This is the sixth in a series of posts on ‘My Responsibilities’
After food and shelter, one of our primal basic needs is safety, peace and comfort. This can be provided by a place, a person, an activity, or by a combination of these. I wrote about my own need for stability in an earlier post. Previously my marriage provided me with this feeling as no matter where I went, what I did, or whatever adversities befell me; I felt safe and secure. Since my marriage collapsed, I have gained this sense of stability and comfort from my home. From my childhood days of playing ‘house’ to a strong nesting instinct when pregnant, I have always been aware of the comfort my home provides me. I have clung on to my home as my source of refuge, as my relief from distress and turmoil, as my source for solitude, as a means of feeding my mothering instincts with visits from my family. It has been my one constant in the unravelling of my previous life.
Whilst I have been comforted staying in my home since my marriage ended, and initially revelling in living my way within its walls, I have grown to realise that it has actually been living our life, my way, rather than making a new life of my own. Since my epiphany I have been striving to break free to live my life. This will mean a gradual process of selling the business, the commercial property housing the business, then selling my home to release capital for retirement. At that point it will mean leaving behind my one constant, my sanctuary.
For a period after my epiphany, my mind fast-forwarded to where I would be in about 3 years and I resented being where I was. I was coming home alone at night to the cold and dark. It was dreary and depressing. I began neglecting my home. Then the downward spiral began of neglect, followed by being overwhelmed by what it would take to get back routine and order, followed by losing the sense of comfort it previously provided, to seeing only a mountain of work and yet another thing I have to face.
Being uplifted by my daughter visiting last week, the sun coming out this weekend, and early spring flowers beginning to bloom, I have now recharged. In the spirit of my recent posts on responsibilities, I have taken on board getting my home back in order and restoring it as my sanctuary, yet also preparing it for my eventual move. At the same time, I will spend this transition period drinking in the last remaining time I have here, taking in every sunrise, looking at every blossoming flower, watching the moods of the river and valley opposite, reliving every happy memory I have had here with my children, of our previous happy family life. Then, when all that is done, it will be time for me to move on.
Plans to make MY Home MY Sanctuary
1. De-clutter immediate space.
2. Rid the house of ‘our’ stuff.
Note: I had previously rid myself of ‘his’ stuff. It is time for the next step.
3. Go in small manageable steps; one drawer, one cupboard, one box at a time.
4. Pack up ‘our’ stuff. Send it to him for him to deal with.
5. Avoid further clutter by not buying any more ‘stuff’.
6. Have a look around at everything left and decide whether I really need it or not.
7. Chuck out anything I don’t need, anything not used for two years, gifts given to me I don’t really want, clothes that will never fit again, and anything kept ‘just in case’.
8. Enjoy the space and freedom a minimalist habit without ‘stuff’ brings.
9. Revel in the peace and calmness that has taken the place of ‘stuff’.
10. Develop a routine to keep things this way by putting away things when not in use, having a quick daily tidy-up and a proper fortnightly one. Resolve to do an annual clean-up.
11. Look out and enjoy the views to the valley and the river every day.
12. Keep smiling and stay calm.
“I am responsible to maintain my home as a refuge of joy, peace, comfort and relaxation.”
Image courtesy of [amner]: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
At a time of crisis, say after a flood or earthquake, people’s needs return to those very basic needs of food, water and shelter as they begin to rebuild their lives. The ending of a marriage is similar to such a crisis, especially if it is unexpected and sudden. It rocks the very foundation of your life; your self-esteem, relationships, your emotional and financial security. As everything comes crashing down, to cope and survive you cocoon yourself by 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. In the early days post separation, in a state of turmoil, I was comforted by focussing on my basic needs for some months by following a healthy diet, engaging in a gentle exercise programme, and restoring routine and order back into my daily life. Then my initial enthusiasm wavered. Why?
- Reason # 1: I became overwhelmed by the ‘big-picture’ changes required of me. I did not have the time, energy or inclination to focus on trivial daily activities.
- Reason # 2: I did not see who would benefit from what I was doing.
- Reason # 3: I was focussing on short-term gains rather than long-term outcomes.
- Reason # 4: Doing the right thing seemed like deprivation (eg dieting, budgeting).
Pep talk to self:
These are all just excuses.
– It is time to stop blaming the divorce and its emotional upheaval for my lack of inclination to do what is right for me.
– Having spent all my adult life putting my family first, it has been difficult to put myself first. I have to keep reminding myself that the person who will benefit from all this effort is me. I am important enough to make that happen. Moreover I can only be good for others if I am strong and healthy and calm myself.
