here at last

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.Viktor Frankl

 

I am here at last settled into my new house with BMW views (Beach, Mountain, Water). The house faces north so I get the sun all day. I walk to the beach twice a day and am keeping fit, well, and healthy. I am only 30 minutes from my eldest son and his family, and my daughter is also nearby.

Yet I feel a little bit home sick, pining for something, but uncertain exactly what.

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In his ground-breaking book about his experience of surviving the holocaust concentration camps Viktor Frankl describes three phases. The first phase is the shock of first arriving at camp. The second phase is entrenched in life at camp. The third phase is after liberation.

Frankl describes how in the second phase of complete uncertainty, stripped of everything from their former lives, people could still retain the freedom to choose their inner response to the situation. As opposed to feeling only misery, bearing suffering with dignity and finding goals for the future even in the midst of uncertainty, is what “makes life meaningful”.

Whilst I hesitate to compare my situation of divorce to that of a holocaust survivor, it is similar in that there were three phases. The first phase was that of my marriage collapse and being thrown into shock and chaos. The second phase was trudging through the marital settlement which took nearly four years. The third phase was the liberation from that process. Reading books like his helped me cope through many dark days of that second phase, the phase of prolonged suffering, by helping me form a sense of normality during that uncertain period, and an inner peace knowing that I still had choices.

During that horrible place, I got myself into a familiar routine and coped well with grace and dignity through all my suffering. I believe now, in a strange sort of way, I actually made a ‘career’ and new life for myself out of coping with my suffering. I branched out into a long phase of inner reflection and I began writing. I enjoyed writing and I felt I did it well.

When the settlement was finalized, I was free at last.

Since the ending of my trudging through the marital settlement, life has been unsettled as I have been in transition yet doing worthwhile things such as living life, visiting friends and family, sorting out my mothers estate and travelling.

I have now moved into my new home by the sea, ready to settle into my new life. But in many many ways, I have now been thrown back into another era of uncertainty.

What do I do now?

Winding the clock back six years, there was me in the certainty of my marriage, career, and community. I knew who I was and where I was going. The crisis of my marriage ending brought with it a loss of my identity that is now long gone which I grieved.

In my second phase world of trudging through the marital settlement, coping with the suffering and writing about it had become my new identity. It had become my place of certainty. As horrible as it was, my trudging through that mud had become a familiar place and I was safe in its familiarity.

Now life is again unfamiliar to me.

I am finding that I have been through or am going through another “identity crisis” of wondering who I am and who I will become. That identity I had made for myself, of writing about positive aspects of coping with my suffering no longer exists as I am no longer ‘suffering’. Then what will I do with my life? What will I write about?

Now I realize that is my answer.

Find out.

And write about it.

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Time capsules

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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

 

I feel the glow …

ID-100376345.M-PicsIn addition to my practical aims for the coming year, I have thought of a word to aim for in regard to my inner self. Last year I chose light. At the time I was just emerging from a very dark place and I felt that I wanted to focus on the emerging light. Mid-year after the death of my mother, who had always been my inspiration, I wondered how I would manage without her until I realized that before her candle went out she had lit my candle and that had become the light within me – her spirit. Furthermore, as the administrative tasks surrounding the marital settlement were gradually completed, I felt less burdened, I felt light with a spring in myself. The chosen word had indeed been appropriate for 2015.

Following on from a year of light, I now feel strengthening into a glow is appropriate for this year. Rather than simply light, or the first sign of hope, my aim will be to –

  1. shine brightly and steadily
  2. overflow with warmth, good health and confidence
  3. experience deep pleasure and pride in achievements
  4. emit light and warmth
  5. flourish and bloom
  6. radiate contentment and well-being

I feel the glow
The glow is me

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I see the light and the light is me

 

ID-100207722.KROMKRATHOGIt is the new year and a time for reflection.

My thoughts travel not so much to should-have-could-have-would-have regretful reflection but one of pondering accomplishments achieved, challenges overcome, and opportunities that lie ahead. In many ways, 2014 was a long and difficult year for me and there are still challenges ahead in 2015. Nevertheless, as I approach another fork in my journey of life, I can honestly say I am looking forward with eager anticipation to choosing which way I now need to go, and I am excited at the prospect of new adventures that await me.

