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.

_______________________________________________________________________

ImageCourtesy[SweetCrisis]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

Disappointment

ID-100175191.Stuart.MilesHaving been wounded by betrayal by the one whom I gave my heart to (my husband) I am finding that I am reacting to actions of others and exaggerating the hurt when they act below my expectations, although they would never intentionally cause me pain.

This is compounded by my mother’s death as my mother was my rock and I am expecting others to be a substitute rock for me. When I discover that other people are not as strong as she was or not as supportive of me or accepting of my limitations, I am seeing that as betrayal, rather than me accepting other people as flawed individuals who try their best but do not always achieve the strength of wisdom that my mother had.

So minor incidents with loved ones upset me and I begin to hear those annoying voices in my head again ‘you are not good enough’, ‘you do not matter’, ‘you are are hopeless’. However, after brief reflection I realize they are voices springing back from the betrayal and are not the voices of disappointment at this time.

I recognize the difference.

Disappointment is when others voice displeasure at something I have done or not done. This is different from betrayal where there is a lack of respect for me as a person.

Disappointment is when a loved one cannot put my interest first as they have other obligations, goals and loved ones as their priorities. This contrasts with betrayal where my interests are completely disregarded.

Disappointment is when I realize that a loved one does not share all my values or beliefs, rather than betrayal when a loved one does not accept me for who I am.

Disappointment is when someone cannot eliminate my pain and discomfort. This is not betrayal which is broken trust.

Disappointment is when I am expecting loved ones to be strong for me.
Acceptance is the slow realization, that it is I who must be strong.

In dealing with disappointment, I have come to accept my loved ones for who they – both their strengths and weaknesses. Disappointments stem from differences of preferences or unrealistic expectations. Preferences can be negotiated or compromised. Expectations can be re-framed into something more realistic.

Acknowledging my disappointment, and with it sadness at the loss of my expectations, provides me with an opportunity for personal reflection. I may then accept the situation for what it is, accept others for who they are, and focus on realistic goals for my future.

_______________________________________________________________________

Image.courtesy[StuartMiles]/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’

 

___________________________________________________________________________

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

 

 

 

 

 

From Trauma to Transformation

ID-100194153.VladoAfter a loss there is a period of grief and then, as described by experts, “acceptance” of the loss and moving on. In regards to the ending of a long marriage, I do not think that it is that simple as I believe the supposed ‘grief’ period is just the first stage of several difficult stages on a journey to a completely different life. These are the stages I went through:

Trauma

Caught up in the sudden and distressing way that it happened, for a long time I was caught in a single moment in time of “when my husband left me”. My whole life was defined by that moment in time. In my life before that moment I had security and trust, and I felt happy. In my life ahead I saw chaos and trauma, and I felt fear. It was too painful to think about my losses, about my life that I had lost, so I didn’t. I could not face my scary future, about my life alone, so I didn’t. My life became the suffering of that single moment in time. So horrific were the effects on me that day, that I had flashbacks to that moment, little triggers that took me back there. In those flashbacks, once again I would hear the horrific words, and I would feel the distress and the pain of abandonment, betrayal and lost love. I was the victim of that moment in time – the moment when my husband left me.

I moved on

Tolerance

I became the survivor of “the ending of my marriage”.
I coped. I tolerated the grief process and I mourned the loss of my marriage. I accepted that it had happened. I survived every hour of every day. I watched the sunrise. I went for daily walks. I paid gratitude for everything good in my life. I learned to live alone.
I was no longer caught in that moment in time.
I became the survivor of that event – the event of the ending of my marriage.

I moved on.

Truth

I discovered the truth. I discovered me. I realized this was “my new beginnings”.
I learned how to be grateful for me, myself, and I.
I looked back and saw that that day had been the beginning of a journey, a journey of discovery to the new me. I began to realize that the ending of my marriage gave me the opportunity to reform myself and to do the things in life that I had always wanted to do.
I began to make choices – my choices – of how I wanted to live.
I began to live by my truth, and I realized that my truth had begun the day my husband left me, when my marriage ended.

I moved on.

