Recognizing my own feelings

ID-10062094.David catillo Dominici

Since returning home, I have begun sorting through my boxes, some of which I have not been able to previously tackle as they hold records of family ventures, travel, community involvement and business projects that I shared with my ex-husband. Now with the marital settlement finally finished, the business sold, the company financials complete and nothing pressing hanging over my head that I must get done; I have started sorting. What I have noticed going through these boxes is that things have changed in my head in two very significant ways. I could never have envisioned or predicted either of them.

The first thing is there has been an emotional detachment of sorts, from the bond I had in my marriage. As I am sorting through, if I come across an item such as a letter that would have previously made me sad (grief phase), angry (resentment phase), or sick (disgusted phase), now it conjures up no feelings whatsoever. Things I am coming across to do with my ex-husband, I am throwing non-nonchalantly in the rubbish bin without a backwards glance. I am not thinking of the relationship in either a positive or negative way. As far as the relationship is concerned, I do feel I am “over it”.

When I come across something to do with a shared project, because there is now this detachment from the marital bond, I see myself having participated in these projects and being proud of what I did as an individual detached from any association with him. This is weird in a way, as it not the way they happened but it now how I see them. I do not feel any pain, or anger, or sadness, or shame.

However …

The second thing I have noticed as I have begun sorting is some items will trigger thoughts of past events and I am now seeing those past events as an independent witness, rather than as I was back then as the supportive wife. As an independent witness, I can more clearly look at the fairness or otherwise of past events. I can see sometimes I went along with activities or ventures that were not my choosing, or were done in different ways than I would have done. That was fine when I was the supportive wife as I was happy to compromise, as one does in marriage. I was very happy with that compromised situation throughout my entire marriage. Now, with the emotional detachment that has occurred and looking through the eyes of an independent witness, I am not seeing myself as that supportive wife but rather I am seeing myself as me, as my own person. As I begin to see myself as me with my own needs and beliefs and values, I am now also getting flashes of my own feelings, feelings that I experienced at the time of those past events, feelings that I buried. I am feeling feelings of long ago and those feelings are my feelings.

The feelings are coming to me in little breaths, in little heart beats. Generally they are not overwhelming and are gone almost as quickly as they came. However, sometimes I have had to take some time out to catch my breath, and to allow myself the time and space to feel my own feelings and to tell myself that it is OK to feel my own feelings, even those feelings from many years ago. One day, I felt more deeply than a heart-beat and I had to get away and I went into town and spent the afternoon at the library. The feelings that I was suddenly feeling were very strong and I needed some space to get my thoughts straight.

So this is a bit topsy-turvy. On one hand, I have this strange detachment, this emptiness of any feeling. On the other hand, I am getting these flashes of deep feelings from yesteryear.


This is the second post in a series on feeling my feelings.

Wedding wobbles after divorce


ID-100125771.StuartMilesMy second son was recently married. People have asked me whether there were any ‘awkward moments’ due to the divorce. I would be lying if I said, ‘No’. However, I am pleased to say that most of the awkward moments were in my head. I did not let thoughts in my head control my actions. I paused and thought through anything before responding or, more importantly, not responding. I also noticed a difference to what I actually did think and experience compared to what I had been anticipating that I may experience.

When a mutual friend’s daughter married two years ago, I was raw inside. The vows spoken at the church made me cry and cry. As they spoke their vows, I thought about my own wedding and what I felt as the breaking of those vows. This wedding of my son was different. Those same thoughts did not enter my head when my son and his soon-to-be-wife spoke their vows. That same sadness did not surface. When they said their vows, I thought only of them. I thought only of their love for each other and the wonderful life they were to have together.

The ‘awkward’ moments came at different times, prior to the wedding ceremony itself; and afterwards at the reception.

As described in an earlier post, the wedding was six days at a resort on the Cook Islands, so there was six days of togetherness with family and friends, six days of happy times with others. Yet, in those happy times, there was that edge for me of being alone within myself, of not having that soul-mate to look out for me and, although I am beginning to revel in my independence and am quite capable of looking out for myself, seeing the togetherness of other couples looking out for each other stung me a little. My children having to spend separate times with each of us, stung me a little. The speech given by the father of my new daughter-in-law, speaking with pride of his wife and soul-mate of 40 years and their life of sharing and living out their promises to each other, stung me a little.

