Week 35 – Mixed emotions

“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start” Nido Qubein

Week 35 –

I returned home after visiting my son in Canada – sad to leave him again, yet happy that he was in a contented place in his life – daunted by the long journey required to visit him again, yet excited by the prospect of returning next year.

I spent some time with my family – mother, siblings, best friend, children  – on the way back before returning home. This was a very mixed stirring time for me. It was great spending time with my close people to soothe and protect me, to help me off-load and pick-up. However, it made me confront the feelings of the losses I was suffering. I had to watch others in early retirement  together in a world that I would now never know. I had to see other couples giving support to each other over life’s milestones, over daily trivialities sharing life together. I had to listen to others discuss their own retirement plans without a mountain of financial stress to climb as I had. I was happy to see everyone and I enjoyed their company but I was still raw from the losses I had to confront in my own situation. I had had four weeks with the company of others but now it was time to confront the harsh reality of my own aloneness and sorting out the financial settlement with my husband. This is what I now faced. This is what i had been running away from metaphorically by ‘living in today’ and in ‘actuality‘ by disappearing the past month. Running away from it was not going to make it go away.

I had had time to do some soul-searching while I was away and it had given me a chance to think of me for myself and my self-reflection journey. It gave me a taste of what life could be once I had come out of my metamorphosis. I started my blogging in earnest while I was in Canada and now back home I was beginning to publish the posts. It gave me the confidence to reinvent myself and to keep going. When I returned home my body clock took a while to adjust to the different time zone so even though there were some day-time crash-out periods I gained some ‘night-time’ awake sessions that enabled me to find the time to write in the small hours of the morning or late at night. I kept writing. It helped me put in words what it was I had to face, what had happened, and to begin to deal with it rather than blocking it out. ……….

My husband had left me.

I came home with a new resolution of accepting and facing my situation and dealing with the whole of the fall-out instead of trying to skip over the difficult bits. The next few weeks would be significant turning points in my journey as I faced my life situation full on.

” The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” Mark Twain

Week 34 – Bike ride through Stanley Park

At week 34 post separation, I was in Vancouver Canada visiting my son.

On my last day we went bike-riding through Stanley Park. It was great – an easy trail.

ImageI had a fantastic time and simply lived for the moment and while I was cycling along I was taking in every part of the journey – the trees, the ground, the sky, the flowers, the people, the water, the views, the boats, the crowds, the grass… I wanted to capture it all and so – and even though I am NOT a photographer – I went click, click, click with my camera in order to capture every single moment I was enjoying.  The pictures say it all.

We started out our journey in North Vancouver where we caught a bus to Stanley Park.

The start of our day’s journey. View from window                 North Vancouver

The ride took us through a public area first with lots of pedestrians, babies in back-packs or prams, people on bikes, people roller-blading. Then we went out of this area into an initially paved trail then into a forested glen shaded by trees onto a gravel bridle trail that we were able to bike along.

ImageAfter a while we came to beaver lake where we saw some ducks and a chipmunk,

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ImageThen we cycled through more wooded trails

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Imageto the foreshore

Imageunder the lionsgate bridge

Imagewith Cyprus and other mountains in the background…

Imagea taste of the busy city life with cargo ships and sailing ships passing us by.

ImageThen further along the foreshore on to Enoch bay beach where there were many people enjoying the spring day.

ImageAnd what a beautiful May spring day it was ….

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ImageHere we indulged in some decadent foods before heading back through the park then caught the bus back to North Vancouver.

ImageAnd while I was cycling and riding along I was thinking and planning my life’s way forward. This ride – an easy trail yet so enjoyable – was so much like my vision in December of wanting to take the easier trail through life …. no more mountains.
On this beautiful spring day i was enjoying in the northern hemisphere, I was positively sure that it was a clear message sent to me – that there is an easier way, there is a way you can manage, there is the easier trail that you can take through life ……. no more climbing mountains…….. take hold of life one manageable step at a time.

