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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Reclaiming my SENSE OF BELONGING after divorce, death, trauma, retirement, financial catastrophe and other life changes.

ID-10073599. vladoLast year, in the fourth year after my marriage collapse, there was the business sale, loss of my mother, finalization of the marital settlement and my retirement. I am now in the fifth year and finally facing the full impact of the divorce with its financial ramifications, as well as other life changes. Sometimes I feel I am left with the shadow of the world I had five years ago as many people in that world are now gone from my life.

When my marriage collapsed, I felt my whole social network had collapsed with it losing my partner, family unit, friendships, his extended family and community connections. With the business gone, I have lost contact with work colleagues, contractors and advisers. My mother’s death means less contact with siblings, extended family and Mum’s community. Still to come for me will be moving away from this area and its community.

I have thought about those people in my old life and the differing levels of connection I had with them. I am striving to create or reinvent relationships at the same level I have lost in order to provide for me a sense of belonging. These are my losses and gains –

Level One – one on one.

No longer partnered, I have strengthened my relationship with work colleagues, friends, children and siblings on a one-on-one basis. I periodically still see work colleagues. Since the death of my mother, I have connected with extended family members individually. My siblings and I stay in touch. I do not need a ‘partner’ to provide me with deep connections.

Level Two – being in a herd, a close-knit group of three to eight people.

I have had several herds in each phase of my life providing me with strength, a sense of belonging and intellectual stimulation. My herds have been my two nuclear family units (children and siblings), foursome couple friendships, friends to share coffee or a movie, interacting with parents of my children’s friends, and mingling with work colleagues in small discussion groups or meetings.

My herds have either changed or disappeared and it is this loss I am feeling the most. I have adjusted to my changed family unit of me and the children, and I am adapting to having sibling interactions without our mother there. Happy times are still shared.

However –

I am no longer half a couple, working or financially secure. Being retired and alone, my situation is different from friends still working, retirees in a couple relationship or in an easier financial position. My regular contact with accountant, banking adviser, book-keeper and IT expert is gone. I have lost that ‘connection’ with those previous herds that I had.

I am endeavouring to seek out and interact with people in similar situations as myself, for example retired singles. I am developing some hobbies and seeking out people or groups with those same interests. It is early days and changes have been small, yet positive.

Level Three belonging to a tribe, a larger group with a common connection.

My past tribes have been classes at school or university, work-place, extended family, sporting teams, choirs and community groups. Not as intimate as herds, there is nevertheless a sense of belonging to people with a common interest. I am feeling the loss of my work environment, and my mother being the matriarch and ‘glue’ of my extended family. Whilst I am focussing on strengthening my Level One and Two connections, I look forward to seeking out community groups when I move. In the meantime, my blogging world has provided for me a sense of belonging to like-minded people.

Level Four – being part of society at large.

In the early weeks of a crisis we lean on community services – police, hospitals, medical and counselling services. I have also given back at the society level providing a health service business for 35 years. Whilst there is a feeling that I am not currently contributing at the society level, I am at least engaging by using library services, browsing shopping precincts, and chatting with people in that environment daily. I am grateful our society is a free one and I feel safe.

Level Five – belonging to a cause of national or global significance.

I was involved in an environmental cause with my family and that interaction was lost when my marriage ended (although my beliefs still stand). Over the past two years I have found a new ’cause’ and have been directing my energies into research on this. My aim is to eventually contribute to this cause in some way.

It is difficult facing several life changes at once. One step at a time for me is the best solution, becoming stronger as my own self, then gradually branching out at the higher levels of connections.

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ImageCourtesy[vlado]FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The Art Of Belonging. Hugh McKay

 

 

 

 

Finding my stronger voice

ID-10083213In my quiet space, I have been having flash-backs to past events and feeling how I felt at the time (including negative feelings) rather than stifling those feelings. This has not been looking back at a past happy time and now seeing it in a sad way, it is looking back at a past positive experience that had negative sides and now feeling that negativity.

