Foundations of comfort – my need for safety

“The pen is mightier than the sword”
unless your opponent happens to be the one carrying the sword.

 

ID-100220275(1).1shotsA feeling that keeps resurfacing for me is intense fear. Looking underneath my fears I now recognise my unmet needs for emotional safety.

What does emotional safety mean to me?

Feeling safe means the absence of thinking that whatever I love and treasure could be taken away from me in a single moment.

Feeling safe means being assured that whatever happens to me I will survive.

Feeling safe means feeling wanted, loved, accepted, supported, secure and waking up in the morning knowing I deserve happiness.

Feeling safe means being able to act authentically by not having to behave in a way that is not myself in order to avoid emotional dramas or criticism of another person which only makes others see me in a light which is not truly me; and thereby makes me feel guilty for violating my own values and self-respect.

Feeling safe is to be free of terrifying thoughts of fear and hopelessness which in turn causes me to become defensive, withdrawn and irritable.

Feeling safe is to be free of my misguided belief that I must suffer in silence.

Feeling safe means regaining my self-respect and self-confidence.

How will I provide for my own emotional safety?

I will keep myself in good physical fitness by following a healthy diet, exercising, sleeping well and relaxing daily. I will modify my workload by following a manageable routine. I know that being stronger physically will assist in strengthening my emotional safety.

When I become fearful I will create a ‘safe place’ to retreat to, whether that is my home, a place in nature, or being in the safety of the present moment. In that place I will look inside for my caring adult persona to cradle and nurture my frightened inner child and reassure her that I am safe. I will practice unconditional love to myself. Unlike before when I would fight, avoid or numb my feelings of sadness, loneliness or despair; in my safe place I will now feel free to express my feelings and accept them as real. Expressing my feelings when they come lessens their intensity and control over me. Moreover feeling them and reading my unmet needs underneath will enable me to address those needs.

I will assure myself that even though I cannot control situations, I can always control my response, as I have done in the past. I can find a solution to any challenge that comes my way.  I can take pride knowing that I am capable of landing on my feet and making my life a beautiful life, one step at a time. I can stop worrying about things that may happen as I know I will cope if they do.

From my own safe place, I have and will branch out and connect with others. I will spend time with people who love me, make me feel good about myself, have my best interests at heart and allow me to act as my authentic me. I will nurture relationships with people who show unconditional acceptance of who I am with no judgement or criticism and with whom I am able to communicate honestly, express my true feelings and not feel ashamed. I will feel emotionally safe with them.

I will develop relationships with people who I am able to trust and where I am able to trust their own feelings and emotions for me as genuine and real. I will trust that I will not provoke emotional drama just by being me when I am with them or by asserting my own thoughts, opinions and feelings. I will reduce or terminate contact with anyone who intentionally belittles me or is disloyal to me.

I will develop compassionate witnessing for others in their plights and time of need.

I will begin to do spontaneous things out of my safe place as I know that I will survive.

I will build up my foundations of safety to drive off my fears.

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Healing from the pain of betrayal

“You’ve got to accentuate the positive.
Eliminate the negative.
Latch on to the affirmative.
Don’t mess with mister in between.”

Johnny Mercer

 

 

Intimate betrayal is when someone very close has hurt you by abuse, aggression or constant criticism; or failed to take care of your well-being by deceit, infidelity or abandonment. The betrayal cuts deep because of the broken trust and an expectation of continual love and care. The resultant pain is intense and long-lasting. It is accompanied by the raging symptoms of anxiety, dread, deep sadness, guilt, shame and resentment.

Since my husband left me, many a day I have cried out, ‘please just stop the pain!’

Consider this situation.

Children are playing outside and kick a ball against a window. The window breaks and shatters. Inside, a shard of glass flings out and plunges into your arm creating a deep cut with profuse bleeding and deep pain. What do you do? You may run outside, work out who kicked the ball, then berate that child for his bad behaviour. You could look at the window, consider why it shattered and postulate why the glass cut so deep. You could grab a towel and mop up the bleeding. Alternatively, you may give painkillers to numb the pain.

Meanwhile you bleed to death.

