I am back (again)!

ID-1004416(1).frederico.StevaninHello all.

I have returned from a road trip to NSW visiting many friends and relatives, as well as my main project of sorting through my mother’s unit. I have been away nearly three months and, while I had visions of writing a lot while away, I became so busy the blog posts just didn’t happen. I became engrossed in living life and as such … there simply wasn’t time.

I stayed at Mum’s unit most of the time and re-connected with those in her neighbourhood and community, as well as getting myself into a fairly healthy routine of a morning walk of about an hour and another half hour walk each afternoon.

I had a nostalgic transportation back in time. All aspects of my life became intermingled as I sorted through Mum’s things, and I explored my old neighbourhood. I rediscovered my grandparents through their letters and photos. I lived in a bygone era as I read my mother’s diaries of the war and depression – a time that I had never lived in and my mother had kept alive – an era that had died with her death which became alive again as I sorted through her things. I relived my childhood and my teenage years each day walking the length and breadth of my old childhood town. I spent valuable time with my siblings, some cousins and close friends.

Most importantly, however, I had a break from the “restructuring” of my life, that has been ongoing for the past four and a half years. I spent 10 weeks staying still, living for the day, and drinking in those small moments of contentment each and every day. For 10 weeks I put aside the practicalities of my own life changes ahead and simply was … me.

I had a fantastic time.

I hope to catch up with you all over the coming weeks.

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ImageCourtesy[frederico.Stevanin]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My needs # 5. Meaningful projects.

ID-100145605At any crossroad in life, it is inevitable to question the meaning and purpose of your life.

When life is sailing along fine, it is easy to find the answers. You make your own choices in a meaningful life by engaging in a grand plan for the greater good, or simply being the very best you can be. You can choose to find meaning in your work, the right amount of space for leisure, and of having fulfilling relationships.

A life crisis or trauma can shatter all that. The ‘meaning of life’ takes a jolt. In my case, what I thought my life was suddenly wasn’t. I had lost control and was denied the choice of where my life was heading. I felt my future had been stolen.

Most of my driving force throughout my life had been preparation for the future. When the future became today, I planned for another future. So I sought and achieved a good education, took immense pleasure in seeing my children grow and succeed, looked ahead and planned for a secure retirement. I was always looking ahead. Suddenly in the calamity of my separation, I worried and became anxious about the future.

Life for me lost its meaning and purpose; and my ability to plan for the future disintegrated.. Yet having meaning in life and a plan for the future is a major driving force of survival. What can be done when seemingly this had taken away? My solution through this calamity, has been to stop focussing on the big picture of finding a meaningful ‘life’; and to instead focus on the here and now of today, by finding meaningful ‘projects’. Projects that are rewarding, stimulating, and fulfilling. When I was in the depths of this crisis, in survival mode, I still needed a reason for getting out of bed, for putting one foot in front of the other. Meaningful projects became the answer for me, to find some reason for beginning each day, and to be able to say at the end of the day “I did that, and I feel proud of what I did”.

In the beginning, finding a project for an hour helped me survive; then gradually projects that would take a day; then a week. Now I am able to think a month or two ahead and start planning forward.

My focus initially not only became my daily routines and getting on with them, but also finding meaning in them, and being grateful for the simple aspects of them. It now seems funny to think that one day I took pride in hanging the washing out on the line as the sun was beating warmly on my back. Never before had I ever felt that hanging the washing out could hold any meaning or purpose for me, yet that particular day it did. It gave me something to do. Likewise, I made a ‘project’ of spring-cleaning the house; and then refurbishing and adapting the house to suit me. I was proud of how it looked when I finished. Currently I have given myself a project of getting my photos in order.

I turn to the magnificence of the meaning of each day. I marvel every day at the sunrise and nature all around me. I take great pleasure in taking walks in nature. Life may be difficult, but there are still moments that offer joy, peace, calm – and meaning.

I have become absorbed in discovering ‘me’. I have made it a project. I am exploring not only my own beliefs and philosophies; but also that of others. I research each aspect in depth and explore its meaning. I have become interested in poetry, biographies and music. I learn and explore on these themes every day.

Finally, I have been writing all about this, in my journal, in my blogging. Writing about it has become rewarding and fulfilling, especially the feedback from others.

Eventually I know that I will find and return to a higher life purpose. Meanwhile, as life goes on I am finding these smaller projects, whilst seemingly not ‘my life purpose’, do give my life meaning. They are stimulating. They are fulfilling. They are giving me back control. Most importantly, my need for continual learning and growth is being met.