For example: one new year due to my mother-in-law suffering an injury, I stayed home two nights to care for her and my two younger children while my husband and two older children celebrated with others at the beach. The voices I listened to at the time were my mother-in-law not wanting to be a burden, my husband needing a break and my upbringing of doing the right thing.

My small voice

It was a huge step for me to feel my own feelings at the time of – sadness (missing that celebration with my family), anger (the event was not cancelled so we could be together), and unfairness (my own needs were neglected). I am now allowing myself to feel that pain as I too am vulnerable. I do not have to always be the strong one. My voice is being heard above the crowd. I too am important. I do not always have to stand aside. (Reading between the lines = resentment that he could not give up his NY party).

While it is enlightening that I am recognizing my own voice, that immediate voice I hear has been in some respects reactive rather than responsive. That voice has been my small voice playing the victim of being trampled on rather than the survivor who stands firm. My small voice is me being the warrior who wants to fight for my rights rather than the carer who wants to heal a situation.

The influences on my voice

My own voice had been influenced over the past four years by divorce advice and reading past events as supposedly “red flags” that I had missed. So the voices say to me ‘how selfish of him’, ‘he treated me badly’, ‘I was neglected’ (voice = he is the bad guy) OR ‘I did not stand up for myself’, ‘I became an enabler to his selfishness’,  ‘I created the situation for betrayal’ (voice = I am a weakling). Listening to either voice, someone has to be at “fault” with the casting of either blame at his choices or shame in mine.

In reality, at the time the choices were a compromise that in a good marriage happens all the time. Make allowances. Understand. Care. Quite often in a marriage when there is young children, elderly parents or someone working long hours; sacrifices are made for the greater good of the relationship or family. That is what happened at the time. It was not a missed ‘red flag’.

Finding my stronger voice

I began ignoring other voices including my reactive small voice twisting the past. Instead I looked at why I was feeling pain over an event of 27 years ago. The trigger was an example of me being ‘the good wife’. Perhaps (looking back) I would have preferred he had made the choice to move the new-year event to home so that we could have been together that night. However, I am not responsible for his choice, only mine. What I did that night was to put his mother and her needs as my priority. While at the time I felt I had been appreciated, his decision to leave me 23 years later now overshadowed that. The pain I felt was that my caring side was not considered in his decision. In the here and now, it was the wanting to belong to someone who deeply cared for me and who appreciated me for who I am.

My response

If I responded to my small voice I would get sucked down into the blame and shame game.

I am not a vindictive person so to impulsively demean or blame violates my own values with revenge-thoughts I do not like. Focussing on actions done or words said or how others have behaved towards me adds to the blame-game. I am not that person.

Degrading myself with critical ‘you are hopeless’ makes me think I should become more selfish, less caring and to stop thinking of others. I am not that person.

The truth is the lack of being appreciated by one person for my caring actions does not mean those actions or that trait in me were wrong or weak. Quite the opposite.

Appreciation and caring are a great strength and the greatest acts of human kindness.

I need to focus more on appreciation of others, and those who appreciate me.
I need to focus more on caring for others, and of those in need.

This is empowering.

This is my stronger voice. I have found it.

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Images.courtesy[africa/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Finding my voice …

ID-10072476.PixomarWhen I changed the name of my blog to spring into summer, it was because I felt I had (at last) come through the winter of despair after the collapse of my marriage. My mood had become more upbeat and optimistic looking forward to a new and exciting life ahead, just as the season spring heralds the warm and carefree days of summer to follow. I feel this is a phase of preparation for me and instead of transforming my life from we to me, which was my previous focus, I am finding my voice in preparation for speaking my truth.

What does this mean?

Finding my voice is finding my inner calling and passion, and the ‘why’ or purpose for that passion. Speaking my truth is having the courage to make that voice of mine heard. This post is my first post about finding my voice. As it is a journey of discovery, this is simply the beginning and there will be other posts as I get closer to locating it.

