Critical choices

ID-100202241.Tao55It has been a roller-coaster of emotions for me over the past seven weeks.

I had been working hard to try and get the marital settlement over the line before my second son’s upcoming wedding. I was also busy getting my home ready by doing a few things to the kitchen prior to my son and fiance (and her parents) coming to stay. Coming from Canada, they planned to stay in Tasmania a week before the wedding and I was looking forward to spending some quiet time with them.

Three weeks before their due visit and four weeks before the wedding, my mother had a turn and was rushed into hospital. She was there a week before we realized that her illness was quite serious. I flew up to be with her and my siblings for a week.

Then my siblings made me return home to prepare for my expected visitors and to get myself into ‘mother-of-the-groom’ mode. I returned home with the countdown one week before visitors and two weeks before the wedding. The kitchen needed to be put back in shape (as I had stripped it bare before my sudden exit), and the house had to be put in better order. On top of that there were business issues to attend to, a mountain of paperwork to complete, and bills to pay. Two days after my return, there was a sudden major strategic development in the marital settlement, which required urgent meetings.

For those crucial few days, as I dealt with the marital settlement development, I had to put all my emotions completely aside in order to make some highly critical decisions. I had to put aside the emotions surrounding my mother’s illness and my son’s wedding. In doing so, a numbness descended on me and I began to feel nothing at all.

In the topsy-turvy world that I had been living for the three years since my life upended, I had craved normality. I had been waiting for the marital settlement to be final so that I could feel normal. I had been waiting for the marital settlement to be over, so that I could sit back and enjoy my children’s milestones, such as weddings. I had been waiting for the marital settlement to be over, so that I could start my new life. Over the previous weeks, I had discovered that life would not wait. My mother needed me now. And I needed to be with my mother. My son needed me to be happy and relaxed at his wedding. And I needed to feel happy at his wedding. Now, I could not work out how I was going to fit my mother’s illness and my son’s wedding into everything else that was also suddenly happening in my life.

On the Thursday evening, after I returned home from the crucial meetings, I just wanted to sit down and cry. I couldn’t. So I did the next best thing, I sorted sheets. From absolutely nowhere, I had a sudden nesting instinct, and of my wanting to do something ‘normal’ that did not involve emotional pain. I sorted sheets and then more sheets, well into the night.

The next day, I went into work and did all that was necessary in order for me to absent myself from everything that was going on in my life EXCEPT for my mother, my son’s wedding, my visitors and my family. I put EVERYTHING else aside. The business, the marital settlement, decisions. Life was more important.

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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

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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 – my sanctuary

 

ID-100241522In the process of revisiting my needs, with the aim of moving from my vulnerable fragile childlike ‘I need to be comforted’ mindset, to the stronger adult ‘I need to be doing and giving’ mindset, I became distracted with my revival identity and a vision for my future. Miraculously my pain disappeared and I instantly had more energy.

Not knowing how long the energy would last, I spent a few weekends doing some tidying projects that had mounted up including resurrecting my old home-office. This room had previously been used for our business management when I was at home with the children, but over the last two years had become a grotesque junk room.

I decided this room would make a new life for me.

When I married, I lost myself in my husband and my family. That was not something that (in marriage) I would have resented as the benefits of my marriage out-weighed losing myself. However, when my marriage collapsed I felt I had nothing left because, in losing my marriage, I also felt I had lost me. When my ex-husband left me I began to slowly revel in the freedom of doing things my way. After a time, I realized I was doing our things my way and still not doing my things. For example, even though initially it was great to watch what I wanted on TV, and attend or hold parties only when I wanted to, I soon discovered that I actually did not like watching TV at all and, likewise, I disliked loud parties immensely, preferring small casual gatherings. So it also went for the previous frenetic fast-paced activities for leisure and experiential pastimes. These were not my preference. My preference is for calm relaxation. Now I could live like that all the time, the way I want to.

Back to my room-

Over the past two years I have written about creating security and stability through routine revolving around my home; basking in the glory of it being a peaceful sanctuary of comfort. Yet here was this room that was a mess, neither peaceful or comforting. I got to work.

I cleared out the mess of accumulated business and divorce files and records, moving them elsewhere. I archived or burned mountains of papers. Then I rearranged the space. I upgraded my computer and bought a good quality scanner to begin copying the family photos. I halved the number of books. When I had finished last weekend, I sat down at my desk. I had a view outside to the tree in the court-yard; my favorite photos are displayed nearby; a whiteboard and favorite books are within easy reach; there are empty drawers, empty shelves, a clean and tidy desk, good lighting, time to myself, peace and quiet.

