My awakening

Barbara, from me my magnificent self, invited me to participate in her ‘our awakening’ challenge. I have taken this as an opportunity for me to summarize the change in my thinking of me as half a couple (‘we’) and my transformation to ‘me’ after late-life divorce.

Awakening of the fire within me

The awakening of the fire within me

Twenty-eight months ago I found myself in the crisis of my marriage suddenly ending.

1. The Loss Of ‘WE’

I believed at the time, I had lost everything I had ever loved and cherished; my companion and soul mate, my intact family unit, stability, security, trust, truth, and my dreams for the future – it was all gone. I was thrown into a deep grief process of mourning my losses with the resultant swirling emotions of shock, anger, yearning, and constant sadness. After some time, I came to an acknowledgement of what had happened, and I was able to let go of the emotional ties to my husband, of blame, resentment and the illusion of the happy-ever-after. I gradually disentangled myself from the coupledom that was.

I was, for a while, at peace with myself. I found a wondrous place of calm in rising to watch the sunrise each morning, walking, writing and living for the joys of each day. I revelled in seeing myself as an individual with my own thoughts, opinions, feelings and needs.

2. The Loss of ‘ME’

From that magnificent state of calm, I went through a period of deep self-reflection. I affirmed my own values, beliefs, attitudes, needs, wants, responsibilities and priorities. As I reflected on my life and inner being, slowly I came to realise that, although inside I was now a strong individual with affirmed core values and a belief that I could do whatever I wanted, in my practical world I was still living our life my way. I was not living my life my way.

I had an epiphany, a sudden realisation that I wanted to change. I wanted to become the real me and live my own life. However, that change would require me to cast off the practical remnants of my old life (home, business and community); and to let go of some parts of me; the old me, and my old roles. I spiralled downwards again, this time mourning the loss of who I had been and wondering who it was that I could become. I was in extreme distress and became inconsolable. I fell into an extended period of darkness and despair. I cocooned myself into a ball of nothingness.

Then I woke up.

3. My Awakening

Unlike the sudden earlier epiphany when I made the decision to change, my awakening to making change has been a gradual realisation of the fact that I have already begun to change. Even-so, this realisation has occurred after some profound confidence-building discoveries.

Firstly, I woke up to the fact of the truth of my marriage; that it had ended long before I thought it had. Behind that truth is the fact that what I thought I had, I didn’t have. That truth, whilst painful to accept, has set me free.

Secondly, I woke up to the fact that I am a worthwhile person and always have been. Any thought that I am not, is not spoken by my own voice. I will now only listen to my voice.

Thirdly, I woke up to the fact that I matter. What I have done and what I do is worthwhile.

Fourthly, I woke up with an energy change and clarity of purpose. I feel a fire within me. I have a vision forming of what my new life will be. Moreover, I have the clarity to decide what parts of my old life to hold on to and what to let go of. Letting go of those parts that do not serve me well is crucial to free space for my new life.

An awakening is simply that, waking up.
My real challenges of planning and living my dream lie ahead of me.

Yet, how exciting it is to awaken to the opportunity of a new dream, of a new beginning.

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Image courtesy[Photographic]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Feeling the pain of the truth

“Life is difficult”. This is a great truth.M.Scott Peck.

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There have been dark feelings surrounding my divorce including frustration, sadness, loneliness, regret, anger, fear, anxiety, and despair. All of these have caused me intense pain. I have gradually learned my freedom from pain lies in living by the truth, and the path to truth in itself involves pain.  .  .

1. Delayed Gratification

In the beginning my pain was so intense I just wanted to get rid of it, run from it or cover it up. That was my focus, rather than facing the pain and the feeling behind it. For example it was much easier distracting myself in pleasurable activities (or ‘relief’ measures) such as watching movies, walking, and spending time with loved ones; than to face my pain.

To face it, it was necessary for me to temporarily fore-go those ‘relief’ measures in order to feel it. Once I took time to truly feel the pain I found that, whilst pain itself is a single symptom, the feelings behind are multi-factorial. My pain has not all been sadness of my past. A lot of pain has been anxiety over present tasks and fear of the future. Dealing with overwhelming practical present issues or planning my future require totally different techniques than dealing with unresolved emotional issues of the past. Until I spent time facing and feeling my pain, it was all one big blur. When the pain hits me now, I feel it. I am more able to separate the differing feelings of sadness, anxiety or fear; the past, present and future issues behind those feelings; and deal with them in an appropriate manner. Facing and feeling pain has clearly been the first step in resolving any issue behind it.