I have been reading others’ thoughts on beginning the new year. One blogger invited us all to think of a word for 2015. Another blogger went further than 2015 and invited readers to look inside their ‘destiny’ box to view their future. That made me think of three things – the place I am currently at with the darkness now behind me, my aims for 2015, and my future destiny. In each of those places, I thought of light.

These are my hopes and dreams for me for now, for this coming year and for my future –

  • To reach towards and follow the light out of my darkness and pain…
  • To embrace the light in the day-break of my own new beginnings …
  • To see the light by gaining insight, understanding and awareness …
  • To experience the light of new Ideas, opinions and ventures …
  • To have a light in my eyes, for my eyes to sparkle with joy …
  • To have a light disposition by becoming cheerful and engaged …
  • To carry a light weight by being less burdened by baggage …
  • To reflect the light of inspirational people …
  • To show the light of hope to others less fortunate than myself …
  • To be the light – to guide, to inspire, to ignite …

I see the light.
I feel the light.
I am the light.

 

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From Trauma to Transformation

ID-100194153.VladoAfter a loss there is a period of grief and then, as described by experts, “acceptance” of the loss and moving on. In regards to the ending of a long marriage, I do not think that it is that simple as I believe the supposed ‘grief’ period is just the first stage of several difficult stages on a journey to a completely different life. These are the stages I went through:

Trauma

Caught up in the sudden and distressing way that it happened, for a long time I was caught in a single moment in time of “when my husband left me”. My whole life was defined by that moment in time. In my life before that moment I had security and trust, and I felt happy. In my life ahead I saw chaos and trauma, and I felt fear. It was too painful to think about my losses, about my life that I had lost, so I didn’t. I could not face my scary future, about my life alone, so I didn’t. My life became the suffering of that single moment in time. So horrific were the effects on me that day, that I had flashbacks to that moment, little triggers that took me back there. In those flashbacks, once again I would hear the horrific words, and I would feel the distress and the pain of abandonment, betrayal and lost love. I was the victim of that moment in time – the moment when my husband left me.

I moved on

Tolerance

I became the survivor of “the ending of my marriage”.
I coped. I tolerated the grief process and I mourned the loss of my marriage. I accepted that it had happened. I survived every hour of every day. I watched the sunrise. I went for daily walks. I paid gratitude for everything good in my life. I learned to live alone.
I was no longer caught in that moment in time.
I became the survivor of that event – the event of the ending of my marriage.

I moved on.

Truth

I discovered the truth. I discovered me. I realized this was “my new beginnings”.
I learned how to be grateful for me, myself, and I.
I looked back and saw that that day had been the beginning of a journey, a journey of discovery to the new me. I began to realize that the ending of my marriage gave me the opportunity to reform myself and to do the things in life that I had always wanted to do.
I began to make choices – my choices – of how I wanted to live.
I began to live by my truth, and I realized that my truth had begun the day my husband left me, when my marriage ended.

I moved on.

Transformation

My life began to be what I made it on this day in the present, at this moment in time.
I found joy in the moments of today, with no sadness of the past, with no fear for the future.
I began to look forward to the times ahead. I began to dream again. I gave myself permission to envision my future as productive, meaningful and filled with joy.
I began to look back with happiness and pride in my achievements in my long marriage.
I stopped being trapped within that moment in time when my husband left me.
I stopped defining myself by the end of my marriage, or by my marital status.
I stopped thinking that I began anew that day as I began to realize that I had been me all of my life, and I had been discovering me all of my life. I resolved to continue to transform myself into who I want to become, this day, every day.

I look forward with eagerness to transforming myself into an admirable person and making my life a wonderful life.

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Loneliness and daffodils

Down my driveway

A host of golden daffodils!

 

I was struck by loneliness a few days ago.

Loneliness is something that comes and goes for me. It was intense when my husband first left me. That was because I still cared for him deeply. I missed him as my soul-mate. I missed his companionship and I was hurting quite badly. I wanted to be loved and cared for. I wanted to be hugged. I wanted to be appreciated and respected. I wanted someone to think that I was special. I wanted someone to watch over me. A special person.

Loneliness moved on to a dark cold place of feeling rejected, discarded, unwanted and unloved. Loneliness kept me feeling insignificant, that I did not matter, that I was meaningless. Loneliness became a feeling that I would never see the light out of my darkness, that I would never feel any warmth again.

