The next step is the first step

Two years ago marked the financial settlement of my divorce, ending three years of trudging through rain and mud. I felt I had finally reached a sunny place. Spring was upon me. Free of my divorce, I saw myself in a new transition, tidying up my old world, letting go of all that did not serve me well, trying new things, planting seeds ready for bloom in the summer to come, and readying myself for the vision I had of living true to my beliefs.

I did the sorting, packing and letting go. I tried new things and had new experiences. I devised my own HEALTH.Plan and became healthy and fit. I packed up and moved. Now – at the age of 63 – I begin my new life as a single person branching out in a new world, a world which I craved for during the process of my divorce settlement.

However, in all honesty, I have been drifting the past twelve months without much direction.

To be truthful, moving on has not been easy. The move was not without hiccoughs. I am struggling financially trying to make it work. Making new friends and finding new social circles is not easy. Nobody knows me here and at times I feel quite lost and alone.

The little bit that feels lost is that of my identity. I had been a wife, mother and business manager. Then I became a sufferer of the unexpected collapse of my marriage. Then I became a strong woman recovering from that with grace and dignity. Now that I feel lost, I wonder if that became my identity and whether I am lost without it. I do not want to be remembered as the ‘one who recovered from divorce‘. I want to make a difference in the world. At one stage I felt writing in more depth about my experiences may help others. However, I was scared that may also send me emotionally back to that dark place that I had crawled out of. I wanted to be free of that. I had moved on.

Or had I?

I am outwardly strong and contented and the pain at the pit of my stomach has long gone. However, the person who recovered from a difficult divorce; the person previously at risk of ill-health who became fit and healthy; and the person brave enough to move alone to a new area after 40 years – those three parts are still fragile inside. So my writing stopped.
I felt that because I was still going through some fragility and further tough times I had not reached my destination. I wanted to get to the part about the rainbow and the sunshine. I felt I hadn’t quite got there. I felt no one would want to hear about black skies in springtime.

While I was trying to fathom out what to do, people were somehow still finding my blog and sending me encouragement that what I had written had helped them. This made me conflicted. Would writing about my difficult experiences take me back to a dark place? Or instead could it shine a light for others? If so, which experiences should I write about? Divorce – Nutrition – Relocation. Which voice was mine? Which truth should I share?

As so many times I had realized before, when I get stuck and can’t move and I want to get somewhere else, the best place to start is at the beginning.

The first step for me is to become proficient at what I do. I have therefore enrolled in a University course, and am now buried in books and research. I am doing a Masters in Nutrition and I am also planning two units in writing and publishing.

And so I start a new beginning.

I have come to realise it is all new beginnings. Every step I have ever taken has always been the first step towards the rest of my life. While some steps did not seem to lead me anywhere except getting me out of a hole, every step led me to the next step.

And all those next steps all took me to here – at my new beginnings.

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Image courtesy[africa]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Flying high

 

ID-100238072.suwatpoJust a short post to keep in touch …

I have been away for two months, visiting my son in Canada, daughter-in-law and my brand new gorgeous baby grand-daughter. I spent two weeks in Vancouver, three weeks travelling (Alberta, San Francisco, Whistler) two weeks back in Vancouver, then some time in Sydney with my siblings before heading back to Tasmania.

After a fairly intensive seven year period, this was a wonderful time for me. For eight weeks I was able to leave my ‘must-be-done’ things behind. I was finally spreading my wings. Even though I have travelled here and there over the past five years, mostly that has been going to or from people at one or the other end. This time, as I could not stay with my son as they only have a tiny place, I spent quite a lot of time on my own; seeing new places; navigating buses, trains, planes, accommodation, tourist events, shops, restaurants, food swamps, taxis, walking trails, and hospitals; and had many new experiences – all on my own.

  • I met some wonderful people including bloggers Ian, Diana, (she posted a picture of me)  and Louise.
  • I attended a stimulating conference in Santa Rosa and met many like-minded people.
  • I had an accident on a bus one day and ended up in Vancouver Accident and Emergency for several hours (but I survived!)
  • I navigated various restaurants and food swamps and – despite my very tricky diet balancing food sensitivities with a determination to have healthy food – I did manage to find foods to eat wherever I went. I came home the exact same weight as when I left.

Now back in Tasmania, my feelings about what I call ‘home’ are mixed.

I am soon to be moving on as I have purchased a house near two of my children in the Hobart environs. I will be relocating there in the new year. Hopefully with faster internet connection, when I move there I can return to more frequent blogging again.

I do miss you all.

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ImageCourtesy[suwatpo]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Does grief really have stages and if you work through them are you over it?

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When my marriage collapsed and dark emotions ran rampant, it was a comfort to me to learn that I was in a state of shock and grieving, similar to what one goes through after someone has died. The intense feelings I had were a normal part of grief with its supposed stages of shock, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance. It helped me to know that I would pass through those stages. In fact, I made an aim to accelerate through quickly. I felt that if I got to the last stage – that of ‘acceptance’ – then the pain would go away.

How wrong I was.