2. Acceptance of Responsibility

Whilst situations may have been thrust upon me, it is only me who can respond. If I remain stuck in blaming my circumstances for where I am, I will never savour the pleasure of getting to a better place.

For example, if I remain stuck in ‘why do I have to deal with all this mess’ attitude, rather than sorting through the 100 archive boxes in the shed, I will not be able to move on to the new life that beckons me. The same goes for the last remaining pieces of the property settlement process; and the planning of my future. It is up to me.

Again, I need to fore-go pleasures to bowl over these overwhelming tasks, which will involve further pain. However, I will then be able to bask in the glory of their completion.

3. Dedication To The Truth

Some divorced people years later are still in the dream of the happy-ever-after.when their reality has changed. I do not blame them. Facing reality is painful. Acceptance of my own reality and its truth was painful. Dealing with my reality of a single almost-sixty year old with a risky financial base was difficult. However, that is the truth of my present which I can change. It is not the illusion of my past which I cannot.

While the child inside me still cries out ‘give me relief’, ‘let me escape’, ‘let me build a fortress to shut out the pain’; the truth is I know that it is not ‘relief’ that will set me free, but challenge. The solving of my problems will set me free, not the deadening of my pain.

4. Balance

Life is for living and forging ahead will require a balance of: delaying some pleasures in order to solve my problems, yet still living joyously in the present, and keeping an ever watchful eye on the future; balancing needs, responsibilities and goals; accepting my responsibilities, yet rejecting those that are not mine; and holding on to those things that serve me well, while giving up those that do not.

Balancing will not be easy. It may even be painful. However, ridding myself of past illusions, seeing the truth, embracing the reality of my present, and focussing on solutions to rather than the pain of my problems will free me for a challenging and exciting future.

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1.Quote and insight from The Road Less Travelled’ by M. Scott Peck.

Image courtesy:[Digitalart]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The truth shall set me free

ID-100183608(1).Grant Cochrane

Recently I wrote of being Captain of my ship and discovering that I had some unwanted passengers on my ship. One of my ‘unwanted passengers’ is the feeling of having lost my right to choose. There is much baggage surrounding this feeling of having lost the choice on the direction of one of the most important parts of my life, my marriage. The decision to end it was thrust upon me. This feeling is scattered throughout my blog: ‘…. through no choice of my own’, ‘ … it was not my decision’, ‘…. having been thrust into this place’.

There are two questions I now ask myself:

1. Five minutes before my husband told me what he was about to do, if I was told my marriage was about to collapse and I was asked whether I was prepared to save my marriage, what would my answer have been?

My marriage is sacred to me. It provides me with an inner core of happiness and stability. It is my safe-haven. In marriage, I have that one special person for me and only me who is my companion, who cares for me and I for him like no other; who shares endearments with me that we give to no other; who is the one with whom I may tell my inner most thoughts to and know they are held in safety. Marriage to me means the promise we made to each other to stand together through all adversities, to stick by each other through thick and thin, to keep promises, to remain committed and loyal to one another. Marriage means tolerating our differences and remaining true to love, care, devotion, respect, empathy, tenderness, compassion, honesty, truth, openness, fairness and trust. It is the sharing of dreams for the future and remaining committed in the midst of troubled times NO MATTER WHAT; and yet allowing each other the freedom to grow as individuals.

I am committed to and will fight for my marriage.

2. If, ten minutes before being asked the first question I was given all the facts and I was told to look only at the facts and the truth of those facts and not to look at the illusion, what would my answer have been?

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

If the choice made, is the same choice I would have made, had I all the facts when the choice was made ….. then what is all this mourning over something that wasn’t?

The accepting of that truth shall set me free.

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Image courtesy:[GrantCochrane]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My wants

Needs_wants

“I’m here to be me, which is taking a great deal longer than I had hoped”.
Anne Lamont

I have recently written a series of posts exploring my needs. Thinking through those needs led me one day to have an epiphany, a sudden realisation of where my life was actually heading. So very clearly that day I could see that I did not want that. That direction was not right for any of my needs, for my health, my stability, my financial security, for my need to be needed. It made me take a good hard look and understand the difference between what I thought I should be doing and what was in my heart. So in an instant I decided to take my life in another direction, albeit that it may take me some time to put those desires in place.

As described earlier, one of the reasons I found it difficult to think about my needs was the fact that I felt that I had become the discarded consequence of another person’s supposed needs and wants having taken precedence over me and everything I had ever known and treasured: our family unit, our values, beliefs and responsibilities. I felt that I could not discard them as well and in particular my sense of ‘responsibility’. In amongst my sense of responsibility was holding onto the dreams and aspirations we had as a couple and seeing those through. That meant keeping the house and the business. In my epiphany, I realised that direction was not right for me as an individual and as a single person alone approaching sixty years of age. A voice inside me screamed out

I DO NOT WANT THIS!