– When short-term goals (eg: weight loss) are the focus, rather than long-term outcomes (eg: good health), enthusiasm wavers at times of stress or when a short-term goal has been achieved and then discarded.
– After a while, if habits are formed and results are seen, the effort will no longer be seen as deprivation but just how it is.
– Keep going, you are worth it.
So lets begin……..
I have listed here aspects of three basic needs that I will be taking responsibility for, together with a long-term desired outcome for each and the first steps to take to get there. I will be posting brief progress reports on the side panel of my blog in each of these areas; and over the coming weeks will outline the plans in more detail.
My desired outcome: To remain independent, fit, healthy, and active into my old age.
- Follow a healthy eating pattern one day at a time.
- Engage in a regular exercise programme for at least 5 days a week.
- Spend some time each day in a relaxing activity.
- Keep up with my annual medical checks
Home and Routine
My desired outcome: Simplification of my life to reach a state of calm
- Get into a daily and weekly routine for my activities
- Achieve a balance of work, home, and leisure.
- Simplify and de-clutter my surroundings
My desired outcome: Financial independence
- Set a budget. Cut down discretionary spending. Stick to the plan.
- Plan for a secure financial retirement
- Take control of personal affairs.
Message to self:
“I am responsible for my own health, sense of calm, my home and my finances”.
Image Courtesy [Digitalart] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“I’m here to be me, which is taking a great deal longer than I had hoped”.
I have recently written a series of posts exploring my needs. Thinking through those needs led me one day to have an epiphany, a sudden realisation of where my life was actually heading. So very clearly that day I could see that I did not want that. That direction was not right for any of my needs, for my health, my stability, my financial security, for my need to be needed. It made me take a good hard look and understand the difference between what I thought I should be doing and what was in my heart. So in an instant I decided to take my life in another direction, albeit that it may take me some time to put those desires in place.
As described earlier, one of the reasons I found it difficult to think about my needs was the fact that I felt that I had become the discarded consequence of another person’s supposed needs and wants having taken precedence over me and everything I had ever known and treasured: our family unit, our values, beliefs and responsibilities. I felt that I could not discard them as well and in particular my sense of ‘responsibility’. In amongst my sense of responsibility was holding onto the dreams and aspirations we had as a couple and seeing those through. That meant keeping the house and the business. In my epiphany, I realised that direction was not right for me as an individual and as a single person alone approaching sixty years of age. A voice inside me screamed out
I DO NOT WANT THIS!
Fair enough. I have now stated what I do not want.
It has taken an absolute crisis and eighteen months of soul-searching to finally realise and state what I do not want.
What is it that I do want?
My needs have been explored.
What about my wants?
Needs are distinguished from wants as a deficiency of needs causes a negative outcome. Wants are extra to our needs. We can live without them. If I found it difficult stating my needs, then exploring my wants makes me feel truly self-centred. Yet, divorce and living alone gives me that luxury of being able to do that. So here goes.
THIS IS WHAT I TRULY WANT FROM MY LIFE
- Inner peace
- Time with my loved ones
I have come to realise that my wants are not than far removed from my needs. They are not selfish or over-indulgent. The greatest challenge for me is to actually prioritise as my responsibility the fulfilling of those needs and wants, and accepting that it is all right for me to do so.
“The key is not to prioritise your schedule, but to schedule your priorities”
Image Courtesy [David Castillo Dominici] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I have an in built urge to help people.
To assist people in need.
To enable people to do their best.
As a child
I was the one who stayed inside with my friend when she was laid up with a leg injury.
I was the one who walked behind with the disabled girl, when the others charged ahead.
I helped others with their school assignments.
As a wife and mother
I put my heart and soul into helping my children do their very best.
I supported my husband in many projects and in his work.
As a friend and co-worker
I was the supporter for friends and neighbors with their own children.
I became the leader in business, helping others reach their potential.
I really really miss having my children around, and of them needing me.
I miss the nurturing role that I had in my former career.
I miss being needed.
Still, I am proud of who I am and what I have achieved.
There is another, less positive side to this trait.
I am Mrs Fixit
In my marriage, my husband was always the one with the grand idea and then we would work and accomplish things together and have fun along the way. Then there would be, for him, the next exciting project to begin and build on. Meanwhile, the original project still needed maintaining or “fixing” whether that be maintenance in an investment property, or appliances that required repair, or bills and loans that still needed paying. And sometimes when things did not quite work out, it was me who worked a way out of our predicament.
That was my job. Fixing.
Picking up the broom and sweeping up the mess.
Fixing is draining.
There is no glamorous reward or a sense of achievement and accomplishment.
No accolades or thank-yous.
Do I want to continue to be Mrs Fix-it?
