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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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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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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Song: Jimmy Cliff version of the Johnny Nash hit ‘I can See Clearly Now’.

 

 

 

 

 

Foundations of Freedom – find my voice and speak my truth

” I was going to die sooner or later, whether or not I had even spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you… Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest its personal. And the world will not end. And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will fall in love with your own vision, which you may never have realised you had… And at last you’ll know with surprising certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.” Audre Lorde

ID-10047255.stoonn

Here is part of what I wrote in my last post:

“We now have the freedom to vote, choose, express opinion, work and earn money, associate or assemble with those of our choosing, become educated, or be elected into positions of power… We are now free to pursue whatever we desire in terms of our dress, our leisure activities and our relationships with each other – in both the coming together or the breaking apart.”

I do not believe all that is true. It appears to be true. In reality it is not all true. I believe all members of our society do not have all those freedoms (of speech, expression, opinion, assembly, education etc). I believe every person in inter-personal relationships or in social groups do not have the same freedoms or power to speak as others. I believe they should have. One of my goals is to find my voice and to express my opinion and my beliefs on that. This is something that is burning within my soul. My desire to speak those truths.

That has become part of my purpose:

My purpose is to find my voice and to speak my truth.

 

 

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Foundations of freedom – freedom to do

“And the moment came, when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. “ Anais Nin

ID-10043380.digitalartWe are the lucky generation. Our forefathers handed us freedom from: freedom from slavery, tyranny and oppression. The next generations gave us our freedom to: freedom to vote, choose, express opinion, work, associate with those of our choosing, become educated, or be elected into positions of power. That has been followed by social, cultural and sexual revolutions since the 1960s. We are now free to pursue whatever we desire in terms of our dress, our leisure activities and our relationships with each other – in both the coming together or the breaking apart.

It seems to me each generation has wanted more freedom than the previous and, whereas in previous generations ‘freedom’ did mean the true sense of the word in freedom from oppression, our modern generation has put the emphasis on having freedom to do whatever we want. We want it all and we want it now. This is supposed to be something that we all desire. When my husband first left, people would say to me ‘now you are free to do whatever you want‘. When repeated back, that advice would catch me in the throat. Taking ‘freedom’ was foreign to me as I was craving stability and structure. I also saw it as being selfish. I thought I still had responsibilities and obligations to fulfill.

It has taken me nearly three years to understand that I don’t.

While it appeared I did, it really was an obligation to my own inner code of responsibility. I really did not have obligations to fulfill, except to myself. I am truly free to do whatever I want. Looking at it another way, I had to a degree been putting perceived responsibilities and obligations in my own path because of not knowing what to do with my freedom if I had it. It was easier to keep doing what I had been doing, even though painful, rather than taking my own freedom and basking in its sunshine. I could now undo my own imposed restraints of responsibility.

The big question now is not whether I have the freedom to what I want but rather, now that I know I do (nearly) have that freedom, what do I want to do with it?

That’s scary.

As I sat with a blank page on that question, a few overarching ideas of what ‘freedom to do’ means to me came to mind.

I have the freedom to live my own way.

I am free of external restrictions.

I have the freedom to impose my own moral code such as ‘first, do no harm’. As long as I impose it myself it is not a restraint, it is free-will. I cannot enslave myself. With no external restrictions, only internal ones, I have the freedom to think, speak and act the way I want.

I have the freedom to choose to be responsible for my family and friends. When I act out of devotion, there are no constraints – no matter what the responsibilities require of me.

I have the freedom to be part of my family, children and grand-children’s lives.

I have the freedom to be by myself whenever I want.

I have the freedom to choose my own direction in life and to fit that in with my own life’s purpose which I alone shall choose and I may take as long as I want to make that choice.

I have the freedom to choose my own goals by my own free-will and to work towards those goals unimpeded.

I have the freedom to choose my own attitude to develop a capacity by education, training or resolve to overcome any obstacle or impediment in my way.

I have the freedom to impose limitations, moral codes or constraints (by whatever definition) if that makes my new direction more comfortable. If my constraints are based upon my own goals or values – knowing where I stand will give me the liberty to act in complete freedom.

That is not so scary. That is all exciting …

Now to begin.

 

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Foundations of freedom – freedom to stop

 

ID-100179203.Stuart MilesYou may have thought from my last post that I was ready to move on to bigger and better things such as solving world poverty or finding world peace. However, I have decided this week it was just time to stop for a while. I have taken some time out to bring a little normality into my life by doing such things as having my hair cut, reading, spending some time sitting in the sunshine (even though it is winter here, it is sunny today) and generally doing nothing.

I have the freedom to do that.

Having said that, I do bear in mind the thoughts of a great mind:

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.” Nelson Mandela.

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Foundations of comfort – my need for safety

“The pen is mightier than the sword”
unless your opponent happens to be the one carrying the sword.

 

ID-100220275(1).1shotsA feeling that keeps resurfacing for me is intense fear. Looking underneath my fears I now recognise my unmet needs for emotional safety.

What does emotional safety mean to me?

Feeling safe means the absence of thinking that whatever I love and treasure could be taken away from me in a single moment.

Feeling safe means being assured that whatever happens to me I will survive.

Feeling safe means feeling wanted, loved, accepted, supported, secure and waking up in the morning knowing I deserve happiness.

Feeling safe means being able to act authentically by not having to behave in a way that is not myself in order to avoid emotional dramas or criticism of another person which only makes others see me in a light which is not truly me; and thereby makes me feel guilty for violating my own values and self-respect.

Feeling safe is to be free of terrifying thoughts of fear and hopelessness which in turn causes me to become defensive, withdrawn and irritable.

Feeling safe is to be free of my misguided belief that I must suffer in silence.

Feeling safe means regaining my self-respect and self-confidence.

How will I provide for my own emotional safety?

I will keep myself in good physical fitness by following a healthy diet, exercising, sleeping well and relaxing daily. I will modify my workload by following a manageable routine. I know that being stronger physically will assist in strengthening my emotional safety.

When I become fearful I will create a ‘safe place’ to retreat to, whether that is my home, a place in nature, or being in the safety of the present moment. In that place I will look inside for my caring adult persona to cradle and nurture my frightened inner child and reassure her that I am safe. I will practice unconditional love to myself. Unlike before when I would fight, avoid or numb my feelings of sadness, loneliness or despair; in my safe place I will now feel free to express my feelings and accept them as real. Expressing my feelings when they come lessens their intensity and control over me. Moreover feeling them and reading my unmet needs underneath will enable me to address those needs.

I will assure myself that even though I cannot control situations, I can always control my response, as I have done in the past. I can find a solution to any challenge that comes my way.  I can take pride knowing that I am capable of landing on my feet and making my life a beautiful life, one step at a time. I can stop worrying about things that may happen as I know I will cope if they do.

From my own safe place, I have and will branch out and connect with others. I will spend time with people who love me, make me feel good about myself, have my best interests at heart and allow me to act as my authentic me. I will nurture relationships with people who show unconditional acceptance of who I am with no judgement or criticism and with whom I am able to communicate honestly, express my true feelings and not feel ashamed. I will feel emotionally safe with them.

I will develop relationships with people who I am able to trust and where I am able to trust their own feelings and emotions for me as genuine and real. I will trust that I will not provoke emotional drama just by being me when I am with them or by asserting my own thoughts, opinions and feelings. I will reduce or terminate contact with anyone who intentionally belittles me or is disloyal to me.

I will develop compassionate witnessing for others in their plights and time of need.

I will begin to do spontaneous things out of my safe place as I know that I will survive.

I will build up my foundations of safety to drive off my fears.

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