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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New Year – looking back and reaching forward – a significant turning point

ID-100176056.nongpimmyAs per my usual reflecting in my journal on the year that has gone, and setting goals for the year ahead, I noticed a turning point in my thought processes from previous years.

While all the ‘good’ things I listed were personal: the birth of my third gorgeous and precious grand-daughter, meeting three Canadian blogging friends (YAY!), and moving to Hobart environs to be closer to two of my children; I noticed that the ‘bad’ things I listed were all world affairs: political divides in UK and US, global refugee crisis, world-wide obesity epidemic etc.

It wasn’t that I did not have major personal things to tackle the past year, as I have had – such as sorting my mother’s affairs and moving home which were both huge life changes. It was the fact that I am now seeing personal hard times as issues to solve, rather than as problems dragging me down.

AND, I am now not so preoccupied with my own problems that I cannot see the world  events taking place. This is a huge step forward from when I was in the midst of trauma and thinking of such things was so painful and beyond me that I set those thoughts aside.

Now … on to solving world poverty …

 

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climbing out of black holes

“If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, its fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart.” Pema Chodron

ID-100136205,SweetCrisisWhen my marriage collapsed, and especially because of the way it collapsed, I felt stunned, vulnerable and scared. I felt like a knife had been pushed into my heart. I felt I had been wronged.

After the initial shock I began reading as much as I could, books, articles, blogs. Many of those sources tended to focus on the ex-spouse. In that regard, there is much space in the ‘divorce’ genre devoted to the diagnosis (usually by unqualified people) of personality defects (such as narcissist or sociopath) or them going through a mid-life crisis or similar that may have led the ex-spouse to do what they did. Because at the time I felt so bad about myself, then reading about that did provide some comfort that there may have been something wrong with “him”, rather than something wrong with “me” and I was simply a victim of my ex-husband’s action. As for my own writing, I didn’t focus so much on negative things about him but I did focus on the event of the marriage collapse itself, the suddenness of it, how painful it was and what a bad thing to have happened to me. In that regard, I was still a victim, of a bad event.

If bad things happen, I do think that one does have to work through negative feelings associated with the event. However, at some point, and this started very early for me and then grew, I decided to focus on myself and improving myself rather than focus on what had happened and why. Later on when I became overwhelmed by the amount that had to be done in the divorce process and financial settlement, I began to re-frame that process as a step towards my new life. In other words, I focussed on getting out of the hole, rather than being in the hole. I did not realise how far I had come until recently I read a post by someone I follow who – years later – is still focussed on a past event and being in a hole. I felt sad for that person that that meant they were still in the hole.

I still apply two vital techniques that I learned to get through the difficult days of climbing out of my hole, in getting through any difficulty in my current days.

(a) If something happens that I was not expecting that conjures up negative feelings –

After an initial anxiety period thinking about that ‘bad’ event, I instead turn my attention to improvement in one or more areas of my life:

  • protection
  • connection
  • contribution
  • creation
  • celebration

I focus on healing or protecting myself or family members; fostering better connections with my children, grandchildren and others in my life; or I focus on making a greater contribution to society, or becoming creative, or looking forward to and planning a celebratory event. In other words I try and focus on the positive in my life OR on making improvements in my life or in the life of someone else. If I do focus on positive things or on improvement, then it is impossible to feel sad or bad and the negative feelings about what has happened begin to fade away.

(b) If there is something horrible that I need to get done –

Instead of focusing on how awful it is, I try and focus on the better place that task will take me to. That can be a simple matter of getting mundane horrible tasks done (such as bills paid, or tax returns done, or tidying and cleaning finished) so that my mind is then clear to enjoy my days. For major necessary practical things that can sometimes literally overwhelm me, I focus on the better place that the tasks will take me to.

I applied these techniques to many of the steps of the marital settlement and I am now applying these to the practical steps of moving house.

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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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My need for people – to receive and give back

ID-10021833.jscreationzsIn the early months after the collapse of my marriage, I felt disconnected from all those people I had previously known.