I had anticipated awkward moments with my ex-husband, even though he had decided to come ‘alone’ which made it easier for all of us.

Due to my mother’s health crisis in the weeks before the wedding, I had not had time to have “the conversation” with him, that of: ‘Please do not come up to me and insist that we should be friends. Please do not hug me in front of other people, as if nothing has happened between us. Please do not ask me to dance with you after the bridal waltz’. 

So the conversation had not happened and the awkward moments did happen and, surprisingly, I did not care. I was able to act with grace and dignity, smile, shrug those moments off, quickly move aside to other people, and put it all behind me.

However, those moments were defining moments for me. They were the first one-on-one, face-to-face contact I had had with him on a personal level in over a year. What I came to understand in those moments was that I have reached a place of emotional detachment from the man who left me. When he came up to me at the wedding, I no longer saw him as the man I had married 40 years ago. For three years I have felt pain whenever I thought of being abandoned by the man I had been married to. In those moments at the wedding, I realized that person no longer exists. He is not the same person as the man who left me. In those moments, I felt no pain regarding being left by the man who my husband had become. I felt no emotion for that man, I felt nothing for him, for the man who left me.





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 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 21 – Two anniversaries

In week 21 since separation it was both my birthday and our anniversary – only days apart.

Having spent the weekend with my children the actual mid-week day of my birthday by myself was marked by a simple one line entry in my journal stating how old I was. I took the day off work and spent it in ‘zoned-out’ activities of reading, watching DVDs, writing, and making my own birthday cake. In the evening I went into town with some co-workers and watched a movie – which in itself was uplifting.

Surprisingly the day of what would have been our 37th anniversary meant nothing to me. I had thought that there would be some sort of sadness, some nostalgia. But there was nothing, no emotion, no pain. I am not sure whether this was because I had emotionally detached myself from my husband or not, or whether I actually had come through my grief to a point of calm acceptance to where I am. Whatever the reason, I felt nothing – no ups, no downs. I did not spend the day wallowing in self-pity or missing the years gone by or mourning the lost dreams for the future. However, I also did not feel on this day any sense of achievement in reaching our ‘nearly 37 years’ milestone, nor any sense of gratitude towards the one I had shared those years with. On this day there was no bitterness, there was no praise, there was nothing.

My husband sent me a letter. He had obviously  been reflecting on things. I do not know what he was expecting of me in writing me the letter. I am in a different place than him, with it being him who had chosen this path and therefore him having to continually justify it, to absolve himself from any guilt I suppose. My place is different. The action of separation was thrust upon me, not my choice. My course ahead was not to have to find reasons or justifications for what had happened. My course ahead was to eventually come to a state of accepting that what had occurred was beyond my control and cannot be changed.

What can be changed, what I can control, is my response to my situation and to make my own path forward.

Week 20 – Disentanglement

Week 20

As I continued to live in the moment of each day at the height of a glorious down-under summer and enjoying my walks in the early mornings, and the views to the valley; my soul continued to wrestle with itself in a search for an answer to my identity. It is difficult to explain how entangled a person becomes in a partnership spanning some 40 years. You become half of a whole, acting in unison.You feel responsible for the happiness of your other half which you believe will therefore also bring about the happiness of the whole.

When this does not happen, when the happiness does not come to the other half, when that half falls over, then the whole deck of cards falls down with it. Their happiness, your happiness. As you are actually half of that whole, you too fall over. All the time you grapple with the conflict of being pulled down by your other half, of not surviving as half of a whole, yet at the same time still feeling responsible for the survival of the whole.

When such an entangled partnership ends suddenly through no choice of your own, there is still care there even for the person who inflicted so much pain by the action of leaving. To develop an emotional detachment from that person or an indifference is the exact opposite to the way you have behaved for forty years. Yet such a detachment is vital for one’s own happiness and sense of self.

I previously posted when I reached that point and made the decision to emotionally detach. However, before I was able to do that, it was necessary for me to go through a process of accepting certain things and disentangling myself from each of those things. This did not happen all at once but over a period of time. Firstly, I had to accept that I was not responsible for my husband’s happiness, not now or ever, even when we were together. Secondly, I accepted that I was not responsible for his actions or behaviour. Thus, as long as I remained considerate and behaved calmly and with care and compassion, it was not my responsibility for his reaction to anything I may say or do.  Thirdly, I accepted that the person I wanted my partner to be was in conflict with the way he actually behaved by the actions that he took …. and that hurt. Fourthly, I accepted I had a right to my own needs, to my own opinion and to be treated fairly. I had a right to voice that. Fifthly, I accepted that I can survive and thrive without this relationship. I do not need it. I will make it on my own.

