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 24 – Back to my roots

Week 24 – 03 March 2011

At week 24 after separation my younger two children and I spent the weekend in Sydney for a family reunion of about 100 people representing the five living generations of the seven generations of descendants of my great-grandparents and grandmother who came out to Australia from England 100 years before. The weekend was an all day Saturday gathering then a bus trip to all the old family haunts on the Sunday. It was a fantastic experience for my children who were still feeling the pain of our broken nuclear family of Mum, Dad and the kids. They were uplifted by connecting with their own immediate cousins, aunts and uncles whom they knew well; and then they began feeling part of the wider circle of second and third cousins, and great uncles and aunts. There was an intoxicating sense of belonging, having a place in the world, connecting with our roots.
My uncle, my mother’s brother, gave a speech regarding choices and how the choice at a time of crisis and adversity for what may seem an overwhelming situation; can lead to a different way in life that – if you can become strong and face it – actually becomes the right way of living and ultimately a better way. He was referring to my great-grandparents decision to move to Australia from England a century before at a time of financial crisis for them as a family. He spoke of the struggles they had in their early years in a totally different landscape and way of living for them in Australia away from family, friends and all the connections to their previous life. Despite that they persevered and carved a new way of life for themselves, their children and ultimately for all their descendants. He also spoke of other triumphs and tragedies the family had been through over the years and the strength he felt we had all inherited from his mother, my grandmother. I thought of this character trait that I remembered in her. My daughter told us later that she felt I had this same strong determination and she now understood where it came from.
I thought of my cousin nearest to me in age missing that day as we had lost him through a car accident 37 years ago. He had always been daring and adventurous and I had always been cautious and shy. As a teenager he had always dared me to do things that I would not have otherwise done. Even today there is a voice inside of me that says ‘come on, you can do it’ that I feel is him urging me onwards.
I looked at my own mother who organised the event, who was widowed suddenly at aged 47, her two eldest children married within the next year, and faced with the sudden financial pressure of having to return to work for the first time in 26 years to support my two younger siblings. What a huge sudden changed blueprint for her that I failed to appreciate at the time. Yet now at aged 85 she is still going strong, writing history books, and the matriarch of this our large extended family and her siblings’ families of over 100 people. She is an inspiration to us all and especially now to me, as I hope to one day be for my children in this my new blueprint I am yet to create for myself and my family.
So as the weekend ended I thought to myself – how can I ever feel alone? With my own fantastic children, with the extended family of mine who are always accepting of every family member whatever and wherever their life situation may lead them, and with their strength inside of me – I belong, I am never alone.

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.

Week 22 – Reality check

Week 22- February 17 2012

I had been in a contended place for a few weeks now, rising early, watching the sunrise, turning my new-found aloneness into creative solitude for writing; and enjoying the glorious down-under summer days as a peaceful place for living in today.

So uplifting were some of these days, that I thought I had progressed through my grief. Now I wonder whether I have or not. Am I really still stuck back in stage one of shock and denial? Have I really been subconsciously dealing with my pain by not facing reality?

I knew that my soul was rocked every time I had thoughts of the past, so I did not go there. I became sad about the past because I did not know what to do with the memories of my years as a mother and wife. I did not know whether I would ever be able to look back on those years with happiness. So rather than being ripped in two by those thoughts, I pushed them aside. I stopped myself thinking about my past at all. I put photo albums and memorabilia safely in boxes and cupboards until a later date when I had healed. I had consciously done that. It was a definite decision I had made. I told myself that I would think about my past sometime in the future. My living would be for today.

In the first few weeks when I thought about the future, I thought about the lost happy-ever-after dreams. That saddened me so I and brushed those thoughts aside along with the past.

Now my thoughts drifted to the future again. The thoughts that came to me now about the future were different. Now I thought about my working life, about my retirement, about my financial situation. Those thoughts of the future filled me with anxiety. Through all this la-la land of living the glorious summer days for the awe and wonder of their splendour, have I simply been in denial? Have I been using self-preservation strategies of avoiding the pain of reality – that harsh reality of being 58 years old with what will now be a hugely depleted asset base and no chance of an early secure retirement.

What bothers me most is that my future will eventually become my present. So even though right now I am contended in today, happily living one day, one week at a time; thinking about the future and determining my own future – which will eventually become my present – is a place I will soon have to go. And mostly it makes me anxious.

So I am not there yet. I am not over all of this. I still have a lot to think through a lot in order to be relaxed about my future and therefore truly happy in my present.

