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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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

ImageCourtesy[SweetCrisis]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

In with the new …

ID-10088168Over many years, rather than a list of resolutions of what I would like ‘to do‘ for the year, I had thought of new beginnings in philosophical terms of what I would like ‘to be‘ such as being responsible for my own destiny; developing a strong core of principled values, beliefs, and attitudes; and showing courage, kindness and fairness.

Whilst commendable, that philosophical framework did little to actually move me forward out of the mud of the nearly four years of the marital property legal settlement. For that, practical aims were needed and a return of that dreaded ‘to-do’ list. In that regard, I was buoyed by a suggestion to re-frame the processes for the settlement as steps towards my future, rather than thinking in terms of being stuck in the past. That suggestion was as if a light had come on. My mother, also recognizing I was suffering a dread of pushing through the legal steps rather than an inability to get over emotional aspects, later reinforced this. “You just have to get stuck in and get it all done”, were her words to me. So, even though I yearned for the luxury of starting my new life, in 2014, I had to push aside my emotional pain and set practical goals to get the marital settlement over the line.

In January 2015, the legal papers were finally signed. Even though there would be no going back, the actual processes would still take some time. Because of administrative tasks, I was not yet free. At the time, my mother was also gravely ill and I was sharing in her full- time care. My life was still on hold. However, with the sale of the business, and changes happening around me, I needed a new focus for the year – for me. On January 02, with a lightening bolt of an idea, I decided to focus on my health for a full year. Throughout 2015, while caring for my mother and grieving her death, while dealing with administrative tasks of the legal separation, while sorting out the 600 archive boxes in the shed, I have clung onto that one goal for 2015 as something for me. I achieved that goal. Now, rather than having a feeling of still being stuck because I have not moved on as I am living in the same house in the same town, I have not started a new career, and I have not been on any exciting adventures; I do have an enormous sense of achievement in keeping to that goal. Moreover, my health, weight improvement (and new wardrobe) have transformed me.

Keeping goals makes me feel good about myself and feeling good about myself is good for me. So it seems for two years in a row now, practical goals and the dreaded ‘to-do’ list have actually worked for me. Maybe there is something in my character or personality that responds well to set goals, at least for practical aspects of my life. With that in mind, let me continue and tick a few more things off my list…

Here are my practical goals for 2016:

  1. Sell my home and set-up a new home nearer other family members.
  2. Set my financial goals, including developing a new avenue of income.
  3. Spend time with my siblings in NSW, my son in Canada, friends and family.

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Images.courtesy[StuartMiles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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

My H.E.A.L.T.H. plan – A is for Active – how doing ‘something’ every day grew to 10,000 steps

ID-10043382.digitalartTwo years ago I wrote a post on how my attempts at engaging in an exercise programme (such as running or going to the gym) repeatedly failed. That was because it was an all or nothing approach that I took. I would do lots of exercise. I would get sick of that. Then I would slip back into doing nothing at all.

At that point in time when I wrote that post, which was I might add a fairly intense period of my life when I was extremely busy, I resolved instead to simply do ‘something’ every day, whether that was a short walk or housework or similar.

Life unfolded again and again after that and so getting myself into a proper exercise programme was indeed out of the question. I simply could not commit that time as there was too much else going on in my life. However, I kept up with doing ‘something’. I told myself I had to do a minimum of ten minutes a day. That does not sound very much and indeed it isn’t and that is the point. There was simply no excuse for not being able to find at least ten minutes a day. But what that ten minutes became was a commitment to myself that no matter how bleak the day was, no matter how overwhelming the tasks in front of me were, I always deserved those ten minutes for me, for my health, for my well being.

The ten minutes grew to fifteen and then to twenty. I came to really enjoy those twenty minutes each day where generally I would go for a walk after breakfast. I kept up that twenty minutes through rain, hail, and sunshine.

Since I began my H.E.A.L.T.H.plan where I resolved to take fifty weeks or one year to get my health fully back on track [giving myself two weeks off over Christmas 🙂 ] and especially the last four months since the final ending of the marital settlement, I have been doing even more. The morning walk has gradually increased to forty minutes a day, and each afternoon I go into town and by doing so clock up an extra twenty minutes of walking. Then I have been giving the house a much-needed spring clean, room by room. It is amazing how many ‘something’ minutes are clocked up when you become a better house-keeping person. Last, but not least, a definite advantage of sorting the boxes upon boxes in the garage, is the fact that it has added to the little bits of ‘something’ that I have been doing.

A few weeks ago, I downloaded a fitness app onto my phone that counts the number of steps I do a day. I was so excited when the first day I used it I clocked up 10,000 steps which the app told me is more active that 94% of the population. Some days I have clocked up 15,000. I have never considered myself a fitness freak and indeed I hate exercise and it did give me a thrill to realize that I was doing more than 94% of the population, simply by doing ‘something’ over and over throughout the day.

I have found the app is good as it does motivate me to go that extra distance, park the car a few blocks from where I need to so that I need to walk there and back and that adds up to my daily score. The children have similar ones on their phones or ones on their wrists and we text each other as to the steps we have done each day. So this has given me something to share with my children even though they are not with me – the enthusiasm for becoming more active. And now they are running and going to the gym to get their scores up, as they have to do that (after a sedentary day at work) in order to keep up with Mum who is simply doing ‘something’ – and more and more of it – every single day.

