Holding on …….

ID-10073599. vlado

Feelings surrounding the ending of a marriage are similar to a grief process that one goes through when someone or something dies. However, any comparison with a death always breaks down for me whenever I got to the part where I am supposed to ‘integrate’ my loss by ‘holding on’ to happy memories and pride in the former relationship. That is because my memories have become confusing for me as to whether they happy, sad, or painful. Was everything that I previously held dear, a facade?

Recently I read a book on bereavement that described the situation where the one left behind had loved the dead person and yet had been treated poorly by them. In situations such as this, often the surviving ‘victim’ continually sees history through the other person’s eyes. In the book, the author suggests to ‘rewrite history’; and for the victim to go back over their life and to see everything through their own eyes.

The action of my husband suddenly leaving me, combined with the fact he then went on a tirade of running me down, markedly weakened my self-esteem. Whilst I have never believed I am worthless, it has been inevitable that some of the mud has stuck. In particular there are voices inside me that keep saying ‘you are not good enough’, ‘you could have done better’, ‘who you are and what you do is of no value’, ‘you do not deserve respect’ and all that is because ‘you do not matter’.

After reading the book, I realised some of that ‘mud’ was seeing things through his eyes, hearing his voice and not believing I mattered enough to put my own viewpoint across. I decided to go through the exercise suggested in the book of looking back over my life, of writing down my life through my eyes, and to leave behind his thoughts and opinions.

I relied on my memory for my early life and went through actual journals for events over the past 10 years. It was a time-consuming task. I spent the best part of a day reading and writing down events and aspects of my life. As I did, I made three remarkable discoveries.

1. I discovered that I am good enough. I always did the best I could do which was in fact in some situations a dozen times better than others could do in similar situations. What I did do and what I still do is of great value. I have made worthwhile contributions to my family, to my own self-achievements and to society. What I do, matters. As a person, I matter.

2. I realised not only was I not worthless but indeed the attitudes I had shown throughout my entire life could, given the right application, lead to great achievement. These attributes include a passion to learn; having a clear focus; hard work; a desire to be of service to others; the ability to push through self-doubt, set-backs and fatigue; and persistence.

3. My life, my marriage and my contributions to society have been successful. I am proud of what I have already achieved. I have not failed. I am proud of myself, my marriage and my family. I have happy and proud memories of what we did together as a family. Those memories are real. I will hold on to that and take that with me forever.

I will hold onto these discoveries as part of my inner core to provide me with strength.

You may ask what is so remarkable about these discoveries? What is the difference now compared to my previously written posts that spoke of my own inner strength to carve my own positive future? The difference now is I believe it. I believe it because when I looked back through my life (prior to my marriage ending), those negative voices of self-doubt did not exist. They are not my voice.

My own inner voice is one of optimism, resilience and of marching confidently forward to my own destiny.

That is the real me.


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Feeling the pain of the truth

“Life is difficult”. This is a great truth.M.Scott Peck.


There have been dark feelings surrounding my divorce including frustration, sadness, loneliness, regret, anger, fear, anxiety, and despair. All of these have caused me intense pain. I have gradually learned my freedom from pain lies in living by the truth, and the path to truth in itself involves pain.  .  .

1. Delayed Gratification

In the beginning my pain was so intense I just wanted to get rid of it, run from it or cover it up. That was my focus, rather than facing the pain and the feeling behind it. For example it was much easier distracting myself in pleasurable activities (or ‘relief’ measures) such as watching movies, walking, and spending time with loved ones; than to face my pain.

To face it, it was necessary for me to temporarily fore-go those ‘relief’ measures in order to feel it. Once I took time to truly feel the pain I found that, whilst pain itself is a single symptom, the feelings behind are multi-factorial. My pain has not all been sadness of my past. A lot of pain has been anxiety over present tasks and fear of the future. Dealing with overwhelming practical present issues or planning my future require totally different techniques than dealing with unresolved emotional issues of the past. Until I spent time facing and feeling my pain, it was all one big blur. When the pain hits me now, I feel it. I am more able to separate the differing feelings of sadness, anxiety or fear; the past, present and future issues behind those feelings; and deal with them in an appropriate manner. Facing and feeling pain has clearly been the first step in resolving any issue behind it.

