So much to do!!

ID-10026029.rawichWhen my marriage collapsed I was thrown into an emotional roller-coaster. At the same time I became overwhelmed with the practical, legal financial things that needed to be done due to the separation. In order to cope I went through a long laborious process of prioritizing everything I had to do, putting aside things I could leave until later and dropping out of my life anything non-essential. This was all so that I could focus on getting the marital settlement completed, which took nearly four years.

Some of those things put aside were very big things such as selling the business and selling the business premises, which then had to be prioritized once the marital settlement was done. For a long time there was simply no let-up!

More recently with the business sold (December 2014), the marital settlement completed (May 2015), administrative functions associated with its closure completed (October 2015), over 700 archive boxes of records sorted or disposed (March 2016), and finally business premises sold (July 2016), it is finally the end of the last joint financial tie with my ex-husband. It has been as if this huge ten ton weight has finally lifted from my shoulders and a black veil lifted from my eyes.

Over the past few months, even though I have had more energy and enthusiasm, I have also been able to see other things … normal things … I now been able to see all these other things needing doing and I have been busy getting them all done.

Getting my own health and well-being in order.
Sorting through my mother’s affairs.
Sorting out family photos.
Visiting my siblings.
Visiting friends.
Going to visit my daughter six times in a year.
Baby-sitting my grand-children.
Changing things into my name that used to be joint names.
Sorting through my clothes.
Buying some new clothes.
Tidying out my cupboards.
Sorting out the shed.
Having my hair done.
Burning stuff off.
More baby-sitting of grand-children.
Helping my daughter move.
Storing stuff in a storage shed.
More baby-sitting of grand-children.
Helping my daughter set up a new flat.
Attending my daughter’s graduation for her Master’s degree.
(With my siblings) giving a talk to a local historical society about my parents.
Keeping busy.
Relaxing.

I have been SO busy!!!

In that period, sometimes when the phone rang or I heard the ping of an email coming through I would have a mini PTSD reaction and think to myself … ‘what now’. But then when it ended up to be some trivial thing or someone contacting me about normal things, I have gradually realized that life isn’t always one crisis after another. I remind myself that those distressing days are finally over and there is no need to be fearful anymore.

So that is what I have been doing the past six months.
Keeping very busy, in a happy sort of way.

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ImageCourtesy[rawich]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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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ImageCourtesy[jscreationzs]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

ID-10046632.Vlado

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

ID-10060518.maya pictureOne of the ways I have kept myself motivated while on my H.E.A.L.T.H. plan is tracking my progress. There is nothing better for inspiration than to see numbers going in the right direction. I am a bit obsessive with fine details when I set my mind on a project, and my good health became my project during 2015. Here are the things I have been tracking:

  • Weight. I weigh myself every day, record an average for each week and month. I have also been recording my weight every 31st January for many years. This gives me a better indication of any overall weight gain (or loss).
  • Body Mass Index is a measure which standardizes weight against height. The healthy range is BMI of 20 – 24.9, overweight is 25-29.9, and obese is 30 and over.
  • Waist measurement monthly. Excess around the waist is a risk factor for some diseases of affluence such as heart disease and diabetes.
  • Blood pressure. I have a home machine and measure this 2-3 times a week, more often if I have shown a rise and less often if it has been OK.
  • Blood tests. I have an annual check with my doctor who measures fasting glucose, blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides), nutrient levels (such as iron and Vitamin D) plus some other things she likes to keep an eye on.
  • Blood glucose. I am not a diabetic or prediabetic. However my mother and aunt were and some cousins are so I keep an eye on my own levels with a glucometer. I measure my fasting glucose level and sometimes take readings throughout the day.
  • Foods eaten. I do not count calories but I roughly write down foods I eat every day which keeps me on track that my ‘moderate’ (weekly) foods are not creeping into my daily intake and that my ‘tribal celebration’ foods are not too frequent. Every three months for a week I take a more accurate history and run it through a food analysis programme.