Fair enough. I have now stated what I do not want.
It has taken an absolute crisis and eighteen months of soul-searching to finally realise and state what I do not want.
What is it that I do want?
My needs have been explored.
What about my wants?

Needs are distinguished from wants as a deficiency of needs causes a negative outcome. Wants are extra to our needs. We can live without them. If I found it difficult stating my needs, then exploring my wants makes me feel truly self-centred. Yet, divorce and living alone gives me that luxury of being able to do that. So here goes.

THIS IS WHAT I TRULY WANT FROM MY LIFE

  1. Inner peace
  2. Respect
  3. Longevity
  4. Time with my loved ones
  5. Calm

I have come to realise that my wants are not than far removed from my needs. They are not selfish or over-indulgent. The greatest challenge for me is to actually prioritise as my responsibility the fulfilling of those needs and wants, and accepting that it is all right for me to do so.

“The key is not to prioritise your schedule, but to schedule your priorities”
Stephen Covey

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Image Courtesy [David Castillo Dominici] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My attitudes # 3 – As for those rose coloured glasses ……

My attitudes # 3 – Grace and Dignity

“Learn to be what you are, And learn to resign with a good grace,
all that you are not”
Henri Frederic Amiel

In my last post I spoke about optimism, in particular overcoming adversities by approaching difficult life events –  death of a loved one, divorce, disablement, disease, disasters – as challenges to overcome, rather than as obstacles to endure……… …

I left out some rather difficult situations …chronic situations involving another person ……  abusive situations, addiction in someone you care for, and chronic illness or disablement in someone you love. Is optimism in oneself enough to get one through any of these situations?

Herein lies the difficulty. Try as you might, as optimistic as you are yourself, you cannot change anyone else, or make someone do something, or make someone not do something. Even when someone is ill, you cannot make them see a doctor, take their medicine, rest, exercise, follow a diet or whatever it is that would be best for their situation. You can only keep loving and supporting them and encouraging them and helping them as much as you can. And you definitely cannot get inside their head and make them ‘look on the bright side’, or ‘make the best out of a bad situation’, or make them realise that ‘it could be much worse’. You can only do what you can do. You can only keep on keeping on and  keep telling them over and over that it will all work out and that you will be there for them always.

Then when they leave you suddenly with no choice or discussion and with blame cast at you – because somehow it is all your fault – you finally take off the rose-coloured glasses……………..

And you realise that by the action of abandonment, not only have you been betrayed, not only have you been denied a chance to speak; not only have you been treated with the utmost disrespect; not only have you had your love and care trampled on; but you have also – in your role as carer – been the victim of emotional exploitation.

And you didn’t even know.

So, Mrs Optimism, where is the upside?

Using the same acronym as in my last post turning F.E.A.R into positive action (Face Everything And Respond) …………

Sixteen months on, I now look at the ending of our marriage and the events leading up to it with full realisation I had no control over someone else’s choices, someone else’s actions, or over events that occurred; and I have dropped any remaining trace of self-blame for the marriage’s demise.

Sixteen months on, I look on my values of kindness and empathy as virtues. I no longer see myself as a victim, or those virtues contributing to a supposed victim role. I realise that just because someone took advantage of my caring compassionate nature does not mean that I need to change those qualities in me in any way.

Sixteen months on, I can now face the razor-sharp ending to my marriage and be grateful that it saved me the pain of having to make a choice; that of trying to save my marriage after the betrayal. There is in regard to our personal relationship nothing left to lose so therefore nothing left to fear. There is no need to ask or expect an apology that will never come. The only response I need to make is to continue to act with grace and dignity.

“I wish grace and healing were more abracadabra kind of things. Also, that delicate silver bells would ring to announce grace’s arrival. But no, it’s clog and slog … on the floor, in the silence, in the dark”.  Anne Lamott

My values # 5 Integrity

Integrity

In my reflection on values of importance to me, it is fitting I include a post on integrity, perhaps the most righteous virtue to aspire to. Integrity is consistency of behaviour based on values or beliefs. The emphasis is an honest adherence to a value or belief; rather than any specific value or belief in the first place. The truth is you can make up your own code and not all are admirable. If you really want to live righteously and fairly, then ultimately your own code should include moral and ethical concepts.

Some of the beliefs I personally aspire to are: do no harm, compassion, fairness, fidelity, honesty, privacy, freedom, justice, democracy, human rights, proactive civil society, utilitarianism, use of science creatively not destructively, creativity, and pacifism.