Finding my voice

Ideally a true calling or passion would reflect my inner being that holds my true feelings, needs, values, thoughts and beliefs. My first step therefore is to connect with that inner part of me. That true side of me – my voice – has over many years, and in particular over the last few years, been hidden underneath an overlay of other voices. These have been the voices of my parents, society, religion, friends, my husband, my children and my own ‘I-need-to-be-perfect’ expectations of myself that need not have been so unrealistic. It is somewhat sad – and yet is the truth – that for so long my true voice has been stifled, drowned out by louder voices pounding away, repeating the same rhetoric over and over. Much of that rhetoric has stuck in my head as the truth when it has not necessarily been the truth. Sometimes those other voices have been so repetitive, so loud, and so persuasive that I have had difficulty hearing my own voice, let alone recognize it as mine.

That has now changed.

I have now found quiet.

And in the quiet, since I have been free of the marital settlement, since I have been organizing my life, since I have become an adult orphan, since I have been reflecting on my life with no pressure to do anything or be anywhere or become anyone in particular; I have been having flashbacks to certain events in the past. Now, rather than suppressing my true feelings, for the good of my family, out of care for my husband, out of respect for my mother, out of duty to society; I am allowing myself to feel my own feelings and I am recognizing those feelings as my own. Feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, humiliation, shame, anxiety, happiness, exhilaration, pride, contentment or whatever feeling I was truly experiencing at the time of those flash-back events. Rather than accepting things should have been done a certain way, I am seeing things from my perspective. I am questioning things. I am hearing my own voice. At times my deep needs have gone unchecked or my values were violated or my beliefs crushed or my ambitions curtailed in the name of being the good wife, the dutiful daughter, the loyal friend or the respected law-abiding citizen.

I am now seeing things from my perspective, rather than from the needs of my husband or children. I am understanding the profound effect the sudden early death of my father had on me, rather than seeing it from my mother’s situation. I am remembering times when I did or did not do things that I felt were right or wrong.

I am allowing myself to feel my own feelings.

I am looking underneath those feelings at the violated value or the unmet need or the sense of loss or the crushed (or lifted) pride that is triggering those feelings.

I am thinking of ways I may restore my unmet needs, and self-esteem; and ways I may live by my values and beliefs.

I am planning ways I may transfer my voice onto a pathway of living a richer life for myself and – by ‘speaking my truth‘ – helping others find their own voice.

This is my journey …

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Images.courtesy[Pixomar/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

The next step …

Initially when I was thrust unexpectedly into the world of divorce I could not cope. In order to survive, I put aside major decisions and strategic steps that would eventually need to be taken. I carved off one aspect to navigate at a time. I would then push through with each step until I was able to cope with that before moving onto the next. Sometimes it was not possible to deal with only one thing at a time simply because there was so much to deal with. It was still overwhelming. However, I did put aside everything that could be left. That was how I coped, putting things aside.

Gradually I worked through many steps that at first I thought I would not be able to handle – grieving for my lost marriage and intact family unit, overcoming the emotional aspects of abandonment and betrayal, finding my inner strength, selling the business, pushing through with all the legal and financial processes of the marital property settlement, and closing down all the joint legal entities until …

I was physically, emotionally, legally and financially alone. Me.

However, before I can really say that I have left behind my marriage in its entirety, there is one major hurdle left to do. Selling my home. My home has been my sanctuary over the past 35 years. It has seen me through the birth of all my children and their growing up years. It has welcomed friends, family, colleagues and community groups through its doors. It has provided me with a sanctuary as I have navigated triumphs and tragedies. As the children grew up and moved on, it remained a strength for me, saving many memories of their song and laughter within its walls…

My home looks out to the east to this vista:

Across the valley

It is comforting to rise and watch the sunrise each morning, coming up over my valley.

Even when the sun doesn’t rise, the valley still provides me with peace and privacy.

BCR_2002_050When my husband left me, my home and valley remained behind as my constant, the one thing in my life I could rely on. That reliability, that the sun would rise each day, that the valley would remain, was reassuring for me. In my busy frenetic navigating divorce ‘I-am-overwhelmed’ days, the valley would tug me back to make sure I paid gratitude for the day and be at peace with myself. Now my days are not so frantic, and I love having the time to sit in the warmth of the morning sun, drink in that sunshine, look out to the peaceful valley, and reflect in the peace and quiet.

