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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Image courtesy[GraphicsMouse]/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

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

ID-10039860.digitalart“Unless you change your lifestyle for health, eventually you will need to change your lifestyle for illness.”

When an illness strikes, I make all sorts of changes to my lifestyle. I fit in doctor’s appointments, physiotherapy, getting prescriptions, taking medicines, having blood tests, hospital trips, surgery. I make adjustments to my routine, live at a slower pace and cut down on commitments. I accept that if I ever get something serious, I may need to accept being housebound, modify my home, or require a walker or wheelchair to get around. For both minor and major illnesses, there will be changes to my lifestyle.

Isn’t it crazy that we are willing to make changes to our lifestyle when we become ill, yet not willing to make such changes to keep our health. Most importantly, so-called ‘diseases of affluence’ (obesity, heart disease, diabetes, some cancers), can be prevented or delayed with changes to lifestyle.

The people of the world with the highest life expectancy and lowest rate of diseases of affluence live in five ‘blue zones’ of the world: Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Okinawa, Japan; and Loma Linda, California (Seventh Day Adventists). Of diverse cultures, they have certain lifestyle factors in common:

(1) A sense of purpose

(2) A routine to shed stress (moments out, praying, napping, or having a ‘happy hour’).

(3) Emphasis on engagement in family life and loved ones.

(4) Belonging to a ‘tribe’ that supports a healthy lifestyle or spiritual engagement.

(5) Moderate constant activity throughout the day.

(6) Moderate intake of calories.

(7) A plant-based semi-vegetarian diet.

(8) Moderated intake of alcohol.

(9) Low incidence of smoking

When I was younger I got away with all sorts of dietary and lifestyle indiscretions. Too much food. The wrong sorts of food. Not enough exercise. An overwhelming to-do list. Too much stress. Must-attend important meetings. Activities that went on all night, or for days, or weeks, without a break. Not enough sleep. Using food as comfort when angry, lonely or bored. Too much sitting, at my computer, at my desk, or watching soppy movies. Using alcohol as a crutch when in crisis (actually that happened when I was older).

Eventually all that took its toll. It wasn’t one thing in particular. It became everything in general. Lack of sleep made me tired, leading to a low exercise tolerance. I had a healthy diet yet, when stressed, I turned to food for comfort or I would sit watching soppy movies.

I became overweight. I was in good health but knew the risk factors were getting higher for me. This was why I began my H.E.A.L.T.H.plan. Whilst putting in place healthy eating and higher activity has reaped me the greatest benefit (and I am now in the middle of the healthy weight range), I believe it was changes to my lifestyle in the years preceding that set me up for that success.

(1) Developing a new sense of purpose and vision for my future. This included a vision of me as vibrant and radiant; with good health as a goal.

(2) Putting family first. This included caring for my mother in her terminal illness, and regular contact with my children, grand-children, siblings and extended family.

(3) Developing strategies for letting go of stress that do not involve food or alcohol or sitting like a blob. These include phoning a friend, journalling, visiting someone, going to the library, walking, getting outside, spending time in nature, or time-out in finding ‘me’.

(4) Simplifying my life. Getting rid of clutter and letting go of too many commitments has been easier since the sale of the business and the marital settlement. Nevertheless, it has become my mindset, to prioritize those things that really matter.

(5) Non-food rewards. Essential to my H.E.A.L.T.H.plan. has been celebrating each milestone of success by buying new articles of clothing as the dress-sizes have dropped, going to a movie or having weekend trips.

(6) Belonging to a ‘tribe’ that supports a healthy lifestyle. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink to excess. I have been encouraged in my more active lifestyle and in non-food rewards.

 

One remaining lifestyle factor, that of ‘tribal engagement’ in celebrations surrounding food, will be the topic of my next H.E.A.L.T.H.plan post.

All these changes in lifestyle combined triggered a massive change in attitude a year ago to one of optimism and a more positive self-image that put me on the road to success.