Then I read about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Some parts of his theory made a lot of sense, that our needs develop one step at a time, beginning with basics (food, warmth, shelter); then stability (safety, routine); before moving to higher needs … connections with people, self-esteem, and self-actualization. I am not an expert in psychology but I do know that after a crisis working ‘up the scale’ had always been a powerful tool of recovery for me, (with an understanding that after divorce the “crisis” may last several years with no end-point to the requirement for stability and a feeling of protection!) …

HOWEVER

What I didn’t and don’t understand about this theory is how “connections” appear in the middle layer, something to move up to. Whenever I have faced a crisis of any kind, I have always felt that I have needed people as much as, if not even more than, when feeling ‘normal’. This has been especially true after a separation such as a death or my divorce because it was the loss of that connection (due to the loss of that person who has died or left, or loss of associations with that person) that was at the very root of the crisis in the first place.

After and during my divorce process, there were losses of many connections or sense of connection for me.

  • My partner, companion and confidante.
  • My nuclear family.
  • My extended husband’s extended family.
  • The circle of friends that had been ‘ours’.
  • The community groups that we had jointly belonged to.
  • The loss of sharing management of the business.
  • In selling the business, the loss of belonging to my work ‘tribe’.
  • In selling the business, there was also a sense of loss of me contributing to society. Many people going through retirement experience this same sense of loss.
  • Feeling disconnected from others, who have not faced the same financial pressures
  • On retirement, feeling disconnected from friends and family of the same age who can now move into their next phase of life together.

Some of these ‘disconnections’ happened immediately, while others dissolved further on in the separation process. In some the connection remained but with a need to redevelop that connection in new ways, such as redefining the concept of ‘family’. So a year ago at the ending of the marital settlement, four years after separation, everyone said ‘now it is all over for you’, whereas in reality the changes to my life had only just begun. For the first time in my life I was truly alone –  practically, financially, legally, emotionally, and socially.

Yet, throughout all this separation process, I have moved up and on. I believe this was what was happening to me. While I did move up a hierarchy of needs after my crisis, concurrently with that, I also moved up a hierarchy of a need for people. This moved from needing comfort from them, to standing alone, meeting them as equals, to giving back.

This is my hierarchy of needs for people –

  1. Protection. In the beginning I needed people to comfort me, protect me, advise me.
  2. Aloneness. I then had to reconnect with myself. This was important, to stand alone.
  3. Partnerships. I formed deep connections with close friends and family, one on one. They were initially replacement confidantes and support – for that lost marital ‘partnership’. In time, those people began to lean on me for my support of them. I became strong for them in their own hours of need.
  4. Herds. I have formed like-minded groups of small numbers of people. I re-formed my connections with my nuclear family, my siblings, work colleagues and small groups of close friends. These groups have become mutually beneficial to us all. I have both received and contributed as friend, sister, mother, daughter, grandmother.
  5. Tribe. I have reconnected with my large extended family of cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews. I have formed connections in my blogging world. I belong.

Three levels of hierarchy that I previously had that are still lost and yet remain as a burning need within me. These are a contribution to –

  1. Community.
  2. Society.
  3. Global needs

This has become my new sense of purpose and goals – to use my voice on speaking out for a world of peace, a safe environment for future generations and universal health for all.

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Retracting forgiveness

“If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart…”  Pema Chödrön

ID-100136205,SweetCrisisIn a deep hole after my marriage collapse, I made it my mission to forgive as I wanted to move on to a place of peace and harmony. I used forgiveness in order to give up feelings of anger, betrayal, resentment and revenge. Fast forward another 18 months and I was in a dark place of resentment. With my financial security in tatters, trudging through marital settlement mud, I saw the unfairness of my changed situation. I blamed myself for being too trusting in my marriage and too kind after the separation. I thought back and wondered whether forgiveness had been right for me.

I had believed forgiveness would help me heal, become less angry and bring me peace. By any definition, forgiveness does not mean forgetting, condoning, excusing, renouncing efforts to obtain restitution, suppressing anger at what happened, or giving up a recognition that you deserved better. Forgiveness is none of those. Forgiveness is supposedly letting go of negative feelings towards someone who has harmed you. So what forgiveness did to me was make me focus on the action that was done, classify that action as a wrong-deed committed by someone else (my ex-husband) and made me feel like the victim of that wrong-deed. It kept me thinking about what had happened and then, when I still in a bad place, made me feel stupid in being too “nice” in forgiving him of that action. What I know for sure was that forgiveness did not heal me, make me less angry or bring me peace.