I wrote a lot about those stages. I felt that I did progress through them but I never did reach a state of ‘acceptance’, where I felt that what happened had to happen. I did eventually ‘acknowledge’ that it had happened which was a turning point of sorts, understanding that my marriage belonged to a past world. In reaching that point however, of acknowledging my past life was gone, the pain did not simply go away. In many ways I had simply reached a beginning point, of learning to make my way in my changed world, with a new today, and a different future. The intense grief I had experienced was just the beginning of more pain for me.

Apart from my marriage there were other losses I mourned in the grief process such as the loss of my intact family and the loss of my financial security. Even now – over four years later and well over that grieving process – it is the here and now that is difficult, being a single mother and grandmother, and trying to make it financially with a bruised asset base. It is the practicalities of keeping on going another day, in another way.

In my case the stage theory seemed to work because I kept pushing myself to get through the stages. However, I can see now that it could have been a draw-back if I had thought any ‘stage’ (sadness for example) would magically pass and I would simply move onto the next stage. It didn’t happen like that for me. In fact I was so scared that I could become ‘stuck’ in a stage if I did not work to get through it, that I continually took steps to deal with the feelings I experienced, and learned to acknowledge my changed world of today. I do not know whether it really helped me doing that … or whether I would have simply passed through those stages regardless … or even whether I could have got through less painfully if I had simply let them happen, rather than trying to wish them away.

Another draw-back of the stage theory is that the stages can return again and again (although often with less intensity each time). By that I mean that I would seemingly get over an intense feeling such as anger or sadness and then that feeling would return. This is quite normal and yet when it first happened to me I thought there was something wrong with me. Once that happened it led me into a downward spiral of low moods and a new intense pain – the pain of feeling bad about myself, that I was not doing very well. It was only the voice of a dear friend who one day said to me ‘this is normal’ (what I was feeling) and ‘you are normal’ (how I was behaving) that brought me out of that deep dark chasm.

So here I am enjoying my new world of today (and I truly am) and looking forward to my exciting future (honestly I am) … but sometimes there is still that lump in my throat, that pain in my chest, that catch in my breath, and that intense feeling of loss.

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ImageCourtesy[Vlado]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

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.

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ImageCourtesy[Vlado]FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

Joy within sadness

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After my husband left me, I could not bear to think about the past because thinking about it caused me so much grief. It was thinking about the previous happy times that filled me with so much sadness; those happy times of my children as babies and young children and their care-free days growing up in our forested river valley. My now-grown children could not understand why that was, why I looked back on happy times with sadness, why I would cry over something that was clearly dear to them. They would try and convince me that those happy memories should remain happy. I could not see them that way and I spent many many months in deep pain grieving my loss of happier times. One by one I grieved for them, then painstakingly put those memories aside, thinking of them as something that I had to put them behind me forever. I then went through a process of stashing away any reminder – photos and memorabilia – as I tried to get on with my life.

More recently, when I have been staying with and caring for my mother, I have had more contact with my siblings and we have shared reminiscing sessions together. Out have come all the family photos and, at those times, the stories would begin. We have sat for hours telling the stories of us as children and the happy times that we have shared. This was the same in my world of growing up. I have fond memories of such gatherings with aunts, uncles, cousins; the extended family getting together and sharing happy memories. In the sadness of my mother’s illness, we found this time of joy in the here and now, remembering the happy times of the past. In doing so we were creating joyful times in the present, interacting and being together remembering the happy childhoods that we had.

When I returned from one of my visits to my mother, I looked around when I entered my home. On the walls were pictures of places and momentos of various trips with my husband. Those experiential activities now meant nothing to me. In one of those rare moments of me acting on impulse, I took them all down. Then I spent the next day delving into my boxes of photographs, dashing into town to buy photo-frames, and putting up precious memories of my past all around my home.

I divided my walls in my entry, hallway, and living room into sections. In one section I put up photos of my children up to the ages of eighteen; and in another section them as adults. I made a section for myself and siblings growing up and of their families, my niece and nephews, and grand-nieces. My grand-children were given a special place of their own. Lastly, I made a place for my parents in their youth and their parents and grandparents.

When my two youngest children came to visit a few days later they made a joke of mother going just a little bit overboard with photos everywhere that the eye could see. Yet they smiled with joy at my change of heart as they looked intently at the now-allowed happy times on view. They began talking about memories that were triggered and spoke about how much fun they had growing up. We have two favourite photos. One is a photo of my third son, who as a three-year-old had a love of carrots. The photo has him at my brother-in-law’s place pulling a huge carrot from the ground beaming with joy at his carrot and his great discovery that carrots came from the ground. His joy had been captured forever. Another favourite is a photo of the back view of the four children – aged three to eleven at the time – walking hand-in-hand down the ramp at the supermarket.

We sat down that evening and spent the night reminiscing about happy times.

In amongst anxious days at a crucial stage of the marital settlement, and with my background concern at my mother’s failing health; I found joy in remembering previous happy times and shared that joy with my two youngest children.