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ImageCourtesy[digitalart]FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The Blue Zones. Dan Buettner

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

 

 

 

spring into summer

ID-100128413.africa

After over three and a half years of looking towards spring with hope and optimism while still trudging through the mud of a cold bleak winter, I feel that winter is finally over. Spring is here. Summer is on its way. More importantly, the trudging is finally over. There is now a spring in my step. This is a warm bright place to be and I am singing.

I have therefore changed the name of my blog from ‘Almost Spring’  to ‘Spring into Summer’. I am no longer looking towards spring, I am in spring and I am bouncing.

I have altered the tagline from ‘transforming my life from we to me’  to ‘finding my voice and speaking my truth’. I have also revised the information in the pages and sidebar. I feel that these changes more correctly reflect where I am in my life.

Spring is a season, not only for new beginnings, but also for shaking off the winter blues and getting ready for the warm summers ahead. I see this time in my life as one in which to spring-clean or tidy up my old world, letting go of anything that does not serve me well; as well as planting seeds ready for their bloom in the summer to come. I see it as an exciting time of trying out new things, as well as planning and readying myself for the vision I have for a wonderful future, a vision of living true to my own beliefs.

The planning stage for that vision is finding my voice and speaking my truth.

My journey continues. I hope that you will join me on the path ahead.

 

 

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Image courtesy of [africa] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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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ImageCourtesy[Krotkahog]FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

Feelings

It has been a roller-coaster of emotions for me these past eight weeks. On many days I have coped by blocking my emotions out. I have either acted by automatic pilot, and / or kept myself very busy, doing anything except taking the time to stop and simply feel my emotions. At other times, my emotions have poured out of me like a torrent of water from a broken tap that would not stop, and I felt things deeply.

My writing stopped for several weeks.

Then when I started writing my journal again, I wrote in a staccato, factual fashion, with no depth of feeling. That was because I was finding it very difficult to process five or six different emotions all at once. It became easier to describe what was happening, rather than how I was feeling. How could I describe all that I have been feeling? All the time my mind has been blank, yet racing at a thousand miles a second. How could I describe that?

Earlier this year I had been working through my transformation to the new me; beginning with my foundations of comfort, then moving on to my foundations of freedom, and the freedom to discover myself. As part of that process I had reached a point where I began to feel my own feelings. Like a light coming on, I realized that I had a right to those feelings, and a right to express those feelings. To some people, that may seem like a strange discovery. Not for me. To me, this was a revolution happening. It was a huge change.

For many years I had been suppressing how I really felt, I had been suppressing the true me inside myself. I was the product of growing up as the introverted sister with two extroverted siblings. I became the product of the introverted wife married to the ultra-extroverted husband. I learned to play the part of second fiddle. I learned to fix and support but never shine. I learned to think that I did not matter, that my feelings did not count, that my opinions were not that important, that what I did was not significant.

Earlier this year I found my own significance and my own feelings began to surface. When I began to feel my feelings and recognize them as my own feelings, I wrote down as the first part of my life purpose “to find my voice and speak my truth“. In other words, I had resolved, to not only act true to myself, but to also begin to speak out about being true to myself. I resolved to begin telling my whole story, to voice out loud how I really felt inside my heart and to express what I really thought, rather than what I thought other people would expect of me.

Then life got in the way.

Before I had a chance to write my story (the story that had been), more of life began happening. Life unfolded in an expected and sudden way and I was swept along by a stream of emotions: joy and sadness, hope and desperation, elation and disappointment, aloneness and togetherness, comfort and distress, brokenness and harmony, confusion and clarity, quandary and resolution, closed and open, indecisiveness and decisiveness, anger and calmness.

At first I could not process them, to feel them. Then I did. I began to feel them. Some of them hurt, yet I allowed myself to feel their intensity.  The numbness that had been blocking out my emotions lifted. It had been so foreign to me to allow myself to feel any emotions. It was even more foreign to express those emotions.

Yet, to feel them is to live more fully, to express them is to become true to myself.

To write about them is now, for me, a necessity.

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Images:Courtesy[Africa]FreeDigitalPhotos.net