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Images.courtesy[digitalart]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

My H.E.A.L.T.H.plan – To begin at the beginning

ID-10041450.digitalartIn my first few weeks of freedom, after signing the marital settlement and selling the business, I was euphoric. The feeling of being alone and single and having full control over my own time, my own social life, my own family connections, my own finances, and my own responsibilities was intoxicating.

Then came moments of feeling overwhelmed.

It was as if three years ago I had been hit by a truck. It had taken me those three years to scramble from underneath the truck. For a long time, that became my focus and aim, to get out from underneath the weight of the truck, from the weight of the ‘process’ of legal and financial separation. So even though I finally became free of its weight, and that in itself was liberating, I could also begin to see the world beyond the truck.

It had changed. What’s more, I had changed. I had been waiting for that freedom for so long and yet when I got there, I realized an awful truth.

I must begin again.

Alone.

Initially I could not decide where to start. I was looking positively at this being a transition to my exciting new life, but it was still rather daunting. There was still so much to do and decide. I did not know where to start.

After a few fitful nights, tossing and turning, I woke one morning with my project for the next twelve months laid out before me. It was as clear as anything and I was excited about it. The project that came to mind was:

PUT YOURSELF FIRST

Begin.

Begin at the beginning.

Begin on the first step of the beginning.

For the next year, this first year of my new life, my first step would be to focus on me.
As clear as anything, I knew that was what I wanted and needed to do,

There were no excuses for me now.

Over a few weeks, I came up with a plan. It is more than a plan. It is forming new habits.

Headstrong Eating and Active Lifestyle Transition Habits

Ah! That spells out ‘Health’. What a great place to start!

However, there is more to this plan than simply good health. If you read the words carefully it captures everything I want from life. Good health. Sensible eating that allows social interactions. Becoming more active. Forming a balanced lifestyle of self, family, stability, relaxation, social connections, career, creativity, home, celebrations, community. Giving myself a year to transition into my meaningful life and find my life’s purpose. And making all this become habit so that I do it for life!

Wow! What a plan!

For too long in my life, I had been putting everyone and everything else first. I had suffered for that. My heath and well-being had suffered for that. I had gained some weight over the years of my distress (by my seeking comfort in food) and although I had made a start on health and fitness, things had slipped again. I had become less active. My blood pressure was labile. My blood cholesterol was OK, but higher than it had been. My home life had holes in it. My hobbies were in boxes, along with my dreams. I dropped social connections when I got caught underneath the truck. I had resigned from community groups. I had wanted to make something better for myself, for my family, and for the world, by making a contribution to worthwhile meaningful projects. Yet, it had become all talk and no action.

Yet I am no use to anyone, I cannot be supportive to my family, I cannot contribute to the world, unless I remain in good-health and my lifestyle returns to a better balance.That is the place I must first get to.

This has been a summary of my plan to get me to that better place.

Now to begin that first step.

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Image courtesy[digitalart]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wedding wobbles after divorce

 

ID-100125771.StuartMilesMy second son was recently married. People have asked me whether there were any ‘awkward moments’ due to the divorce. I would be lying if I said, ‘No’. However, I am pleased to say that most of the awkward moments were in my head. I did not let thoughts in my head control my actions. I paused and thought through anything before responding or, more importantly, not responding. I also noticed a difference to what I actually did think and experience compared to what I had been anticipating that I may experience.

When a mutual friend’s daughter married two years ago, I was raw inside. The vows spoken at the church made me cry and cry. As they spoke their vows, I thought about my own wedding and what I felt as the breaking of those vows. This wedding of my son was different. Those same thoughts did not enter my head when my son and his soon-to-be-wife spoke their vows. That same sadness did not surface. When they said their vows, I thought only of them. I thought only of their love for each other and the wonderful life they were to have together.

The ‘awkward’ moments came at different times, prior to the wedding ceremony itself; and afterwards at the reception.

As described in an earlier post, the wedding was six days at a resort on the Cook Islands, so there was six days of togetherness with family and friends, six days of happy times with others. Yet, in those happy times, there was that edge for me of being alone within myself, of not having that soul-mate to look out for me and, although I am beginning to revel in my independence and am quite capable of looking out for myself, seeing the togetherness of other couples looking out for each other stung me a little. My children having to spend separate times with each of us, stung me a little. The speech given by the father of my new daughter-in-law, speaking with pride of his wife and soul-mate of 40 years and their life of sharing and living out their promises to each other, stung me a little.

I had anticipated awkward moments with my ex-husband, even though he had decided to come ‘alone’ which made it easier for all of us.

Due to my mother’s health crisis in the weeks before the wedding, I had not had time to have “the conversation” with him, that of: ‘Please do not come up to me and insist that we should be friends. Please do not hug me in front of other people, as if nothing has happened between us. Please do not ask me to dance with you after the bridal waltz’. 

So the conversation had not happened and the awkward moments did happen and, surprisingly, I did not care. I was able to act with grace and dignity, smile, shrug those moments off, quickly move aside to other people, and put it all behind me.

However, those moments were defining moments for me. They were the first one-on-one, face-to-face contact I had had with him on a personal level in over a year. What I came to understand in those moments was that I have reached a place of emotional detachment from the man who left me. When he came up to me at the wedding, I no longer saw him as the man I had married 40 years ago. For three years I have felt pain whenever I thought of being abandoned by the man I had been married to. In those moments at the wedding, I realized that person no longer exists. He is not the same person as the man who left me. In those moments, I felt no pain regarding being left by the man who my husband had become. I felt no emotion for that man, I felt nothing for him, for the man who left me.

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