Tumbling down Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

At a time of personal crisis, one concept that helped me understand the turmoil I experienced and assisted me back on the road to recovery was Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. For those unfamiliar, Maslow was a psychologist who came up with a pyramidal concept of needs. There were five initial levels that later evolved to eight and (working from bottom to top) encompass basic needs (physiological, safety, belonging, esteem), mid-level development (cognitive, aesthetics), and top level needs of personal growth and striving for the greater good. Maslow postulated that one’s lower needs had to be met before one could move on to mid-range then higher level needs.

It has been reasoned that at a time of crisis, for example after a flood or earthquake, people’s needs return to basics – food, water, shelter. During crises, there is little need for cultural or experiential activities. As basic needs are met, as people rebuild their lives, they move on to building a safe environment, finding companionship, earning an income, contributing to society, then on to higher levels.

How does this apply to the crisis of the corona-virus? 

Rather than an acute single loss, there have been a series of losses, affecting not only individuals or nations, but the entire global community. You can see from the above hierarchy what has been lost. The upper layers, the middle layers, the lower layers. We have lost experiential and artistic endeavours with the ending of overseas travel, sporting and cultural events. We are unable to dine at restaurants, cafes, bars, go to movies or have large gatherings. The flow-on effects has meant a loss of financial security with people losing jobs, businesses closing, and financial and investment markets in turmoil. People have had to go into isolation, physically separating from loved ones and social contacts. Here in Australia, as elsewhere, we have lost that stable foundational second level of protection of our health (with the threat of the virus), our secure economic position (with so many businesses closed down), and an erosion of our civil liberties (it being mandated where we can and cannot go).

What does this mean?

Each step down each level is a loss with a grief process (shock, anger, sadness) for each loss endured. Everybody has lost the second foundational layer. For those who had them, the experiential layer is also gone. However, not everyone has lost financial security, companionship or their place in the world. Thus, the extent of pain felt and grieving for losses differs for individuals. For those with mid-levels intact and some semblance of normality, ‘keep calm and carry on‘* may be a solution. For others where major changes have occurred, people need time to adapt, then with courage respond in a meaningful manner. We have seen that whereby people in isolation are now undertaking artistic endeavours or contact with friends and family by virtual means. However, for those who have tumbled to the bottom layer of the hierarchy, everything has changed. For those people, fear and uncertainty are normal reactions and a survival response is key – that of fulfilling basic needs of eating, sleeping and finding comfort in some way.

My Responses

My losses have been experiential activities, financial security, and a sense of belonging. I am an unable to visit interstate and international relatives and am physically distanced from friends and family in Tasmania, by self-isolation. Am I down at that bottom layer?

Not quite …

I still retain control over my thoughts and choices. My own need of self-empowerment is therefore not lost. As the restrictions and economic fall-out in place causing my own sense of pain and loss is necessary for the preservation of life, my own need of striving for the greater good is not lost. I am doing my part. Moreover, as I begin to fathom out how to climb my own hierarchy and regain lost needs, I will remember those in more grief than me and try to reach out in some way.

Over the coming months, on this blog, I will write about how I intend do that.

‘ Life is mainly froth and bubble, two things stand like stone;
kindness in another’s trouble, courage in your own.”
Adam Lindsay Gordon

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* “Keep calm and carry on” was a motivational poster produced by the British government in 1939 aimed to boost the morale of the people in preparation for World War 2.

Eight years on – from trauma to triumph

 

It is eight years since I became suddenly single, which was not my choice. In the dark and painful place in my early days of aloneness I would never have dreamed that life could become so fulfilling for me. I now feel happier, healthier and more content than I believe I would have been had I remained entwined as half a couple. I have direction and purpose, living my life as my true self. I have found my voice.

Nevertheless It has been a long journey.

Life for me changed over a cup of coffee when I was told that my marriage of 37 years had ended. The pain that began in an instant, like a knife piercing my heart, I gradually came to recognise was pain from a series of crises from which I needed to heal: the loss of my past, a crisis of identity in the present, a fear for my future and the trauma of shattered beliefs.

