Interlude

I have reached that point where I can finally say that ‘we’ have ended. Not only in reality but also in my head.  In my case it took me 40 weeks  – one week for every year of our togetherness.

I know that this is a defining moment and I know that it takes some people a lot longer to reach this point. I am also aware that ‘the ending of we’ is only one tiny baby-step on the pathway to becoming ‘me’ and there are still quite a few obstacles for me to climb over. I know that.

I know that at times I do still get sucked down and probably still occasionally will get sucked down into the gloom and sadness of the separation, the ending of the coupledom. I know that I will still occasionally have a yearning for the past, a yearning to be back in the happy memories, a yearning to change the not-so-happy bits, a yearning for a soul-mate – my soulmate.

However, I have reached the point where I do not see myself as half of a couple in my head. I see myself as a single identity, a unique person – although the defining features of that person are still a little fuzzy. The ‘ending of we’ was the first crucial necessary step for me to take on my journey to ‘me’. I needed to close that door properly. I needed to close it tight and make sure it was shut, make sure it was not one I would re-open, make sure I would not look back – before I could put my head up, look forward before me and decide on the next door I should open.

Week 39 – Acceptance?

Week 39 – 18 June 2012

In one of my very early posts I wrote about how the ending of my marriage threw me into a grief process with particular stages or feelings – shockpainangerdepression – and being totally overwhelmed. I clung onto the hope of the last supposed stage of grief – hope and “acceptance” as a place I would eventually reach. I thought over and over that that is where I would like to be. I told myself if I could get to a point of “acceptance” then perhaps I could turn my situation around with positive responses and a hope for the future – a positive future.

Now at week 39 I wondered exactly what was meant by ‘acceptance’ and – if I had to get to a state of ‘acceptance’ in order to move on – what exactly was it that I supposed to accept?

Let me first get the dictionary out and explore the meaning of ‘acceptance’ and other related words.

Acceptance – the action of consenting to receive or undertake something.
Admit – accept as true, allow
Acknowledge – recognize as fact
Adjust – modify or make suitable to changed conditions
Adapt – make something suitable for a new purpose, alter for a new use
Allow – permit, take into account
Action – process of doing something
Accomplish – achieve or complete something
Achieve – reach or attain a desired objective by effort, skill or courage

Being left suddenly through no choice is akin to surviving a hurricane. Everything in your prior life has been totally destroyed and swept away and you are left alone amongst the rubble. You face feelings of abandonment, betrayal, a lost past, a stolen future, a changed family unit, the loss of a significant other and coupledom, as well as facing a future alone with a significant loss of financial security.

I do not think that I have or perhaps ever will accept by consent the hurt, the betrayal, the lost trust and of being abandoned. I cannot accept or consent to the lack of respect shown to me in not being given any choice or discussion on the ending of our 40 year partnership. I cannot yet accept that this was done to me by the one who I had cared for all my adult life, my friend and soul-mate.

However, I can indeed now acknowledge all this as fact. I can admit that this has happened. There has been a lot of pain associated with getting to that point. It was easier in the beginning to simply block it all out. It has been much much harder to face and admit the facts, and acknowledge them as true. This I have now done. That far I have progressed.

I have managed to go one step further in some aspects.

I have adjusted to the strange twilight world of today and have enjoyed living in the moment that each day brings. I have adapted to not having a significant other and of needing to face the future alone. I have allowed solitude to enter my life as my best companion and in fact I have embraced it.

While still hard at times the children and I have all adjusted to our changed family unit. In particular, I acknowledge that it will be me that will always be there for my children to see them through their triumphs and tragedies and to share in their everyday lives. I have adapted to being there for them on my own. I always have been and always will be there for them. I admit that my home is too large for me as a single person and I will take action to ensure its maintenance. It is my choice at the moment to keep the family home as a sanctuary for myself and the children for the preservation of their childhood memories.