There was one last step. I had to let go of the hook; that emotional, psychological stake of the guilt – “Can’t we be friends for the sake of the children – tearing at my heartstrings, knowing that I love my children more than life itself and not wanting to cause them any more grief.

Yet for my own self-preservation, I had to do let go of that too. I had to disentangle myself from the union as a whole and see myself as me, myself, and I.

Week 18 – Somebody that I used to know

Week 18:
Yesterday I ran into my husband in the street – literally – as I would have walked straight past him if he had not waved his hand in front of my face when we were two inches from each other. He looked different, having lost a lot of weight and he was growing a beard and he was dressed in different types of clothes than he would have previously worn. Still, one would think one would would have recognised more easily one’s partner of some 40 years.

I felt no emotion at all…a nothingness. I thought of all the tears I had wept for the man that was in my head. But this was not the man that was inches away from me now, this was not the man I was crying for, not the life that I felt I was missing, not the companion who is gone from my life. This person is completely foreign to me, on a different planet, in a different world. I think I have been living the illusion of what was and what might have been and not what has or had become. This person, the person before me this day on the street, this person was not the husband or the life I was grieving. This person was simply someone that I used to know ………

“Somebody That I Used To Know”
by Gotye

Now and then I think of when we were together
Like when you said you felt so happy you could die
Told myself that you were right for me
But felt so lonely in your company
But that was love and it’s an ache I still remember

You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness
Like resignation to the end, always the end
So when we found that we could not make sense
Well you said that we would still be friends
But I’ll admit that I was glad it was overBut you didn’t have to cut me off
Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing
And I don’t even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough
No you didn’t have to stoop so low
Have your friends collect your records and then change your number
I guess that I don’t need that though
Now you’re just somebody that I used to know

Now you’re just somebody that I used to know
Now you’re just somebody that I used to know

Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over
But had me believing it was always something that I’d done
But I don’t wanna live that way
Reading into every word you say
You said that you could let it go
And I wouldn’t catch you hung up on somebody that you used to know

But you didn’t have to cut me off
Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing
And I don’t even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough
No you didn’t have to stoop so low
Have your friends collect your records and then change your number
I guess that I don’t need that though
Now you’re just somebody that I used to know

(I used to know)
(Now you’re just somebody that I used to know)

(I used to know)
(That I used to know)
(I used to know)

Week 14 – Detachment

Week 14 – Detachment – December 2011

“Man cannot discover new oceans until he has the courage to lose sight of the shore” Andre Gide

Up to this point my husband had been around a fair bit, collecting his things, discussing finances etc. He wanted our relationship to be the same as before – except for living apart – and for us to openly be ‘friends’ with each other. I was still in so much pain that I simply froze in his presence which he took as a personal affront. For me to survive, I needed time to heal and to have an emotional separation from him which he was not giving me. I had to be strong enough to ask him for it.

This was not a straight forward process. Firstly, I had to finally face the happy-ever-after as it really was – an illusion. You know, that journey of the grief process and finally coming to a state of acceptance. I had to come to a state of accepting the happy-ever-after as an illusion and let go of it. Secondly, I had to emotionally detach from my husband by letting go – or standing aside – from those feelings of love and care I held for him right up until the very moment of separation. This was not easy and it took a considerable mental attitude from my part. It was a difficult and necessary part of my own healing – for me. Thirdly, I had to mentally separate my issues from his issues and let go of his. They were not my responsibility. They were no longer my problem. I let go of them. Fourthly, I worked at setting up an emotional distance by moving myself from a state of ‘reacting’ to ‘acting’ in his presence. ‘Reacting’ is the ‘fight – flight – or freeze’ response one often takes to a stressful situation. ‘Acting’ is a more measured planned response; by allowing time and space to absorb a situation and offering a true and honest response. Giving in to his requests or ‘freezing’ simply to save the pain of an argument is not an honest response. Fifthly, I set myself healthy boundaries by aiming to make a clear statement to him without an extensive discussion. ‘This is what I need. This is why.’ End of story. Lastly, I learned to quieten my mind and, having made my decision, to let go of all those things about the situation that I could not control – including his response.

