My need for people – to receive and give back

ID-10021833.jscreationzsIn the early months after the collapse of my marriage, I felt disconnected from all those people I had previously known.

Then I read about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Some parts of his theory made a lot of sense, that our needs develop one step at a time, beginning with basics (food, warmth, shelter); then stability (safety, routine); before moving to higher needs … connections with people, self-esteem, and self-actualization. I am not an expert in psychology but I do know that after a crisis working ‘up the scale’ had always been a powerful tool of recovery for me, (with an understanding that after divorce the “crisis” may last several years with no end-point to the requirement for stability and a feeling of protection!) …

HOWEVER

What I didn’t and don’t understand about this theory is how “connections” appear in the middle layer, something to move up to. Whenever I have faced a crisis of any kind, I have always felt that I have needed people as much as, if not even more than, when feeling ‘normal’. This has been especially true after a separation such as a death or my divorce because it was the loss of that connection (due to the loss of that person who has died or left, or loss of associations with that person) that was at the very root of the crisis in the first place.

After and during my divorce process, there were losses of many connections or sense of connection for me.

  • My partner, companion and confidante.
  • My nuclear family.
  • My extended husband’s extended family.
  • The circle of friends that had been ‘ours’.
  • The community groups that we had jointly belonged to.
  • The loss of sharing management of the business.
  • In selling the business, the loss of belonging to my work ‘tribe’.
  • In selling the business, there was also a sense of loss of me contributing to society. Many people going through retirement experience this same sense of loss.
  • Feeling disconnected from others, who have not faced the same financial pressures
  • On retirement, feeling disconnected from friends and family of the same age who can now move into their next phase of life together.

Some of these ‘disconnections’ happened immediately, while others dissolved further on in the separation process. In some the connection remained but with a need to redevelop that connection in new ways, such as redefining the concept of ‘family’. So a year ago at the ending of the marital settlement, four years after separation, everyone said ‘now it is all over for you’, whereas in reality the changes to my life had only just begun. For the first time in my life I was truly alone –  practically, financially, legally, emotionally, and socially.

Yet, throughout all this separation process, I have moved up and on. I believe this was what was happening to me. While I did move up a hierarchy of needs after my crisis, concurrently with that, I also moved up a hierarchy of a need for people. This moved from needing comfort from them, to standing alone, meeting them as equals, to giving back.

This is my hierarchy of needs for people –

  1. Protection. In the beginning I needed people to comfort me, protect me, advise me.
  2. Aloneness. I then had to reconnect with myself. This was important, to stand alone.
  3. Partnerships. I formed deep connections with close friends and family, one on one. They were initially replacement confidantes and support – for that lost marital ‘partnership’. In time, those people began to lean on me for my support of them. I became strong for them in their own hours of need.
  4. Herds. I have formed like-minded groups of small numbers of people. I re-formed my connections with my nuclear family, my siblings, work colleagues and small groups of close friends. These groups have become mutually beneficial to us all. I have both received and contributed as friend, sister, mother, daughter, grandmother.
  5. Tribe. I have reconnected with my large extended family of cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews. I have formed connections in my blogging world. I belong.

Three levels of hierarchy that I previously had that are still lost and yet remain as a burning need within me. These are a contribution to –

  1. Community.
  2. Society.
  3. Global needs

This has become my new sense of purpose and goals – to use my voice on speaking out for a world of peace, a safe environment for future generations and universal health for all.

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I am back (again)!

ID-1004416(1).frederico.StevaninHello all.

I have returned from a road trip to NSW visiting many friends and relatives, as well as my main project of sorting through my mother’s unit. I have been away nearly three months and, while I had visions of writing a lot while away, I became so busy the blog posts just didn’t happen. I became engrossed in living life and as such … there simply wasn’t time.

I stayed at Mum’s unit most of the time and re-connected with those in her neighbourhood and community, as well as getting myself into a fairly healthy routine of a morning walk of about an hour and another half hour walk each afternoon.

I had a nostalgic transportation back in time. All aspects of my life became intermingled as I sorted through Mum’s things, and I explored my old neighbourhood. I rediscovered my grandparents through their letters and photos. I lived in a bygone era as I read my mother’s diaries of the war and depression – a time that I had never lived in and my mother had kept alive – an era that had died with her death which became alive again as I sorted through her things. I relived my childhood and my teenage years each day walking the length and breadth of my old childhood town. I spent valuable time with my siblings, some cousins and close friends.

Most importantly, however, I had a break from the “restructuring” of my life, that has been ongoing for the past four and a half years. I spent 10 weeks staying still, living for the day, and drinking in those small moments of contentment each and every day. For 10 weeks I put aside the practicalities of my own life changes ahead and simply was … me.

I had a fantastic time.

I hope to catch up with you all over the coming weeks.