I grieved my past and my dreams that would never be realized. Eventually, I acknowledged my past life was gone. I craved my lost identity. In the process of searching for it, I found my true self that had been hidden under my former role of wife. The intense fear I held for my future dissolved as I built foundations of courage. I began dreaming for a more valued tomorrow, a dream that would become fulfilled by leaving my past life behind and stepping out into my new world.

Finally I turned the trauma of lost trust into a transformation of self and living a life with purpose. To begin that transformation, I have over the past three years completed a Masters degree in Human Nutrition. As part of the course I completed a 4-unit research component. I will, over the next three months, be writing three academic articles from that research. After that my plan is write a series of educational material for lay-persons, in my area of expertise. This is a triumph for me. I had previously given up my original career, devoting my life to my marriage, family and community involvement. For me, this new degree is thus a crowning achievement. Not only is it something worthwhile for myself, after years of trauma, but I will be able to use the knowledge I have gained to help other people. I can become a voice for those less fortunate than myself.This is one of my deepest values, to rise above myself and help others in need.

I am 65 years old. I have learned that it is never too late to become my true self, to become someone I can believe in.

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Image courtesy[digitalart]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dawn begins

 

Good-bye to my haven of peace and serenity

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I was very optimistic thinking that I would have time to write a blog post every day leading up to my move out. I was on 17 acres after all! Even though a lot of the packing had been done in my third move 12 months before … there was still a lot to do. So I became very busy with clearing out all of the cupboards, house, and two sheds; organising help from a man with a ute for several trips to the dump; packing, cleaning … and some time in peaceful reflection saying good-bye. The children came to help for two out of the four weekends and we had fun together remembering happy family times, having a final walk down to the river, and one last dinner in their childhood home.

My property settlement was delayed three days and so I took an extra reflective day to say a final good-bye. At that stage, in an empty house, I spent a whole day looking at the views – one last time – and one more time – and then a final time – from sunrise to sunset.

Then like a turtle with my home on my back (my filled-to-the-brim car), I drove the five hours south to my new life waiting for me.

And hello to the sunshine. 

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My new home overlooks a bay and, as it faces north, the sun provides warmth all day.
I have friendly neighbours and there is a feeling of community spirit here. I feel that I have made a good choice of a place that will suit me well.

It was no rest for me for the first weeks though. My furniture arrived a few days after me and it took me five weeks to do all the unpacking, arranging of furniture, as well as organising an electrician for a few new power points and lights.

I threw away more things as I unpacked, realising that I just did not need as much here as I thought. There was also a sudden need to cleanse myself of some things that triggered painful memories. I had kept certain things in my pack up – unable to let go – and yet as soon as I saw them in my new home, I knew for certain they no longer belonged in my new life.

I was hoping for a complete cleanse of my furniture and begin again with new things … but the finances did not stretch nearly that far. In fact although this house is smaller, it has cost me more, being closer to a city area than my previous home. That, as well as the 18 months bridging loan that I had (instead of the anticipated three months) has set me back a bit. So I am sitting quietly for a while, financially speaking, and not going mad with any unnecessary purchases or refurbishments.

It has taken me until now, eight weeks after moving, that I have finally feel I can get into a structured routine, and really begin my new life, my new life as me.

Have you heard me say that somewhere before? Yes. Many times. This is what I having been aiming for from my very first post – when it was dark and I was cold.

Finally dawn has arrived.

 

Countdown Day # 23

I was up before sunrise today and decided to tackle the smaller of the two sheds. This was a bit messy …

Yet among all of that – some treasures – and memories of the children in their happy carefree days.

I also spent some time thinking through where all my pieces of furniture would go in my new home.

So it was a day of thinking back, saying good-bye, yet at the same time planning life going forward.

I felt 100% relaxed.

Countdown Day # 24

I had breakfast on the balcony looking east to the valley, and looking south to the river. The birds were singing. The river was making its way to the coast, burbling as it went. The sun was shining. The sky was blue. It was truly a magnificent start to the day. The peace and serenity of this magnificent paradise will be very hard to say good-bye to.

Last night, it was dark soon after I arrived. I ended up not having time to do very much. I watched some TV and then put on a DVD. I watched ‘I am Sam’. I cried all the way through it. For some reason, I was suddenly very overcome with emotion. That movie and its message of human connection and kindness really hit home to me.