However, integrity is more than beliefs. Integrity is acting on your beliefs, consistently.

One of my greatest beliefs is being part of a “proactive civil society”. I strongly believe I should contribute to society – give back. More than that, if there is something ‘not quite right’, then I should speak out or act to change it.

As a couple, my husband and I lived by that code. We were active on community issues. We acted in tandem, with me being the quiet yet determined researcher, the gatherer of information, the planner of strategies. My husband was the negotiator, the ‘voice’, drawing in supporters and believers by his gregarious nature. We believed in measured, well-delivered strategies by negotiation and community participation. One thing was for certain though, if it was an issue we believed in, we did not let it go. One could even say that on some social justice and environmental issues, we were a “formidable force”.

All of this belief system crumbled and was lost on his leaving me. Part of my deepest despair was trying to come to terms with ‘what did that all mean?’ I thought that it had been our strong family unit and us as a steadfast strong-minded couple that gave me the energy to speak out, the courage to make a difference. I thought that is was our professed family values based on fairness, dependability, tolerance, keeping promises, not lying or deceiving, and respecting others; that gave me my warm inner core of strength. So strong I was able to give back. So strong I was able to stand up for my beliefs, for people’s rights.

What happened to those values, those virtues, those morals, those beliefs that we stood for together? When he walked away from me, from our partnership, did he walk away from that belief system as well? I was the believer, the unshakable one. He was the voice. Was it all an illusion? Did I only act the way I did, did I only believe what I thought I believed, because he was beside me?

His leaving me rocked my belief system to its core.

If I truly believe (as I thought I did) that one should absolutely contribute as much as one can to society, to right the wrongs, to stand up and speak out; and if I truly believe (as I thought I did) that I have so much still to contribute; then if I have now been crumpled down to a dithering mess, unable to even think straight long enough to remember to take my green bags to the shop, let alone try and save the planet; then what has happened to my own beliefs; what has happened to my own integrity?

Over the past months, I have read other people grapple with this same issue. ‘What is wrong with me?’ they ask, as they care for sick loved ones, as they recover from surgery, as they grieve the loss of friends or family. I understand their plight and am able to assure them “you are going through a difficult time… be kind to yourself”. I am less kind to myself. I feel I have lost my own inner compass.

It is time to reassess my own direction.

In order to do that, I need to accept my true self for who I am now as a single person, my strengths and my limitations. I need to affirm my own individual beliefs and choose a level at which I am prepared and capable of acting on. I need to accept that until I have regained my inner strength, I may not be able to make a difference globally, nationally or even at a community level. However, l can still act by my own code within my own home, within my workplace and with my friends, family and acquaintances. Then, if I keep acting within my own belief system, I may say once again that I am living with integrity.

“In matters of principle stand like a rock” Thomas Jefferson

Relationships

Last Friday was a proud day for me seeing my daughter – my baby – being admitted as a lawyer.

In the days before, I thought of the changed family unit that was to witness her admission. With my two eldest sons away and my husband awol, the previously strong proud family unit of six was now down to three. It would be up to me and my third son to be the support for her and share with her in this joyous moment. There was a huge lump in my throat thinking of how it was to be compared to how it could have been.

Then the day before the ceremony a lawyer friend, the son of a family friend, with a change to his business commitments was able to accept her request for him to be in attendance and present her admission to the judge. It made her day to have him there and make her day so special. Afterwards we all crowded around my daughter and embraced each other and shared this special moment together – my two children, myself and our friend.

Later that night my son said to me. ‘Mum, don’t be sad for what could have been, look at what there is. Look at what we have. It is happy new memories we are making right here, right now, together.’

Too often we dwell on the stereotypical happy-ever-after image of the intact family unit of mother, father and children. Whatever the age of the participants, the image is the same.
Too often we dwell on the portrayed image of ‘love’ being the passion between a man and a woman; of two lovers; of romantic affairs.
Too often we forget all the other relationships in our lives that make us who we are.

Mother-son
Sister – sister
Brother-sister
Mother-daughter
Work colleagues
Sporting partners
Friends from the past
Friends in the present
Supermarket attendee
Grandmother-grandson
Grandmother-granddaughter
Cousins and second cousins
Neighbors and acquaintances
Cafe owner who makes you coffee
Person who comes and paints your house
Friend who babysat your children when they were little
Parents of your children’s friends who are still there for you
Music teacher who mentored your daughter in her passion for the piano
Son of a friend who made a special effort to attend your daughter’s law admission