2. Acceptance of Responsibility

Whilst situations may have been thrust upon me, it is only me who can respond. If I remain stuck in blaming my circumstances for where I am, I will never savour the pleasure of getting to a better place.

For example, if I remain stuck in ‘why do I have to deal with all this mess’ attitude, rather than sorting through the 100 archive boxes in the shed, I will not be able to move on to the new life that beckons me. The same goes for the last remaining pieces of the property settlement process; and the planning of my future. It is up to me.

Again, I need to fore-go pleasures to bowl over these overwhelming tasks, which will involve further pain. However, I will then be able to bask in the glory of their completion.

3. Dedication To The Truth

Some divorced people years later are still in the dream of the happy-ever-after.when their reality has changed. I do not blame them. Facing reality is painful. Acceptance of my own reality and its truth was painful. Dealing with my reality of a single almost-sixty year old with a risky financial base was difficult. However, that is the truth of my present which I can change. It is not the illusion of my past which I cannot.

While the child inside me still cries out ‘give me relief’, ‘let me escape’, ‘let me build a fortress to shut out the pain’; the truth is I know that it is not ‘relief’ that will set me free, but challenge. The solving of my problems will set me free, not the deadening of my pain.

4. Balance

Life is for living and forging ahead will require a balance of: delaying some pleasures in order to solve my problems, yet still living joyously in the present, and keeping an ever watchful eye on the future; balancing needs, responsibilities and goals; accepting my responsibilities, yet rejecting those that are not mine; and holding on to those things that serve me well, while giving up those that do not.

Balancing will not be easy. It may even be painful. However, ridding myself of past illusions, seeing the truth, embracing the reality of my present, and focussing on solutions to rather than the pain of my problems will free me for a challenging and exciting future.


1.Quote and insight from The Road Less Travelled’ by M. Scott Peck.

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The truth shall set me free

ID-100183608(1).Grant Cochrane

Recently I wrote of being Captain of my ship and discovering that I had some unwanted passengers on my ship. One of my ‘unwanted passengers’ is the feeling of having lost my right to choose. There is much baggage surrounding this feeling of having lost the choice on the direction of one of the most important parts of my life, my marriage. The decision to end it was thrust upon me. This feeling is scattered throughout my blog: ‘…. through no choice of my own’, ‘ … it was not my decision’, ‘…. having been thrust into this place’.

There are two questions I now ask myself:

1. Five minutes before my husband told me what he was about to do, if I was told my marriage was about to collapse and I was asked whether I was prepared to save my marriage, what would my answer have been?

My marriage is sacred to me. It provides me with an inner core of happiness and stability. It is my safe-haven. In marriage, I have that one special person for me and only me who is my companion, who cares for me and I for him like no other; who shares endearments with me that we give to no other; who is the one with whom I may tell my inner most thoughts to and know they are held in safety. Marriage to me means the promise we made to each other to stand together through all adversities, to stick by each other through thick and thin, to keep promises, to remain committed and loyal to one another. Marriage means tolerating our differences and remaining true to love, care, devotion, respect, empathy, tenderness, compassion, honesty, truth, openness, fairness and trust. It is the sharing of dreams for the future and remaining committed in the midst of troubled times NO MATTER WHAT; and yet allowing each other the freedom to grow as individuals.

I am committed to and will fight for my marriage.

2. If, ten minutes before being asked the first question I was given all the facts and I was told to look only at the facts and the truth of those facts and not to look at the illusion, what would my answer have been?

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

If the choice made, is the same choice I would have made, had I all the facts when the choice was made ….. then what is all this mourning over something that wasn’t?

The accepting of that truth shall set me free.


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Stripping Back The Layers

ID-100147124.domdeenNow that I have moved on to moving on, I realise that it is “me” who has moved on; that is, the ‘thinking me’ inside ‘me’. However, some of my other layers are dragging their feet. Whilst I had always been aware of my main layers (me, partner, family, work, home, community) these past months of reflection has made me become more aware of the many layers upon layers, and layers within layers that make up ‘me’ and my life.

Me is my health, body, mind, soul, spirit, self-esteem, confidence, thoughts, feelings, memories, identity, personality, character, values, beliefs, attitudes, authenticity, choices, freedom, responsibilities, needs, desires, hopes and dreams. Whew! I did not realise before that I was so complex!

Partner is nonexistent at the moment (unless you count messy stuff that needs to be done disentangling the partnership that was).