I admit that it will be a difficult year to sort out all the legal, accounting and structural changes required for the split; and I acknowledge that it will be me that will have to do most of this technical work. I have adjusted to this turbulent period and have sought professional assistance where required. I admit it will be a challenge to get myself back on track to financial security. This will require a defined action plan, a strict budget and a delayed retirement.

Finally I admit that I have been hurt and that I am still in a degree of pain and that I need time to heal. I will allow myself that time. Until I have healed I admit that I will feel overwhelmed if I have visitors or when I travel as it is taking me away from my cocoon, my protective shell of solitude. Eventually, when I emerge from my cocoon it will not bother me. I admit that I am not there yet and i will give myself more time.

So, even though I have not quite reached acceptance, I do not feel that i do in order to move on away from ‘we’ and on to ‘me’. I have acknowledged what has happened, I have adjusted my thoughts and adapted to my changed circumstances. I am taking the actions required to move myself forward. …. step by step.

It is for that reason that I know that I will in time move on to my own accomplishments and achievements before advancing through many other phases (B, C, D, ….)  before finally reaching the zenith of my life.

Zenith – the peak, the highest point.

Week 37 – Letting go

Week 37 – 01 June 2012

Last weekend my husband and I had a coffee and said good-bye.

I had previously written how after he left me my husband had wanted to remain friends. I was finding that difficult. Eventually I had told him that I could not, that he would have to let me go. The process of telling him of this involved detaching emotionally from him and disentangling myself from the coupledom we had had and the life we had shared. Over the following five months I learned through the children that he was finding lack of contact with me as a friend difficult and he pined for a last coffee with me. As he was due to leave for a 12 months stint wandering the globe and as I had healed to a degree, the week before he left – although too early in some ways for me – I agreed to that last coffee.

We met at the scheduled coffee shop and we were respectful of one another, whilst agreeing to disagree on some matters. It was, however, still very sad and there were tears all round. Then we said good-bye as a couple……. forever. Life would never be the same.

As I drove away I thought that maybe I was wrong. I was wrong to assume that he would want the happy-ever-after illusion like me because in the end it was just that – an illusion. I was wrong to assume that what I wanted – the growing old of two people, remembering together all the triumphs and tragedies, of sharing the children and grandchildren, of caring for one another and helping each other in their golden years, of going on new adventures together – I was wrong to assume that that was what he wanted too. I was wrong to assume that what we had was worth fighting for when he didn’t. I was wrong to assume that what we had had and what we could have in the future was worthwhile in order to save our marriage. I felt that it was. He chose otherwise. His choice. Not mine.

As I drove home, I accepted that my assumptions had been wrong. I let go of my assumptions. I let go of the illusions. I let go of us.

I returned home … alone again.

The day was strange for me because I thought that I would become overwhelmed with heart-breaking sadness and I did not. I readily busied myself and generally potted about. I made contact with my mother and some close friends and there was excitement in my voice as I spoke with them.

The pain was gone. That heavy ache that had been weighing me down had been lifted from my shoulders.

Is this closure?

Or is it freedom?

Later in the day I got stuck into some trivial domestic chores …….. and one thing I noticed

……..I was singing.

 

 

 

 

Week 35 – Mixed emotions

“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start” Nido Qubein

Week 35 –

I returned home after visiting my son in Canada – sad to leave him again, yet happy that he was in a contented place in his life – daunted by the long journey required to visit him again, yet excited by the prospect of returning next year.

I spent some time with my family – mother, siblings, best friend, children  – on the way back before returning home. This was a very mixed stirring time for me. It was great spending time with my close people to soothe and protect me, to help me off-load and pick-up. However, it made me confront the feelings of the losses I was suffering. I had to watch others in early retirement  together in a world that I would now never know. I had to see other couples giving support to each other over life’s milestones, over daily trivialities sharing life together. I had to listen to others discuss their own retirement plans without a mountain of financial stress to climb as I had. I was happy to see everyone and I enjoyed their company but I was still raw from the losses I had to confront in my own situation. I had had four weeks with the company of others but now it was time to confront the harsh reality of my own aloneness and sorting out the financial settlement with my husband. This is what I now faced. This is what i had been running away from metaphorically by ‘living in today’ and in ‘actuality‘ by disappearing the past month. Running away from it was not going to make it go away.

