Ticking the boxes

 

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My last post, alluding to my tendency to often being late, was actually about whether I had lived true to my values. It drew some interesting responses. One that surprised me was from a follower who had perceived me as an ‘always on time’, well-organized ‘super-woman’. The comment made me wonder who the real me is and what masks I had been hiding behind since being alone. After my husband left me I courageously worked through my grief, detached emotionally from him and made steps towards forgiveness. I perfected the art of living alone and embracing each day in all its glory. From six months after he left for about a year, I remained in that space with my life compartmentalized.

The stoic everyday me

I went about my everyday life in the scheduled daily routine I created. I would rise, watch the sunrise, write in my journal and go for a walk before heading to work, four days a week. I put aside the angst surrounding my divorce and pretended life was normal. I interacted with staff in a normal fashion and focused on work. I socialized on a casual basis. I connected with friends one-on-one for coffee or lunch. After work I would return home to my evening routine of dinner and relaxation. Regularly I would ring my family and friends.

Mother

I desperately yearned for what I had lost, my intact family unit. I tried to put it back together. I regularly drove four hours to see my eldest son, his wife and my grand-daughter. My two younger children lived in the same area and I saw them often. I would mark dates on my calendar to keep me going until I saw them again. I came alive when I saw them. I put my heart and soul into being mother and grandmother. I would cook, bake, read stories to my grand-daughter and play this role I loved. When I was on my own again, I would fall flat and feel very sad.

Adventurer

I underwent ‘experiential pastimes’ that one is supposed to do when carving a new life. I put that in quotation marks because I was not craving that at all. I did it because it was expected I would want to travel and try new things after my world had upended. So I tried. Inside I was craving family so I combined ‘experiences’ with being with family; in Sydney, visiting my second son in Canada and attending a friend’s wedding in Ireland. Each time I felt on shaky emotional ground when away from home.

Mud trudging

The fourth me was (and is) trudging through mud of the divorce and property settlement. This has been horrid. At first I tried to avoid it. Then I tried to deal with it on the side of my life. That didn’t work. I felt resentful every single day I had to deal with it. Eventually I gave up two days a week for two years in order to do what had to be done to get through it. I pretended it was simply another part of my life. Some people study for a degree. Some people belong to a craft club. Some people write books. I trudged through the mud of our property settlement.

Soul searching

This is discovering who I really am. This started with me writing my journal daily, blogging then reading philosophy. And self-help books. Lots of them. My reflection became more and more intense as I delved into the core of my inner self.

Ticking boxes

After a year, I looked back to what I had been doing. I realized I had been ticking boxes.

I have worked through my grief. Tick.
I have detached emotionally from my husband. Tick.
I have spent time in nature. Tick.
I have enjoyed the moments of today. Tick.
I have spent time with loved ones. Tick.
I am contributing to society by working. Tick.
I have experienced new things. Tick.

Ticking boxes worked.
In those first four roles I remained in a relative state of calm.

However, each time I visited the fifth me, that part of me trying to find the real me, I was confronted with a question I could not answer.

Which role is the real me?

 

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ImageCourtesyOf[rawich]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

My life in transition # 5 – the aloneness of decisions

” Crying is all right in its own way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.” C S Lewis “The Silver Chair”

ID-10022566.Danilo.RizzutiChoices are not the same as decisions.

A choice is when there are two or more items on the shelf and you choose one.

A decision is the end-point and the thing you get to live with after the other choices have been discarded.

In its cruelest sense, I was the discarded item of choice. The decision was the ending of our marriage. The choice was his and he gets to live with his choice. I get to live with his decision.

I coped to a large extent from the consequences of his decision by making my own choices. For example, I chose aloneness over loneliness.

Loneliness was feeling sorry for myself.

In the early days post separation loneliness descended upon me.  I felt my whole world had collapsed and with it all those levels of companionship and support my husband had seemingly provided. Gradually I realised that comfort could be provided by other means and from other people. I even embraced aloneness as my companion and as an opportunity to develop my creativity. By doing so I have not let myself become enveloped in any further loneliness.