The cure for a deep cut is attending to the cut, not numbing the pain, mopping up the bleeding  or working out who to blame. I know that. Yet when I was confronted with the pain of betrayal and abandonment I spent some time analyzing my ex-husband’s behaviour, my behaviour; and our marriage with its strengths and weaknesses. I wanted to know, why, why, why? Then I spent some time relieving the gushing symptoms of anger, sadness, anxiety, loneliness and resentment. When that didn’t completely work, I spent a lot of time numbing out the pain by living in the joys of today, engaging in pleasurable and / or distracting activities; or keeping busy. More recently I have wondered why the pain had not completely stopped and I had not fully healed.

I had not addressed the pain. The pain went so deep that I had tried to ignore it, cover it up, numb it out or avoid it rather than face it.

Pain is a signal, a call to action.
If you put your hand on a hotplate, it is a signal to remove your hand or it will burn.
If you present to your doctor with a headache, it must firstly be ascertained whether there is underlying stress, migraine, lack of sleep, or brain tumour; before planning a course of action.

Emotional pain is also a signal, a call to action.
It is not a signal to heal the past, it is a signal to heal the present. It is a protective signal that there is something in your current life that you need to change.

While the obvious symptoms pouring out from the cut of betrayal, abandonment and its aftermath were anger, humiliation, resentment, sadness, anxiety and guilt; I gradually learned these were stemming from the emotional pain underneath of feeling disregarded, unlovable and devalued;  losing something valuable (my 37 year marriage); having a sense of dread for the future; and feeling that my own values had in some way been violated.

These signals of emotional pain are a call to action for me. In order to heal from this pain, I need to focus on raising my self-regard; becoming more loveable; increasing my competence; building on my relationships with family, friends and other connections; facing and planning for my future; and abiding by my conviction to live by my values.

This is my action plan: each time I experience any form of emotional pain, I will pause and recognise this as a call to action. I will eliminate any reactive ‘fright, flight or fight’ thoughts. I will remember my core values of courage, kindness and fairness. I will then plan an action response in one of the following areas:

  • Protection
  • Connection
  • Contribution
  • Creation
  • Celebration

These will become my Foundations of Comfort as I rebuild my life.

(Note: I think the last sentence in the quote helps a lot too 🙂 )

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

My life in transition # 5 – the aloneness of decisions

” Crying is all right in its own way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.” C S Lewis “The Silver Chair”

ID-10022566.Danilo.RizzutiChoices are not the same as decisions.

A choice is when there are two or more items on the shelf and you choose one.

A decision is the end-point and the thing you get to live with after the other choices have been discarded.

In its cruelest sense, I was the discarded item of choice. The decision was the ending of our marriage. The choice was his and he gets to live with his choice. I get to live with his decision.

I coped to a large extent from the consequences of his decision by making my own choices. For example, I chose aloneness over loneliness.

Loneliness was feeling sorry for myself.

In the early days post separation loneliness descended upon me.  I felt my whole world had collapsed and with it all those levels of companionship and support my husband had seemingly provided. Gradually I realised that comfort could be provided by other means and from other people. I even embraced aloneness as my companion and as an opportunity to develop my creativity. By doing so I have not let myself become enveloped in any further loneliness.

Aloneness is a state of being alone

Aloneness does not simply mean living alone. Aloneness is being the only one in exactly my position with my strengths and weaknesses, the only one with my inner beliefs and desires, the only one who can face my difficult moments when I feel most bereft.

When I was married all major decisions could be shared. Where to live, how to provide financially, which projects to become involved in. Now all those decisions are mine and mine alone. My problem now is agonizing over the consequences of any decision I make, making sure any decision is fair and reasonable to myself and others, and feeling utterly alone in the making of those decisions.

I realise now these are not my decisions, they are my choices – where to live, how to make or spend my money, and what to do with my time. I realise that I can enlist help from others in making those choices and I can take my time in making them.

In contrast my most difficult decisions have been mine alone and have not been made with choices laid out for me. They were not made after protracted analysis or at times of quiet deliberation. They were made at times of distress. At those times of distress, the raging turmoil within me grew so intense that the only choices I had were sinking into complete collapse or finding calm. I chose calm.

From the calm within the turmoil I made those tough decisions – alone and with yet with total conviction because I just knew they were the right decision.

Those difficult decisions have been to change myself, to face the truth and to live by my core values no matter what.

Any choice I make now will come as a consequence of those life decisions I have made.
In fact, for any seeming conflict I have within myself for any current choice I now need to make, I only need to look back to those decisions and the choice becomes an easy one.

.