I had had time to do some soul-searching while I was away and it had given me a chance to think of me for myself and my self-reflection journey. It gave me a taste of what life could be once I had come out of my metamorphosis. I started my blogging in earnest while I was in Canada and now back home I was beginning to publish the posts. It gave me the confidence to reinvent myself and to keep going. When I returned home my body clock took a while to adjust to the different time zone so even though there were some day-time crash-out periods I gained some ‘night-time’ awake sessions that enabled me to find the time to write in the small hours of the morning or late at night. I kept writing. It helped me put in words what it was I had to face, what had happened, and to begin to deal with it rather than blocking it out. ……….

My husband had left me.

I came home with a new resolution of accepting and facing my situation and dealing with the whole of the fall-out instead of trying to skip over the difficult bits. The next few weeks would be significant turning points in my journey as I faced my life situation full on.

” The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” Mark Twain

Week 33 – The rings

Week 33

There was a very significant event in my life this week and how fitting that it should take place in the ski village of Whistler with the imposing Olympic rings set against the back-drop of the magnificent mountains of British Columbia.

During my time visiting my son in Canada I went to visit a friend of a friend who by some sheer coincidence was staying in Whistler. Her circumstances were similar to mine in that her husband had left her; albeit that it has been two years before and officially divorced so she was a little further on emotionally than me. Swapping stories I felt proud in some ways that I had managed to hold up remarkably well and especially that I had been able to make the step of spring cleaning and getting rid of “stuff” so early, something she had only been able to do in more recent times. Yes, I thought, had been able to rid myself of ‘him’ and his ‘stuff’ very early.

She looked at me surprised and said ‘what about the rings?’ There they were still on my left hand where they had been for 37 years.

It was not that I had purposely left them there. I just did not know what to do with them and with the thoughts that went through my head. And they were different than other ‘stuff’ in that the emotional side went with them, the symbolism of the partnership. In this instance I felt that divorce was SO much worse than becoming a widow. When you become widowed the ‘rings’ are something that become part of the family heirlooms that are passed down generation after generation. They mean so much and they become so treasured. What then for the rings of divorce? Had not I had a successful 37 year marriage? Do I have to abandon everything of those 37 years?

My own rings had a story to them in that when we were the sweet young things and were contemplating marriage we went into a ring shop and put a $1 deposit down on an engagement ring. Sadly within the next few weeks my father suddenly died of a stroke and so we put our engagement off. Six months later when we decided to get actually get engaged we never thought that the shop would have held the ring with only a $1 deposit. We searched and searched but could not find a ring we liked as much as the original one. So went back to the same shop and lo-and-behold the ring was still in their safe. We thought that was a very clear message that our love was meant to be, that the ring was meant to be, and the ring had been treasured by me in all my years of marriage.

What now?

So this friend of a friend decided to take the situation into her own hands and strongly voiced the opinion that as the rings symbolized an eternity of ‘for better or worse’ that no longer held meaning and that it was time that they should go. She grabbed my hands and started taking them off. This – I might add –  ended up to be quite a feat as the rings had almost become embedded into my fingers. Eventually with some soap and some ice and much twisting and turning they came off my hands. I put them in my purse. The next morning she apologized for being so brutal and said that I should make my own decision on whether the rings should stay or go.

With everything in this process that I cannot decide on, I shelved the decision until a later date…… .but I did not put the rings back on.

Two days later when I was enjoying my time by myself at the Capilano bridge I noticed some beautiful American Opal rings set in silver. I bought one for myself. I put it on the the finger of my left hand where my old rings had been. Yes, I know – wrong hand – but conventions no longer mean anything to me so there it stays.