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Image courtesy [gubgib] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Live Life List!

I have been away for four weeks, offline for five. I was invited to a wedding that took place in Ireland early January and after some procrastination, deciding whether I should give up four weeks of an Australian summer to go to the northern hemisphere in the middle of winter, I accepted the invitation and went. My third son came with me, and we met up with my daughter in London a week before Christmas.

I had a fantastic time and added some things to my ‘Live Life List’.

What is this list? My children claimed a ‘bucket list’ was too gloomy and ‘life’s goals’ too philosophical for me while on a holiday. So as we did things I just kept saying that I was ‘living my life’ and so after a while this all became my ‘Live Life List’. The list means to me ‘I enjoyed that’, ‘I had a great time there’, ‘I experienced that’, ‘I saw that’. The list had no planning involved. I made it all up as I went along and altered it however I wanted to.

Here are some of the things added to my list:

  • I saw world’s tallest building – in Dubai
  • I went on a desert safari – well not really, but I did have a 4WD trip into the desert
  • I lived in London for a week – it felt like the centre of the world
  • Saw a West-end musical – The Lion King. My daughter’s choice for a London experience.
  • Joined in Christmas Carols at the Royal Albert Hall. My choice
  • Watched an EPL football match. My son’s choice.
  • Shared with my two youngest children a fantastic Christmas in Hertfordshire. New memories.
  • Found the house where my maternal grandfather was raised in Norwich. Tracing my roots
  • Went to a street party in Edinburgh to see in New Year 2013. Re-living the spirit of  my youth
  • Joined in the cheering on of an Irish band in an Irish pub. Just living for the moment. 
  • Lived the life of gentry for two days in Southern Ireland (for the wedding). Wow!
  • Stayed at small villages in both Wales and the Cotswald. The heart of Britain. 
  • Learned how to download photos from camera to iPad to WordPress. Not all that easy!

I really enjoyed myself and had a great break from all the pressures that have been thrust upon me.

I returned yesterday to much warmer weather and longer days back home in Tasmania, Australia.

Best wishes to all my readers for 2013!

Tower Bridge, London

Royal Albert Hall

English Premier League

Random Castle

Lakes District

Village in Scotland

Wedding venue

Village in Wales

Bourton-on-the-Water

Kew Gardens, London

My beliefs # 1 Peace

Peace
“A state of harmony characterized by lack of conflict and freedom from fear”
“Freedom from disturbance”
“Quiet and tranquility”
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In reflecting on who I am and what I have always believed in ‘Peace’ is one of the first words that springs to my mind. I have always been a believer in peaceful resolutions of global conflicts. I believed in and indeed have contributed to peaceful solutions to national, community and workplace disagreements. I believed in conflict-free relationships. I believed in striving for my own inner peace.
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Then along came the dreaded ‘D’ pelting me with its intense hurricane force destroying everything in its wake and leaving my previous life in tatters including my former beliefs and attitudes. The beliefs I strongly held for world peace, social justice and community harmony have been shoved aside for someone else to manage. It is enough that I survive  my own personal storm. The storm of the harsh reality of my former life partner being on the other side of dividing lines. A physical dividing line. An emotional dividing line. A financial dividing line by the required splitting of our assets. Always now a dividing line.
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For me there is still intense pain whenever I cast my thoughts to any of these divisions now between us. Here I am a believer in conflict-free relationships, a strong believer in harmony, and of tranquility. Yet, in regard to the one relationship I had formerly considered as the most sacred, I wondered whether there would ever come a time when there could be peace between us again.
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A few weeks ago I read this fantastic poem titled “Peace In The Uncommon Ground”. I think this is a brilliant poem and I have copied it below. The poem describes firstly finding peace within yourself and then for that sereneness to transmit to the other person allowing them to find their own inner peace and then peace between each other happens by finding common ground. Brilliant!
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After reading this poem, I realised that there were internal conflicts I struggled with. Should I have some contact with my husband for the children’s sake, or not see him for the sake of my own peace of mind? Should I stay in our former home with its now bittersweet memories, or go through the hassle of moving? Should I get stuck in and finish some work that needs doing or shall I sit back and enjoy the sunshine? Should I remain the resilient stable dependable one or break away and fly off on some exotic adventure?
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I had always been a contented person yet now I was battling with an inner turmoil that never existed before. I had lost my inner peace.
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I have taken steps over the past 12 months of finding peace. I enjoy living in today. I have embraced solitude. I have let go of the illusion of the happy-ever-after. I have forgiven the betrayal and the abandonment..Whilst all these actions are helpful, to some extent it is a self-protecting method of escapism – a means of avoiding reality. The reality of the full ramifications of the end of our marriage. The reality of the tortuous divorce process. The reality of starting out again – by myself. I had been attempting to place peace on top of chaos.
.In order to find peace with others in my life, I have to first find my own inner peace. In order to find inner peace, I have to first rid myself of the chaos, disorder and confusion that has found a home within me. To rid myself of the confusion, I need to untangle my competing beliefs and discard those aspects of my life that are no longer important to me. This will become the next part of my journey, the path to inner peace.
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Peace In The Uncommon Ground
Louise Gallagher
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In the uncommon ground between us
I must first make peace
with where I stand
to make room
for you to be
at peace
with where ever you are

