serenity …. satisfaction …. softness …. sparkle …. simplicity …. sixty ….

ID-1004416(1).frederico.Stevanin

I had always considered turning sixty would be a defining moment in my life. I believed I would be at one with myself, comfortable and secure in my place in the world, calm and at peace. Two years ago, when my whole world turned upside down, I questioned whether that would ever be possible. Previously I wrote of seeing my life as a tree passing through seasons. After my youth of spring and the happy summer of motherhood, in the autumn of my life I felt my tree had been cut down and I had plunged into an early winter of despair.

However, after some time, I realised that the roots of my tree (family) and my trunk (experience) had not been destroyed. Moreover, I was growing new branches (friendships and opportunities) and I had managed to save some seeds from my younger years. Then as I saw green sprouting all around me, I realised I had reached a new spring, and some of those saved seeds I had already planted and they were beginning to grow.

These are the seeds that I saved and this is where they have come from:

  • Kindness: Although living a hard life herself, bringing up nine children through two world wars and the depression, my grandmother always knew someone older or sicker or more lonely who needed her help. My grandmother taught me kindness.
  • Pride: My father did not see me graduate or marry yet his look of pride in me, whenever I did anything of value, is imprinted in my memory.
  • Laughter: One of my uncles, taken from us too young, filled our family gatherings with fun and laughter.
  • Serenity. My aunt who died of cancer at age 33 was always serene and calm.
  • Boldness: My cousin nearest to me in age was killed in a car accident on his 21st birthday. He was daring. I was cautious. I still hear his voice ‘go on, you can do it’ that urges me on to begin things I am afraid to try.
  • Courage and resilience: My mother lost her mother, sister, husband, an aunt, two brothers, two friends, and two nephews over an eight year period. Widowed at 47, she worked for the next twenty years in order to educate my two younger brothers and provide for her own retirement. She never complained and has been the rock of support for everyone else in our large extended family.
  • Fairness, Standing up for others: When I was about ten a friend of mine taunted a disabled girl in front of me and I said nothing. When my mother found out she said to me “if someone ridicules someone less fortunate and you do not defend them, it is as if you said the words yourself”. My mother taught me to stand up for fairness.
  • Community: My mother and father were community minded people.
  • Wisdom, tenacity, endurance, gratitude, hope and optimism:  from my mother
    (my mother is 87 after-all, and she keeps throwing me more and more seeds)
  • Family and loyalty: As well as sharing happy times, my large extended family and close friends continually support me and each other, no matter what.
  • Belief in me: My sister and best friend have shown an unswerving belief in me
  • Parental love: I had a strong belief as a mother of not only doing things for my children, but also doing things with my children; coupled with family togetherness.
  • Patience, humility: My four beautiful children have taught me patience and humility.
  • Justice, Free Speech, Humanitarianism, Ethical Science, Protection of the Environment: My whole family including all my children have lived by these beliefs and have spoken up  for these as essential elements in a free compassionate society.

So how do I feel my life is for me at sixty?

A new spring. A new beginning. A new chance. A new opportunity.
I will begin by continuing to plant those seeds I have listed and keep nurturing them into the future. .

Image courtesy[FredericoStevanin]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Where am I? (or the remarkable discoveries I made looking through my photo albums)

ID-10066725With my husband now settled into a relatively permanent fixed abode, the photographs need dividing into his and mine (albeit we have agreed to scan digital copies to share). With the albums in my possession, and with a lump in my throat, l started to sift through the albums and choose how they should be split.

Since our separation, looking at our photographs has been painfully sad, especially looking at any of us as a happy smiling couple united as one. Initially I was not able to look at them at all. In time, after a heavy down-on-the-floor weekend playing the Beatles Let-It-Be over and over, I was able to go through them and pick out some happy memories (all of the children) that I then displayed proudly. The ‘couple’ photos remained untouched and locked away…. until now.

This time it was different. As I looked at the photographs I made some remarkable discoveries.

1.There were lots of photos of the children, their achievements and us as a family. This was no surprise. Family meant everything.

2. There were photos of the two of us. Having spent the best part of two years reflecting on my life as it was and within that reflection detaching emotionally from him, as I now looked at the photos of us, I no longer saw an entwined couple but rather two people as separate individuals. This was a weird feeling and something I had not expected to see.

3. There were the photos of my (now-ex) husband running, bush-walking, skiing, winning soccer awards, dancing, entertaining, laughing, singing, joking, talking, and as a leader in the community and work. This also was no surprise. He led a full life.