In those early raw days, I could not bear the thought of ever moving. My home was all I had left of who I had been and the life I had led. I didn’t want to leave me behind. However, I have come to realize my home is also a constant reminder of my past life, our marital life, a life that I now wish to leave behind me. Over the past six months, I have spent some time moving about between my mother’s place and spending time with my friends and family, and especially more time with my grand-daughters. Or I have stayed home. Each time I come home, I am no longer getting that feeling of protection or security from my home. Instead I am feeling constrained, even imprisoned. Imprisoned in the past, blocked from the future. There are little flashes of hurtful memories here and there keeping me back in the past. There are little pieces of present commitments to my home, stopping me moving on to my future.

I thought after the trauma of the drawn-out marital settlement finally being over, with the death of my mother coming about the same time, I would take a year to just sit back in the comfort of my home before I moved on. I thought that I would need that year, that I would want that year. I don’t.

I.want.to.move.on.now.

There is, of course, a fair bit to do in order to make that happen. That is my next project. To make it happen.

 

 

Foundations of freedom – freedom to do

“And the moment came, when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. “ Anais Nin

ID-10043380.digitalartWe are the lucky generation. Our forefathers handed us freedom from: freedom from slavery, tyranny and oppression. The next generations gave us our freedom to: freedom to vote, choose, express opinion, work, associate with those of our choosing, become educated, or be elected into positions of power. That has been followed by social, cultural and sexual revolutions since the 1960s. We are now free to pursue whatever we desire in terms of our dress, our leisure activities and our relationships with each other – in both the coming together or the breaking apart.

It seems to me each generation has wanted more freedom than the previous and, whereas in previous generations ‘freedom’ did mean the true sense of the word in freedom from oppression, our modern generation has put the emphasis on having freedom to do whatever we want. We want it all and we want it now. This is supposed to be something that we all desire. When my husband first left, people would say to me ‘now you are free to do whatever you want‘. When repeated back, that advice would catch me in the throat. Taking ‘freedom’ was foreign to me as I was craving stability and structure. I also saw it as being selfish. I thought I still had responsibilities and obligations to fulfill.

It has taken me nearly three years to understand that I don’t.

While it appeared I did, it really was an obligation to my own inner code of responsibility. I really did not have obligations to fulfill, except to myself. I am truly free to do whatever I want. Looking at it another way, I had to a degree been putting perceived responsibilities and obligations in my own path because of not knowing what to do with my freedom if I had it. It was easier to keep doing what I had been doing, even though painful, rather than taking my own freedom and basking in its sunshine. I could now undo my own imposed restraints of responsibility.

The big question now is not whether I have the freedom to what I want but rather, now that I know I do (nearly) have that freedom, what do I want to do with it?

That’s scary.

As I sat with a blank page on that question, a few overarching ideas of what ‘freedom to do’ means to me came to mind.

I have the freedom to live my own way.

I am free of external restrictions.

I have the freedom to impose my own moral code such as ‘first, do no harm’. As long as I impose it myself it is not a restraint, it is free-will. I cannot enslave myself. With no external restrictions, only internal ones, I have the freedom to think, speak and act the way I want.

I have the freedom to choose to be responsible for my family and friends. When I act out of devotion, there are no constraints – no matter what the responsibilities require of me.

I have the freedom to be part of my family, children and grand-children’s lives.

I have the freedom to be by myself whenever I want.

I have the freedom to choose my own direction in life and to fit that in with my own life’s purpose which I alone shall choose and I may take as long as I want to make that choice.

I have the freedom to choose my own goals by my own free-will and to work towards those goals unimpeded.

I have the freedom to choose my own attitude to develop a capacity by education, training or resolve to overcome any obstacle or impediment in my way.

I have the freedom to impose limitations, moral codes or constraints (by whatever definition) if that makes my new direction more comfortable. If my constraints are based upon my own goals or values – knowing where I stand will give me the liberty to act in complete freedom.

That is not so scary. That is all exciting …

Now to begin.

 

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