In finding peace
with where we’re at
the path
to the common ground
appears
for peace to grow
between us.

Week 39 – Acceptance?

Week 39 – 18 June 2012

In one of my very early posts I wrote about how the ending of my marriage threw me into a grief process with particular stages or feelings – shockpainangerdepression – and being totally overwhelmed. I clung onto the hope of the last supposed stage of grief – hope and “acceptance” as a place I would eventually reach. I thought over and over that that is where I would like to be. I told myself if I could get to a point of “acceptance” then perhaps I could turn my situation around with positive responses and a hope for the future – a positive future.

Now at week 39 I wondered exactly what was meant by ‘acceptance’ and – if I had to get to a state of ‘acceptance’ in order to move on – what exactly was it that I supposed to accept?

Let me first get the dictionary out and explore the meaning of ‘acceptance’ and other related words.

Acceptance – the action of consenting to receive or undertake something.
Admit – accept as true, allow
Acknowledge – recognize as fact
Adjust – modify or make suitable to changed conditions
Adapt – make something suitable for a new purpose, alter for a new use
Allow – permit, take into account
Action – process of doing something
Accomplish – achieve or complete something
Achieve – reach or attain a desired objective by effort, skill or courage

Being left suddenly through no choice is akin to surviving a hurricane. Everything in your prior life has been totally destroyed and swept away and you are left alone amongst the rubble. You face feelings of abandonment, betrayal, a lost past, a stolen future, a changed family unit, the loss of a significant other and coupledom, as well as facing a future alone with a significant loss of financial security.

I do not think that I have or perhaps ever will accept by consent the hurt, the betrayal, the lost trust and of being abandoned. I cannot accept or consent to the lack of respect shown to me in not being given any choice or discussion on the ending of our 40 year partnership. I cannot yet accept that this was done to me by the one who I had cared for all my adult life, my friend and soul-mate.

However, I can indeed now acknowledge all this as fact. I can admit that this has happened. There has been a lot of pain associated with getting to that point. It was easier in the beginning to simply block it all out. It has been much much harder to face and admit the facts, and acknowledge them as true. This I have now done. That far I have progressed.

I have managed to go one step further in some aspects.

I have adjusted to the strange twilight world of today and have enjoyed living in the moment that each day brings. I have adapted to not having a significant other and of needing to face the future alone. I have allowed solitude to enter my life as my best companion and in fact I have embraced it.

While still hard at times the children and I have all adjusted to our changed family unit. In particular, I acknowledge that it will be me that will always be there for my children to see them through their triumphs and tragedies and to share in their everyday lives. I have adapted to being there for them on my own. I always have been and always will be there for them. I admit that my home is too large for me as a single person and I will take action to ensure its maintenance. It is my choice at the moment to keep the family home as a sanctuary for myself and the children for the preservation of their childhood memories.

I admit that it will be a difficult year to sort out all the legal, accounting and structural changes required for the split; and I acknowledge that it will be me that will have to do most of this technical work. I have adjusted to this turbulent period and have sought professional assistance where required. I admit it will be a challenge to get myself back on track to financial security. This will require a defined action plan, a strict budget and a delayed retirement.

Finally I admit that I have been hurt and that I am still in a degree of pain and that I need time to heal. I will allow myself that time. Until I have healed I admit that I will feel overwhelmed if I have visitors or when I travel as it is taking me away from my cocoon, my protective shell of solitude. Eventually, when I emerge from my cocoon it will not bother me. I admit that I am not there yet and i will give myself more time.

So, even though I have not quite reached acceptance, I do not feel that i do in order to move on away from ‘we’ and on to ‘me’. I have acknowledged what has happened, I have adjusted my thoughts and adapted to my changed circumstances. I am taking the actions required to move myself forward. …. step by step.

