My thoughts travel not so much to should-have-could-have-would-have regretful reflection but one of pondering accomplishments achieved, challenges overcome, and opportunities that lie ahead. In many ways, 2014 was a long and difficult year for me and there are still challenges ahead in 2015. Nevertheless, as I approach another fork in my journey of life, I can honestly say I am looking forward with eager anticipation to choosing which way I now need to go, and I am excited at the prospect of new adventures that await me.
I have been reading others’ thoughts on beginning the new year. One blogger invited us all to think of a word for 2015. Another blogger went further than 2015 and invited readers to look inside their ‘destiny’ box to view their future. That made me think of three things – the place I am currently at with the darkness now behind me, my aims for 2015, and my future destiny. In each of those places, I thought of light.
These are my hopes and dreams for me for now, for this coming year and for my future –
I see the light.
I feel the light.
I am the light.
In regard to the marital property settlement I have recently passed through some major hurdles and have almost got the whole settlement across the line. The feeling I have is that I have been lost and alone in this thick dark gloomy impenetrable forest which I have spent three years trying to hack through, seemingly getting nowhere. Then I decided to go a different route, trudging uphill through an area of dense brambles, enduring much pain and suffering to go that way, but by that route I have slowly been edging forward. At last I have come to a clearing. Even though there is still a little way to go, I can at least now see the path ahead. The way to go is easy walking for me now and, just a little bit further down at the end of the road, I can see some light.
I am almost there.
When my father had his stroke and was admitted to intensive care, I went to pieces. My sister and I arrived at the hospital to be of support to my mother, but I was useless. I could only stay by my father’s side for ten minutes at a time. I did not know of anything that I could do for my father, who was in a coma. I did not have any words of support for my mother. I was of no comfort to her. I would sit by my father’s bed for those few minutes at a time, then I would go out into the corridor and cry and cry and cry. On the second day, I offered to stay at home to be of support to my younger brothers, rather than go to the hospital again. Seeing my father in a coma tore my heart out. I was not strong enough to be there for him and watch him go. I was not strong enough for my mother. I was nineteen years old.
My sister, on the other hand, stayed with my mother. She was there with my mother when my father passed away.
So, when was it I became the strong one?
Was it being there with my husband when my father-in-law passed away?
Was it being there alone for 24 hours with my mother-in-law after her admission to hospital, until my husband and his siblings arrived from inter-state?
Was it holding my children close, firmly, and calmly through blood tests and injections, knowing that my firm hold on them prevented more pain by my stopping them jerking?
Was it getting the diagnosis of cancer in my son and being able to bravely smile at him and say ‘you will be all right, it will be all right’, not knowing whether I was telling the truth?
Was it fronting doctors and teachers, calmly demanding the right medical treatments and the correct educational programmes for my children, time after time after time?
Was it persevering for justice through an unfair litigation process?
Was it standing up for my beliefs at an Annual General Meeting of a billion dollar company and asking embarrassing yet legitimate questions of the CEO?
Was it surviving abandonment and betrayal?
Was it eight weeks ago when I fast-tracked grief so that I came to a place of acceptance?
Was it through those tough times that I became strong?
Or did I become strong, watching my mother?
Was it watching my strong, patient mother care for her own mother and siblings through illnesses, catastrophes and crises?
Was it watching her bringing my two younger brothers up alone, after my father died?
Was it watching her remain calm and positive through every situation?
Was it sensing her helping me calmly through my own adversities?
Was it then that I became strong?
Was it her shining light that was guiding me?
Was it her reflecting enough light in my path for me to see clearly my road ahead?
Now, with her light fading, what now for me and the road ahead?
What now for the gathering darkness?
I know that it is me who needs to become that light in the darkness.
I know that in this difficult period, it is me who must be the strong one.
It is me who must be the strong one for my mother, and for my siblings.
It is me who must remain the calm, steadying force.
Because it was in all those tough times, it was in all those times that I thought were my very worst times, it was in those times that I was actually becoming my best.
And I was becoming my best for the one who taught me the most – my mother.
After a loss there is a period of grief and then, as described by experts, “acceptance” of the loss and moving on. In regards to the ending of a long marriage, I do not think that it is that simple as I believe the supposed ‘grief’ period is just the first stage of several difficult stages on a journey to a completely different life. These are the stages I went through:
Caught up in the sudden and distressing way that it happened, for a long time I was caught in a single moment in time of “when my husband left me”. My whole life was defined by that moment in time. In my life before that moment I had security and trust, and I felt happy. In my life ahead I saw chaos and trauma, and I felt fear. It was too painful to think about my losses, about my life that I had lost, so I didn’t. I could not face my scary future, about my life alone, so I didn’t. My life became the suffering of that single moment in time. So horrific were the effects on me that day, that I had flashbacks to that moment, little triggers that took me back there. In those flashbacks, once again I would hear the horrific words, and I would feel the distress and the pain of abandonment, betrayal and lost love. I was the victim of that moment in time - the moment when my husband left me.
