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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

Blue skies ahead

ID-10043357.digitalart“I am not sure what I shall do. Nothing here has worked out quite as I expected.”
“Most things don’t. But sometimes, what happens instead is the good stuff”
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

About a year ago, after much soul-searching, I was emotionally in a place where I wanted to move on. I wanted to begin a course. I wanted to try something different. I wanted to move away. I wanted to begin my new life.

I couldn’t. I still had to finish off the marital settlement and run the business.
I became stationed in this horrible place of being here and wanting to be there.
Everything was overwhelming me and I was in deep pain.

At the time many friends, family and supporters assumed I was still suffering the end of my marriage, the leaving of me by my husband, its emotional effects, and my shattered self-esteem. Whilst those issues added to my pain, they were no longer the main problem. What I was experiencing was not something that I had to ‘get over’. It was something that I had to ‘get through’. The problem, and hence my misery, was all the legal and practical things that still had to be done surrounding the marital settlement. There was still all that mud to trudge through, before I could begin my life as I wanted it.

I yearned for a better life yet to ‘get through’ to that better life, I had to put that better life aside. I had to put aside my dreams. I had to stop writing poetry. I had to stop planning my future. I had to stop indulging in soul-searching. I had to face what needed to be done and devote my time to getting done what I had to get done.

Nevertheless I had been instilled, with a vision of a better life.

In some ways, the vision made things much more painful. Up until that point, I had clung onto the remnants of my old life. The relative uncomfortableness surrounding my marriage end had become tolerable. I had become used to feeling under-par rather than happy. I had become used to scattered grey clouds over my head. I would smile and carry on.

However…

Once the vision of a better life had been planted in my head, that world I was in became a scary deep hole. There were no clouds to see. There was total darkness. It was the vision of a better place that made the world that I was in so painful and intolerable.

And yet …

It was the vision of me striding towards that better place that kept me going forward, that kept me trudging onwards through the mud, until I was through it on the other side.

which is where I am now –

  • flitting from activity to activity unable to focus and not bothered that I can’t
  • spending a lot of time faffing
  • sorting out my own personal budget and knowing that it is all mine
  • planning
  • not planning
  • watching drippy movies and not caring that I am wasting time
  • feeling anxious (‘what on earth am I going to do with the rest of my life?’)
  • feeling euphoric (‘I can choose to do whatever I want!’)
  • back to my dreams of a wonderful future
  • in a world of hope and happiness
  • understanding there is still practical stuff to get done  – and knowing it will be
  • knowing, as in the quote above, I am heading towards ‘the good stuff’

 

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Image courtesy[digitalart]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Song: Jimmy Cliff version of the Johnny Nash hit ‘I can See Clearly Now’.

 

 

 

 

 

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

Love under a rainbow

 

ID-100194310.nongpimmy

 

My second son was married two weeks ago. It was a glorious affair over six days on the Cook Islands.  It was the coming together of our family and my new daughter-in-law’s family and all of the couple’s friends. It was the coming together of my family and my ex-husband’s family for the first time since our separation. It was the first major milestone that we had faced since that separation.

It was not without an undercurrent of fear (on my part) in meeting up with my ex-husband in these circumstances and wondering how to react with him. However, it was time to put all that aside and make it a happy occasion for my son and his wife to be.

Prior to the wedding, we had managed to arrange a family get together with the happy couple in Sydney for my mother and my two nephews and families who could not make it to the wedding. We were able to bring together for the first time my mother’s six little great-grand-daughters, including my two grand-daughters, all under five. They looked so cute together. It was a happy day. Due to some wonderful friends, we were also able to arrange care for my mother for a few days so that my sister could also attend the wedding, albeit she would only attend for two nights.

Once on the island, I was able to relax and I had a wonderful time. I shared a villa with two of my children, my sister (on the two nights she came), my brother-in-law, and my niece. My brother and his family were in the villa next to us. We were able to have some close family gatherings and chats long into the night. It was a wonderful time of togetherness.

I even did some kayaking and had a pedicure 🙂

The wedding ceremony itself on the fifth day was beautiful and many tears of joy and happiness were shed, along with some nostalgic tears, and some sad tears that my son would now reside in Canada – so far away.

Then it came to the reception and speeches.

When I turned sixty earlier this year, I gave a little speech about my life being like a tree. I described the roots of the tree as my ancestral and extended family; the trunk of the tree as representing my friends, acquaintances, education, talents and experiences; and the branches of the trees my children and grand-children. I had described how my tree was spreading the seeds of the values inherited from my family, and those I had formed myself.

When it came to my turn for giving a speech, I had thought I would use the same imagery of the tree. However, I could not see where my son and new daughter-in-law would fit. Would she become part of my tree? Would my son become part of her tree? Would they start growing their own tree?

Then, instead of a tree, I thought of the imagery of a rainbow.

A rainbow represents harmony. To me, having the wedding in such a setting with all of us coming together to help celebrate, was like a rainbow. It was the promise of new beginnings, after the storm. The arches of the rainbow represented the joining together of my son’s family and my new daughter-in-law’s family. Each colour of each arch of the rainbow represented each parent and grandparent and their families, and we were joined together in harmony by the union of my son and his new wife. This was the promise to them of the rainbow and its message of hope. Within that rainbow, there were the gifts that had been given to them by all the generations that went before them.

Red for passion and excitement.
Orange for vitality and good health.
Yellow for the promise of new beginnings.
Green for compassion and kindness, and for this great earth.
Blue for the courage to speak up for their beliefs.
Indigo for love and companionship.
Violet for peace, temperance and wisdom..
The full rainbow for embracing love in harmony.

That was my message to them for their wedding.

And this (by sheer coincidence) was their wedding song.

 

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Image courtesy[Tao55]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

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.