 

“When the pain of what we are living becomes greater than our fear of changing, we let go. When our fear of drowning swamps our fear of holding onto nothing, we start to swim”. Louise Gallagher

 

 

 

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ImageCourtesy[Danilo.Rizzuti]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My life in transition # 3 – Resistance

“Resistance is a powerful motivator precisely because it enables us to fulfill our longing to achieve our goals while letting us boldly recognise and name the obstacles to those achievements”
Derrick A Bell.

ID-10026543.jscreationz

It is two and a half years since my husband left me and I am still stuck in a transition world between my old and new life. Resistance has been a factor with obstacles that have either kept me stuck in my old world or sprung up to hinder my progress.

These are the steps I am taking to overcome resistance:

(i) Clarify my motivation for change.

(ii) Write down my resistance voices.

(iii) List clear obstacles to progress.
This is a summary of my voices and practical considerations.

(iv) Prepare a comeback to each level of resistance.

(v) Seek out supporters.

(vi) Monitor progress.

(vii) Keep going

Resistance factors

This is the list I came up with as per (i) to (iii) above and my comeback for each:

1. No motivation to change.
Clearly change motivation has been difficult as change was thrust upon me.

2. Clinging to my old life.
In my old life I coped well in a crisis. I would focus my energy on recovery, integrate whatever change was required into my life and quickly bounce back to normal. The crisis of my divorce was different. My normal was gone. I craved normality. I coped by blocking out the reality of my changed situation by clinging on to as many remnants of my old life as I possibly could. In particular, I deliberately deferred some major decisions that would require major changes to my life.

This deferral was necessary to allow me time and space to process the emotional impacts of what had happened. In this time and space I grieved the ending of my marriage.

3. Fear of the unknown. I survived my grief period and in time learned to live with the level of discomfort that was now my new normal. Living with discomfort became easier than facing the unknown. Those deferred decisions remained in the “to be done later” box.

One day my fear of living in continued discomfort outweighed my fear of change. I had an epiphany. In a single moment of time I decided that I wanted to start a brand new life. This in itself overcame my first resistance. I had regained control over my choices and hence my motivation to change. My motivation is now simple. I want to make my own new life.

4. Fear of identity loss. My decision to change plunged me into an even deeper mourning period as I faced the reality of what the changes meant. I would need to strip away the rest of my identity by giving up my home, my work and my community.

I still have my inner core of my values and beliefs. That is my real identity. I can take that with me, wherever I go, whatever I do.

5. Fear of not being strong enough. “I can’t do it” is a loud voice together with.voices that give me reasons for not doing things, for putting things off, or for why I am struggling.

Yes you can. It will take courage, perseverance, and belief in yourself but you can do it

6. Legal and financial constraints Moving from my home, changing my avenue of work, and moving away from the community are all major steps, which will require careful financial consideration after I am legally able to begin those changes.

This is where I am up to. I am leaning on professional advisors to assist me through.

7. Practical considerations All these changes do and will continue to require a lot of physical, emotional and mental stamina yet I am tired, so tired.

Then rest if you must, but do not quit.

Writing this post has proved two things.

Firstly; the crisis of divorce is different from any other crisis I have faced before as it is not simply a change within my life, it is a change to a new me. I cannot bounce back. I must bounce forward.

Secondly; I am not stuck. I am through five of seven very difficult steps.

I continue to work on a clear vision for a new me and a new life and progress towards that.

“People don’t resist change. They resist being changed.” Peter M Senge
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My life in transition #2 – from resentment to conviction

“It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul”
from ‘Invictus’ by William Ernest Henley

I am not by nature an angry person. When anger swept over me in the weeks after my husband left me it was a foreign feeling which I hated. I went to great lengths to conquer those feelings of anger so they did not convert into angry actions. I did not want to become an angry person. I chanelled the anger-energy into spring-cleaning, writing and making a conviction to live by my core values. The poem Invictus became my saving grace and I read it every day. I swore to be the ‘captain of my soul’.

I squashed anger before it took hold. Resentment crept up on me.

ID-10059806.africa

Resentment is disguised anger; with subtle differences. Anger is a feeling triggered by a single event; whereas resentment is an underlying attitude and sense of unfairness. Whereas anger is an aggressive retaliation against something received (pain); resentment is a defensive response to something missed out on (care, trust).