Transformation

My life began to be what I made it on this day in the present, at this moment in time.
I found joy in the moments of today, with no sadness of the past, with no fear for the future.
I began to look forward to the times ahead. I began to dream again. I gave myself permission to envision my future as productive, meaningful and filled with joy.
I began to look back with happiness and pride in my achievements in my long marriage.
I stopped being trapped within that moment in time when my husband left me.
I stopped defining myself by the end of my marriage, or by my marital status.
I stopped thinking that I began anew that day as I began to realize that I had been me all of my life, and I had been discovering me all of my life. I resolved to continue to transform myself into who I want to become, this day, every day.

I look forward with eagerness to transforming myself into an admirable person and making my life a wonderful life.

________________________________________________________
ImageCourtesy[Vlado]FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

Not quite at the crossroads

“Those held in highest esteem… are neither the great artists nor the great scientists, neither the great statesmen nor the great sports figures, but those who master a hard lot with their heads held high”. Viktor Frankl

ID-100152029. artur84In his classic book ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’ about hope from the Holocaust , Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist, describes three phases for those who survived the concentration camps. The first period was the shock of losses and admission to the camps. The second period was the daily life in the concentration camp. The third period was after liberation. Frankl goes on to describe that, rather than love or achievement, people’s main drive in life is having meaning and that he believed those who survived the ‘second phase’ were those who could find meaning in their bleak situation. His own vision and meaning was that he pictured himself after the war helping people find meaning in their lives.

Whilst a divorce is nowhere near the horror of the holocaust, I have found the concept of there being a middle ‘nowhere’ phase as liberating. I have found much divorce advice focuses on getting ‘over’ the loss (phase one – shock) or making changes to your life (phase three – liberation) and there is little help at accepting life in a transition situation; or of making a good life for yourself out of a traumatic situation even while you are still living within that situation. Involved in a lengthy property settlement as I am, it is not only that my life is caught between past and future, I am confronted by the ongoing turmoil of the process itself with little triggers on a nearly daily basis that keep throwing me back into a constant state of trauma and sometimes confrontation.

Focusing on the trauma, unfairness or injustice of the past or the trauma-triggers in my current daily life plunges me into darkness or anxiety. Likewise wishing for my future to come with an ‘I wish this process was over’ attitude sets me up for suffering.

What has helped me most to alleviate my suffering through this process has been instead to focus on:

(1) Creating a vision for my future with a purpose that can give me meaning for my life today. My vision of ‘finding my voice and promote human welfare’ whilst a vision for my future, gives meaning to my current situation. In my future role I will be more able to empathise with others because of where I am today and I see myself in a role alleviating suffering.

(2) Re-framing my transition as steps towards my future; has helped give me meaning to the thankless administrative processes I previously viewed as ‘mud-trudging’.

(3) Understanding and acknowledging my self-worth and significance; has enabled me to appreciate the good in what I am doing right here and now.

(4) Creating a revival identity including conviction to core values has enabled me to reinvent myself right here and now as someone who I can be proud of in my future.

Other techniques that have helped in the more traumatic periods of discomfort have been building foundations of comfort and stability to create certainty in my world of uncertainty, breaking down my list of overwhelming tasks into manageable steps, enlisting help when needed, and making difficult decisions based on core values.

In summary, what has helped me through on a daily basis is acknowledging I cannot force things to happen faster. I cannot bypass the pain of the process. I cannot fast forward to my future. But I can learn to find a place of quiet, not allow myself to get dragged down by the negatives of the situation, and be content with where I am and who I am right here in this present moment. At the same time, I can still hold on to my dreams.

While I am not quite at the crossroads to my new life, I am finding ways of making joy in my present situation, appreciating who I am and what I am capable of, while still working behind the scenes at my dreams for my future, where I want to be for my long-term happiness, and continually striving for a better tomorrow.

 

______________________________________________________________________

You may also want to read:
Lauren Between Fear and Love. Stop, breathe, reframe.
Louise at Dare Boldly, holding onto your dreams. And Dream Big

mageCourtesyOf[artur84]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net