climbing out of black holes

“If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, its 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 Chodron

ID-100136205,SweetCrisisWhen my marriage collapsed, and especially because of the way it collapsed, I felt stunned, vulnerable and scared. I felt like a knife had been pushed into my heart. I felt I had been wronged.

After the initial shock I began reading as much as I could, books, articles, blogs. Many of those sources tended to focus on the ex-spouse. In that regard, there is much space in the ‘divorce’ genre devoted to the diagnosis (usually by unqualified people) of personality defects (such as narcissist or sociopath) or them going through a mid-life crisis or similar that may have led the ex-spouse to do what they did. Because at the time I felt so bad about myself, then reading about that did provide some comfort that there may have been something wrong with “him”, rather than something wrong with “me” and I was simply a victim of my ex-husband’s action. As for my own writing, I didn’t focus so much on negative things about him but I did focus on the event of the marriage collapse itself, the suddenness of it, how painful it was and what a bad thing to have happened to me. In that regard, I was still a victim, of a bad event.

If bad things happen, I do think that one does have to work through negative feelings associated with the event. However, at some point, and this started very early for me and then grew, I decided to focus on myself and improving myself rather than focus on what had happened and why. Later on when I became overwhelmed by the amount that had to be done in the divorce process and financial settlement, I began to re-frame that process as a step towards my new life. In other words, I focussed on getting out of the hole, rather than being in the hole. I did not realise how far I had come until recently I read a post by someone I follow who – years later – is still focussed on a past event and being in a hole. I felt sad for that person that that meant they were still in the hole.

I still apply two vital techniques that I learned to get through the difficult days of climbing out of my hole, in getting through any difficulty in my current days.

(a) If something happens that I was not expecting that conjures up negative feelings –

After an initial anxiety period thinking about that ‘bad’ event, I instead turn my attention to improvement in one or more areas of my life:

  • protection
  • connection
  • contribution
  • creation
  • celebration

I focus on healing or protecting myself or family members; fostering better connections with my children, grandchildren and others in my life; or I focus on making a greater contribution to society, or becoming creative, or looking forward to and planning a celebratory event. In other words I try and focus on the positive in my life OR on making improvements in my life or in the life of someone else. If I do focus on positive things or on improvement, then it is impossible to feel sad or bad and the negative feelings about what has happened begin to fade away.

(b) If there is something horrible that I need to get done –

Instead of focusing on how awful it is, I try and focus on the better place that task will take me to. That can be a simple matter of getting mundane horrible tasks done (such as bills paid, or tax returns done, or tidying and cleaning finished) so that my mind is then clear to enjoy my days. For major necessary practical things that can sometimes literally overwhelm me, I focus on the better place that the tasks will take me to.

I applied these techniques to many of the steps of the marital settlement and I am now applying these to the practical steps of moving house.

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ImageCourtesy[SweetCrisis]/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

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

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

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

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

Level One – one on one.

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

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

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

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

However –

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

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

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

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

Level Four – being part of society at large.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Finding my 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

 

 

 

My H.E.A.L.T.H. plan – H for headstrong.

ID-100239270.PrawnyAt the beginning of the year I wrote an initial post about how, in this first year of my new beginnings, I wanted to focus on me and getting my health and fitness to a level I was happy with. I devised a H.E.A.L.T.H. plan for myself of

Headstrong Eating and Active Lifestyle Transition Habits

My plan captures everything I want from life. Good health. Sensible eating. Becoming more active. A balanced lifestyle of self, family, stability, relaxation, social connections, career, creativity, home, celebrations, and community. I decided to give myself time to transition into my meaningful life, find my life’s purpose and form habits so I could do this for life!

The lapse in my writing has been that it has taken me a while to decide what the first ‘H’ would stand for. Now that I am seven months down the track I realize my plan began with devising it, thinking it through, and researching the best ways of becoming fit and healthy for my age and lifestyle. All that happened in my head – the logical part of me.

However, my head is also the part with little voices that sometimes do me undone. Those voices that say ‘what is the point’, ‘you have tried before and failed’, ‘you are not strong enough’, ‘you cannot fight your genetic make-up’ … and so on. There are also voices of other people and society-accepted norms pushing me into dietary or lifestyle choices that do not serve me well. I needed to find the strong voice inside me to counteract that which had previously dragged me down. I did that by creating a vision in my head of a healthy and fit me, and a prevention of diseases of affluence such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. I devised my own dietary and lifestyle plans with choices that would benefit me and lead me to my vision. I believed in those choices and became committed to my vision of a healthier me. That conviction was so strong that the voices within me also became strong – strong  enough that I no longer became swayed by others or unexpected events or my own inner negative voices that tried to pull me against my choices. I became strong enough to defend my choices.

So the first step on my road to better health began with my mind, creating my vision, devising a plan, committing to it, and developing a strong voice within me to persevere with my plan and defend my lifestyle choices.

My first step was to become headstrong.

My journey continues …

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Image.courtesy[Prawny]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Transmuting anger

“I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power that can move the world” Mahatma Gandhi

ID-10032230 I have written before that I find it difficult feeling, dealing with or expressing anger. I am not inherently an angry person and I hate confrontation. I am generally of a forgiving nature – perhaps too forgiving – and I am tolerant of other people’s up and down moods. However, I tend to put anger in a different category than a simple ‘mood’ and I am prone to associate anger with aggressive, toxic and hostile people.

So if ever I find myself becoming angry, it fills me with angst as I become concerned that I may be turning into an angry toxic person. Then, as I am reluctant to face my anger, my emotions start to twirl around in an uncontrollable fashion.

Having had to deal with a fair amount of anger over the past few years, I have come to realize that the feeling anger has a defensive form and it tends to be this defensive form that is the one that sometimes hits me. Usually it hits me in response to an aggressive action directed at me. In those circumstances my own anger that I feel has actually been the one emotion that is everything to do with defending my values.

Anger is my reactive emotion whenever I have perceived mistreatment, insult or malice. It is the feeling of anger that gives me a sense of justice, and to want to right wrongs. It is anger that leads me on to defend morality. For example, anger is the outrage I feel when I hear about child abuse, racism, mistreatment of women, rape or murder. From a personal perspective, it has been anger that has empowered me to do good in past causes that I have taken on such as the saving of wilderness areas, and fighting for free speech.

Anger is also the feeling that empowers me to become the best I can be. Anger has been the emotion behind my silent protest against what I initially saw as a reprehensible situation, on the collapse of my marriage. Anger planted within me an inner drive to get through the mess, survive and thrive. When I have felt utterly worthless and useless, anger has been the rebellious spirit within me fighting for feelings of self-worth, courage and dignity. Being energy-charged, anger has enabled me to keep going though all the turmoil, through all the mud. When I felt all the values I ever believed in had been violated, it was anger that gave me the drive to fight to maintain my own values, to keep believing in them, and to keep living by them – no matter what. Anger has kept me striving towards a life of moral principles to live by … and to keep doing what I believe is right.

Rather than try and bury anger, which I am prone to do, it is far better that I ask ‘what value do I feel has been violated that is making me feel this way?’ Then with a rightful indignation against the violation of that value, affirm within myself that I will never compromise that value and determine to keep living by that value’s code. Once that value within me is reaffirmed, the course of action out of turmoil into a land of peace and harmony becomes more obvious to me.

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This is a third post in a series on feeling my feelings.
# 1. Feeling my feelings
# 2. Recognizing my own feelings

Image.courtesy[Chrisroll]/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