Here are my results:

  • Weight. Until 2010, my annual records showed a slow but relentless rise of about a quarter kilogram a year (half a pound). Not too bad. However, this ‘almost good enough’ for forty years meant I slowly gained ten kilograms. Another eight quickly followed in a crisis year and I was in trouble. Since my HEALTHplan commitment in January 2015, my daily and weekly weights have fluctuated but monthly average has shown a steady decline. It is now beginning to stabilize.
  • Body Mass Index. My BMI is now 22.5, in the middle of the healthy weight range.
  • Waist measurement. My waist measurement has slowly declined and is now less than half my height which is a criteria for being of lower risk.
  • Blood pressure. I previously sometimes had morning highs, and rises after stressful triggers. Now my readings are routinely low (110/70) and do not rise as much after stress.
  • Blood tests. My cholesterol levels were OK from the start and have improved even more. Readings are in fact now very low as is my triglyceride level. Iron levels have improved since menopause. I take Vitamin D sometimes as living in Tasmania doesn’t afford me enough from the sun in winter months.
  • Blood glucose. My fasting glucose levels have dropped 15% from the readings of a year ago. There is less spiking after meals and lower levels two hours after meals. I attribute this to modified diet, smaller portions, losing weight (thus lowering insulin resistance and improving glucose tolerance) and a higher activity level.
  • Foods eaten. The occasional detailed analysis shows I consume ~4500 kilojoules (1100 calories) on strict days; 5700 kilojoules (1,400 calories) on moderate days and 7500 kilojoules (1,800 calories) when indulging. I am very short 155cm and require less than taller people. On ultra-low days I average 50% calories as carbohydrate (153g), 19% protein (51g), 19% fat (23g) and 2% alcohol. Most fat is from cashews. My indulgence days were 42% carbohydrate (199g), 21% protein (66g), 25% fat (48g), 5% alcohol. Most fat from added fats and oils. Moderate days were between those figures. Percentages give a poor indication of my overall diet. During ultra-low periods I ate less and mainly ‘good’ stuff. During splurge periods I ate more of everything and more ‘bad’ stuff. Relative percentages overall mean nothing.

Overall, I am happy with where I am at the moment.

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ImageCourtesy[MayaPicture]FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Time capsules

ID-10051114.SalvatoreVuono

When my children’s primary school celebrated 100 years, they buried a time capsule with items relevant to that period. My hometown did the same celebrating 150 years. The idea is that sometime in the future the time capsule would be opened revealing a glimpse of life in a bygone era. Who needs official time capsules when you had a mother who lived to 88 years who saved things from her own, my father’s, their parents’, grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ generations? Recently, in the discovery of things she kept, my siblings and I were transported back to the everyday life of those eras. The main image I have is life moving at a slower pace than today.

Here is a snapshot of those times in Australia:

1850 – 1914
(from records of my parents grandparents, and my father’s great-grandfather)

• Travel internationally by sea, knowing that you may never see family again.
• Travel otherwise by steam-train or foot
• Correspond with family internationally by letters sent by sea.
• Correspond otherwise by letters and postcards sent ordinary mail.
• Calling cards to let friends know days you would be home
• Homes with lace doilies, embroidered tablecloths, silver treasures and afternoon-tea with home-made cakes and scones served on special crockery
• OR a tougher time of life in the bush or regional farming areas with no electricity, phones, sewerage or hot water
• A few treasured photographs
• Autograph books and sketch books recording friendships
• Reading books

1914 – 1945
(This era spanned the two world wars and the depression in between. In those years my parents grandparents aged, my grandparents were young adults, my parents were born and grew to young adults)

• Travel mainly by steam train, bus or foot, some early cars
• Travel internationally by boat, later by air for those in military
• Correspond internationally with family by letters sent air-mail
• Correspond otherwise by letters, postcards, or telegrams if urgent
• Write by dipping a pen into an ink-pot
• Autograph books, Diaries, Birthday books
• Ladies wore brooches
• Electricity in houses but no hot water, phones, or TV. Wireless became popular.
• Pounds shillings and pence
• Elderly aunts and parents were financially supported and cared by family, not the state
• Not much in the way of unemployment or sickness benefits (my grandmother wrote about this in her letters and memoirs)