4. I could not find any photos of me. There were photos of me beside him cheering him on as his wife. There were photos of me with babes in arms or embracing my children or standing proud celebrating their achievements. There were photos of me in the kitchen (that is where I was when he was entertaining). However, there were no photos of me as ‘me’, separate from my roles as wife and mother. I looked in all the albums and in all the boxes of loose photos. Eventually from nearly one hundred albums and four boxes, I found one photo of me receiving my post-graduate degree in 1991. Other than that, I had to go back to my childhood, my school days and my graduation in 1975, to find some of me.

What does this mean?

The issue here is not about divorce or my own strength or weakness. It is a reflection of what marriage was about to me and I believe to women of my generation, compared to my husband and the men in our generation. Men tend to have clear images of self and wind their wives, family and work around that image as additions to self. Women, on the other hand (or at least I did), live by the image of their role. My role was that of wife and mother. I became the supportive wife and mother. Somehow the self bit of me became lost.

This concept is nothing new and much has been written on it. The dark side of that is, that if you live by your role in life, and you lose that role, you lose everything.

Before, seeing only my role as wife and mother gone forever by the loss of my marriage, I deeply mourned for that role. What was remarkable this time when I was looking through the photos, was that I was looking for myself. I was looking for the me that was separate from those roles. The remarkable thing I discovered was, that my thought processes had changed. I now knew that me as self existed beyond my life roles. While I could not find many photos, I realised that did not mean that the person who was me did not exist. I now knew I had been there all along – that is why I was hunting for photos of me – and it was then I realised there were few photos, because you cannot take photos of what is inside.

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Image courtesy[Twobee]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My awakening

Barbara, from me my magnificent self, invited me to participate in her ‘our awakening’ challenge. I have taken this as an opportunity for me to summarize the change in my thinking of me as half a couple (‘we’) and my transformation to ‘me’ after late-life divorce.

Awakening of the fire within me

The awakening of the fire within me

Twenty-eight months ago I found myself in the crisis of my marriage suddenly ending.

1. The Loss Of ‘WE’

I believed at the time, I had lost everything I had ever loved and cherished; my companion and soul mate, my intact family unit, stability, security, trust, truth, and my dreams for the future – it was all gone. I was thrown into a deep grief process of mourning my losses with the resultant swirling emotions of shock, anger, yearning, and constant sadness. After some time, I came to an acknowledgement of what had happened, and I was able to let go of the emotional ties to my husband, of blame, resentment and the illusion of the happy-ever-after. I gradually disentangled myself from the coupledom that was.

I was, for a while, at peace with myself. I found a wondrous place of calm in rising to watch the sunrise each morning, walking, writing and living for the joys of each day. I revelled in seeing myself as an individual with my own thoughts, opinions, feelings and needs.

2. The Loss of ‘ME’

From that magnificent state of calm, I went through a period of deep self-reflection. I affirmed my own values, beliefs, attitudes, needs, wants, responsibilities and priorities. As I reflected on my life and inner being, slowly I came to realise that, although inside I was now a strong individual with affirmed core values and a belief that I could do whatever I wanted, in my practical world I was still living our life my way. I was not living my life my way.

I had an epiphany, a sudden realisation that I wanted to change. I wanted to become the real me and live my own life. However, that change would require me to cast off the practical remnants of my old life (home, business and community); and to let go of some parts of me; the old me, and my old roles. I spiralled downwards again, this time mourning the loss of who I had been and wondering who it was that I could become. I was in extreme distress and became inconsolable. I fell into an extended period of darkness and despair. I cocooned myself into a ball of nothingness.

Then I woke up.

3. My Awakening

Unlike the sudden earlier epiphany when I made the decision to change, my awakening to making change has been a gradual realisation of the fact that I have already begun to change. Even-so, this realisation has occurred after some profound confidence-building discoveries.

Firstly, I woke up to the fact of the truth of my marriage; that it had ended long before I thought it had. Behind that truth is the fact that what I thought I had, I didn’t have. That truth, whilst painful to accept, has set me free.

Secondly, I woke up to the fact that I am a worthwhile person and always have been. Any thought that I am not, is not spoken by my own voice. I will now only listen to my voice.

Thirdly, I woke up to the fact that I matter. What I have done and what I do is worthwhile.

Fourthly, I woke up with an energy change and clarity of purpose. I feel a fire within me. I have a vision forming of what my new life will be. Moreover, I have the clarity to decide what parts of my old life to hold on to and what to let go of. Letting go of those parts that do not serve me well is crucial to free space for my new life.

An awakening is simply that, waking up.
My real challenges of planning and living my dream lie ahead of me.

Yet, how exciting it is to awaken to the opportunity of a new dream, of a new beginning.

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Image courtesy[Photographic]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net