My needs # 3. Financial security

houseandmoney

A need is something that you feel anxious about if you do not have it. Once you have it the pain goes away. The gaping hole in my life where my financial security used to be has caused me much gut-wrenching anxiety in the past 18 months.

Yet no-body, including myself, wants to talk about money.

People spend a lot of time talking about what can be bought with money but not the money itself. People will discuss their travel, clothes, gadgets, houses, and cars. However, they do not discuss much about the money itself or where it comes from or how to get it or how much you need. In fact, in some circles a discussion on money is taboo. It is almost as if you are thought less of a person if you discuss money; and that thinking about money, or the lack of it, it is not a prized value to have.

After my separation, I initially spent a long-time focussing on emotional aspects of losing my partner and soul-mate, my fractured family unit, and the pain of the overwhelming grief, sadness and anxiety I felt about my changed life. Then during my recovering phase I spent some time re-evaluating my values, beliefs and attitudes of trust, kindness, compassion, hope, peace, courage etc No where amongst all that was there anything to do with money.

Part of that relates to the guilt of putting any importance on money. In the very beginning after a separation, when you are faced with abandonment, you do not care a toss about any material possession. There is a cathartic realisation that none of that matters. What matters is people and love and care and kindness. So months later when you start becoming very anxious about your changed financial affairs, you remember back that you concluded that money does not matter, and you feel guilty that now you think that maybe it does.

The truth is that even though we all do not want to talk about it, we all do need it in some form or another, and the changed money situation after a divorce can be catastrophic. I am not talking about greed, such as having innumerable world trips or accumulating beautiful things, I am talking about survival. Having adequate funds so that you can pay the bank debt or house mortgage or rent, pay for utilities, afford good medical care, be able to afford to see your family, then maybe having just a little left over for some savings. But above all, there is the need for some reassurance that what you now have will also not be lost, that this ‘less than half of the former estate’ will not somehow disappear by some other catastrophe.

I know that the values of human kindness and compassion are important. I understand that true happiness lies in seeking out long-lasting experiences of savouring pleasant moments, being grateful for what I have, and seeking out human connections. However, I also do crave that one day I will again own my own home debt-free, that I will be able to comfortably pay my bills on time, that I will have no credit card debt, and that I will be able to put away so that I will have adequate retirement savings for me to enjoy a financial-stress-free old age.

Maybe when that time comes, the anxiety at the pit of my stomach will ease.

I have added “Financial Security” to the list of my own fundamental needs.

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Image courtesy [Stuart Miles] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It is finished!!!!

Over the past six months, despite my attempts at upbeat posts and a determination to carve a positive way forward, simmering underneath has been the constant dealing with divorce process “stuff”. Overwhelming and overpowering, like a ton of bricks weighing down on my shoulders as I have trudged slowly through a sea of mud – yes, all the metaphors apply.

Now it is finished – not the whole divorce process – but at least the burden of the gathering of financial information, the finding the financial records, the putting it altogether for accountants and lawyers, the presenting it all in a logical format, the attendance of meetings, the long phone calls, the constant stress, the forever ending burden of trying to find an extra eight hours a day from nowhere. Day and night for six months!

And even though I have asked myself over and over and over as to why it is ME who has been left with this burden, and even though not once have I received a logical explanation; today it does not matter, today I do not care, today it is over, today I am free.

Today I can cook, or clean, or go and have my hair cut, or sort my linen out, or weed the garden, or write, or phone a friend, or go down town, or do some blogging.  Today I can do what I want. Normal stuff.

I am ……. as old as I am

I had a cousin who was killed in a car accident on his 21st birthday. He never graduated, never married, never travelled, never had children…….

I had an aunt who died from cancer at age 33 years old. She never had children, never owned her own business, never moved interstate, never wrote a book……

My father died of a stroke at age 49. He never saw his children graduate or marry, he never knew any of his grand-children, he never retired.

From where I am sitting there is still much that I have to face in my life that is difficult ……. being cast aside…….. being alone…. losing my plans for the future …….. having a depleted asset base from which to begin again………

However, being aged 58 years is not added to this list. It is just the age that I am.

Yes, it is difficult coping with the feelings of betrayal at age 58 … but this would be difficult, the hurt would be the same, no matter what the age.

Yes, it is difficult to suddenly be left alone at age 58 …. but no more difficult than a young mother left alone with young children. No more than a child being left by an abandoning parent.

Yes, it is difficult starting afresh with a depleted asset base at age 58 ……. but no more difficult than people who lost money in investment scams… no more than others who have lost money in failed businesses… no more than people who have needed to use their assets to fund a medical condition.

All of these issues are difficult situations for anyone at any age. The truth is that in order to overcome them, they need facing, they need dealing with. Thinking they are more difficult because you are a certain age is just an excuse to put off facing what needs to be faced.

My age has nothing to do with the difficulties that I now face. My age actually benefits me as I have a grounded experience in previous hard times that I have survived. So I know that once difficulties are faced, they cease becoming difficulties and turn into challenges. Challenges are invigorating and give you a reason to get up in the morning. Being the age that I am, I am better able to apply my past experiences to the challenging times ahead. Rather than facing difficulties I now have challenging goals …. embracing aloneness……becoming financially independent ……. of staying true to my values.

Whenever I start to think things are difficult ‘at my age’ …. I stop.
I remember to be grateful for the age that I am.
I remember to be grateful to have come as far as I have come.
I remember those loved ones who did not get this far in their own journey.
I remember to be grateful for the opportunity to continue my own journey into the future.

Week 33 – The rings

Week 33

There was a very significant event in my life this week and how fitting that it should take place in the ski village of Whistler with the imposing Olympic rings set against the back-drop of the magnificent mountains of British Columbia.