1946 – 1965
(my parents up to middle age, me – baby boomer – as a young child)
• Main travel by steam train, electric trains in Sydney
• International travel mainly by boat. Later some travel by air by ‘before-their-time’ aunties.
• Increasing use of cars, electricity in homes, hot water systems, sewerage, telephones, refrigerators, wringer washing machines, radio, B&W TVs, tape recorders
• Communicating by writing letters ‘back home’ or by those at home to those away.
• LP records
• Clocks you had to wind with a key. Watches you had to wind. Alarm clocks.
• Addressing unmarried ladies as “Miss”
• Pounds, shillings and pence
• Copying by carbon paper or by duplicating machines with that messy purple stuff
• Pen and ink-pot, then fountain pens, then ‘Biros’
• Knitting, crocheting, sewing, home-made clothes, boxes of buttons
• Girls and ladies wore dresses, hats and gloves
• Men wore white shirts and thin black ties, boys wore shorts
• Cut Chrystal vases
• Box Brownie cameras
• Slide nights
• Family get together with 24 cousins
• Community bonfires
• Community festivals, parades, and annual shows
• Scouts, Girl Guides, choir, sport and other community groups
• Libraries
• Scrabble, cards, dominos, cribbage, ludo, draughts, monopoly
• Grocery, other stores where you had to the counter and ask for what you want
• Supermarkets from about 1960 onwards
• Back yard vegetable gardens and chooks
• Home-made food including apple pie, trifle and custard
• Roast dinner every Sunday
• Fish and chips every Friday
• Chinese takeaway
• The ice-cream man delivering paddle pops and ice-cream in bricks
• 1/3 pint milk served every recess at school
• Milk, bread and papers delivered to the house
• Collectibles in packets of breakfast cereals

1966 – 1985
(generation X, me as a young adult to the birth of my first two children)
• Cheaper air-travel
• Diesel then electric then double-decker trains
• Two-car families
• Photocopiers
• Transistor radios, CD players
• Automatic washing machines
• Dollars and cents
• Calculators
• Movie theatres where only one movie would show at a time
• Drive-in theatres
• Colour TVs
• Cassette tape recorders
• Hand-held ‘computer’ games
• Instamatic cameras
• The first take-away food shops from 1970s onwards

Can you add to this list?

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Image courtesy[SalvatoreVuono]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

When home no longer feels like home

 

ID-100123089.Stuart Miles

Since my marriage collapse, my home has been my sanctuary, a bedrock of certainty; providing me with strength, stability and comfort. I have written about my need for stability and the comfort my home provides here, here, here, here, here and here.

Some time ago I wrote that I was now ready to move and make a new life somewhere else. It is interesting that since I made that decision, my home no longer feels like home to me. In part, this growing negative feeling has been been due to the sorting of the business documents which was a mammoth task and quite distressing at times – with painful memories and negative feelings surfacing as I reviewed records and documents. Then Christmas came and went. It was wonderful to have all the family home. I was back in my element with my home and family my comfort. But now, with everyone else back in their own life, my mood has changed again and the desire to move is very strong.

Over the past three weeks I have been away, spending two weeks with my siblings sorting through my mother’s things and a week with my grand-children. As I drove home, I started to become anxious and, once inside, instead of the usual comforting ‘home at last’ feeling that I would normally get, I felt suddenly and dramatically quite down. There are a few factors at play here.

Firstly, having had three weeks with other family members, the aloneness hit me hard.

Secondly, while sorting through things of my mother (who was a hoarder) I had thoughts that I should have a proper sort through of all my own things before I move. With that thought in mind, when I returned home and looked around at what that would entail, I became overwhelmed at yet another mammoth ‘sorting’ project ahead of me. I knew that if I sorted to my own ‘must do everything meticulously’ standards, I would be here forever.

Thirdly, I have been craving quiet time. I wondered whether I would ever get to that place of peace and contentment.

Enough of all this negativity!

I am actually slowly moving forward and doing well at the moment. I am taking baby steps, baby steps across this bridge that I must traverse in order to get to my new life.

  • I have organized a storage space for the business archives that need keeping for five years. I will be moving them out next week. That will be a load off my mind.
  • I have put my house ‘unofficially’ on the market and will formalize this once the estate agent gets photos done etc.
  • A friend of mine offered to help with some of the packing-my-house-up headache.
  • In a few months, one of my sons and I are going on a bit of a road trip to Sydney.
  • Mid-year, I will be spending more time with my siblings for the final sort of my mothers things.
  • Later in the year, I am going to spend some time in Canada.
  • I am getting excited about my new life around the corner and have been looking at houses and places I want to move to.
  • I am feeling really fit and healthy and that is great!

Here I go!

ID-100238072.suwatpo_______________________________________________________________________

Image courtesy[suwatpo]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net