When I returned home to Australia I put my old rings in my ‘sad box’. to deal with at some later date.

So why was this event so significant in my life?

Firstly, one of the emotional links with the marriage – the rings – was finally discarded.
Secondly, I strode ahead as the new ‘me’ by taking myself on a mini-adventure and found that I could enjoy myself – all by myself – and symbolized this with buying my own ring as a symbol of a new relationship with myself for myself. This became my step 7 in my journey to ‘me’, and a vow to be true to myself.
Lastly and most importantly, when I got back home, as I threw my old rings in my supposed ‘sad-box’ and briefly glanced at the other items I had put in there, I thought to myself ……… life is not so sad after-all.

Week 32 – Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Week 32 – 27 April 2012

Having experienced a downturn in my moods in the journey of my life since the collapse of my marriage; I decided to escape temporarily by visiting my second eldest son living in Vancouver, Canada.  Whilst ever so happy to see him again and quite excited, I experienced a new wave of emotions the first few days as I battled a loss of sense of place. I had survived the emotional turmoil of my whole life being turned upside down by clinging onto my daily routine and nurturing myself with familiarity. That was now gone and my mind was again in turmoil. I had always enjoyed travel and experiencing exciting different things. What was wrong with me?

Away from all the chaos of my disrupted life, I now had some time to reflect upon things and I began exploring the theme of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. For those unfamiliar with the concept, Maslow was a psychologist who came up with a pyramidal concept of a hierarchy of needs. There were five initial levels that later evolved to seven that (working from bottom to top) encompassed basic needs (physiological, safety, love, esteem) and then the higher growth needs (cognitive, aesthetics and self-actualization). Maslow postulated that one’s lower needs had to be met before one could move on to the higher level needs. Here is a an outline of the hierarchy.

5.                                                        Self-actualization

4.                                      Esteem: achievement, independence

3.                          Belonging: love, family, relationships, intimacy, affection

2.                    Safety needs: protection, security, stability, financial security, order

1.             Biological and Physiological needs: air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sleep etc

It has been reasoned that at a time of crisis, say after a flood or earthquake, people’s needs return to those very basic – for food, water and shelter – as they begin to rebuild their lives. At those times they have little need for self-esteem or fulfilling their highest potential by self -actualizing. Gradually as basic needs are met, then one can move onto the higher levels of a safe environment, then companionship.

I had thought about this at times since my separation and I am learning that the ending of a marriage is similar to such a crisis, especially if it is unexpected and sudden as in my case. It rocks the very foundation of your life and threatens everything you ever had; self-esteem, family, companionship, emotional and financial security. As everything comes crashing down, to cope and survive you cocoon yourself by returning to the basics of life – living in the moment of waking, eating, walking, eating, and the comfort and security of a warm bed at night. You are thrown into a survival mind-set of fulfilling these basic needs because everything else is gone.

I was finding that it was helping me to actually accept this fact and I began rebuilding my life by starting with those basics needs and ensuring they were met first in a positive way to give myself a strong foundation before tackling those needs higher up – so refocusing first on breathing (it meant I was alive) and food (sticking to a good diet), my health, and a safe secure peaceful home environment. At the same time, although it’s a little higher up, focussing on my family.

I thought that after I had healed and become strong at those basic levels, as the pain eased, I could move on to my physical, financial and emotional stability; then hopefully my social needs and regaining my self esteem. I could try to begin to move up the levels and focus on getting my finances back on track and seeking out new friendships, new interests etc, one step (or one level) at a time……  That was my theory as I grappled with the concepts of my lost previous life and my now unsure financial future.