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Image:Courtesy[BoinsChoJooYoung]FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Wedding wobbles after divorce

 

ID-100125771.StuartMilesMy second son was recently married. People have asked me whether there were any ‘awkward moments’ due to the divorce. I would be lying if I said, ‘No’. However, I am pleased to say that most of the awkward moments were in my head. I did not let thoughts in my head control my actions. I paused and thought through anything before responding or, more importantly, not responding. I also noticed a difference to what I actually did think and experience compared to what I had been anticipating that I may experience.

When a mutual friend’s daughter married two years ago, I was raw inside. The vows spoken at the church made me cry and cry. As they spoke their vows, I thought about my own wedding and what I felt as the breaking of those vows. This wedding of my son was different. Those same thoughts did not enter my head when my son and his soon-to-be-wife spoke their vows. That same sadness did not surface. When they said their vows, I thought only of them. I thought only of their love for each other and the wonderful life they were to have together.

The ‘awkward’ moments came at different times, prior to the wedding ceremony itself; and afterwards at the reception.

As described in an earlier post, the wedding was six days at a resort on the Cook Islands, so there was six days of togetherness with family and friends, six days of happy times with others. Yet, in those happy times, there was that edge for me of being alone within myself, of not having that soul-mate to look out for me and, although I am beginning to revel in my independence and am quite capable of looking out for myself, seeing the togetherness of other couples looking out for each other stung me a little. My children having to spend separate times with each of us, stung me a little. The speech given by the father of my new daughter-in-law, speaking with pride of his wife and soul-mate of 40 years and their life of sharing and living out their promises to each other, stung me a little.

I had anticipated awkward moments with my ex-husband, even though he had decided to come ‘alone’ which made it easier for all of us.

Due to my mother’s health crisis in the weeks before the wedding, I had not had time to have “the conversation” with him, that of: ‘Please do not come up to me and insist that we should be friends. Please do not hug me in front of other people, as if nothing has happened between us. Please do not ask me to dance with you after the bridal waltz’. 

So the conversation had not happened and the awkward moments did happen and, surprisingly, I did not care. I was able to act with grace and dignity, smile, shrug those moments off, quickly move aside to other people, and put it all behind me.

However, those moments were defining moments for me. They were the first one-on-one, face-to-face contact I had had with him on a personal level in over a year. What I came to understand in those moments was that I have reached a place of emotional detachment from the man who left me. When he came up to me at the wedding, I no longer saw him as the man I had married 40 years ago. For three years I have felt pain whenever I thought of being abandoned by the man I had been married to. In those moments at the wedding, I realized that person no longer exists. He is not the same person as the man who left me. In those moments, I felt no pain regarding being left by the man who my husband had become. I felt no emotion for that man, I felt nothing for him, for the man who left me.

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Image:Courtesy[StuartMiles]FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Divorce and weddings and families

 

 

ID-10067121.Stuartmiles My second son is to be married. This will be the first major milestone since the break-up. This will be the first time as a family where we will all be together, yet apart; where we will have to face not being a united family; and where my and my ex-husband’s siblings will see each other. I remember my eldest son’s wedding six years ago when we had that coming together of the two families and what a joyous occasion it was. How I so wish for this wedding to also be filled with joy and togetherness.

My son spoke to me by phone about some logistical arrangements for the wedding and I was dying inside as he spoke as I had been blocking those things out. I did not let on how anxious I felt. It was going to be his big day and I needed to put my angst aside. After the call ended I broke down. Everything hit me hard and I felt all mixed-up inside. I felt joy and sadness, fear and wonder, all mixed up together. I felt so alone that I could not share those feelings with my children, those whom I held dearest to my heart. The cruelty of divorce hit me as hard as it had ever hit me before, knowing that we were no longer the strong united happy family that we should have been.

About half an hour later my son rang me back. He had sensed there was something wrong with me. By then, I was in the middle of a puddle of tears. There was nothing to do but tell him how I felt. Out came three years of frustrated loneliness of never being able to talk to him and the other children about how I really felt. I felt that I had to protect them all from the pain of the broken family unit. I told him I felt I was supposed to put on an appearance of a happy united family for his wedding and yet we were broken. I felt that I was supposed to put on an appearance of his father and I being ‘friends’ when I did not feel that way. I felt that if I had to pretend we were that united unit, when we were not; and that his father and I were friends, when we were not; then I would be acting untrue to myself. I explained I wanted his day to be special but I did not want to live a lie. I wanted to stop pretending and hoping for the united family. We were two families now; my family and his father’s family. I could not act like the united family unit when we were not. From now on in my life I wanted to speak my truth. I wanted to act by my true self.

I had never spoken to my son about the break-up in that fashion before. My son assured me that I could always speak the truth with him. I no longer had to pretend. I felt a surge of bonding with my son that was stronger than I had ever felt before. I no longer felt lonely and that I could not share how I felt, with those whom I love. I no longer had to put on a mask. I had found my voice. I had spoken my truth. I was acting by my true self. I felt a huge weight had lifted from my shoulders because I did not have to pretend anymore. I felt free.

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Now that the suffering weight has lifted, I have six weeks to become strong and work out my self-strategies to ensure my son’s wedding is the joyous occasion it is meant to be.

 

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ImageCourtesy[StuartMiles]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net