Do I need this?
Or do I want and need a different role going forward, one that brings out my former nurturing instincts and makes me feel good about myself?
That is the question I ask myself today.
That is the big question I am asking myself today for my life of tomorrows.
You may also wish to read:
Staying Strong by Ian Munro @ Leading Essentially
Friends Image courtesy [adamr] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Puzzle Image courtesy [renith krishnan] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
― Brené Brown
A need is something we require, yet we only feel its need when it is missing. If there is a need not being filled, we can feel anxious, stressed or depressed.
When my husband first left me, there was a gaping hole of where he used to be in my life. Gone were our daily interactions, our deep soul connection, the sharing of discussions and projects, sharing our past and dreams for the future. Gone was my significant other. It was a huge sense of loss and something I thought could never be replaced.
In my initial loneliness, getting out and trying to mix with people made me worse. I would see other couples doing things that we used to do together that now I was doing alone, albeit with a group, and there would be an ache inside of me. Trying to commit to too many people in an effort to form connections overwhelmed me. After a while I withdrew and became passive. This made me confront my solitude head on. I made friends with myself and became contended with my solitude. From that point I slowly branched out to others.
As time went on I realised my husband had previously provided many types of connections to me not simply that of spouse, and he filled in the gaps during life changes or when others drifted out of my life. It is possible for some of these to be provided by avenues other than a life partner. There has been the gradual connections with others to provide this since he left.The large emptiness that initially existed has gradually been filled by other people in my life, slowly step by step, including:
- Social connections.
I relate to people on a day-to-day basis by interacting at work, talking about what has been happening in my day, and upcoming events. Even small-talk interactions with people who attend to me when shopping etc is filling this need for daily connections.
- Stable connections.
This is having people I feel ‘home’ with, people who know me, understand me, care for me and accept me for who I am. I have returned to my roots for this connection with my mother, siblings and close friends; as well as with my own children.
- Meaningful Relationships.
I feel I have been connecting more with people. I am forming deeper bonds, getting to know people deep inside, and having them get to know me. I am interacting more one on one with a few key people, rather than having many friends at a superficial level. This gives me greater satisfaction of forming a meaningful relationship.
There are some remaining gaps in my needs.
- Intellectual Connections. My husband was my intellectual equal. We connected strongly on discussions and projects that stimulated and interested me socially, intellectually, and in community involvement. This is currently missing from my life. The intellectual gap has been filled to some degree by my blogging friends, and meaningful discussions with my family.
For social involvement and interactions, I will in time join a community interest group or become involved in a broader humanitarian project.
I am also craving support on business and financial issues and am aiming to get assistance on these.
- Significant Other.
I have lost forever my soul-mate and life partner, that one special person who cared for me and me for him above all others; sharing tender endearments; past history; present moments; and dreams for the future. I do not say I will never find another, however, it could never be the same as sharing forty years. That is gone forever. I accept that. I have grieved for that loss. I have processed this and it is no longer a need.
After filling our basic needs for comfort, stability and security, we all need human connections. These can be provided in many ways. For me, the hole of my missing need for connections is gradually filling. In time, I believe there will be enough over for me to start giving back.
Image courtesy [Photostock] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
A need is something that you feel anxious about if you do not have it. Once you have it the pain goes away. The gaping hole in my life where my financial security used to be has caused me much gut-wrenching anxiety in the past 18 months.
Yet no-body, including myself, wants to talk about money.
People spend a lot of time talking about what can be bought with money but not the money itself. People will discuss their travel, clothes, gadgets, houses, and cars. However, they do not discuss much about the money itself or where it comes from or how to get it or how much you need. In fact, in some circles a discussion on money is taboo. It is almost as if you are thought less of a person if you discuss money; and that thinking about money, or the lack of it, it is not a prized value to have.
After my separation, I initially spent a long-time focussing on emotional aspects of losing my partner and soul-mate, my fractured family unit, and the pain of the overwhelming grief, sadness and anxiety I felt about my changed life. Then during my recovering phase I spent some time re-evaluating my values, beliefs and attitudes of trust, kindness, compassion, hope, peace, courage etc No where amongst all that was there anything to do with money.
Part of that relates to the guilt of putting any importance on money. In the very beginning after a separation, when you are faced with abandonment, you do not care a toss about any material possession. There is a cathartic realisation that none of that matters. What matters is people and love and care and kindness. So months later when you start becoming very anxious about your changed financial affairs, you remember back that you concluded that money does not matter, and you feel guilty that now you think that maybe it does.