Then I suddenly realized. This is something that I have wanted my entire life.

As I looked around my new room, it finally sunk in that I now had no-one else I needed to think about ahead of myself. I could choose to do exactly as I wanted to do. This room would have a greater purpose than simply a place for quiet reflection. It would become a greater provider than mere comfort. This is where I would begin to move up the levels of my needs from a ‘comfort’ level to a ‘doing’ level; albeit doing quiet solitary activities. This will become a new haven for me – a writing and project room. This quiet solitary space will allow my creative abilities to flourish. That part of me that has been locked away for 40 years will now make herself known.

An incredible feeling of warmth and excitement arose within me.

And I realized that I was in seventh heaven right here on earth.

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Image courtesy:[panuruangjan]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

 

The influence of divorce on my needs

 

house and family

Our needs can be grouped together such as basic needs (food, warmth), safety (home, security), relationships (partner, family) and higher mind needs (work, leisure).

After a crisis, our needs return to basics before moving to needs higher up. The ending of my marriage was such a crisis and as everything crashed down, I coped by focussing on the basics of eating a healthy diet, walking in the mornings, following a routine during the day and cocooning myself in the warmth of my bed at night. I was in a survival mind-set of fulfilling basic needs as all else was gone; my perceived safety, my security, my family unit and my companion. As I continued to crave the comfort that my home and routine provided, I wondered whether I would remain there. Could I ever move on to higher needs?

I had become confused about my needs.

There is a difference between my needs, including emotional needs, and those things that fill those needs. My needs have actually not changed. What has changed are those things that previously satisfied them. I had been clinging on to the concept that I needed the same type of ‘satisfiers’ to provide for my empty needs. Taking an honest look, my needs are not a home, a sound financial asset base, a life-companion, work, hobbies and experiential pastimes. They are satisfiers of my needs, not the needs themselves. My needs are stability, security, a sense of belonging, a need to contribute and create, and a need to celebrate the joys (and sorrows) of life. What is gone is the person and shared projects that previously satisfied those needs. What I need to do going forward is to find other things and other ways to fulfill those needs.

In regard to need satisfiers, you can receive them, be self-reliant, or give them. As a simple illustration: people in third world countries can be provided with food hand-outs or they can be taught how to be self-sufficient and grow crops. The first aids a continual need to be provided for, the latter aids self-reliance and improved community spirit.

One of the consequences of my divorce in regard to needs is that it moved me from a self-reliant ‘I need to do’ and contributing ‘I need to give’ strength to a fragile ‘I need to have, I need to be provided for’ mind-set.

My confusion over needs versus satisfiers and my fragile ‘I need to have’ mind-set together have influenced both life decisions I made in the months post separation as well as some day-to-day choices.

Life decisions:

I need to feel safe and comforted. My home provides me with safety and comfort.
I need security. The job I have provides me with financial security.
I clung on to my home and my job in the year post separation.
Those satisfiers for my daily comfort and security conflict with my long-term need for belonging as my children and family live far away. Therefore despite the daily comfort, there remains an ache. A year ago I looked at my real underlying needs as opposed to merely things that satisfy and I made the decision to change for my forward journey.

Daily choices:

I sometimes have feelings of anxiety, sadness, anger, resentment regarding my divorce. These are voices of pain ‘I am scared’, ‘I am lonely’, ‘I do not matter’ and ‘it’s not fair’.
These voices reflect my underlying needs of security, belonging, significance and respect.

In my last post I wrote how I now recognize those voices of pain as a call to protect my present. While it is tempting to go for a passive need satisfier providing comfort (watching TV,  over-eating etc) or leaning on a confidante who will provide a sympathetic ear; that keeps me at the ‘I need help’, ‘I need to be comforted’, ‘I need to have’ mind-set. I need to transform that ‘having’ mind-set into ‘being’, ‘doing’ and ‘giving’ strengths while providing for my own needs of *protection, *connection, *creation, *contribution and *celebration.

 

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*I have created these new terms for my own needs as creativity is a ‘doing’ need of mine and that is my start :).

You may also want to read:

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
Tony Robbins six needs
Max-Neef Human Scale Development.

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Healing from the pain of betrayal

“You’ve got to accentuate the positive.
Eliminate the negative.
Latch on to the affirmative.
Don’t mess with mister in between.”

Johnny Mercer

 

 

Intimate betrayal is when someone very close has hurt you by abuse, aggression or constant criticism; or failed to take care of your well-being by deceit, infidelity or abandonment. The betrayal cuts deep because of the broken trust and an expectation of continual love and care. The resultant pain is intense and long-lasting. It is accompanied by the raging symptoms of anxiety, dread, deep sadness, guilt, shame and resentment.

