How to Not Only Survive, But Thrive

July 25, 2009, my husband decided he no longer wanted to be married, in a decision that came as a total shock to me. I had no warning! Yes, we were not in a good place in our marriage but never in a million years did I ever think I would ever be divorced. I didn’t even really believe in divorce. And then the plot thickened. Without boring you with all of the gory details, infidelity was involved and at the time, our daughter had just turned 4 a few days prior. Suddenly it hit me I was going to be a single parent with a part time income. How the hell was I going to pull this off? What would everyone think? I’m a failure!

V. YankowskiI will tell you my ex husband lived in my attic for the next 4 months, in what became the most difficult months of my life thus far. It was excruciating, as we were in the process of mediation for our divorce. I didn’t know any divorced people and many of my friends that I had prior to my marriage suddenly wanted nothing to do with me. I was too selfish and needy, and they discontinued our relationship when I needed them most. No one ever told me that would happen. With all of the insecurity I felt, the despair, the embarrassment and helplessness, I never thought my closest friends would abandon me when I needed them most. But they did. Yes, I obsessed over every little thing he said and did, all of the hurt and lies. Yes, I probably bored people repeating the same scenarios over and over, yes I cried often, but I never did the “why me” game. I knew I was tougher and this was a temporary glitch but I would not only survive, but thrive.

The process was one that took almost 2 years of hell to complete. If you’ve been through divorce, you can imagine the arguments, legal battles, name calling, manipulative tactics etc that I went through. It was awful and many days left me dry heaving in my bathroom. I used Facebook as a outlet to gain support and what I found was such great support from women and men I never met before, when my friends of 20 years abandoned our friendship. Even in the worst of times (and there were gazillions), I tried to remain as positive as humanly possible. I knew my success would be the best revenge, if you will, and if he wanted to destroy me, (emotionally and financially) I wasn’t going to let that happen. I vowed to come back better than ever. And guess what, I did!

V. YankowskiSo how did I not get sucked into the victim role? It was mind over matter. I literally made the decision not to. The situation happened, I couldn’t change it, so I had to accept it and make the best of the cards I was dealt, no matter how unfair they were. (and to me they were gravely unfair) I had to take my part-time income and figure out how it would become full time to support my daughter, I had to figure out how to pay my bills and survive and I had to figure out how to get my confidence back after being beaten down. I believe many of my Facebook friends who have watched me go through that would tell you they were amazed at my strength. Honestly, sometimes it shocks me too. I had to find new friends who were single and could relate to my new lifestyle, I sank money I didn’t have into business coaching to help my photography business take off, I became a hard core networker, meeting and connecting people and eventually running my own networking group for 4 years, and I eventually started dating again. And I had to do this with a young daughter, devastated her mom and dad we no longer together, often working many nights and weekends, relying on  family and friends to watch her just so I could make ends meet.

V. YankowskiSo, why do I share this with you? If I can survive, I believe you can, too. I read a lot during that time two books changed my life:  The Secret and Think and Grow Rich. I realized that during my marriage I had become consumed with negativity and it kept dominating my married life. We became the running joke with our friends because the things that kept happening to us, no one would believe could actually happen. I got sucked into the blame everyone but ourselves game. But I was forced to look at my life after reading The Secret and I realized we were so toxic as a couple we brought all of that bad energy to us. We had no chance! So I changed. And when I tell you I changed immediately, it was immediate. I was skeptical, but I was desperate so I tried it out. I reconnected with my faith and learned how to put positive intentions to the universe. And guess what? It totally worked. Instead of bashing my ex, cussing at him and hating him (which honestly was easy to do) I didn’t do it. To this day I don’t hate him or anyone else. Hate is negative and I don’t want to be bothered or consumed with negative energy. I believe in Karma, whether it’s in this life or the next. I know I’m a good, honest person and I deserve all good things that come my way. I would finally allow myself to be worthy of all of the good things that came my way, and stop feeling guilty if they did. I developed faith that all would work out as it should, even in the darkest times when I didn’t know how. And they do! And here I am, almost 6 years after my ex husband left and I am preparing to marry the man of my dreams. It took me over 4 years, many awful dates and several failed relationships to find him, but when he was presented to me I knew all of the heartache was worth it.

What did I learn? No one wants to be associated with a victim. Choose to not only survive, but thrive. When faced with the most horrible circumstance, handle it with love, dignity and grace instead of anger and hatred and know you are in good hands. Know you are worth all good things and when you open yourself to receive the blessings, you will then see how blessed you were all along.

Veronica Yankowski

Veronica L. Yankowski is an award-winning celebrity photographer, author and photography educator. During her extensive career she has had the privilege of working with many celebrity clients such as Dina Manzo from The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Signy Coleman from The Young and the Restless, Darryl McDaniels of Run DMC, Jon Bon Jovi, and many others . Her photographs have graced the covers of magazines and last summer her boudoir photography was featured in Cosmopolitan Magazine.

Veronica is an accomplished author and her first book "Dialogue 3" was published in 2002 and showcases her photographs of people and places and the tragedy of 911. She is currently a continuing education photography teacher at Brookdale Community College instructing courses from beginner DSLR to more advanced portraiture courses and also hosts workshops around the state to amateur and hobbyist photographers.

She has been interviewed on several radio talk shows, featured on blogs and her work has been on several reality TV shows such as TLC's Four Weddings, Bravo's Cake Boss, HGTV's Dina's Party and The Real Housewives of NJ.

Veronica is currently speaking in the tri-state area on photography and how women can build their confidence in photographs. She instructs women how to pose better, and sell their brand with a perfect head shot.

Since beginning her professional career in 1996 as a photojournalist, Veronica has won many awards for her portraiture work. She worked for some of the top media outlets in the tri-state area such as The Star Ledger, The New York Times and the Associated Press.