I moved on
I became the survivor of “the ending of my marriage”.
I coped. I tolerated the grief process and I mourned the loss of my marriage. I accepted that it had happened. I survived every hour of every day. I watched the sunrise. I went for daily walks. I paid gratitude for everything good in my life. I learned to live alone.
I was no longer caught in that moment in time.
I became the survivor of that event – the event of the ending of my marriage.
I moved on.
I discovered the truth. I discovered me. I realized this was “my new beginnings”.
I learned how to be grateful for me, myself, and I.
I looked back and saw that that day had been the beginning of a journey, a journey of discovery to the new me. I began to realize that the ending of my marriage gave me the opportunity to reform myself and to do the things in life that I had always wanted to do.
I began to make choices – my choices – of how I wanted to live.
I began to live by my truth, and I realized that my truth had begun the day my husband left me, when my marriage ended.
I moved on.
My life began to be what I made it on this day in the present, at this moment in time.
I found joy in the moments of today, with no sadness of the past, with no fear for the future.
I began to look forward to the times ahead. I began to dream again. I gave myself permission to envision my future as productive, meaningful and filled with joy.
I began to look back with happiness and pride in my achievements in my long marriage.
I stopped being trapped within that moment in time when my husband left me.
I stopped defining myself by the end of my marriage, or by my marital status.
I stopped thinking that I began anew that day as I began to realize that I had been me all of my life, and I had been discovering me all of my life. I resolved to continue to transform myself into who I want to become, this day, every day.
I look forward with eagerness to transforming myself into an admirable person and making my life a wonderful life.
Having lost my father suddenly forty years ago, with no time to say good-bye, I am grateful for having this time to share with my mother; this last phase of her life. I am grateful that we still have time to say to each other all the things that we want to say, and to have the opportunity of sharing with her in the celebration of her life.
After my husband left me, I could not bear to think about the past because thinking about it caused me so much grief. It was thinking about the previous happy times that filled me with so much sadness; those happy times of my children as babies and young children and their care-free days growing up in our forested river valley. My now-grown children could not understand why that was, why I looked back on happy times with sadness, why I would cry over something that was clearly dear to them. They would try and convince me that those happy memories should remain happy. I could not see them that way and I spent many many months in deep pain grieving my loss of happier times. One by one I grieved for them, then painstakingly put those memories aside, thinking of them as something that I had to put them behind me forever. I then went through a process of stashing away any reminder – photos and memorabilia – as I tried to get on with my life.
More recently, when I have been staying with and caring for my mother, I have had more contact with my siblings and we have shared reminiscing sessions together. Out have come all the family photos and, at those times, the stories would begin. We have sat for hours telling the stories of us as children and the happy times that we have shared. This was the same in my world of growing up. I have fond memories of such gatherings with aunts, uncles, cousins; the extended family getting together and sharing happy memories. In the sadness of my mother’s illness, we found this time of joy in the here and now, remembering the happy times of the past. In doing so we were creating joyful times in the present, interacting and being together remembering the happy childhoods that we had.
When I returned from one of my visits to my mother, I looked around when I entered my home. On the walls were pictures of places and momentos of various trips with my husband. Those experiential activities now meant nothing to me. In one of those rare moments of me acting on impulse, I took them all down. Then I spent the next day delving into my boxes of photographs, dashing into town to buy photo-frames, and putting up precious memories of my past all around my home.
I divided my walls in my entry, hallway, and living room into sections. In one section I put up photos of my children up to the ages of eighteen; and in another section them as adults. I made a section for myself and siblings growing up and of their families, my niece and nephews, and grand-nieces. My grand-children were given a special place of their own. Lastly, I made a place for my parents in their youth and their parents and grandparents.
When my two youngest children came to visit a few days later they made a joke of mother going just a little bit overboard with photos everywhere that the eye could see. Yet they smiled with joy at my change of heart as they looked intently at the now-allowed happy times on view. They began talking about memories that were triggered and spoke about how much fun they had growing up. We have two favourite photos. One is a photo of my third son, who as a three-year-old had a love of carrots. The photo has him at my brother-in-law’s place pulling a huge carrot from the ground beaming with joy at his carrot and his great discovery that carrots came from the ground. His joy had been captured forever. Another favourite is a photo of the back view of the four children – aged three to eleven at the time – walking hand-in-hand down the ramp at the supermarket.
We sat down that evening and spent the night reminiscing about happy times.
In amongst anxious days at a crucial stage of the marital settlement, and with my background concern at my mother’s failing health; I found joy in remembering previous happy times and shared that joy with my two youngest children.