Since my husband left me, many a day I have cried out, ‘please just stop the pain!’

Consider this situation.

Children are playing outside and kick a ball against a window. The window breaks and shatters. Inside, a shard of glass flings out and plunges into your arm creating a deep cut with profuse bleeding and deep pain. What do you do? You may run outside, work out who kicked the ball, then berate that child for his bad behaviour. You could look at the window, consider why it shattered and postulate why the glass cut so deep. You could grab a towel and mop up the bleeding. Alternatively, you may give painkillers to numb the pain.

Meanwhile you bleed to death.

The cure for a deep cut is attending to the cut, not numbing the pain, mopping up the bleeding  or working out who to blame. I know that. Yet when I was confronted with the pain of betrayal and abandonment I spent some time analyzing my ex-husband’s behaviour, my behaviour; and our marriage with its strengths and weaknesses. I wanted to know, why, why, why? Then I spent some time relieving the gushing symptoms of anger, sadness, anxiety, loneliness and resentment. When that didn’t completely work, I spent a lot of time numbing out the pain by living in the joys of today, engaging in pleasurable and / or distracting activities; or keeping busy. More recently I have wondered why the pain had not completely stopped and I had not fully healed.

I had not addressed the pain. The pain went so deep that I had tried to ignore it, cover it up, numb it out or avoid it rather than face it.

Pain is a signal, a call to action.
If you put your hand on a hotplate, it is a signal to remove your hand or it will burn.
If you present to your doctor with a headache, it must firstly be ascertained whether there is underlying stress, migraine, lack of sleep, or brain tumour; before planning a course of action.

Emotional pain is also a signal, a call to action.
It is not a signal to heal the past, it is a signal to heal the present. It is a protective signal that there is something in your current life that you need to change.

While the obvious symptoms pouring out from the cut of betrayal, abandonment and its aftermath were anger, humiliation, resentment, sadness, anxiety and guilt; I gradually learned these were stemming from the emotional pain underneath of feeling disregarded, unlovable and devalued;  losing something valuable (my 37 year marriage); having a sense of dread for the future; and feeling that my own values had in some way been violated.

These signals of emotional pain are a call to action for me. In order to heal from this pain, I need to focus on raising my self-regard; becoming more loveable; increasing my competence; building on my relationships with family, friends and other connections; facing and planning for my future; and abiding by my conviction to live by my values.

This is my action plan: each time I experience any form of emotional pain, I will pause and recognise this as a call to action. I will eliminate any reactive ‘fright, flight or fight’ thoughts. I will remember my core values of courage, kindness and fairness. I will then plan an action response in one of the following areas:

  • Protection
  • Connection
  • Contribution
  • Creation
  • Celebration

These will become my Foundations of Comfort as I rebuild my life.

(Note: I think the last sentence in the quote helps a lot too 🙂 )

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You may want to read Living and Loving after Betrayal. Steven Stosny

My ‘turning sixty’ resolution … to live by my core values.

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As a younger person I always had a plan for the future as to what I wanted to do with my life. Each year my birthday resolutions would be a great list.of things to do and projects to embark on. So many of the things on those lists never got done. Likewise my life on a daily or weekly basis had always been one of never-ending ‘to-do’ lists all neatly categorized into work, family, self, and community; then sub-categorized further into urgent, non-urgent and pending.

When I turned fifty, I resolved that I did not want to focus anymore on what I wanted to do, but rather on what I wanted to be. This was an enlightening moment for me and included such things as being optimistic, assertive, determined, dependable, kind, and moral. Ten weeks after my husband left me I revisited those commitments, resolving to hold onto my core values and to develop a framework of principles and beliefs to live by. I did that over a twelve month period. I have set up a page with links to the posts on those reflections.

During that reflective period, when I came to ‘higher’ principles such as peace, freedom and democracy, I became stuck. Even though I knew I believed in those things and had openly stood up for those beliefs in the past, it seemed they would require from me such strength of moral conviction and character that at the time seemed quite beyond me. I even felt I may have lost those values. I know now that is not the case.

What I believe now is there are four levels of living by your own core values and these are:

  1. thinking (holding a belief or value)
  2. stating (resolving that belief is true by writing it down or saying it)
  3. committing (having a plan to act on it)
  4. acting on them.