Before, my underlying attitude was positivity and calmness. Fleeting annoyances, such as being kept waiting for an appointment or someone behaving rudely, washed over me. Of late, I found myself irritated by such things. How did this come about? How did an act of betrayal by my spouse two years ago, allow me to become disturbed today by a passing remark by a stranger in the supermarket?

After I conquered the anger of the initial insult, I began to wonder how my marriage collapsed without me seeing it coming. I looked for signs. I found some. At the time I had ignored them because I trusted him. The seeds of resentment were planted.

Then I thought of parts of his personality, such as being gregarious. I began to see that as a sign which should have made me wary. Resentment sprouted.

Unrelated yet annoying behaviours of his, that as a trusting caring spouse I overlooked, I now began to see as things I should have objected to. Resentment grew.

Meanwhile, I was alone with my financial security in tatters, still trudging through marital mud, unable to move on. Resentment flourished.

Initial angry feelings directed at him gradually evolved into an attitude of resentment at the unfairness of my changed situation and thinking of myself as stupid for not seeing signs, trusting too much, needlessly putting up with things and being “too nice”.

Struggling with this sense of unfairness, self-blame and mistrust, the classic misguided protection-from-further-hurt thought “I won’t let that happen again” set in. This is the defensive response of resentment. I am not an angry person so I will not lash out in anger, but I will defend myself against further pain and loss The trouble is, it was false protection. I was indeed hurting, in need of security and warmth of others yet I began mistrusting everyone. Instead of empathy at people’s behaviour and acting with warmth and care, my defense armour went up. Being too “nice” got me into trouble before. Trust let me down. I was becoming socially isolated and wary and, in doing so, hurting myself.

Conviction to Core Values

The way out of resentment is the same way out of anger – by a conviction to live by core values. However, it is actually a lot harder to tame resentment as it is an underlying attitude that needs changing, rather than a fleeting feeling.

The simplest way I have found is to re-frame how I see things.
Resentment is against things, against unfairness, against my mistreatment.
On the other hand, a conviction to core values is for things, for fairness, for my well-being. This is a subtle yet profound difference.

Let me see how this re-framing may work for things in my current situation-

Resentment:
‘I was too trusting, too nice, too blinded.’
‘It’s not fair I am still trudging through mud’.
‘I should have moved away to a new life’
‘I cannot trust anyone’

Seeing through the eyes of resentment against things breads anger, blame and envy.

Conviction to core values:
‘I have always been a caring person. I will continue to be so.’
‘I am the person best placed to ensure our settlement is fair and reasonable’
‘I am able to choose if, why and when I shall move’.
‘I can trust myself to be the best person that I can be’

Seeing through the eyes of conviction creates enthusiasm, contentment or joy.

Gone is self-doubt, self-blame, unfairness and mistrust. Now within my focus lies self-compassion and self-forgiveness as a stimulus to create a healthy self-identity to regain my positiveness and act on my core values of courage, kindness, and fairness.

 

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

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My Life in transition #1 – Creating Certainty

“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
Robert Frost

I survived the unexpected change to my life of the ending of my marriage. Initially wracked by feelings of shock and sadness; I pushed ahead with positiveness, looking forward to finding contentment and a sense of purpose somewhere in my future. Now in transition between that sadness of the past and hope for my future, I am confronted by a different set of emotions – uncertainty, resentment, resistance, overload and anxiety. I decided to tackle the first one.

Uncertainty

My life before my change was predictable. I had a stable marriage, security and trust. The sudden ending of my marriage marked by betrayal involved a huge loss of trust. Trust in others. Trust in myself. Trust in certainty. Before, I trusted that I could rise each day, know my role in life, know what I was going to do with my day and know I was protected. After my change, that certainty was lost. Uncertainty threw my life into chaos and I became anxious and scared.

ID-10097070.Smarned

Certainty

My self-cure for uncertainty was to create certainty and get me back to a basic level of comfort and security. I did not ask for change but I could master my transition from that change. I could build on those things I know I can rely on.

Firstly, I wrote down those things I have been able to rely on my whole life:

  • The sun will come up every day
  • Myself
  • My mother and sister

In the early days of agony it was a great comfort to me to rise each day and watch the sunrise. It has never let me down.

It took me time to accept I could still trust myself and my own judgement. After a year of self-reflection I concluded that I can.

My mother and sister have been two constants for me the whole of my life. I cannot include my two brothers or children on this list as being younger than me they were not there when I was a small child, though I know they are there for me now.