So here I was in Canada spending time with the missing link in my family, my second son, and away from the immediacy of my life’s trauma. Why was my mind racing in turmoil again? Why couldn’t I sleep?
Then I realised I was craving that lowest level of the hierarchy, that feeling of comfort and security in routine and a sense of place. By coming over to visit my son, I had been thrown into the unfamiliar.
When all your world is travelling along merrily, when you have your home and your life companion, your finances secure, your job to give you satisfaction, and some creative outlet; then taking a break from all that by travelling and doing different things is both rewarding and exciting. Less clear is the fact that you are actually taking your basic needs, your  security with you …… that is if you travel with your soul-mate ……..because your life’s security goes with you; and you have this inner core of happiness and stability that you take with you wherever you go.
After a marriage collapse, that is all gone and you are left with a shell of your former self. One props oneself up with superficial pillows to ensure that one does not break. And until those pillows are taken away you do not realise how easily that fragile shell can indeed break.
This is what happened to me in those first few days I was in Vancouver. My props were gone, my home, my routine, my sense of place.
In that fragile place, sometimes it seems a little sad to do things by yourself that you would normally enjoy and so you refrain from doing things, you hold back, because there is no-one to share things with. So you have to push yourself to take that first step. The first step is the hardest. So after a few days when i decided that this emptiness feeling was silly, I pushed myself to learn to navigate my way around the bus routes through North Vancouver to Vancouver, to shopping malls, to grouse Mountain and Capilano bridge. I got myself into a little daily routine of morning activities, then go out and about, then come back via the local shops for any shopping needs and then the evening meal with my son and his girl-friend.  I cocooned myself with the same basic needs level of food – shelter – warmth – security – companionship – routine albeit that I was now in a different environment.
And — believe it or not —-  with time to myself during the days — and away from my trauma —  it was here that I began drafting my blogs in earnest and I ‘published’ my very first post soon after.
So here is where I think that maybe Maslow got it wrong. Because here I was at the very bottom of his hierarchy needs, at the very basic level of survival, with all the middle levels crumbling at my feet; and that is when I went straight to the very top level – on to self -actualization (after-all that isn’t that where all of us bloggers are?) …. and that is when I began to heal.

Week 30 – Writing In The Dark

Week 30 – April 2012

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Vivian Greene

Daylight saving is finished here in the land of Oz and the days are getting shorter and darker. Night-time falls early. Can I survive the darkness?. Of course I can! Having started the drafts of my blog I have become enthused with my writing and I am actually excited by the longer evenings that will give me more time to write. 

A storm begins. It is absolutely pouring with rain. Thunder and lightening. How fantastic! Then there is a black-out. Darkness. Laptop computer battery quickly flattens. So obsessed by now I am with my writing and yet so in the mood that by candlelight tonight my blog is written ……

so here I am not waiting for the storm to pass but enjoying the storm -dancing and writing in the rain – and in the dark – – –

all by myself ..and loving it.

Week 29 – Kindness

Week 29 – 08 April 2012

So just when you think you have lost everything – your past, your future, the spring in your step, the reason for getting up in the morning, trust, love, and hope …… some total stranger restores your faith in humanity.

Having a completely glum day and generally doing nothing, I thought I should at least feed myself. I went down to the supermarket and, with a complete vacuum where my brain used to be, I forgot my wallet. As I was fumbling about and scrounging at the bottom of my bag trying to find enough coins to buy my few vegetables for a soup, a man – a total stranger to me – dropped some coins on the counter and walked away. I tried to protest and he just said ‘enjoy your soup’ and was gone in a flash. Gone – my knight in shining armour who touched my heart that day in a way that he will never ever know.

A door is opened for me, a motorist waves me on in a traffic jam, a bus driver takes the time to have a chat to me, fellow bloggers offer me words of encouragement and a reason to keep going. And so it is that these small acts of kindness mean so much and begin to nourish my soul.

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye

Week 28 – The second wave of pain

Six months into this divorce process and I was hit with the reality of our lost retirement plans. The financial security we would have had together that now had to be divided into less than half as costs and more costs and even more costs were added in ….or rather taken off. There was this unknown factor of starting over all by myself and whether that could be done at all. I was 58 and there were few years left for me to make it all work out.