Even the very best of us would struggle to act on more than one or two core values at a time; although several other values can be held one or two steps down at the resolution level. When I was back in the pain of grief it was taking all my energy to act on one value only and that was the value of courage. Two steps behind, I freely stated other values and beliefs such as kindness, responsibility and dependability; intending to act on them whenever i could. However, for the values very high up, it hurt to just think about them and, at the time, I could not think of any way I could act on them. They were held at level 1.

I have moved on.

At my sixtieth birthday celebrations with my family I spoke freely of all my values (level 2). When I came home I went one step further and committed to act on five of them: courage, kindness, fairness, responsibility and appreciation. I wrote down several ways of how I could act on those values and I drew up lists of those committed actions, what I resolved to do. I will be exploring those commitments over my next series of posts.

In some ways this may seem like going back to where I started from. Back to to-do lists, rather than to-be lists. However, it is different because the to-do lists are now underpinned by those to-be wishes. In my commitments I have added that little word …. ‘why’…. the purpose behind the actions.

As for those higher values?

1. Over the past six months I have seen myself browsing the internet and reading about world-wide issues that need resolving such as famine and poverty; I have engaged in discussions on issues of national and community importance with others; and I have commented on posts and articles. I have moved those values from thinking to stating.

2. Whilst holding every respect for those who commit to and act on global, national and community issues, I no longer consider those values are any ‘higher’ than other values. There is much honour in acting with grace and dignity throughout a personal crisis; or indeed acting with integrity throughout normal everyday life. I do not feel I have to solve world peace to live authentically as me.

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Stripping Back The Layers

ID-100147124.domdeenNow that I have moved on to moving on, I realise that it is “me” who has moved on; that is, the ‘thinking me’ inside ‘me’. However, some of my other layers are dragging their feet. Whilst I had always been aware of my main layers (me, partner, family, work, home, community) these past months of reflection has made me become more aware of the many layers upon layers, and layers within layers that make up ‘me’ and my life.

Me is my health, body, mind, soul, spirit, self-esteem, confidence, thoughts, feelings, memories, identity, personality, character, values, beliefs, attitudes, authenticity, choices, freedom, responsibilities, needs, desires, hopes and dreams. Whew! I did not realise before that I was so complex!

Partner is nonexistent at the moment (unless you count messy stuff that needs to be done disentangling the partnership that was).

Family is my children, grand-children, extended family, extended extended family, my roots, branches, wings, friends, work colleagues, supporters, allies, professional advisors, neighbours, and generally people who are there for me.

Home is my house, security, stability, safety, routine, peace, calm, sanctuary, comfort and my sense of ‘normality’.

Work is what I do, what I learn, research, create, read, write, lead; it is my education, skills, talents, experience; and that which provides me with purpose, meaning and accomplishment.

Community is my place in society which currently is also my work because I dropped everything else in a fit of ‘I can only handle so much’ exasperation some time ago.

Over-arching all of that is the ‘inner me’ compass, the Captain of my ship driving all the rest onwards.

I had an epiphany last April when I realised that where I was heading (which was in fact back to my old life with bits missing) was not right for me. I decided then that I wanted to move on to something new, something for me, something with meaning for me. I decided that I wanted to start anew somewhere else. In making that decision, I did not understand how painful it would all be.

With my ‘partner’ layer gone; and my ‘family’ layer seriously fractured; my decision to ‘move on’ will (over time) strip the remaining three layers of my work, my community and my home from my life; and with it my financial security, my stability and my sense of normality.

That is what I meant in the first paragraph. Although the ‘me’ inside of me (my will to succeed) has moved on to the future, which is now becoming my present, the rest of my layers will be left behind; my stability and financial security, my home, my work, my community. Moreover, whilst my creative mind and lust for freedom are striding ahead, some layers within the layer of ‘me’ are also trailing behind with some memories and feelings still back in ‘pain’; and my self esteem and confidence still in ‘repair’;  That is part of what I described in my recent post on the unwanted passengers on my ship. I cannot wait until they are fixed, I have to take them with me as they are.

In moving on, I will be left with the bare shell of the inner ‘me’ as a nearly sixty year old woman, alone and starting over, dragging the bruised remnants of my former self with me; without guaranteed financial security or a sense of stability; without a sense of place in the world. Yet I have decided to move forward anyway. That is because the real me inside wants to go there. The decision to move on is because it feels that it will become right for me. As for the other layers of me and my life; I will need to rebuild them in my future, layer by layer.

I have spent the last eighteen months working on strengthening the most important inner layer of me. One of those strengths I have been building on is courage.

With not much else remaining, I am clinging to courage and will certainly be putting it to the test   …….

“It’s not what you lose, but what you have left, and what you do with it.”
F D Roosevelt.

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