Secondly, I wrote down my methods to build on certainty:

1. Acting on my values rather than my feelings.
I strive to always act with grace (respect for others) and dignity (respect for myself). This has helped me through confusion and chaos. If I always act in that way, it does not matter what turmoil I face, my life becomes predictable. I become my own stability.

2. Channel my actions into valued responses
If I channel my response into four key areas: improvement, appreciation, protection and connection; then certainty and stability will return to my life.

3.Establish a routine
At times of chaos, I return to my comfort of a predictable daily routine of a healthy diet, reflection, daily exercise and connections with loved ones. This helps me keep a sense of normality and I can follow this routine at home and when away.

4. Maintain a schedule
All other responsibilities (work, family, friends, creativity, community) I schedule into my calendar and project ‘to-do’ lists. My calendar keeps life predictable. My lists keep me sane

5. Goals
For moving ahead into my future I have set my transition goals:
a. Closing the property settlement
b. Implementing the property settlement
c. Establishing new career/purpose
d. Reestablish a new home base

Nine months ago, I had moved out of a lengthy period of affirming my values, beliefs, attitudes and responsibilities including a healthy routine. Then I became lost in a swirl of confusion. Having now finally accepted that my life is in the uncertainty of transition has paradoxically given me a degree of certainty. I know now where I am, where I am going, and how I am going to get there. I have moved forward to a written schedule and a commitment to transition goals. While the first two goals are stepping out of the past, the last two are moving into the golden path toward my future. Writing down my transition goals this past week has been significantly motivating for me.

 

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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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Image courtesy:[domdeen]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net

UNWANTED PASSENGERS ON MY SHIP

“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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Image  courtesy [StuartMiles]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Peace, fairness and divorce

“Peace involves inevitable righteousness, justice, wholesomeness, fullness of life, participation in decision making, goodness, laughter, joy, compassion, sharing and reconciliation. “ Desmond Tutu

ID-100129604In a recent post, I listed resources I felt I needed in order to move forward. I left out peace. When I read Desmond Tutu on peace in the quote above, I realised I was trying to race to joy, fulfillment and reconciliation without addressing justice. My last post outlined my struggle between justice (fairness) and mercy (forgiveness/compassion). Nowhere has that been more apparent than in the ending of my marriage.

I considered myself an equal partner in marriage right up to the moment my husband said he was leaving. In that instant he became judge, jury and executioner. I became the victim who was denied just reward, denied a fair trial, and who received punishment. My ‘punishment’ included an emotional crisis, a legal and financial mess (together with the burden of sorting it out), and an uncertain future.

When you become a victim, you can either stay there and become bitter, or you can work through things to get to a better place. This may mean moving forward, taking corrective action, or simply letting some things go.

Just reward (my marriage)

See the picture of the girl plucking grapes from the vine? That is the child within me, believing if I became well educated, if I worked hard, if I sowed the seeds of love and care with my partner; then I would reap rewards. For a long time, I felt I was denied my just reward. I was denied my time in the sunshine, with my partner of forty years caring for each other, with a comfortably secure retirement.

I have now let that go by looking kindly towards a different, yet exciting future for me.

Turning ‘punishment’ into ‘opportunity’ (my divorce)

ID-100200640I was thrust into the horrors of grief/trauma and the overwhelming burden of our financial disentanglement processes.  Whilst I felt otherwise for a long time, I believe handling this with grace and dignity has become a signature strength of mine which will serve me well in the future. I have become a stronger better person for what happened and how I handled this unexpected “opportunity” for personal growth.

Compassion (my life)

In keeping with the topic at hand (peace), I had to resolve within me my attitude towards my partner of forty years, the father of my children. Deep inside I am a caring person unable to intentionally hurt anyone. When I am wronged, although harder, I keep acting on that deep-seated value. That is, no matter what cruelty is shown to me, I cannot go against my own values by being cruel back. Therefore relatively early, I allowed myself to forgive my husband, and let go of any need for revenge. I continued showing him respect.

I believe I have acted by my own values of forgiveness and compassion.

Fairness?

Big failure.

Fair trial (the decision)

When your partner of forty years leaves you suddenly with no discussion, to begin with you believe that somehow you deserved it. You think there must have been something that you did or did not do to warrant that action.

Now I believe this: regardless of any issues that did or did not exist in our marriage, fairness would have allowed me equal participation in the decision, fairness would have allowed me some discussion, fairness would have allowed our marriage to resolve or dissolve on its own merits before he became entangled in another relationship.