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My H.E.A.L.T.H. plan – H is for Habits

ID-100137301.rakratchada.torsapIn my H.E.A.L.T.H.plan, H = Health Habits encompass all the other targets of keeping myself Headstrong (mindful), Eating right, remaining Active, adapting my Lifestyle, and keeping myself on Track. It became easier when all these became Habits. This is the hardest step in the whole process as it meant forming healthy rituals, sometimes against a prevailing wind of less-healthy rituals that only serve to drag me down.

The Foundations

Many of my winning habits have involved getting the food issues correct. I have done this from a very early age by giving up confectionery and chocolate at the age of twelve, switching from frying foods to grilling foods after my father had a heart attack when I was 15, cutting out deep fried foods and high fat foods in my early twenties, and cutting out most added fats and refined foods in my thirties.

The Crumbling Walls

In the busy years of caring for young children, working almost full-time, maintaining the house and managing the business, everything took priority over me and my health. The flimsy walls laid on top of what could be regarded as strong foundations began to crumble. This happened ever-so-slowly resulting in a gradual weight gain of about 1 kilogram (two pounds) every three years. That is not very much and indeed almost unnoticeable but over forty years it added up.

On reaching that point, of being unhappy with my weight, I began blaming myself and thinking there must be some food I was eating that was ‘bad’ (there wasn’t) and should be avoided. I will make a point here that I do feel excess fats, sugars and refined foods can contribute to weight gain. However, in my case, I wasn’t eating many of those because of the strong foundations I had laid. That wasn’t the problem. Nevertheless, because of all those diet-scare books and blogs proclaiming on one hand that all poultry, eggs and fish should be avoided (vegan diets) or all potatoes, pasta and bread should be avoided (low-carb diets), I found myself in this culture of a sacrificial approach to weight control. Any attempt by ‘dieting’ made me miserable (giving up foods I enjoy), guilty (if I broke the diet) or stupid (if I regained weight) which simply fueled me feeling bad about myself.

Rebuilding

Like an epiphany in January 2015, instead of focussing on avoidance I began thinking about what I was doing right (the strong foundations) and what had led me to sometimes eat more than I should or eat in an unhealthful way or not move as much as I could.

It comes down to four basic reasons –

  • comfort (using food when I was feeling distressed, depressed or anxious)
  • convenience (grabbing something quickly rather than taking my time to prepare a balanced healthy meal)
  • celebrations (being sucked into the cultural shift of a need to celebrate four times a week, 52 weeks a year)
  • culinary delights (dining in style – with all the trimmings – four times a day).

It took much self-therapy to get over the distress of my marital break-up before I stopped turning to food as a comfort and taking the time to get back into the routine of having healthy foods and regular exercise. These are not to be understated as important contributory factors of taking me back to the road of good health. It is, however, the last two reasons that are for me the deal-breaker. Celebrations and culinary delights.

Traditions have slipped into our culture that I incorporated in my own lifestyle that did not serve me well – daily cafe lattes, regular meals out (where the meals tended to be higher in fat, sugar and alcohol), any excuse to celebrate, and indulging in culinary delights every day of the year. Some foods and meal-types I had been having regularly over the past two decades were in my younger days special treats for me indulged only about four times a year. It wasn’t that any of these foods or meals or celebrations were “bad” or needed to be avoided … it was just that they had become too frequent.

Nevertheless, wanting to remain healthy and see my grand-children grow up has been a major driving force for me to form new habits to counteract this societal pressure to celebrate four times a day 365 days a year. It has not been easy (yet thoroughly worthwhile) to develop the habit of a hierarchy of indulgences. There is much merit in same-old basic foods every day, saving some special foods to have with my social contacts twice weekly (for me, cafe lattes and / or alcohol), and reserve meals with “all the trimmings” only for tribal celebrations once or twice a month. 

I believe this has been the main reason for success of my H.E.A.L.T.H.plan that I am winning and yet incorporating my social encounters into my plan and thoroughly enjoying those times.

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Does grief really have stages and if you work through them are you over it?

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When my marriage collapsed and dark emotions ran rampant, it was a comfort to me to learn that I was in a state of shock and grieving, similar to what one goes through after someone has died. The intense feelings I had were a normal part of grief with its supposed stages of shock, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance. It helped me to know that I would pass through those stages. In fact, I made an aim to accelerate through quickly. I felt that if I got to the last stage – that of ‘acceptance’ – then the pain would go away.

How wrong I was.

I wrote a lot about those stages. I felt that I did progress through them but I never did reach a state of ‘acceptance’, where I felt that what happened had to happen. I did eventually ‘acknowledge’ that it had happened which was a turning point of sorts, understanding that my marriage belonged to a past world. In reaching that point however, of acknowledging my past life was gone, the pain did not simply go away. In many ways I had simply reached a beginning point, of learning to make my way in my changed world, with a new today, and a different future. The intense grief I had experienced was just the beginning of more pain for me.

Apart from my marriage there were other losses I mourned in the grief process such as the loss of my intact family and the loss of my financial security. Even now – over four years later and well over that grieving process – it is the here and now that is difficult, being a single mother and grandmother, and trying to make it financially with a bruised asset base. It is the practicalities of keeping on going another day, in another way.