Loneliness became a feeling of having no direction in life. It became endless worrying and worrying about endless worrying.There was the loneliness of sorrow and grieving with no end. It became a bad dream from which I could not awaken.

Loneliness became me suffering and suffering alone. It became a burden for me, this  suffering alone. It wasn’t being alone that made me suffer loneliness. It was the suffering that made me feel alone, the knowing there was no-one who would understand me.

Loneliness transcended into me feeling like a misfit. There was no tribe out there for me.
I was a black pearl in amongst diamonds and even though I was trying hard to be a diamond, no-one wanted me.

That was yesterday.

Today is different because I realize this:

There has always been light out of the darkness. The sun always comes up. Absolutely. And even before the sun comes up, there are stars in the sky.
There is always warmth. The warmth of human kindness. The warmth of my inner being.
There is always hope. There is me. The hope is a belief in myself that never fades.

Today it is spring. The sun is shining. The flowers are in full bloom. In the ‘bliss of solitude’ I remember all the good that I have in my life, all my friends and loved ones who care for me and whom I adore, and my own specialness. And today I accept that I am a black pearl and proud of it. I want to remain a black pearl. Black pearls are rare and special. I am special.

‘And then my heart with pleasure fills, and dances with the daffodils’.

Daffodils
William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A Poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ticking the boxes

 

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My last post, alluding to my tendency to often being late, was actually about whether I had lived true to my values. It drew some interesting responses. One that surprised me was from a follower who had perceived me as an ‘always on time’, well-organized ‘super-woman’. The comment made me wonder who the real me is and what masks I had been hiding behind since being alone. After my husband left me I courageously worked through my grief, detached emotionally from him and made steps towards forgiveness. I perfected the art of living alone and embracing each day in all its glory. From six months after he left for about a year, I remained in that space with my life compartmentalized.

The stoic everyday me

I went about my everyday life in the scheduled daily routine I created. I would rise, watch the sunrise, write in my journal and go for a walk before heading to work, four days a week. I put aside the angst surrounding my divorce and pretended life was normal. I interacted with staff in a normal fashion and focused on work. I socialized on a casual basis. I connected with friends one-on-one for coffee or lunch. After work I would return home to my evening routine of dinner and relaxation. Regularly I would ring my family and friends.

Mother

I desperately yearned for what I had lost, my intact family unit. I tried to put it back together. I regularly drove four hours to see my eldest son, his wife and my grand-daughter. My two younger children lived in the same area and I saw them often. I would mark dates on my calendar to keep me going until I saw them again. I came alive when I saw them. I put my heart and soul into being mother and grandmother. I would cook, bake, read stories to my grand-daughter and play this role I loved. When I was on my own again, I would fall flat and feel very sad.

Adventurer

I underwent ‘experiential pastimes’ that one is supposed to do when carving a new life. I put that in quotation marks because I was not craving that at all. I did it because it was expected I would want to travel and try new things after my world had upended. So I tried. Inside I was craving family so I combined ‘experiences’ with being with family; in Sydney, visiting my second son in Canada and attending a friend’s wedding in Ireland. Each time I felt on shaky emotional ground when away from home.

Mud trudging

The fourth me was (and is) trudging through mud of the divorce and property settlement. This has been horrid. At first I tried to avoid it. Then I tried to deal with it on the side of my life. That didn’t work. I felt resentful every single day I had to deal with it. Eventually I gave up two days a week for two years in order to do what had to be done to get through it. I pretended it was simply another part of my life. Some people study for a degree. Some people belong to a craft club. Some people write books. I trudged through the mud of our property settlement.

Soul searching

This is discovering who I really am. This started with me writing my journal daily, blogging then reading philosophy. And self-help books. Lots of them. My reflection became more and more intense as I delved into the core of my inner self.

Ticking boxes

After a year, I looked back to what I had been doing. I realized I had been ticking boxes.

I have worked through my grief. Tick.
I have detached emotionally from my husband. Tick.
I have spent time in nature. Tick.
I have enjoyed the moments of today. Tick.
I have spent time with loved ones. Tick.
I am contributing to society by working. Tick.
I have experienced new things. Tick.

Ticking boxes worked.
In those first four roles I remained in a relative state of calm.

However, each time I visited the fifth me, that part of me trying to find the real me, I was confronted with a question I could not answer.

Which role is the real me?

 

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