I have let forgiveness, compassion and being “nice” overrun that need of fairness to me. In the over two years since separation, I have never expressed to him my feelings on our marriage’s end, or the manner in which it ended. By showing compassion to him, yet falling silent on my own feelings, I may have allowed him to think that I felt his actions were fair and reasonable.

Whilst I cannot undo what was done, I can begin to speak up for myself. I can find the courage to say “I too deserve fairness, consideration, compassion and respect.”

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Image[africa]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thanks to Louise, x2, Jolyn and coastalmom for recent posts and comments on this topic. You have helped enormously.

Personality + Character + Circumstance + Attitude = ME

“Yo soy yo y mi circunstancia” (‘I am I, plus my circumstances’).
Jose Ortega y Casset. Spanish Philosopher

ID-100106382.grant.chochrane

Following my last post on my ‘resources’, I planned in this post to list my innate strengths. What I thought would be a simple matter of looking up a little on personality, ended up with me bogged down researching the difference between personality and character. (I was to discover that spending time in research, reflection and over-analysis before starting on projects is a personality trait; and one that certainly is an attribute of mine! 🙂 )

What is the difference between personality and character?

Personality is our inherited make-up and nature, the image you project, how others perceive you and how you deal with others. We cannot change our basic personality yet aspects influence our needs; and hence our behaviour. Personality traits range from one extreme to another, examples being: extroverted/ introverted; talkative/ shy; hot-tempered/ calm; venturesome/ timid; cautious/ spontaneous. There is no right or wrong personality.

Character refers to the moral and ethical quality of a person; their inclination to do right. It is what is “deep inside”. Our character evolves over time as a combination of upbringing, education, beliefs and experience. Character is therefore malleable. We can work towards being a better character, towards higher principles. Character traits are positive (strengths) or negative (weaknesses). Examples of character strengths include honesty, fairness, kindness, courage and temperance.

Individuality The complex of what makes a person is personality, character and behaviour influenced by circumstances, what fate blows your way. Your cultural, socioeconomic and personal situation can have a bearing on the complete person that comprises ‘you’.

Who Am I

I have written on what I consider are my values (character strengths). I strive to show compassion, empathy, dependability, trustworthiness, and integrity.

I also wrote about my personality trait of introversion. When I set out to expand on that by doing an on-line personality test, it included questions I felt are part of character, not personality. Specifically one question “would you choose justice over mercy” annoyed me. I did not believe I could give a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. I was pleased to come across a test version offering a sliding scale allowing me to sit on the fence for that question. (Why this question rankled with me I will write about in another post).

The test score showed my personality as being ‘INFJ’ (introverted, intuitive, feeling, judging). I am decisively introverted and intuitive, more borderline between feeling  / thinking; and judging / prospective. So while I am rational (thinking); I am also sensitive, striving for harmony and co-operation (feeling); with ‘feeling’ nudging ahead of ‘thinking’. I am open-minded and relaxed (prospecting); but my ‘judging’ side wins over with commitment, seeking closure, and decisiveness. (If you can count ‘decisiveness’ as making firm decisions after much research and long-winded weighing up of options! 🙂 ) 

I used to feel dragged down by my reserved nature. I am not that outgoing person who everyone instantly warms to and admires. Now, I think differently. My quietness allows me to be an easy listener and be more empathetic, showing kindness to others. Likewise although I am not the spontaneous ‘fun’ seeking reveler, my even-temper creates calm and harmony in family and social situations which is a positive thing. I am able to use the ‘limitations’ of my personality as strengths to enhance my character and social interactions.

To balance off who I am leaves circumstances; a blended mixture of upbringing where strong family values were instilled; my nationality and culture of being Australian from British forebears; my age and being a woman, neither of which I can change; my talents, skills, education; my history of marriage and motherhood; and my fate. Some are favourable (being Australian from a good family); some not-so favourable (divorce).

I believe by accepting my personality, being tolerant of others, building on my character strengths, and taking control of my life with appropriate attitudes (courage, optimism, tenacity, resilience, humility) to each circumstance – whatever that might be – are deciding factors in being ‘me’. Choosing my attitude and driving my destiny – because of my circumstance rather than despite my circumstance – have made me who I am today.

Image courtesy: Freedigitalphotos.net [StuartMiles]