So in February 2014, I retracted my action of forgiveness. From that point, I focussed instead on healing, on living by my values and acting always with kindness, fairness and courage … no matter what. I decided to choose before each action or comment I made. I would ask myself whether the action or comment I was about to make was being made for protection (of myself or others), connection, contribution, creation, or celebration? If I could not answer ‘yes’, then I would choose a different response.

Over time, I healed and became strong. My self-esteem and confidence grew. I was focussing on me. I was connecting with others and acting with kindness towards them. I was acting positively in the world of my ‘today’, not in a place of my ‘yesterday’. I felt free.

I believe now, that I got forgiveness wrong. It was more important for me to heal first, than to forgive. I do not believe that forgiveness was a requirement for that healing to take place. Instead of feeling like a victim, I now feel good about myself.

As I think about it today, I realise that at some point during my healing process, I became truly emotionally detached from my ex-husband and could see things from a more neutral position. I could see all the good that was in my marriage. As such I felt grateful for what had been rather than sadness at its loss. Some things that previously upset me now have no positive or negative feelings. As an example, two weeks ago it would have been our 41st wedding anniversary. I did not remember the date until today. That date no longer holds any meaning. It does not make me feel sad, bad or mad.

Interestingly, during the process of my healing and subsequent emotional detachment, forgiveness (losing resentment) crept up on me.

OR

Perhaps it is now that I see myself better off. Therefore … there is nothing to forgive.

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

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When home no longer feels like home

 

ID-100123089.Stuart Miles

Since my marriage collapse, my home has been my sanctuary, a bedrock of certainty; providing me with strength, stability and comfort. I have written about my need for stability and the comfort my home provides here, here, here, here, here and here.

Some time ago I wrote that I was now ready to move and make a new life somewhere else. It is interesting that since I made that decision, my home no longer feels like home to me. In part, this growing negative feeling has been been due to the sorting of the business documents which was a mammoth task and quite distressing at times – with painful memories and negative feelings surfacing as I reviewed records and documents. Then Christmas came and went. It was wonderful to have all the family home. I was back in my element with my home and family my comfort. But now, with everyone else back in their own life, my mood has changed again and the desire to move is very strong.

Over the past three weeks I have been away, spending two weeks with my siblings sorting through my mother’s things and a week with my grand-children. As I drove home, I started to become anxious and, once inside, instead of the usual comforting ‘home at last’ feeling that I would normally get, I felt suddenly and dramatically quite down. There are a few factors at play here.

Firstly, having had three weeks with other family members, the aloneness hit me hard.

Secondly, while sorting through things of my mother (who was a hoarder) I had thoughts that I should have a proper sort through of all my own things before I move. With that thought in mind, when I returned home and looked around at what that would entail, I became overwhelmed at yet another mammoth ‘sorting’ project ahead of me. I knew that if I sorted to my own ‘must do everything meticulously’ standards, I would be here forever.

Thirdly, I have been craving quiet time. I wondered whether I would ever get to that place of peace and contentment.

Enough of all this negativity!

I am actually slowly moving forward and doing well at the moment. I am taking baby steps, baby steps across this bridge that I must traverse in order to get to my new life.

  • I have organized a storage space for the business archives that need keeping for five years. I will be moving them out next week. That will be a load off my mind.
  • I have put my house ‘unofficially’ on the market and will formalize this once the estate agent gets photos done etc.
  • A friend of mine offered to help with some of the packing-my-house-up headache.
  • In a few months, one of my sons and I are going on a bit of a road trip to Sydney.
  • Mid-year, I will be spending more time with my siblings for the final sort of my mothers things.
  • Later in the year, I am going to spend some time in Canada.
  • I am getting excited about my new life around the corner and have been looking at houses and places I want to move to.
  • I am feeling really fit and healthy and that is great!

Here I go!

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