 

Week 33 – The rings

Week 33

There was a very significant event in my life this week and how fitting that it should take place in the ski village of Whistler with the imposing Olympic rings set against the back-drop of the magnificent mountains of British Columbia.

During my time visiting my son in Canada I went to visit a friend of a friend who by some sheer coincidence was staying in Whistler. Her circumstances were similar to mine in that her husband had left her; albeit that it has been two years before and officially divorced so she was a little further on emotionally than me. Swapping stories I felt proud in some ways that I had managed to hold up remarkably well and especially that I had been able to make the step of spring cleaning and getting rid of “stuff” so early, something she had only been able to do in more recent times. Yes, I thought, had been able to rid myself of ‘him’ and his ‘stuff’ very early.

She looked at me surprised and said ‘what about the rings?’ There they were still on my left hand where they had been for 37 years.

It was not that I had purposely left them there. I just did not know what to do with them and with the thoughts that went through my head. And they were different than other ‘stuff’ in that the emotional side went with them, the symbolism of the partnership. In this instance I felt that divorce was SO much worse than becoming a widow. When you become widowed the ‘rings’ are something that become part of the family heirlooms that are passed down generation after generation. They mean so much and they become so treasured. What then for the rings of divorce? Had not I had a successful 37 year marriage? Do I have to abandon everything of those 37 years?

My own rings had a story to them in that when we were the sweet young things and were contemplating marriage we went into a ring shop and put a $1 deposit down on an engagement ring. Sadly within the next few weeks my father suddenly died of a stroke and so we put our engagement off. Six months later when we decided to get actually get engaged we never thought that the shop would have held the ring with only a $1 deposit. We searched and searched but could not find a ring we liked as much as the original one. So went back to the same shop and lo-and-behold the ring was still in their safe. We thought that was a very clear message that our love was meant to be, that the ring was meant to be, and the ring had been treasured by me in all my years of marriage.

What now?

So this friend of a friend decided to take the situation into her own hands and strongly voiced the opinion that as the rings symbolized an eternity of ‘for better or worse’ that no longer held meaning and that it was time that they should go. She grabbed my hands and started taking them off. This – I might add –  ended up to be quite a feat as the rings had almost become embedded into my fingers. Eventually with some soap and some ice and much twisting and turning they came off my hands. I put them in my purse. The next morning she apologized for being so brutal and said that I should make my own decision on whether the rings should stay or go.

With everything in this process that I cannot decide on, I shelved the decision until a later date…… .but I did not put the rings back on.

Two days later when I was enjoying my time by myself at the Capilano bridge I noticed some beautiful American Opal rings set in silver. I bought one for myself. I put it on the the finger of my left hand where my old rings had been. Yes, I know – wrong hand – but conventions no longer mean anything to me so there it stays.

When I returned home to Australia I put my old rings in my ‘sad box’. to deal with at some later date.

So why was this event so significant in my life?

Firstly, one of the emotional links with the marriage – the rings – was finally discarded.
Secondly, I strode ahead as the new ‘me’ by taking myself on a mini-adventure and found that I could enjoy myself – all by myself – and symbolized this with buying my own ring as a symbol of a new relationship with myself for myself. This became my step 7 in my journey to ‘me’, and a vow to be true to myself.
Lastly and most importantly, when I got back home, as I threw my old rings in my supposed ‘sad-box’ and briefly glanced at the other items I had put in there, I thought to myself ……… life is not so sad after-all.

Week 32 – Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Week 32 – 27 April 2012

Having experienced a downturn in my moods in the journey of my life since the collapse of my marriage; I decided to escape temporarily by visiting my second eldest son living in Vancouver, Canada.  Whilst ever so happy to see him again and quite excited, I experienced a new wave of emotions the first few days as I battled a loss of sense of place. I had survived the emotional turmoil of my whole life being turned upside down by clinging onto my daily routine and nurturing myself with familiarity. That was now gone and my mind was again in turmoil. I had always enjoyed travel and experiencing exciting different things. What was wrong with me?