In my case the stage theory seemed to work because I kept pushing myself to get through the stages. However, I can see now that it could have been a draw-back if I had thought any ‘stage’ (sadness for example) would magically pass and I would simply move onto the next stage. It didn’t happen like that for me. In fact I was so scared that I could become ‘stuck’ in a stage if I did not work to get through it, that I continually took steps to deal with the feelings I experienced, and learned to acknowledge my changed world of today. I do not know whether it really helped me doing that … or whether I would have simply passed through those stages regardless … or even whether I could have got through less painfully if I had simply let them happen, rather than trying to wish them away.

Another draw-back of the stage theory is that the stages can return again and again (although often with less intensity each time). By that I mean that I would seemingly get over an intense feeling such as anger or sadness and then that feeling would return. This is quite normal and yet when it first happened to me I thought there was something wrong with me. Once that happened it led me into a downward spiral of low moods and a new intense pain – the pain of feeling bad about myself, that I was not doing very well. It was only the voice of a dear friend who one day said to me ‘this is normal’ (what I was feeling) and ‘you are normal’ (how I was behaving) that brought me out of that deep dark chasm.

So here I am enjoying my new world of today (and I truly am) and looking forward to my exciting future (honestly I am) … but sometimes there is still that lump in my throat, that pain in my chest, that catch in my breath, and that intense feeling of loss.

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I am back!

 

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I’m back!

I have terrible internet connection over the past six months. I tried to keep up with everyone as best as I could but over the last month it became too frustratingly slow, so I had a little break from blogging.

In the meantime, I have been working through that check-list … that one that will see me moving from my house.

With better internet now, I will fill you all in on that over the next few weeks and on everything else that has been happening. And I will catch up with all of you and say hello to you on your own websites.

See you soon:)

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Transitioning to my Transition!!

 

ID-100294809.StuartMilesNo I am not moving (yet).

Later today I will be moving those business documents (that need to be retained for five years) into an official storage facility. They will finally be out of my head-space.

Yay!

With my old life packed away, I will be able to transition to my transition – that world where I will be on my way to my new life.

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Retracting forgiveness

“If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart…”  Pema Chödrön

ID-100136205,SweetCrisisIn a deep hole after my marriage collapse, I made it my mission to forgive as I wanted to move on to a place of peace and harmony. I used forgiveness in order to give up feelings of anger, betrayal, resentment and revenge. Fast forward another 18 months and I was in a dark place of resentment. With my financial security in tatters, trudging through marital settlement mud, I saw the unfairness of my changed situation. I blamed myself for being too trusting in my marriage and too kind after the separation. I thought back and wondered whether forgiveness had been right for me.

I had believed forgiveness would help me heal, become less angry and bring me peace. By any definition, forgiveness does not mean forgetting, condoning, excusing, renouncing efforts to obtain restitution, suppressing anger at what happened, or giving up a recognition that you deserved better. Forgiveness is none of those. Forgiveness is supposedly letting go of negative feelings towards someone who has harmed you. So what forgiveness did to me was make me focus on the action that was done, classify that action as a wrong-deed committed by someone else (my ex-husband) and made me feel like the victim of that wrong-deed. It kept me thinking about what had happened and then, when I still in a bad place, made me feel stupid in being too “nice” in forgiving him of that action. What I know for sure was that forgiveness did not heal me, make me less angry or bring me peace.

So in February 2014, I retracted my action of forgiveness. From that point, I focussed instead on healing, on living by my values and acting always with kindness, fairness and courage … no matter what. I decided to choose before each action or comment I made. I would ask myself whether the action or comment I was about to make was being made for protection (of myself or others), connection, contribution, creation, or celebration? If I could not answer ‘yes’, then I would choose a different response.

Over time, I healed and became strong. My self-esteem and confidence grew. I was focussing on me. I was connecting with others and acting with kindness towards them. I was acting positively in the world of my ‘today’, not in a place of my ‘yesterday’. I felt free.

I believe now, that I got forgiveness wrong. It was more important for me to heal first, than to forgive. I do not believe that forgiveness was a requirement for that healing to take place. Instead of feeling like a victim, I now feel good about myself.

As I think about it today, I realise that at some point during my healing process, I became truly emotionally detached from my ex-husband and could see things from a more neutral position. I could see all the good that was in my marriage. As such I felt grateful for what had been rather than sadness at its loss. Some things that previously upset me now have no positive or negative feelings. As an example, two weeks ago it would have been our 41st wedding anniversary. I did not remember the date until today. That date no longer holds any meaning. It does not make me feel sad, bad or mad.

Interestingly, during the process of my healing and subsequent emotional detachment, forgiveness (losing resentment) crept up on me.

OR

Perhaps it is now that I see myself better off. Therefore … there is nothing to forgive.

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You may want to read Living and Loving after Betrayal. Steven Stosny

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