Then the pain came again.

No-one told me about this second wave of pain. I have never read about this second wave of pain. There was firstly the emotional side; the human side; the airy-fairy living in la-la-land side. And then there was reality. I had put off thinking about reality. It was like a second grief process and it was hitting me right in the eyes. This second wave of grief began washing over me and in my scrambled brain I realized it was all the same emotions – the same stages to go through. The shock at the harsh reality of the figures – the anger at being put in this position by the one I had loved most – the yearning for a secure retirement that we would have had but now did not – the depression of wondering how I would survive, how I would manage – and the pain, the excruciating pain…….it was back again. And I am swimming now, swimming, swimming, and swimming. I am in this raging current again and unable to reach the shore. Once again, I yearn for the past. Once again, I fear the future. Once again I cannot cope in yesterday or tomorrow. Once again I survive by blocking them out. Once again I survive by living in the moment, in today.

Once again, I am sitting watching the sunrise. It does not let me down. Once again, it is magnificent.

Week 26 – Almost Spring begins!

Week 26 – March 18, 2012 – The day I started my ‘Almost Spring’ blog

“ I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. I felt fear myself, more times than I can remember, bit I hid it behind a mask of boldness. The brave man in not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” from ‘My Long Walk To Freedom’  by Nelson Mandela

I had been surviving the pain of my marriage’s collapse by living in the moments of a glorious summer and pouring myself into my journal. Now the days were becoming shorter and the weather cooler, I wondered how I would survive the approaching winter and its bleakness. My spirit began to drop.

Nevertheless on that particular day the optimistic side of me was winning and as I was sitting writing at my desk looking across to the valley and later down to the river, it inspired me…… .the river was always inspiring. I took some time out to take some photos of it. I could not think of a better place to be in order to be inspired, to write, and to reflect. Some days I become so overwhelmed at what is in front of me. Then I look across to the valley or down to the river and they are always there greeting me. I thought to myself ….. “self, look at what you have”.

Earlier that day I had done some internet surfing and had come across blogging sites about people reinventing themselves at about age 60 and moving on, making a new life. I felt positively uplifted by them and I thought that I could do that too. Yes, I could make a new life for myself. Yes, I could write about it. Yes, I could do it.

So on that day, my blogging site was born. It would be a journey of my transformation from ‘we’ to ‘me’. As ‘we’ had been together forty years – 37 married and 3 years prior; I decided to give myself forty steps to take to become my own self – one step for each year of our time together. I decided to be kind to myself and not put any pressure on myself as to how long those steps would take or what those steps would be. I then spent the day learning to navigate the ins and outs of WordPress. At the end of the day I triumphantly loaded my home photo – the view to my river valley. That would become my signature …. the peace and tranquility of a flowing river through a forested valley.

I now confess that I thought at the time (week 26) I had been through the worst of it (I had not). I intended and wanted the blog to be completely positive, showing only my optimistic self to the world, and for it to be completely uplifting for others. Moreover, I intended to skip over the first few months in one or two posts and get quickly to the positive journey I intended to take going forward. When my spirit continued southwards I held off releasing any posts until about week 35. Then, over the next few weeks, as I sank lower into despair, as I looked back through my journal, as I began re-living my own feelings by my own writing, as I felt again the excruciating pain of the first few months; I decided to write it all.

Since then my feelings have turned into words on paper.

I am inherently an optimist and I still strive to think positively about each day and about the future. On that particular day, when my thoughts turned to the approaching winter, I thought to myself ….. what is the problem with winter? In winter, it is almost spring. In spring comes sunny days, the bloom of new flowers, and new hope. I told myself not to focus on the winter but instead to focus on the approaching spring. Then I decided that would be my main message and that would be the name of my blog ……. Almost Spring….

I am fundamentally an optimist… part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed towards the sun, one’s feet moving forward” Nelson Mandela