Away from all the chaos of my disrupted life, I now had some time to reflect upon things and I began exploring the theme of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. For those unfamiliar with the concept, Maslow was a psychologist who came up with a pyramidal concept of a hierarchy of needs. There were five initial levels that later evolved to seven that (working from bottom to top) encompassed basic needs (physiological, safety, love, esteem) and then the higher growth needs (cognitive, aesthetics and self-actualization). Maslow postulated that one’s lower needs had to be met before one could move on to the higher level needs. Here is a an outline of the hierarchy.

5.                                                        Self-actualization

4.                                      Esteem: achievement, independence

3.                          Belonging: love, family, relationships, intimacy, affection

2.                    Safety needs: protection, security, stability, financial security, order

1.             Biological and Physiological needs: air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sleep etc

It has been reasoned that at a time of crisis, say after a flood or earthquake, people’s needs return to those very basic – for food, water and shelter – as they begin to rebuild their lives. At those times they have little need for self-esteem or fulfilling their highest potential by self -actualizing. Gradually as basic needs are met, then one can move onto the higher levels of a safe environment, then companionship.

I had thought about this at times since my separation and I am learning that the ending of a marriage is similar to such a crisis, especially if it is unexpected and sudden as in my case. It rocks the very foundation of your life and threatens everything you ever had; self-esteem, family, companionship, emotional and financial security. As everything comes crashing down, to cope and survive you cocoon yourself by returning to the basics of life – living in the moment of waking, eating, walking, eating, and the comfort and security of a warm bed at night. You are thrown into a survival mind-set of fulfilling these basic needs because everything else is gone.

I was finding that it was helping me to actually accept this fact and I began rebuilding my life by starting with those basics needs and ensuring they were met first in a positive way to give myself a strong foundation before tackling those needs higher up – so refocusing first on breathing (it meant I was alive) and food (sticking to a good diet), my health, and a safe secure peaceful home environment. At the same time, although it’s a little higher up, focussing on my family.

I thought that after I had healed and become strong at those basic levels, as the pain eased, I could move on to my physical, financial and emotional stability; then hopefully my social needs and regaining my self esteem. I could try to begin to move up the levels and focus on getting my finances back on track and seeking out new friendships, new interests etc, one step (or one level) at a time……  That was my theory as I grappled with the concepts of my lost previous life and my now unsure financial future.

So here I was in Canada spending time with the missing link in my family, my second son, and away from the immediacy of my life’s trauma. Why was my mind racing in turmoil again? Why couldn’t I sleep?
Then I realised I was craving that lowest level of the hierarchy, that feeling of comfort and security in routine and a sense of place. By coming over to visit my son, I had been thrown into the unfamiliar.
When all your world is travelling along merrily, when you have your home and your life companion, your finances secure, your job to give you satisfaction, and some creative outlet; then taking a break from all that by travelling and doing different things is both rewarding and exciting. Less clear is the fact that you are actually taking your basic needs, your  security with you …… that is if you travel with your soul-mate ……..because your life’s security goes with you; and you have this inner core of happiness and stability that you take with you wherever you go.
After a marriage collapse, that is all gone and you are left with a shell of your former self. One props oneself up with superficial pillows to ensure that one does not break. And until those pillows are taken away you do not realise how easily that fragile shell can indeed break.
This is what happened to me in those first few days I was in Vancouver. My props were gone, my home, my routine, my sense of place.
In that fragile place, sometimes it seems a little sad to do things by yourself that you would normally enjoy and so you refrain from doing things, you hold back, because there is no-one to share things with. So you have to push yourself to take that first step. The first step is the hardest. So after a few days when i decided that this emptiness feeling was silly, I pushed myself to learn to navigate my way around the bus routes through North Vancouver to Vancouver, to shopping malls, to grouse Mountain and Capilano bridge. I got myself into a little daily routine of morning activities, then go out and about, then come back via the local shops for any shopping needs and then the evening meal with my son and his girl-friend.  I cocooned myself with the same basic needs level of food – shelter – warmth – security – companionship – routine albeit that I was now in a different environment.
And — believe it or not —-  with time to myself during the days — and away from my trauma —  it was here that I began drafting my blogs in earnest and I ‘published’ my very first post soon after.
So here is where I think that maybe Maslow got it wrong. Because here I was at the very bottom of his hierarchy needs, at the very basic level of survival, with all the middle levels crumbling at my feet; and that is when I went straight to the very top level – on to self -actualization (after-all that isn’t that where all of us bloggers are?) …. and that is when I began to heal.