Family is my children, grand-children, extended family, extended extended family, my roots, branches, wings, friends, work colleagues, supporters, allies, professional advisors, neighbours, and generally people who are there for me.

Home is my house, security, stability, safety, routine, peace, calm, sanctuary, comfort and my sense of ‘normality’.

Work is what I do, what I learn, research, create, read, write, lead; it is my education, skills, talents, experience; and that which provides me with purpose, meaning and accomplishment.

Community is my place in society which currently is also my work because I dropped everything else in a fit of ‘I can only handle so much’ exasperation some time ago.

Over-arching all of that is the ‘inner me’ compass, the Captain of my ship driving all the rest onwards.

I had an epiphany last April when I realised that where I was heading (which was in fact back to my old life with bits missing) was not right for me. I decided then that I wanted to move on to something new, something for me, something with meaning for me. I decided that I wanted to start anew somewhere else. In making that decision, I did not understand how painful it would all be.

With my ‘partner’ layer gone; and my ‘family’ layer seriously fractured; my decision to ‘move on’ will (over time) strip the remaining three layers of my work, my community and my home from my life; and with it my financial security, my stability and my sense of normality.

That is what I meant in the first paragraph. Although the ‘me’ inside of me (my will to succeed) has moved on to the future, which is now becoming my present, the rest of my layers will be left behind; my stability and financial security, my home, my work, my community. Moreover, whilst my creative mind and lust for freedom are striding ahead, some layers within the layer of ‘me’ are also trailing behind with some memories and feelings still back in ‘pain’; and my self esteem and confidence still in ‘repair’;  That is part of what I described in my recent post on the unwanted passengers on my ship. I cannot wait until they are fixed, I have to take them with me as they are.

In moving on, I will be left with the bare shell of the inner ‘me’ as a nearly sixty year old woman, alone and starting over, dragging the bruised remnants of my former self with me; without guaranteed financial security or a sense of stability; without a sense of place in the world. Yet I have decided to move forward anyway. That is because the real me inside wants to go there. The decision to move on is because it feels that it will become right for me. As for the other layers of me and my life; I will need to rebuild them in my future, layer by layer.

I have spent the last eighteen months working on strengthening the most important inner layer of me. One of those strengths I have been building on is courage.

With not much else remaining, I am clinging to courage and will certainly be putting it to the test   …….

“It’s not what you lose, but what you have left, and what you do with it.”
F D Roosevelt.


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ID-100152029. artur84I have a vision and I am setting my goals for the future. The clouds surrounding the emotional pain of my divorce are beginning to lift. There is no surer way of ridding myself of the baggage of the past than by focussing on the future. Up until now that has not been possible. Up until now, looking towards the future has filled me with fear and anxiety. Up until now, I have brushed future plans aside. I have instead focused on getting ‘over’ things (the sadness of the past) or getting ‘through’ things (the divorce settlement). Both have been emotionally and physically draining. Today, however, I feel energized. For this reason, I feel that I am moving into the exciting new phase of my future.

My energy levels have been noticeably “less-than-normal” since the ending of my marriage. Whilst they have ebbed and flowed, they have also followed a pattern. When I am in pain, I have no energy. When I am angry (an energy-charged emotion) I have short bursts of activity which I try and direct into something positive but the emotional overtone throws me back into pain and the subsequent negative energy thus cancels out any perceived energy gain. When I am sad or frustrated I have limited energy which I can disguise. That is, I can get things done as long as I look after myself.

When I say ‘in pain’, I mean emotional pain which can be as great as some types of physical pain. There is also what I call ‘practical pain’. In the case of divorce, that is the pain of dealing with all the mess (splitting personal effects, property settlement etc). So I have had the practical pain of dealing with the mess and the emotional pain of “it is not fair that I have had the mess to deal with” attitude.

It was not easy but I found ridding myself of the emotional pain has made the practical pain a lot easier. It has still been hard going. I could get things done, even though all the time I was doing those things I knew I did not want to be doing them. At those times, I felt vulnerable and needy. I was living life with a black cloud pressing down on me.

Today I feel the black cloud disappearing, its heavy weight lifting. Instead of seeing those remaining ‘practical’ things as something I begrudgingly have to do, I now see them as a necessary step in order to move into my new life.