The truth is that even though we all do not want to talk about it, we all do need it in some form or another, and the changed money situation after a divorce can be catastrophic. I am not talking about greed, such as having innumerable world trips or accumulating beautiful things, I am talking about survival. Having adequate funds so that you can pay the bank debt or house mortgage or rent, pay for utilities, afford good medical care, be able to afford to see your family, then maybe having just a little left over for some savings. But above all, there is the need for some reassurance that what you now have will also not be lost, that this ‘less than half of the former estate’ will not somehow disappear by some other catastrophe.
I know that the values of human kindness and compassion are important. I understand that true happiness lies in seeking out long-lasting experiences of savouring pleasant moments, being grateful for what I have, and seeking out human connections. However, I also do crave that one day I will again own my own home debt-free, that I will be able to comfortably pay my bills on time, that I will have no credit card debt, and that I will be able to put away so that I will have adequate retirement savings for me to enjoy a financial-stress-free old age.
Maybe when that time comes, the anxiety at the pit of my stomach will ease.
I have added “Financial Security” to the list of my own fundamental needs.
Image courtesy [Stuart Miles] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I crave normality.
When I was in what I thought was a committed caring marriage, my sense of stability and security was that relationship and all that went with it – my home, my life companion, my secure finances, my rock of support, my sense of purpose. Even when I took a break from routine, by travelling or trying different things, it was both rewarding and exciting. That is because the feeling of security and stability went with me everywhere. It was an ingrained feeling deep inside of me, an inner core of happiness that I carried around with me. No matter where I went, what I did, or whatever adversities befell me; I felt safe and secure.
I need order
I need predictability
“We never understand how little we need in this world until we know the loss of it” James M Barrie
Human needs are described as “the elements required for survival and normal mental and physical health”. Psychologists sometimes list needs in groups such as basic needs (food, shelter, security); connections (companionship, intimacy); and higher needs (self-esteem, contribution). Needs are distinguished from wants as a deficiency causes a negative outcome. Moreover, you never realise that you require needs, until you do not have them. Then the ache sets in.
It has been reasoned that at a time of crisis, such as after an earthquake, people’s needs return to basics – for food, water, shelter. At those times there is little need for intellectual stimulation, education, or meaningful projects to fill their time.
The ending of a marriage is similar to a crisis or trauma, especially if it is unexpected, sudden and beyond your control. It rocks the very foundation of your life and threatens everything you ever had including your self-esteem, family, companionship; and emotional and financial security. Your fundamental needs of security, trust, and having some control over your own destiny, are destroyed in an instant. 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, and the comfort and security of a warm bed at night. You are thrown into a survival mind-set of fulfilling basic needs because everything else is gone.
In the weeks after my husband’s announcement, I felt as if there was nothing left. I became overwhelmed by the intensity of the emotions I was feeling. Almost as if a hurricane had hit me, scrambling from underneath the rubble of my former life, I walked around in a daze going through the motions of life like a zombie. Soon I protected myself by reclaiming some order in my everyday life by reestablishing my immediate space and following a fairly regimented daily routine. There I was to remain for many months before I could slowly begin rebuilding my life from the ground up – physically, emotionally and financially.
I read that ‘divorce is an opportunity to explore your own needs, wants and likes’. In the early days I tried to write down my needs and it drew a blank. It was thirty weeks before I was able to list my basic need for order and routine. It was nearly a year before I could list any higher level need such as a need to do meaningful projects. Yet the ache remained.
One of the reasons I found it difficult to list my needs, was the fact that I felt that I had become the discarded consequence of another person’s supposed ‘needs’ having taken precedence over everything else: the family unit, past history, dreams for the future, shared children and grand-children, responsibility, values and beliefs.
I did not agree with the concept that because I had been forsaken, that I should abandon my own fundamental beliefs, values and responsibilities for an over-riding selfish ‘need’. I needed (yes that became one of my needs) to firstly re-affirm my own core values and beliefs; and choose positive attitudes and responses to my life situation. I believed those would then underpin my own needs and guide me towards my responsibilities, aims and goals.
For example; as I affirmed my values include trust, care, dependability, and integrity; then I do not ‘need’ a companion for the sake of companionship if those values are compromised. Those values underpin my needs. Similarly, if I remain an optimistic person with a ‘can-do’ attitude; then I do not ‘need’ to be provided for.
With a now affirmed inner core of values, beliefs and attitudes; and a layer of calm strengthening my resolve; I am set to move out to my external world. The first place I shall begin is with myself, and my own needs, which I shall explore over my next series of posts.
Gradually I will reclaim those needs, take control of my life back, fulfill my responsibilities, set my goals and plans, and march forward.
Image courtesy of [Grant Cochrane] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net