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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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.

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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.

 

 

The next step is the first step

Two years ago marked the financial settlement of my divorce, ending three years of trudging through rain and mud. I felt I had finally reached a sunny place. Spring was upon me. Free of my divorce, I saw myself in a new transition, tidying up my old world, letting go of all that did not serve me well, trying new things, planting seeds ready for bloom in the summer to come, and readying myself for the vision I had of living true to my beliefs.

I did the sorting, packing and letting go. I tried new things and had new experiences. I devised my own HEALTH.Plan and became healthy and fit. I packed up and moved. Now – at the age of 63 – I begin my new life as a single person branching out in a new world, a world which I craved for during the process of my divorce settlement.

However, in all honesty, I have been drifting the past twelve months without much direction.

To be truthful, moving on has not been easy. The move was not without hiccoughs. I am struggling financially trying to make it work. Making new friends and finding new social circles is not easy. Nobody knows me here and at times I feel quite lost and alone.

The little bit that feels lost is that of my identity. I had been a wife, mother and business manager. Then I became a sufferer of the unexpected collapse of my marriage. Then I became a strong woman recovering from that with grace and dignity. Now that I feel lost, I wonder if that became my identity and whether I am lost without it. I do not want to be remembered as the ‘one who recovered from divorce‘. I want to make a difference in the world. At one stage I felt writing in more depth about my experiences may help others. However, I was scared that may also send me emotionally back to that dark place that I had crawled out of. I wanted to be free of that. I had moved on.

Or had I?

I am outwardly strong and contented and the pain at the pit of my stomach has long gone. However, the person who recovered from a difficult divorce; the person previously at risk of ill-health who became fit and healthy; and the person brave enough to move alone to a new area after 40 years – those three parts are still fragile inside. So my writing stopped.
I felt that because I was still going through some fragility and further tough times I had not reached my destination. I wanted to get to the part about the rainbow and the sunshine. I felt I hadn’t quite got there. I felt no one would want to hear about black skies in springtime.

While I was trying to fathom out what to do, people were somehow still finding my blog and sending me encouragement that what I had written had helped them. This made me conflicted. Would writing about my difficult experiences take me back to a dark place? Or instead could it shine a light for others? If so, which experiences should I write about? Divorce – Nutrition – Relocation. Which voice was mine? Which truth should I share?

As so many times I had realized before, when I get stuck and can’t move and I want to get somewhere else, the best place to start is at the beginning.

The first step for me is to become proficient at what I do. I have therefore enrolled in a University course, and am now buried in books and research. I am doing a Masters in Nutrition and I am also planning two units in writing and publishing.

And so I start a new beginning.

I have come to realise it is all new beginnings. Every step I have ever taken has always been the first step towards the rest of my life. While some steps did not seem to lead me anywhere except getting me out of a hole, every step led me to the next step.

And all those next steps all took me to here – at my new beginnings.

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New Year – looking back and reaching forward – a significant turning point

ID-100176056.nongpimmyAs per my usual reflecting in my journal on the year that has gone, and setting goals for the year ahead, I noticed a turning point in my thought processes from previous years.

While all the ‘good’ things I listed were personal: the birth of my third gorgeous and precious grand-daughter, meeting three Canadian blogging friends (YAY!), and moving to Hobart environs to be closer to two of my children; I noticed that the ‘bad’ things I listed were all world affairs: political divides in UK and US, global refugee crisis, world-wide obesity epidemic etc.

It wasn’t that I did not have major personal things to tackle the past year, as I have had – such as sorting my mother’s affairs and moving home which were both huge life changes. It was the fact that I am now seeing personal hard times as issues to solve, rather than as problems dragging me down.

AND, I am now not so preoccupied with my own problems that I cannot see the world  events taking place. This is a huge step forward from when I was in the midst of trauma and thinking of such things was so painful and beyond me that I set those thoughts aside.

Now … on to solving world poverty …

 

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Retracting forgiveness

“If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart…”  Pema Chödrön

ID-100136205,SweetCrisisIn a deep hole after my marriage collapse, I made it my mission to forgive as I wanted to move on to a place of peace and harmony. I used forgiveness in order to give up feelings of anger, betrayal, resentment and revenge. Fast forward another 18 months and I was in a dark place of resentment. With my financial security in tatters, trudging through marital settlement mud, I saw the unfairness of my changed situation. I blamed myself for being too trusting in my marriage and too kind after the separation. I thought back and wondered whether forgiveness had been right for me.

I had believed forgiveness would help me heal, become less angry and bring me peace. By any definition, forgiveness does not mean forgetting, condoning, excusing, renouncing efforts to obtain restitution, suppressing anger at what happened, or giving up a recognition that you deserved better. Forgiveness is none of those. Forgiveness is supposedly letting go of negative feelings towards someone who has harmed you. So what forgiveness did to me was make me focus on the action that was done, classify that action as a wrong-deed committed by someone else (my ex-husband) and made me feel like the victim of that wrong-deed. It kept me thinking about what had happened and then, when I still in a bad place, made me feel stupid in being too “nice” in forgiving him of that action. What I know for sure was that forgiveness did not heal me, make me less angry or bring me peace.

So in February 2014, I retracted my action of forgiveness. From that point, I focussed instead on healing, on living by my values and acting always with kindness, fairness and courage … no matter what. I decided to choose before each action or comment I made. I would ask myself whether the action or comment I was about to make was being made for protection (of myself or others), connection, contribution, creation, or celebration? If I could not answer ‘yes’, then I would choose a different response.

Over time, I healed and became strong. My self-esteem and confidence grew. I was focussing on me. I was connecting with others and acting with kindness towards them. I was acting positively in the world of my ‘today’, not in a place of my ‘yesterday’. I felt free.

I believe now, that I got forgiveness wrong. It was more important for me to heal first, than to forgive. I do not believe that forgiveness was a requirement for that healing to take place. Instead of feeling like a victim, I now feel good about myself.

As I think about it today, I realise that at some point during my healing process, I became truly emotionally detached from my ex-husband and could see things from a more neutral position. I could see all the good that was in my marriage. As such I felt grateful for what had been rather than sadness at its loss. Some things that previously upset me now have no positive or negative feelings. As an example, two weeks ago it would have been our 41st wedding anniversary. I did not remember the date until today. That date no longer holds any meaning. It does not make me feel sad, bad or mad.

Interestingly, during the process of my healing and subsequent emotional detachment, forgiveness (losing resentment) crept up on me.

OR

Perhaps it is now that I see myself better off. Therefore … there is nothing to forgive.

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You may want to read Living and Loving after Betrayal. Steven Stosny

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