Aloneness is a state of being alone

Aloneness does not simply mean living alone. Aloneness is being the only one in exactly my position with my strengths and weaknesses, the only one with my inner beliefs and desires, the only one who can face my difficult moments when I feel most bereft.

When I was married all major decisions could be shared. Where to live, how to provide financially, which projects to become involved in. Now all those decisions are mine and mine alone. My problem now is agonizing over the consequences of any decision I make, making sure any decision is fair and reasonable to myself and others, and feeling utterly alone in the making of those decisions.

I realise now these are not my decisions, they are my choices – where to live, how to make or spend my money, and what to do with my time. I realise that I can enlist help from others in making those choices and I can take my time in making them.

In contrast my most difficult decisions have been mine alone and have not been made with choices laid out for me. They were not made after protracted analysis or at times of quiet deliberation. They were made at times of distress. At those times of distress, the raging turmoil within me grew so intense that the only choices I had were sinking into complete collapse or finding calm. I chose calm.

From the calm within the turmoil I made those tough decisions – alone and with yet with total conviction because I just knew they were the right decision.

Those difficult decisions have been to change myself, to face the truth and to live by my core values no matter what.

Any choice I make now will come as a consequence of those life decisions I have made.
In fact, for any seeming conflict I have within myself for any current choice I now need to make, I only need to look back to those decisions and the choice becomes an easy one.

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“When the pain of what we are living becomes greater than our fear of changing, we let go. When our fear of drowning swamps our fear of holding onto nothing, we start to swim”. Louise Gallagher

 

 

 

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ImageCourtesy[Danilo.Rizzuti]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Speeding!!!

ID-100151952.arturIn my writing on this blog I have, in an attempt to boost up my confidence, focussed on my positive traits. In case you all think I am a therefore a virtuous saint (I am not), I thought I would let you know that I do have vices. One of these – which I hate to admit to – is / was being a bit of a lead-foot. In fact I have collected quite a few speeding fines over the years.

Of course, I was never really speeding. I was always caught on the outskirts of towns, where it is not built up and it is safe to drive faster but where the speed limit is still the lower speed limit of a built-up area. Annoyingly, for revenue-raising purposes, that is where the boys in blue or their speed cameras would invariably hide and I would get caught out. Then, irritatingly, there would be lost time having a ticket written out for me. Generally the only reason I was speeding in the first place was because I was late for something really important to get to and this would make me later still. I repeat, I was never really speeding. I do not and did not drive fast. Sometimes though, I just had to get to places quickly.

In the days after my husband left me, for the first time ever, I was caught really speeding. At the time, three of my four children lived a four hour drive away and, anxious to see them, I got in the car and drove there. This time, when I was pulled over, I was driving 18 kilometres over the speed limit, on the open road and in a completely distressed state. I should not have been given a licence to cook eggs that day, let alone be put behind the wheel of a car. What on earth was I thinking?.

I had a chat with the nice policeman (who somehow managed to decipher some sense from all my tears) and he suggested he would record my speed as only 14 km over (so I would only lose two demerit points, not three) in return for my promising that I would have a break for a while before continuing on my way to see my children.

Later I wrote in my diary ‘I simply has to drive to see and hug the children. I had to get to see them as soon as I could. After I was pulled over I realised that I was in a completely distressed state and I should never have been driving. I was terrified that I may have had a car accident, being so distraught. I suddenly realised that I did not want to die, I wanted to live, I wanted to survive.”  I determined that I would never ever again let my feelings govern my actions and lead me into the gross stupidity that governed my actions that day.

Whilst that day was extreme, it was really no different than all the innumerable other days with all my innumerable other excuses I had had in the past for getting somewhere quickly, for no other reason than I had to get there.

I am happy to report that in the over two years since that date I have not received any more speeding tickets. More importantly, I no longer speed – ever. Not on the open road, not through the outskirts of town, not in the towns. Moreover, I changed my attitude to speed in general and am no longer in such a rush to get anywhere. I no longer feel that whatever I need to get done or whatever I need to get to is so important that I have to rush to get to it. “It” can wait until I get there and then when I arrive – safe and well – “it” will benefit from my slower calmer frame of mind.