Having worked out my action, I contacted him. I explained that after thirty seven years of marriage and four beautiful children, many worthwhile projects together, sharing triumphs and tragedies, after the sanctuary of marriage and all that means, and because I was still suffering the pain of abandonment without choice or discussion; that friendship was not at this point in time an option for me. He would have to let me go.

This was one of the most difficult things I have ever done and yet one of the most important.

Afterwards I was calm and I was at peace with myself.


Week 11 – All about ‘stuff’

Week 11 – Our monster garage sale was held over the weekend … good-bye to meaningless ‘stuff’ …….

Over four weekends my adult children had helped me with our property of 17 acres, mowing lawns, clearing out under the balcony, the Bar-B-Q area and the sheds. Half empty paint pots, rusted gardening implements, plastic garden chairs, tools, camping gear, sporting gear, boxes, suitcases, board games, tables, chairs, building cut-offs, rolls of wire, old mattresses, chests of drawers – where did it all come from? We had pulled out sale-able items to be sold at the garage sale; and had skips and trailer loads of rubbish taken to the tip. Then it was all gone.

I am revelling in my life becoming less cluttered, both inside and out. As the layers of my life were peeled off and thrown away, there was some sadness in the life that was, and more sadness for the life that had become – a world of ‘stuff’ and what all that meant – or didn’t mean. That is now all gone. It is no longer glaring at me, distressing me, all this meaningless ‘stuff’ that held no meaning to me anymore. Whilst there is still a lot to do, there have been huge steps made in ridding myself from it all. I can now take my home under my wing and make it the sanctuary I would like it to be – for me – and a place that the children can still come home to. A place of peace and calmness.

Later in the evening when the children had gone and I was all alone, I could not remember seeing the baby clothes – those precious reminders of my children as tiny ones. I became absolutely frantic. I looked everywhere. I went up to the shed and shone my car lights on. I could not see them. I went down to the house and looked in every cupboard. I could not find them. I could not sleep. I got up at day-break and had another search in the day-light. Still no baby clothes. I cried my eyes out. All this STUFF that now meant nothing to me that had been cluttering up my life, and now I have lost the happy memories of a most precious time. I began pining for them. I did some household chores trying to distract myself. Then I tried looking again – all through the house, and again in the shed. I moved boxes around one by one until – finally – I found them. They were under another box of ‘stuff’.  I took them down to the house and put them in a safe place with other mementos of the children’s and with my photos. I took some out out and I smelt them and held them to my cheek and the wonderful memories of my children as babies and of our happy times came flooding back to me. I cried and I cried.

Later on that day I felt calmer and just a trifle silly. I could not believe how my mood had changed so swiftly from feeling OK after the garage sale and revelling in feeling free from clutter to one of being completely distraught over the lost baby clothes. It was as though one half of me as ‘wife’ had been ripped away from me with no choice so that all the ‘stuff’ that went with it now held no meaning to me; but please, please, please, don’t let me lose my other half of my self – my motherhood. Please don’t take that away from me as well!

In reality, it is all just ‘stuff’, stuff we cling onto. Baby clothes or no baby clothes, my stirrings as a mother were still inside of me. They would never be lost or taken away. They were part of me. The real me was still there inside. My soul was still there – here. I am still here, trudging along through life; step by step.

Week 6 -First meeting

Week 6 – Friday 28 October 2011

We had our first financial meeting with our accountant. It was at this stage simply an initial gathering of information but I found myself in this abhorrent situation of our life’s professional work of togetherness and what was supposed to bring us both to the point of financial security being put in front of us; and then very clinically and coldly we were holding discussions about the process of how to go about splitting this all up and we were now both sitting on opposite sides of the table. I could not take this all in – and in my head I was mixing the emotional issues with the financial issues. I could not suppress the negative thoughts, the apprehension, and the fear of how I would survive.

I wanted to scream out “But this is all supposed to be for US! There is still supposed to be an US!!!”

But I didn’t. I kept quiet. It was all overwhelming for me and I went back to coping by detaching myself from the moment in order to survive the pain.

I knew that before I could face this part of the separation – the financial separation – I would have to disentangle it from the emotional aspects. It was too early for me to do that.