It is for that reason that I know that I will in time move on to my own accomplishments and achievements before advancing through many other phases (B, C, D, ….)  before finally reaching the zenith of my life.

Zenith – the peak, the highest point.

Week 28 – The second wave of pain

Six months into this divorce process and I was hit with the reality of our lost retirement plans. The financial security we would have had together that now had to be divided into less than half as costs and more costs and even more costs were added in ….or rather taken off. There was this unknown factor of starting over all by myself and whether that could be done at all. I was 58 and there were few years left for me to make it all work out.

Then the pain came again.

No-one told me about this second wave of pain. I have never read about this second wave of pain. There was firstly the emotional side; the human side; the airy-fairy living in la-la-land side. And then there was reality. I had put off thinking about reality. It was like a second grief process and it was hitting me right in the eyes. This second wave of grief began washing over me and in my scrambled brain I realized it was all the same emotions – the same stages to go through. The shock at the harsh reality of the figures – the anger at being put in this position by the one I had loved most – the yearning for a secure retirement that we would have had but now did not – the depression of wondering how I would survive, how I would manage – and the pain, the excruciating pain…….it was back again. And I am swimming now, swimming, swimming, and swimming. I am in this raging current again and unable to reach the shore. Once again, I yearn for the past. Once again, I fear the future. Once again I cannot cope in yesterday or tomorrow. Once again I survive by blocking them out. Once again I survive by living in the moment, in today.

Once again, I am sitting watching the sunrise. It does not let me down. Once again, it is magnificent.

Week 26 – Almost Spring begins!

Week 26 – March 18, 2012 – The day I started my ‘Almost Spring’ blog

“ I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. I felt fear myself, more times than I can remember, bit I hid it behind a mask of boldness. The brave man in not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” from ‘My Long Walk To Freedom’  by Nelson Mandela

I had been surviving the pain of my marriage’s collapse by living in the moments of a glorious summer and pouring myself into my journal. Now the days were becoming shorter and the weather cooler, I wondered how I would survive the approaching winter and its bleakness. My spirit began to drop.

Nevertheless on that particular day the optimistic side of me was winning and as I was sitting writing at my desk looking across to the valley and later down to the river, it inspired me…… .the river was always inspiring. I took some time out to take some photos of it. I could not think of a better place to be in order to be inspired, to write, and to reflect. Some days I become so overwhelmed at what is in front of me. Then I look across to the valley or down to the river and they are always there greeting me. I thought to myself ….. “self, look at what you have”.

Earlier that day I had done some internet surfing and had come across blogging sites about people reinventing themselves at about age 60 and moving on, making a new life. I felt positively uplifted by them and I thought that I could do that too. Yes, I could make a new life for myself. Yes, I could write about it. Yes, I could do it.

So on that day, my blogging site was born. It would be a journey of my transformation from ‘we’ to ‘me’. As ‘we’ had been together forty years – 37 married and 3 years prior; I decided to give myself forty steps to take to become my own self – one step for each year of our time together. I decided to be kind to myself and not put any pressure on myself as to how long those steps would take or what those steps would be. I then spent the day learning to navigate the ins and outs of WordPress. At the end of the day I triumphantly loaded my home photo – the view to my river valley. That would become my signature …. the peace and tranquility of a flowing river through a forested valley.

I now confess that I thought at the time (week 26) I had been through the worst of it (I had not). I intended and wanted the blog to be completely positive, showing only my optimistic self to the world, and for it to be completely uplifting for others. Moreover, I intended to skip over the first few months in one or two posts and get quickly to the positive journey I intended to take going forward. When my spirit continued southwards I held off releasing any posts until about week 35. Then, over the next few weeks, as I sank lower into despair, as I looked back through my journal, as I began re-living my own feelings by my own writing, as I felt again the excruciating pain of the first few months; I decided to write it all.

Since then my feelings have turned into words on paper.

I am inherently an optimist and I still strive to think positively about each day and about the future. On that particular day, when my thoughts turned to the approaching winter, I thought to myself ….. what is the problem with winter? In winter, it is almost spring. In spring comes sunny days, the bloom of new flowers, and new hope. I told myself not to focus on the winter but instead to focus on the approaching spring. Then I decided that would be my main message and that would be the name of my blog ……. Almost Spring….

I am fundamentally an optimist… part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed towards the sun, one’s feet moving forward” Nelson Mandela