During my time visiting my son in Canada I went to visit a friend of a friend who by some sheer coincidence was staying in Whistler. Her circumstances were similar to mine in that her husband had left her; albeit that it has been two years before and officially divorced so she was a little further on emotionally than me. Swapping stories I felt proud in some ways that I had managed to hold up remarkably well and especially that I had been able to make the step of spring cleaning and getting rid of “stuff” so early, something she had only been able to do in more recent times. Yes, I thought, had been able to rid myself of ‘him’ and his ‘stuff’ very early.

She looked at me surprised and said ‘what about the rings?’ There they were still on my left hand where they had been for 37 years.

It was not that I had purposely left them there. I just did not know what to do with them and with the thoughts that went through my head. And they were different than other ‘stuff’ in that the emotional side went with them, the symbolism of the partnership. In this instance I felt that divorce was SO much worse than becoming a widow. When you become widowed the ‘rings’ are something that become part of the family heirlooms that are passed down generation after generation. They mean so much and they become so treasured. What then for the rings of divorce? Had not I had a successful 37 year marriage? Do I have to abandon everything of those 37 years?

My own rings had a story to them in that when we were the sweet young things and were contemplating marriage we went into a ring shop and put a $1 deposit down on an engagement ring. Sadly within the next few weeks my father suddenly died of a stroke and so we put our engagement off. Six months later when we decided to get actually get engaged we never thought that the shop would have held the ring with only a $1 deposit. We searched and searched but could not find a ring we liked as much as the original one. So went back to the same shop and lo-and-behold the ring was still in their safe. We thought that was a very clear message that our love was meant to be, that the ring was meant to be, and the ring had been treasured by me in all my years of marriage.

What now?

So this friend of a friend decided to take the situation into her own hands and strongly voiced the opinion that as the rings symbolized an eternity of ‘for better or worse’ that no longer held meaning and that it was time that they should go. She grabbed my hands and started taking them off. This – I might add –  ended up to be quite a feat as the rings had almost become embedded into my fingers. Eventually with some soap and some ice and much twisting and turning they came off my hands. I put them in my purse. The next morning she apologized for being so brutal and said that I should make my own decision on whether the rings should stay or go.

With everything in this process that I cannot decide on, I shelved the decision until a later date…… .but I did not put the rings back on.

Two days later when I was enjoying my time by myself at the Capilano bridge I noticed some beautiful American Opal rings set in silver. I bought one for myself. I put it on the the finger of my left hand where my old rings had been. Yes, I know – wrong hand – but conventions no longer mean anything to me so there it stays.

When I returned home to Australia I put my old rings in my ‘sad box’. to deal with at some later date.

So why was this event so significant in my life?

Firstly, one of the emotional links with the marriage – the rings – was finally discarded.
Secondly, I strode ahead as the new ‘me’ by taking myself on a mini-adventure and found that I could enjoy myself – all by myself – and symbolized this with buying my own ring as a symbol of a new relationship with myself for myself. This became my step 7 in my journey to ‘me’, and a vow to be true to myself.
Lastly and most importantly, when I got back home, as I threw my old rings in my supposed ‘sad-box’ and briefly glanced at the other items I had put in there, I thought to myself ……… life is not so sad after-all.

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

Week 25 – Less soul searching – More panic

Week 25 – 16 March 2012

I have felt busy and rushed again, back to the days of too much to do and not enough time to do it, juggling too many balls in the air and almost dropping half of them; with regular business things, setting-up things, domestic chores, shopping, forgetting to shop and running out of things, financial figures, working figures out for the split, drive four hours to see the children, looking after grand-daughter, drive back home again, being by myself, not being by myself.

I felt overwhelmed. I felt that it is all too much. What did I do to deserve all this stress? I was in a constant state of flux and uncertainty – on top of what I had already had to go through – and with my husband seemingly just walking away from it all to an easier life; leaving me with all the mess to clean up.

So, from a state of positiveness and place of contentment I had reached a few weeks before, I now fell back down into glumness. I suppose for me it was ‘more of the same’ (life’s difficulties – all by myself) rather than ‘great, let’s do something new and different and love it’. I had been inspired to write earlier in the year but that had gone a bit flat and the business seemed like a huge mountain to climb again. And even though I knew that I would not get anywhere with “attitude = glum”, I was transfixed and incapable of moving. I missed three appointments in the previous week because of my mind being total mush and my ‘baby-boomer’ brain not quite deciding whether to have a paper diary or electronic diary and relying for the beep on my phone to remind me of appointments I had written in a paper diary that I never open. How dumb is that?

And last week-end I had a very red and swollen foot and so for something I would not normally even look at, let alone panic about; but with no-one else to confirm that and say ‘that looks Ok to me’, I took myself off to the ER only to completely lose it when they asked me ‘who is your next of kin?’. I suddenly thought, well who IS my next of kin? As a married person all those warm fuzzy things of just belonging automatically to each other and the thought constantly in the background of always having someone to take care of you, and now that is gone. That thought. That person. That one and only.

Now what will I do? Who will look after me? Why am I left to clean up all the mess? What will I do? Is there someone out there who can help me? Where can I draw some positiveness from?

In the midst of all the glumness and panic of life on my own and feeling overwhelmed again, I decided to make myself some ‘chicken soup for the soul’. It is invigorating to the soul making a ‘slow-food’ meal for me, just for me, for my good health and taste, and to know that even though I am alone I can still participate in the joys of life. I sat down and enjoyed my soup as I have never enjoyed a bowl of soup before ever in my entire life. To think that I could ever get such pleasure out of such a simple thing as a bowl of soup.

Then I went and bought some flowers for myself. And each day for a week as I came home after work they greeted me with a ‘hello, how are you today’ and filled my spirit with joy and aliveness.