Ticking the boxes



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.


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.


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?







34 thoughts on “Ticking the boxes

  1. It’s a process, Elizabeth, and as you’re finding, it can’t be rushed… 😦

    A number of years ago when I was going through a tough time, I read a book by William Bridges (ironically enough), entitled ‘Transitions:Making Sense of Life’s Changes.’ http://www.amazon.com/Transitions-Making-Changes-Revised-Anniversary/dp/073820904X/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1409155444&sr=1-3&keywords=william+bridges

    I found it *incredibly* helpful, and one of the things that he said that has continued to stick with me over the years is that you can’t, nay *shouldn’t*, rush through the rough patches, just to get back to something familiar–the whole ‘devil you know’ idea. He said it was OK to linger in that ‘in-between’ space, for though it is uncomfortable, it’s a necessary part of moving on to the next chapter in a healthy way. Every time I find myself feeling like I’m ‘out on a limb,’ and not sure of what’s next, I think of those wise words.

    You’ll find the ‘real you,’ my suspicion is that she’s been with you all along, you’re just not quite ready to embrace her yet. But you will….. 🙂

  2. I couldn’t articulate this as perfectly as Lori did…One thought – all these aspects of you are perhaps the real you – for the composite is surely beautiful and reflective of all that you are.

      • There are aspects of me I ‘d like to kick to the curb too Elizabeth – don’t we all? It’s the circumstances that I wish would change for you – those that require that slogging – but the part of you that rises to that mucky situation? Wouldn’t change it for the world.

      • There are aspects of me I ‘d like to kick to the curb too Elizabeth – don’t we all? It’s the circumstances that I wish would change for you – those that require that slogging – but the part of you that rises to that mucky situation? Wouldn’t change it for the world.

      • Your comment sparked me up today. Sometimes when I feel down it is hard to remember that it is the situation that is dragging me down not the real me. There is a difference. I see that now. Thanks.

      • Yes, I was reading your comment on Louise’s blog today where you said you had been a bully. I thought, ‘no!’. It can’t be. That is so foreign to me’ (meaning that is not the Diana that I have come to know, and I guess if true then that is a part of you that you have left behind).

      • Thanks for your faith in my goodness Elizabeth! Probably at my weakest moments I can go back to that, but for the most part I have changed my behaviours. 😀
        Diana xo

  3. I had the same thought of you as a more “on time” person. Probably because you have such methodically approaches to situations. I think it’s only normal for people to make assumptions based on little information, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter. You are all things. We all have hundreds of roles we play, none of which are really “who” we are; however, how we play each role, live each role, and most importantly, if we enjoy that role with our very soul, I believe, that is our true essence.

    • I believe you are correct. The important thing is how we play each role and live each role. Some of those roles of mine seem shallow now and I am at the turning point of letting them go.

      • That is wonderful. I too, am always letting some go as I become more aware. It’s like trying on new clothes, sometimes we think something is really cute and then months later we are asking ourselves, “What was I thinking?” It’s all about hit or miss; the more we miss, the more we discover what we really like and who we really are. I hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend! 🙂

      • Yes, and it is being brave enough to do a bit of that ‘missing’ in order to find the bits we like. Thanks for that perspective. Yes, I enjoyed the weekend although no long weekend over here.

  4. Thank you for sharing these aspects of who you are Elizabeth.
    As we go through life we associate who we are with the roles that we have. Being in relationships to others creates these roles. The roles change over time as people grow up, move away or die. The real you lies within these roles.
    Now its time to have a relationship with yourself. The only role you have is to discover all aspects of yourself. You are already doing this work Elizabeth.
    This is what my blog is all about. This post may be helpful:
    Val x

    • I do feel my roles are changing and I am caught in the old ones and have been trying to move on to new ones. I do see that the ‘real’ one is within me and I am trying to reach that person. Thanks for sending me that link and your encouragement and understanding.

    • It is interesting you ask that because I have recently had a few days ‘back home’. Being there sent me back to my dreams as a younger person. It has been an important revelation as to how I now see myself going forward.

  5. I would like to think “the real you” is the you who is most fulfilled doing what you love, the one who doesn’t realize how time vanishes when you are immersed in your passion, the one who sometimes forgets to eat because that would require taking a break. Perhaps I sound a trifle idealistic, but that is how I define myself at the core of my being.

    • Your words meant SO much to me today. Thank you.
      I know what you mean about being immersed and at the moment that is not what I am but I realize now what needs changing to get me there. Thanks

  6. I am hoping that you understand why we feel you seem to be so incredibly organized in your posts that we make assumptions about your being ‘on time.’ We all respect you and care about you dearly. I can read your comments to find the true friends you have made here. I feel that you have come a long, long way, ‘slogging through the muck,’ and giving up 2 days a week for 2 years is a long time to have to work on the settlement! I guess that in the U.S. we just divide property on paper, then get the paperwork filed and are ‘done’ in less than 6 months. Little does one of my exes know, I have a ‘right’ to his military and social security, but neither here needs paperwork. Just “proof’ of a marriage lasting over 10 years.
    I do understand the feelings of loss, the sadness of not having a family unit, but this could have happened even despite being married. it happens as an ’empty nester.’ For me, it was a difficult period, not being needed as a mother anymore.
    I was talking to my best friend the other day, she kept ‘pushing’ to find out why I wanted to go to my 40th high school reunion, when it is financially a challenge and timing wise, difficult. I burst into tears, saying, “Because that is the last time I really amounted to something! Everyone knew me! I had a nice home, a nice family and no one would guess this, now seeing me as a warehouse worker!” Wow! Did not know I still had these pent-up feelings of being less than I was, in different stages of my life. Elizabeth, hugs for your giving us opinions and sharing your life with us. This made me feel safe to reveal, I have insecurities and worries. Probably more than anyone reading my blog would guess!
    Smiles and hope your Labor Day will have some fun moments with your family! ~Robin

    • Thanks for this. I wanted to know how deeply moved I was by your words of friendship and kindness. Those feelings of loss in the broken family unit are very hard to cope with at times and it was comforting to know that you understood. I hear what you say about how comfortable it all felt when at the end of school with supposedly our lives set out for us, and things not quite working out that way. Still we can only take whatever it is we have and make it as good as we can, and maybe even better one day.
      I admire you for bright cheery nature that comes through in your posts and your devotion to your family.

      • I just appreciate all you say on your posts, because I have gained a lot of therapeutic moments, knowing where you were, where you are now and where you are heading. I sometimes go backtracking, can understand if you get “down,” or feel “blue.” I loved the fact you said that sometimes all the things in life, when we leave school seem to be ‘set out for us,’ Elizabeth! I met my first husband in college, age 18, we married at age 22, I was so happy when it seemed like it would be forever. But, now, I am not sad today, I feel blessed. I do have my children still, my grandchildren and my Mom. I would never say this to ‘brag’ or ‘gloat,’ I feel blessed with their being able to embrace me, as I am. Sometimes, divorce(s) can make you feel like it is your fault. I love the expression, “It’s not You, it’s just how Life goes…” Thanks for the admiration, Elizabeth. That was totally unexpected and appreciated so much, more than you know!

      • I am so glad that you now feel blessed with who you have. I feel like that too, even though sometimes I still feel sad as to what I felt should have been. as you say ‘it’s just how life goes’.

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