To all my readers: I wish you all a safe slow calm and joyous Christmas.
I am having a break from blogging and will return in about three weeks and will ‘see’ you in the new year.

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Image  courtesy- [artur84]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wisdom

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr

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Following on from the fact that I have now become wise (see my last post), I thought that I would return to a favourite quote and see whether I think differently now than before.

A. The things that I now know I cannot change

  1. My marriage ended and I did not choose to end it.
  2. There is a period from a marriage’s end until complete resolution of its ending.
  3. My personality.
  4. My age and gender.

B. The things that I now know that I can change

  1. What I choose do now.
  2. To always act with grace and dignity even when I don’t feel like it.
  3. My character.
  4. In fact everything else, except # 1 – 4 in part A above.

C. The difference

  1. I thought my choices were taken away and they were not.
  2. I cannot help how I feel but I can always change how I act.
  3. Character is what counts.
  4. There is almost nothing that is not within my power to change.

D. The serenity

  1. See point 2 in Part B above. Try it. The calming effect is contagious.

E. The courage

  1. See point 2 in Part B above. As I have done it (most of the time), then that proves I have courage.

F. The wisdom

  1. .See point 2 in all the above. That ‘period’ may take me a long time and maybe all my life but I will not let it define my life or destroy my life.

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Image  courtesy- [Nongpimmy]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Ithaca

Ithaca

As you set out for Ithaca
hope that your journey is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.

Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – do not be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare sensation
touches your spirit and your body.

Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon – you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope that your journey is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind –
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and learn again from those who know.

Keep Ithaca always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so that you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.

Ithaca gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithacas mean.

Music composed, arranged, produced and performed by Vangelis
Poem recited by Sean Connery
Poem by C.P. Cavafy (1863-1933) written in 1911.

My home. My sanctuary.

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This is the sixth in a series of posts on ‘My Responsibilities’

After food and shelter, one of our primal basic needs is safety, peace and comfort. This can be provided by a place, a person, an activity, or by a combination of these. I wrote about my own need for stability in an earlier post. Previously my marriage provided me with this feeling as no matter where I went, what I did, or whatever adversities befell me; I felt safe and secure. Since my marriage collapsed, I have gained this sense of stability and comfort from my home. From my childhood days of playing ‘house’ to a strong nesting instinct when pregnant, I have always been aware of the comfort my home provides me. I have clung on to my home as my source of refuge, as my relief from distress and turmoil, as my source for solitude, as a means of feeding my mothering instincts with visits from my family. It has been my one constant in the unravelling of my previous life.

Whilst I have been comforted staying in my home since my marriage ended, and initially revelling in living my way within its walls, I have grown to realise that it has actually been living our life, my way, rather than making a new life of my own. Since my epiphany I have been striving to break free to live my life. This will mean a gradual process of selling the business, the commercial property housing the business, then selling my home to release capital for retirement. At that point it will mean leaving behind my one constant, my sanctuary.

For a period after my epiphany, my mind fast-forwarded to where I would be in about 3 years and I resented being where I was. I was coming home alone at night to the cold and dark. It was dreary and depressing. I began neglecting my home. Then the downward spiral began of neglect, followed by being overwhelmed by what it would take to get back routine and order, followed by losing the sense of comfort it previously provided, to seeing only a mountain of work and yet another thing I have to face.

Being uplifted by my daughter visiting last week, the sun coming out this weekend, and early spring flowers beginning to bloom, I have now recharged. In the spirit of my recent posts on responsibilities, I have taken on board getting my home back in order and restoring it as my sanctuary, yet also preparing it for my eventual move. At the same time, I will spend this transition period drinking in the last remaining time I have here, taking in every sunrise, looking at every blossoming flower, watching the moods of the river and valley opposite, reliving every happy memory I have had here with my children, of our previous happy family life. Then, when all that is done, it will be time for me to move on.

