It is crucial to try new activities and experiences. Try group activities through MeetUp.com.It’s acceptable to have “an okay time” while exploring possibilities. Chip away and enjoy each new surface.

  6. cj golden on the 01. Mar, 2010 remarked #

    In my work with women and girls,I share my personal philosophy which combines the ancient Chinese philosophy of the Tao with some “kick-butt” defiance (defying stereotypes and negativity). It is the Taoist part of this philosophy that tells us of p’u’ – the uncarved block, a piece of wood or stone which had never been worked and was therefore true to its own nature.
    What Michaelangelo was saying about his work, and what you are showing us, Donna, is that we need to be that “uncarved block”. We must strip away all that has cluttered our true selves: our labels, our preconceived notions about ourselves. When we go back to the uncarved block state of being, then we can uncover the true essence of our beings. And live our lives as the people we are meant to be.

  7. MG on the 07. Mar, 2010 remarked #

    Cindy, I love that title. What divorce taught me was that other people are more than willing to help. Growing up, I learned that it is anathema to accept help, and to never ask for it. That so many people automatically offered it changed my life. It was a humbling experience that taught me to be grateful.

  8. nike mercurial on the 16. Jan, 2011 remarked #

    This really answered my downside, thanks!

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