Ticking the boxes

 

ID-10026029.rawich

My last post, alluding to my tendency to often being late, was actually about whether I had lived true to my values. It drew some interesting responses. One that surprised me was from a follower who had perceived me as an ‘always on time’, well-organized ‘super-woman’. The comment made me wonder who the real me is and what masks I had been hiding behind since being alone. After my husband left me I courageously worked through my grief, detached emotionally from him and made steps towards forgiveness. I perfected the art of living alone and embracing each day in all its glory. From six months after he left for about a year, I remained in that space with my life compartmentalized.

The stoic everyday me

I went about my everyday life in the scheduled daily routine I created. I would rise, watch the sunrise, write in my journal and go for a walk before heading to work, four days a week. I put aside the angst surrounding my divorce and pretended life was normal. I interacted with staff in a normal fashion and focused on work. I socialized on a casual basis. I connected with friends one-on-one for coffee or lunch. After work I would return home to my evening routine of dinner and relaxation. Regularly I would ring my family and friends.

Mother

I desperately yearned for what I had lost, my intact family unit. I tried to put it back together. I regularly drove four hours to see my eldest son, his wife and my grand-daughter. My two younger children lived in the same area and I saw them often. I would mark dates on my calendar to keep me going until I saw them again. I came alive when I saw them. I put my heart and soul into being mother and grandmother. I would cook, bake, read stories to my grand-daughter and play this role I loved. When I was on my own again, I would fall flat and feel very sad.

Adventurer

I underwent ‘experiential pastimes’ that one is supposed to do when carving a new life. I put that in quotation marks because I was not craving that at all. I did it because it was expected I would want to travel and try new things after my world had upended. So I tried. Inside I was craving family so I combined ‘experiences’ with being with family; in Sydney, visiting my second son in Canada and attending a friend’s wedding in Ireland. Each time I felt on shaky emotional ground when away from home.

Mud trudging

The fourth me was (and is) trudging through mud of the divorce and property settlement. This has been horrid. At first I tried to avoid it. Then I tried to deal with it on the side of my life. That didn’t work. I felt resentful every single day I had to deal with it. Eventually I gave up two days a week for two years in order to do what had to be done to get through it. I pretended it was simply another part of my life. Some people study for a degree. Some people belong to a craft club. Some people write books. I trudged through the mud of our property settlement.

Soul searching

This is discovering who I really am. This started with me writing my journal daily, blogging then reading philosophy. And self-help books. Lots of them. My reflection became more and more intense as I delved into the core of my inner self.

Ticking boxes

After a year, I looked back to what I had been doing. I realized I had been ticking boxes.

I have worked through my grief. Tick.
I have detached emotionally from my husband. Tick.
I have spent time in nature. Tick.
I have enjoyed the moments of today. Tick.
I have spent time with loved ones. Tick.
I am contributing to society by working. Tick.
I have experienced new things. Tick.

Ticking boxes worked.
In those first four roles I remained in a relative state of calm.

However, each time I visited the fifth me, that part of me trying to find the real me, I was confronted with a question I could not answer.

Which role is the real me?

 

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ImageCourtesyOf[rawich]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

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

I am an (empowered) introvert

“You will find her outside sitting on a large rock looking out over the water or inside looking out the window with a pensive appearance….. Yes, I like this person very much. She is me.”   ‘Donna’ from “Introvert Power” by Laurie Helgoe

It is not news that I am an introvert. What is a revelation, what is empowering, is that for the first time in my entire life I am totally comfortable being that introverted person, happy with how I feel, and glad that I am now able to live the way that is right for me.

Society tells us that to be successful and happy is to be daring, adventurous, decisive and sociable. To be ‘sociable’ you need to belong to some sort of group of friends, family, community, or work group. To be accepted within that group you need to interact with the group as a group, be prepared to speak up, and enjoy engaging in large social gatherings or attending ‘parties’.  Organizations encourage teamwork and networking. Schools encourage children to participate in teams. Parents urge them to socialize. Social-media platforms enhance this concept.

This is the world of the extrovert. Extroverts are people who obtain gratification from outside themselves and are energized by human interactions, large social gatherings and parties. Coming from the loudest voice – the extrovert voice – it is often taken as being the normal way to think, live, act. In reality it is simply the best way to think, live, and act for half the population. This is not the way for the other half of the population – my half.

Some 50% of us are introverts. Introverts are more reserved, less outspoken in groups and take pleasure in solitary pastimes. They become energized through reflection and feel overwhelmed by too much stimulation and time spent with large groups of people.

Some of the people who have been closest to me have been extroverts; my sister, my two childhood friends, my best friend as an adult, and my husband. Extroverts and I have been drawn to each other. They talk. I listen. They react with emotional highs and lows to the ups downs of life. I smile and carry on. They pursue exciting pastimes and draw me in. I radiate calmness and pass it on.

In my commitment to our marriage it was easier for me to understand my extrovert husband’s need for constant stimulation and requirement to socialise than for him to understand my need for being alone. This is because he talked. I listened. I understood. I adapted to his world. I lived and shared with him the exciting world of fast-paced activities and constant socialising. When at the end of a busy week, I did not want to go ‘out’, I thought there was someone wrong with me. When I did go out and exhaustion overcame me, I battled on. In time, I forgot, and did not understand my own needs.  I lost myself without even knowing that I had.