Week 21 – Two anniversaries

In week 21 since separation it was both my birthday and our anniversary – only days apart.

Having spent the weekend with my children the actual mid-week day of my birthday by myself was marked by a simple one line entry in my journal stating how old I was. I took the day off work and spent it in ‘zoned-out’ activities of reading, watching DVDs, writing, and making my own birthday cake. In the evening I went into town with some co-workers and watched a movie – which in itself was uplifting.

Surprisingly the day of what would have been our 37th anniversary meant nothing to me. I had thought that there would be some sort of sadness, some nostalgia. But there was nothing, no emotion, no pain. I am not sure whether this was because I had emotionally detached myself from my husband or not, or whether I actually had come through my grief to a point of calm acceptance to where I am. Whatever the reason, I felt nothing – no ups, no downs. I did not spend the day wallowing in self-pity or missing the years gone by or mourning the lost dreams for the future. However, I also did not feel on this day any sense of achievement in reaching our ‘nearly 37 years’ milestone, nor any sense of gratitude towards the one I had shared those years with. On this day there was no bitterness, there was no praise, there was nothing.

My husband sent me a letter. He had obviously  been reflecting on things. I do not know what he was expecting of me in writing me the letter. I am in a different place than him, with it being him who had chosen this path and therefore him having to continually justify it, to absolve himself from any guilt I suppose. My place is different. The action of separation was thrust upon me, not my choice. My course ahead was not to have to find reasons or justifications for what had happened. My course ahead was to eventually come to a state of accepting that what had occurred was beyond my control and cannot be changed.

What can be changed, what I can control, is my response to my situation and to make my own path forward.

With or without you

With Or Without You
by U2

See the stone set in your eyes
See the thorn twist in your side
I wait for you

Sleight of hand and twist of fate
On a bed of nails she (he) makes me wait
And I wait without you

With or without you
With or without you

Through the storm, we reach the shore
You gave it all but I want more
And I’m waiting for you

With or without you
With or without you
I can’t live with or without you

And you give yourself away
And you give yourself away
And you give and you give
And you give yourself away

My hands are tied, my body bruised
She (he) got me with nothing to win
And nothing else to lose

And you give yourself away
And you give yourself away
And you give and you give
And you give yourself away

With or without you
With or without you
I can’t live
With or without you

With or without you
With or without you
I can’t live
With or without you
With or without you

Week 20 – Disentanglement

Week 20

As I continued to live in the moment of each day at the height of a glorious down-under summer and enjoying my walks in the early mornings, and the views to the valley; my soul continued to wrestle with itself in a search for an answer to my identity. It is difficult to explain how entangled a person becomes in a partnership spanning some 40 years. You become half of a whole, acting in unison.You feel responsible for the happiness of your other half which you believe will therefore also bring about the happiness of the whole.

When this does not happen, when the happiness does not come to the other half, when that half falls over, then the whole deck of cards falls down with it. Their happiness, your happiness. As you are actually half of that whole, you too fall over. All the time you grapple with the conflict of being pulled down by your other half, of not surviving as half of a whole, yet at the same time still feeling responsible for the survival of the whole.

When such an entangled partnership ends suddenly through no choice of your own, there is still care there even for the person who inflicted so much pain by the action of leaving. To develop an emotional detachment from that person or an indifference is the exact opposite to the way you have behaved for forty years. Yet such a detachment is vital for one’s own happiness and sense of self.

I previously posted when I reached that point and made the decision to emotionally detach. However, before I was able to do that, it was necessary for me to go through a process of accepting certain things and disentangling myself from each of those things. This did not happen all at once but over a period of time. Firstly, I had to accept that I was not responsible for my husband’s happiness, not now or ever, even when we were together. Secondly, I accepted that I was not responsible for his actions or behaviour. Thus, as long as I remained considerate and behaved calmly and with care and compassion, it was not my responsibility for his reaction to anything I may say or do.  Thirdly, I accepted that the person I wanted my partner to be was in conflict with the way he actually behaved by the actions that he took …. and that hurt. Fourthly, I accepted I had a right to my own needs, to my own opinion and to be treated fairly. I had a right to voice that. Fifthly, I accepted that I can survive and thrive without this relationship. I do not need it. I will make it on my own.

There was one last step. I had to let go of the hook; that emotional, psychological stake of the guilt – “Can’t we be friends for the sake of the children – tearing at my heartstrings, knowing that I love my children more than life itself and not wanting to cause them any more grief.

Yet for my own self-preservation, I had to do let go of that too. I had to disentangle myself from the union as a whole and see myself as me, myself, and I.