I put my heart and soul into raising my children, teaching them life values of care and devotion, and steadfast dependability of being there for them … always. This home provided that strength and stability through its peace and tranquility. I will certainly miss that strength it provided me with.

I spent the day pondering, not doing much of what had to be done (all the packing) yet not fully being able to relax, knowing there was so much that had to be done.

So I made up lists. I wrote down all the rooms in the house and all the places outside. I wrote down all the cupboards and all the nooks and crannies. I wrote down everything that needed to be sorted and everything that needed to be done. I worked out which pieces of furniture I would need and which pieces I did not.

Then I did a puzzle.
I did some artistic work.
I did a bit of writing.
I spent some time on the balcony.
And inside looking down to the river.
And at my desk in my office.
And at the kitchen table looking east.
And from the reading room (ex-TV room), looking to the valley.

Peace. Tranquility. Calmness.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Then after dinner, I had a spurt of frenetic activity.
I began to sort out some cupboards – only two – but it was a start.

The beginning of the end.

Of that phase of my life.

 

 

Countdown Day # 25

View from balcony – looking east

I have sold my house!

I know that you may think that I moved because I told you that I did here and I did move … BUT

I had not actually sold my family home. In fact over the last twelve months I have actually been – or could have been (had I not enrolled in a University course for my sanity) – in a state of purgatory (transition?) where I was neither fully free of my old (ie marital) life nor able to fully embrace my new life in my new home – because I still had the family home and all its memories both good and bad, and I was still needing to come here one week in four to ensure its upkeep. Long story cut short, when I took advice from a building surveyor, there were upgrades recommended before sale of the house (which was to bring the balcony up to current building regulations) and, me being me, I then had to do the right thing and do those upgrades that seemingly took FOREVER.

One reason I have been low on the blogging front was because I was going through this turmoil of dealing with this (slow progress of building upgrades and approvals) and I felt I did not want to add MORE problems on the negative ‘ramifications of divorce and awful stuff I have to deal with’ list. That is, it was a joint (marital) issue that the balcony did not satisfy current standards, yet I was having to deal with it on my own as I received the home as part of the financial marital settlement.

For those who have come to know me through this blog … I have always tried to see the positive and have forever been trying to get to that place of my problems being “over”. I did not want to burden you all with the fact that – after six years – I was STILL not quite “there” yet (wherever “there” is supposed to be) as there was still ramifications I was dealing with. Urrrhh!

Nevertheless, I have finally done all the required upgrades, put my house on the market, SOLD it (after four months), went into a mass panic for two weeks getting my university assignments done, then have driven north to spend the last three weeks here – to enjoy the last precious days in the peace and tranquility of my bush paradise that has been my family home for 38 years.

Yes, there is packing and other required things to yet to do.

But there is also the peace and tranquility of what has been my sanctuary. Now is the time to properly say good-bye.

I have 25 days.

A new identity

A Writing Life – Image: by Author 03 December 2017

I have been very busy with the university Masters course that I am enrolled in.

It was hard going at first. It had been twenty years since I was last at University and learning methods have changed. I found the digital world a challenge to begin with but have now become quite fast at loading files, converting formats, uploading assignments; and making videos, podcasts and infographics. Some of those are for an assignment coming up next week. Once I have submitted and received feedback, I will begin to post some things in this blog that I have done. Or, with my new-found skills, I will be able to use for this blog to add creative content.

I have formed a new professional identity and am in the process of fine-tuning before I go public – stay-tuned.

I began my course in July doing four units but it was too much for me and I cut back to three. Nevertheless it was still intensive and I was pressed for time throughout. I also had three sets of unexpected visitors and some other commitments that cropped up, so I was insanely busy for several months. This trimester I am only doing two units and I feel I am coping much better with that, so I should find some more time to get back into my writing for this blog, which I miss.

Despite all the hurdles, I managed to score three high distinctions in my course in the first Trimester. I was so thrilled at that. I had a great sense of fulfillment and achievement. For all the hard work over the years I had put into my marriage, my family, my family business, community projects, and after all the mud-trudging for five years …

*** this was something for me ***