Plans to make MY Home MY Sanctuary

1. De-clutter immediate space.
2. Rid the house of ‘our’ stuff.
Note: I had previously rid myself of ‘his’ stuff. It is time for the next step.
3. Go in small manageable steps; one drawer, one cupboard, one box at a time.
4. Pack up ‘our’ stuff. Send it to him for him to deal with.
5. Avoid further clutter by not buying any more ‘stuff’.
6. Have a look around at everything left and decide whether I really need it or not.
7. Chuck out anything I don’t need, anything not used for two years, gifts given to me I don’t really want, clothes that will never fit again, and anything kept ‘just in case’.
8. Enjoy the space and freedom a minimalist habit without ‘stuff’ brings.
9. Revel in the peace and calmness that has taken the place of ‘stuff’.
10. Develop a routine to keep things this way by putting away things when not in use, having a quick daily tidy-up and a proper fortnightly one. Resolve to do an annual clean-up.
11. Look out and enjoy the views to the valley and the river every day.
12. Keep smiling and stay calm.

“I am responsible to maintain my home as a refuge of joy, peace, comfort and relaxation.”

Image courtesy of [amner]: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My needs # 2. Stability

house and family

I crave normality.

When I was in what I thought was a committed caring marriage, my sense of stability and security was that relationship and all that went with it – my home, my life companion, my secure finances, my rock of support, my sense of purpose. Even when I took a break from routine, by travelling or trying different things, it was both rewarding and exciting. That is because the feeling of security and stability went with me everywhere. It was an ingrained feeling deep inside of me, an inner core of happiness that I carried around with me. No matter where I went, what I did, or whatever adversities befell me; I felt safe and secure.

After my marriage collapsed, that was all gone. I felt unsafe, insecure, broken, worthless, and utterly violated by the act of abandonment. I felt I had lost control over all aspects of my life. I was left inside a fragile shell of my former self.
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Since that day, my home has become my sanctuary and I have relied heavily on routine and order in my immediate space to provide me with a feeling of comfort and security. My home has become my protection. Routine and order have become the props that have helped me regain the feeling that I have some predictability to my life. They are things in my life that I can control.
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So I live in 2 worlds.
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The first is the world of my dramatic changed life circumstances, that I am slowly addressing, but knowing not far below the surface chaos and turmoil still remain supreme. As a result I often still use the technique of dissociation from my circumstances to absent myself from the pain. I do this by living in my second world.
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My second world is my day-to-day world of calm quiet routine and order. Living in the quiet moments of watching the sunrise, going for a daily walk, writing, and enjoying the wonders of today and all its beauty. To a degree, in that environment I have slowly healed and I feel secure. However, take away the routine, take away the order; and my feelings of security unravel in an instant.
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The first time I realised that was when I visited my son in Canada a year ago. Although I had been looking forward to seeing him, for the first week I was thrown into a tailspin of feeling anxious and unsettled. I had been thrown into the unfamiliar. My props were gone – my home, my routine, my sense of place. I was craving the basic level of human needs of comfort and security. After a few days I did get into a little daily routine and I cocooned myself with the basic needs of food, shelter, warmth, security, companionship albeit that I was now in a different environment.
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More recently I found the same thing happened when I visited my daughter for the Easter long weekend in Canberra. I needed the first day to orientate myself, and develop my sense of place, before I could relax and enjoy seeing her and join with her doing a few different exciting things.
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I have also noticed that I am over-reacting to any thing that goes wrong. I go through feelings of anxiety and panic over little things that would previously never have bothered me. I instantly think “Oh dear, what now?”
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In that regard, I am craving a sense of normality, that life again will return to order and calm in my ‘big-picture’ world as well as my somewhat artificial daily world so that I can truly cope again with life and all its ups and downs. Or that my logic brain “it really will be all right” will eventually win over my crushed soul.
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I have a current need for a sense of stability, comfort and security:
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I need calm
I need a sense of place
I need routine
I need order
I need predictability
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Image courtesy of [Smarnad]: FreeDigitalPhotos.net