When I have felt overwhelmed since our separation, some of my closest people have made suggestions to me of what I should do in order for me to thrive again – engaging in some exciting activity, travelling and being surrounded by people. I have slowly discovered that what is actually best for me is exactly the opposite – I require quietness, no stimulation, and time to myself for reflecting. Slowly I am discovering me.

I am not shy, anti-social or depressed. I am simply an introvert. I enjoy time to myself. I enjoy solitude. I have a preference for surroundings that are not over-stimulating.  I work best alone on focused projects. I do not like loud noise or a lot of confusing activities. I like time to think before making considered well-planned decisions, before taking action. I like time to think before I speak. I prefer to relax or ‘wind-down’ after a day’s work by reading or writing or going for a walk rather than going ‘out’. I prefer holidays doing quiet activities rather than engaging in frenetic pastimes.  When I do engage, I enjoy myself but I need to recharge afterwards by having quiet time. I like to engage one-on-one with people and share ideas on topics that interest me, rather than small-talk with many people at the same time. I listen well and I empathize well with another person’s position. I prefer small social activities with one or two close people rather than large social functions. I enjoy best weekends with no commitments so I have plenty of time to think, write, reflect, plan.

I have much left to contribute to this world in my quiet, slow, methodical fashion. I am not enticed by being the centre of attention, a desire for accolades or wealth. I am dedicated to a larger goal of finding a purpose to my life.

I inhale great draughts of space,
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.
I am larger, better than I thought,
I did not know I held so much goodness.”

from Part 5 ‘Song Of The Open Road’ by Walt Whitman.

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 35 – Mixed emotions

“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start” Nido Qubein

Week 35 –

I returned home after visiting my son in Canada – sad to leave him again, yet happy that he was in a contented place in his life – daunted by the long journey required to visit him again, yet excited by the prospect of returning next year.

I spent some time with my family – mother, siblings, best friend, children  – on the way back before returning home. This was a very mixed stirring time for me. It was great spending time with my close people to soothe and protect me, to help me off-load and pick-up. However, it made me confront the feelings of the losses I was suffering. I had to watch others in early retirement  together in a world that I would now never know. I had to see other couples giving support to each other over life’s milestones, over daily trivialities sharing life together. I had to listen to others discuss their own retirement plans without a mountain of financial stress to climb as I had. I was happy to see everyone and I enjoyed their company but I was still raw from the losses I had to confront in my own situation. I had had four weeks with the company of others but now it was time to confront the harsh reality of my own aloneness and sorting out the financial settlement with my husband. This is what I now faced. This is what i had been running away from metaphorically by ‘living in today’ and in ‘actuality‘ by disappearing the past month. Running away from it was not going to make it go away.

I had had time to do some soul-searching while I was away and it had given me a chance to think of me for myself and my self-reflection journey. It gave me a taste of what life could be once I had come out of my metamorphosis. I started my blogging in earnest while I was in Canada and now back home I was beginning to publish the posts. It gave me the confidence to reinvent myself and to keep going. When I returned home my body clock took a while to adjust to the different time zone so even though there were some day-time crash-out periods I gained some ‘night-time’ awake sessions that enabled me to find the time to write in the small hours of the morning or late at night. I kept writing. It helped me put in words what it was I had to face, what had happened, and to begin to deal with it rather than blocking it out. ……….

My husband had left me.

I came home with a new resolution of accepting and facing my situation and dealing with the whole of the fall-out instead of trying to skip over the difficult bits. The next few weeks would be significant turning points in my journey as I faced my life situation full on.

” The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” Mark Twain

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.

Week 23 – My Divorce Code

Week 23: February 26 2012
Last week I was hit with the reality of those two things I had been avoiding – getting back to work to earn a living – and negotiating our financial property settlement.

In order to calm myself down, this week I wrote myself a divorce code. A blueprint to follow. While most points were regarding emotional aspects I had been pondering for several months now, the last three were cementing on paper what I felt would drive me through the practical financial realities of this divorce. These were aspects I had to work on. Somehow I was going to have to shake off this mourning, soul-searching side of me; and find once more the logic, mathematical-thinking, you-can-do-it-I-know-you-can, part of my brain that did exist up until 5 months ago when mush decided to take its place.

Here is my code.

1. My marriage was not a failure. I am not a failure
2. I am responsible for my own choices and in charge of my own thoughts
3. I am in charge of my own life and I do not need someone to fix me
4. I am grateful for my life and look forward to what being single has to bring.
5. I am not responsible for other people’s choices, actions or behaviour.
6. I hold as one of my core beliefs to be respectful and mindful of others. I am determined that divorce will not change that.
7. I love my children more than life itself and I will do my utmost to ensure that this divorce will not see them suffer. I have a hope that the children will find peace  within themselves and, if not, that they know that they may turn to me for I am here for them always.
8. I would like to be given enough respect, space and time to heal. If it is not given to me, I will ask for it.
9. I will continue to behave in a cordial fashion with my husband throughout the divorce process.
10. I would like to feel satisfied that our divorce settlement is fair and reasonable for both of us.
11. I will aim with my husband for an amicable negotiated financial settlement out of the courts.
12. I will seek accounting, legal and financial planning advice and ensure that I have a clear ‘head-space’ before agreeing to the final settlement.