In summary, this is how I feel my energy levels have gradually risen upwards as I move into changing my life:

Level 1. I am in pain.
I have no energy, no life.
All energy is directed into mere survival.

Level 2. I have needs.

I have limited energy.
I move as if trudging through mud.
All energy is directed into getting myself stronger.
I focus on my needs and providing myself with a sense of security.
Stability and routine are important. They provide me with a blanket of comfort.
Friends and family are important to me, for me, for comforting me.
I have little energy for giving back to others.

Level 3. I have a dream

I have energy.
I am making choices.
I am making plans and goals.
I am empowered.

Level 4. I am doing

I am energized.
I am creating.
I am acting on my goals.
I am persisting.
I am passionate.
I am strong.
I am achieving.
I am giving back to others.

Level 5. I am being

I am at peace
I am celebrating
I am grateful
I am.

What Level Am I Up To?

I believe i am now in the third “dreaming” phase.
You may ask how I know what the fourth and fifth levels will be if I have not yet been through them.

That is the beauty of reaching the “dreaming” phase.
In that phase I can plan whatever I want for the next phases.
I can choose them. I can create them.

That is my liberation.


You may also want to read –
Staying Strong by Ian Munro. Leading Essentially


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“it not matters how straight the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the Master of my fate, I am the Captain of my soul.”
William Henley

ID-10055232. Stuart Miles

If you imagine my life as a ship, with me the Captain of my ship; then I have control of my ship. It is up to me to steer my ship in the correct direction and to ensure at all times that the ship does not sink.

Some time ago my ship ran into a hurricane. It was necessary to shelter in safe harbours for a while, undergo required repairs and maintenance and, as it was completely blown off course, set a new safer direction. Now the storms have passed, I have stocked up my ship with supplies, boarded my passengers (kindness, empathy, fairness, optimism, courage, wisdom) and have once more set sail.

I have discovered that I have picked up some unwelcome passengers on my ship:

1. Unwanted feelings of sadness, pain, fear and disillusionment
2. Negative thoughts of “I do not matter”; ” Something else will go wrong”, and “Its not fair”
3. Confusing memories

In the past I have dealt with these ‘passengers’ by various methods:
a. Worried
b. Ignored them
c. Distracted myself.
d. Engaged in meaningful beneficial activities
e. Thought positively. .
f. Called on one of my support people and talked things through.

Most of these methods (except the first two) work a little. Some of them work a lot. Indeed, I managed to rid myself completely of guilt, bitterness, desire for revenge, feeling like a victim and ‘what did I do wrong?’. As for the others, if I engage in positive activities and spend time with my loved ones on a regular basis, it seems that they disappear. That is why I felt it safe to continue my journey. However, after an unexpected trigger, here they are making an appearance again. I have come to realise that these methods are important activities for making me feel better, relaxing, enjoying life and distracting me. However, they do not rid my ship of unwanted passengers. .

What I believe now is this:

In life things happen. Sometimes these ‘things’ can be catastrophic or traumatic. Occasionally one catastrophic event can pile up on top of another. This is what happened to me, with the ending of my marriage coming on the back of several fairly major life-changing events in the years prior.

For over two years I tried to rid myself of the negative memories, thoughts and feelings surrounding the ending of my marriage. I wanted them to disappear. I willed them to disappear. I worked really hard to make them disappear. Yet they are still there. Sometimes they remain in hiding. At other times they come out and cause havoc by becoming unruly and obnoxious. Occasionally they try to get me to change directions.

I can wait no longer. I must continue on my journey and accept that I have to carry these thoughts, feelings and memories with me. I do not have to listen to them or pay them attention, but I need to accept they will not go away. Just as people who need to live with chronic pain, disability, or illness; just as a person tending a loved one with a deteriorating disease; just as those who have lost loved ones and must carry that loss for the rest of their lives; so must I accept these passengers. I too must carry these thoughts, feelings and memories with me.

Despite their presence, I can still take my life in a worthwhile direction. What is important now is not to waste any more time or energy in trying to get rid of my passengers but rather deal with them in a graceful and dignified manner whenever they surface. While they will come and go in uncontrollable waves, they cannot hurt me.

I am the Captain of my ship. It is only me who can make the strategic decisions as to where my ship will sail. It is only me who can act and If I do not act on unwelcome thoughts, feelings and memories then they cannot hurt me. If I do act on them, I can make sure that I act in a positive manner.


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