Week 31 – Milestones

Week 31 – Milestones 20 April 2012

This separation is difficult for us all as a family at times like this – the milestones of life – weddings or a child’s graduation. Events that were previoulsy shared – and now have to be shared separately albeit together. It is especially tough for the children wanting to recapture those happy family times and at the same time doing the right thing by each of us and our feelings at the moment – where there is still hurt and pain.

In December it had been my daughter’s graduation – my last child flying the coupe. It was a happy occasion and yet tinged with the sadness of the separation and seeing other people there – her friends she had been with her whole life – and they with their “happy families” still intact. But it was her day and I was so happy and so proud of her.  

This week it was the wedding of our god-daughter. She is the daughter of my husbands best friend from school and our families had remained close all our married days. My daughter was her bridesmaid. It was on the whole a happy day. I nearly lost it in the church with now all the words of the ceremony taking on such a differnt meaning (for better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health). However, as they were spoken I thought them through and thought to myself, that I did not break those vows and of that I should be proud. I still held onto my own values, I was still the captain of my soul, I am still able to hold my head up high.

After the wedding ceremony, the children rallied round me and we had lots of hugs and some photos together. Then I was determined to enjoy myself and have a great time for myself, for my children, for my god-daughter and for her parents. 

And so I relaxed for the evening wedding reception and then later danced and danced into the night.

 

Week 30 – Writing In The Dark

Week 30 – April 2012

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Vivian Greene

Daylight saving is finished here in the land of Oz and the days are getting shorter and darker. Night-time falls early. Can I survive the darkness?. Of course I can! Having started the drafts of my blog I have become enthused with my writing and I am actually excited by the longer evenings that will give me more time to write. 

A storm begins. It is absolutely pouring with rain. Thunder and lightening. How fantastic! Then there is a black-out. Darkness. Laptop computer battery quickly flattens. So obsessed by now I am with my writing and yet so in the mood that by candlelight tonight my blog is written ……

so here I am not waiting for the storm to pass but enjoying the storm -dancing and writing in the rain – and in the dark – – –

all by myself ..and loving it.

Week 29 – Kindness

Week 29 – 08 April 2012

So just when you think you have lost everything – your past, your future, the spring in your step, the reason for getting up in the morning, trust, love, and hope …… some total stranger restores your faith in humanity.

Having a completely glum day and generally doing nothing, I thought I should at least feed myself. I went down to the supermarket and, with a complete vacuum where my brain used to be, I forgot my wallet. As I was fumbling about and scrounging at the bottom of my bag trying to find enough coins to buy my few vegetables for a soup, a man – a total stranger to me – dropped some coins on the counter and walked away. I tried to protest and he just said ‘enjoy your soup’ and was gone in a flash. Gone – my knight in shining armour who touched my heart that day in a way that he will never ever know.

A door is opened for me, a motorist waves me on in a traffic jam, a bus driver takes the time to have a chat to me, fellow bloggers offer me words of encouragement and a reason to keep going. And so it is that these small acts of kindness mean so much and begin to nourish my soul.

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye