I was up before sunrise today and decided to tackle the smaller of the two sheds. This was a bit messy …
So it was a day of thinking back, saying good-bye, yet at the same time planning life going forward.
I felt 100% relaxed.
I was up before sunrise today and decided to tackle the smaller of the two sheds. This was a bit messy …
So it was a day of thinking back, saying good-bye, yet at the same time planning life going forward.
I felt 100% relaxed.
I had breakfast on the balcony looking east to the valley, and looking south to the river. The birds were singing. The river was making its way to the coast, burbling as it went. The sun was shining. The sky was blue. It was truly a magnificent start to the day. The peace and serenity of this magnificent paradise will be very hard to say good-bye to.
Last night, it was dark soon after I arrived. I ended up not having time to do very much. I watched some TV and then put on a DVD. I watched ‘I am Sam’. I cried all the way through it. For some reason, I was suddenly very overcome with emotion. That movie and its message of human connection and kindness really hit home to me.
I put my heart and soul into raising my children, teaching them life values of care and devotion, and steadfast dependability of being there for them … always. This home provided that strength and stability through its peace and tranquility. I will certainly miss that strength it provided me with.
I spent the day pondering, not doing much of what had to be done (all the packing) yet not fully being able to relax, knowing there was so much that had to be done.
So I made up lists. I wrote down all the rooms in the house and all the places outside. I wrote down all the cupboards and all the nooks and crannies. I wrote down everything that needed to be sorted and everything that needed to be done. I worked out which pieces of furniture I would need and which pieces I did not.
Then I did a puzzle.
I did some artistic work.
I did a bit of writing.
I spent some time on the balcony.
And inside looking down to the river.
And at my desk in my office.
And at the kitchen table looking east.
And from the reading room (ex-TV room), looking to the valley.
Peace. Tranquility. Calmness.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Then after dinner, I had a spurt of frenetic activity.
I began to sort out some cupboards – only two – but it was a start.
The beginning of the end.
Of that phase of my life.
I have returned from a road trip to NSW visiting many friends and relatives, as well as my main project of sorting through my mother’s unit. I have been away nearly three months and, while I had visions of writing a lot while away, I became so busy the blog posts just didn’t happen. I became engrossed in living life and as such … there simply wasn’t time.
I stayed at Mum’s unit most of the time and re-connected with those in her neighbourhood and community, as well as getting myself into a fairly healthy routine of a morning walk of about an hour and another half hour walk each afternoon.
I had a nostalgic transportation back in time. All aspects of my life became intermingled as I sorted through Mum’s things, and I explored my old neighbourhood. I rediscovered my grandparents through their letters and photos. I lived in a bygone era as I read my mother’s diaries of the war and depression – a time that I had never lived in and my mother had kept alive – an era that had died with her death which became alive again as I sorted through her things. I relived my childhood and my teenage years each day walking the length and breadth of my old childhood town. I spent valuable time with my siblings, some cousins and close friends.
Most importantly, however, I had a break from the “restructuring” of my life, that has been ongoing for the past four and a half years. I spent 10 weeks staying still, living for the day, and drinking in those small moments of contentment each and every day. For 10 weeks I put aside the practicalities of my own life changes ahead and simply was … me.
I had a fantastic time.
I hope to catch up with you all over the coming weeks.
Since my marriage collapse, my home has been my sanctuary, a bedrock of certainty; providing me with strength, stability and comfort. I have written about my need for stability and the comfort my home provides here, here, here, here, here and here.
Some time ago I wrote that I was now ready to move and make a new life somewhere else. It is interesting that since I made that decision, my home no longer feels like home to me. In part, this growing negative feeling has been been due to the sorting of the business documents which was a mammoth task and quite distressing at times – with painful memories and negative feelings surfacing as I reviewed records and documents. Then Christmas came and went. It was wonderful to have all the family home. I was back in my element with my home and family my comfort. But now, with everyone else back in their own life, my mood has changed again and the desire to move is very strong.
Over the past three weeks I have been away, spending two weeks with my siblings sorting through my mother’s things and a week with my grand-children. As I drove home, I started to become anxious and, once inside, instead of the usual comforting ‘home at last’ feeling that I would normally get, I felt suddenly and dramatically quite down. There are a few factors at play here.
Firstly, having had three weeks with other family members, the aloneness hit me hard.
Secondly, while sorting through things of my mother (who was a hoarder) I had thoughts that I should have a proper sort through of all my own things before I move. With that thought in mind, when I returned home and looked around at what that would entail, I became overwhelmed at yet another mammoth ‘sorting’ project ahead of me. I knew that if I sorted to my own ‘must do everything meticulously’ standards, I would be here forever.
Thirdly, I have been craving quiet time. I wondered whether I would ever get to that place of peace and contentment.
Enough of all this negativity!
I am actually slowly moving forward and doing well at the moment. I am taking baby steps, baby steps across this bridge that I must traverse in order to get to my new life.
Here I go!
Initially when I was thrust unexpectedly into the world of divorce I could not cope. In order to survive, I put aside major decisions and strategic steps that would eventually need to be taken. I carved off one aspect to navigate at a time. I would then push through with each step until I was able to cope with that before moving onto the next. Sometimes it was not possible to deal with only one thing at a time simply because there was so much to deal with. It was still overwhelming. However, I did put aside everything that could be left. That was how I coped, putting things aside.
Gradually I worked through many steps that at first I thought I would not be able to handle – grieving for my lost marriage and intact family unit, overcoming the emotional aspects of abandonment and betrayal, finding my inner strength, selling the business, pushing through with all the legal and financial processes of the marital property settlement, and closing down all the joint legal entities until …
I was physically, emotionally, legally and financially alone. Me.
However, before I can really say that I have left behind my marriage in its entirety, there is one major hurdle left to do. Selling my home. My home has been my sanctuary over the past 35 years. It has seen me through the birth of all my children and their growing up years. It has welcomed friends, family, colleagues and community groups through its doors. It has provided me with a sanctuary as I have navigated triumphs and tragedies. As the children grew up and moved on, it remained a strength for me, saving many memories of their song and laughter within its walls…
My home looks out to the east to this vista:
It is comforting to rise and watch the sunrise each morning, coming up over my valley.
Even when the sun doesn’t rise, the valley still provides me with peace and privacy.
When my husband left me, my home and valley remained behind as my constant, the one thing in my life I could rely on. That reliability, that the sun would rise each day, that the valley would remain, was reassuring for me. In my busy frenetic navigating divorce ‘I-am-overwhelmed’ days, the valley would tug me back to make sure I paid gratitude for the day and be at peace with myself. Now my days are not so frantic, and I love having the time to sit in the warmth of the morning sun, drink in that sunshine, look out to the peaceful valley, and reflect in the peace and quiet.
In those early raw days, I could not bear the thought of ever moving. My home was all I had left of who I had been and the life I had led. I didn’t want to leave me behind. However, I have come to realize my home is also a constant reminder of my past life, our marital life, a life that I now wish to leave behind me. Over the past six months, I have spent some time moving about between my mother’s place and spending time with my friends and family, and especially more time with my grand-daughters. Or I have stayed home. Each time I come home, I am no longer getting that feeling of protection or security from my home. Instead I am feeling constrained, even imprisoned. Imprisoned in the past, blocked from the future. There are little flashes of hurtful memories here and there keeping me back in the past. There are little pieces of present commitments to my home, stopping me moving on to my future.
I thought after the trauma of the drawn-out marital settlement finally being over, with the death of my mother coming about the same time, I would take a year to just sit back in the comfort of my home before I moved on. I thought that I would need that year, that I would want that year. I don’t.
There is, of course, a fair bit to do in order to make that happen. That is my next project. To make it happen.
For the past forty years it seems my life has been one hectic event after another – marriage and travel and children and work and community involvement and celebrations.
I had holidays, of course, but they were always squeezed in between one hectic period and another. There was always the ‘working through into the night’ to get things done in the days before in order to be able to get away or have time off, then more of the same catching up on my return. Business things, house things, community things, family things. In many ways it was never ever a true break as there were always thoughts in my head about things waiting for me on my return.
Now … that isn’t the case.
Such is the joy of my ‘permanent time off’ (I hesitate to call it retirement) days.
I have mixed feelings.
In some ways I feel a bit lost with no sense of purpose. For so long I absolutely craved this time with nothing to do. Now that it is here, I feel a bit aimless, a little lifeless, with thoughts each morning of ‘what will I do today?’ Some days the answer comes back as ‘not much’ and that feels scary. On other days, however, the answer comes in ‘whatever you like’ and a warm fuzzy feeling of sheer bliss washes over me.
Another significant thing that I have mixed feelings about is that I am now more truly alone. While I was working, there were always the people at work who knew where I was (or at least where I was supposed to be) and when. Now there is no-one. There is no-one to report my subtle little daily activities to. I can go out, or not go out. I can have a really busy day or I can do nothing. And no-one knows. If I go out and do not get home, there is no-one to know that I haven’t. I could disappear and no-one would know for hours. The advantage to that is that I only have to answer to myself. If I have a ‘restful’ day, I no longer feel lazy. (Thanks to my blogging friend Julie for this insight). If I write a few letters or make a sandwich – I can count that as satisfactory achievements for the day and there is no-one to say otherwise. I can feel good about everything I do.
A third significant thing is the drop in emails and mail that I am getting. A lot. While at first it was strange to check and find that there was nothing there, after a few months of this, I now find that sometimes I even forget to check. While initially it made me feel ‘unloved’, I now think this is fantastic! It is probably the most significant change in my life. I am no longer glued to my phone or computer, on edge as to to how many emails need answering and the work that each one means to me.
Lastly, there is my now (almost) non-existent ‘to-do’ list. There is no downside to that, just the joy in the disappearance of the constant feeling of ‘how on earth am I going to find time to deal with all this’. The to-do list is gone. The feeling of dread is gone.
So what do I do?
I open the blinds in the morning to let the sun shine in.
Then I take my day as it comes.
And sometimes I go outside and smell the roses.
Oh what luxury! 🙂
“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.” from Kindness, poem by Naomi Shihab Nye
Life around the corner (that corner that I got to after I got out of the mud and went a little way down the path and found a bend in the road and I took it) is sunny and warm; with blue skies, green grass and kind friendly people having fun.
This has surprised me because they are the same people who were there before, when I was stuck in the mud, yet for some reason I failed to see their kindness, I did not notice their friendliness and I most certainly had no time to join in their fun.
Is it that I am acting more with kindness and friendliness to those people and they are responding to my warmth and opening their hearts. We are laughing, having fun together.
It wasn’t that I didn’t chat before, or I that I was unkind, or unfriendly; it was just that when I was in the mud I had to keep going or I would get stuck. I had to keep going and going and had no time for idle chit-chat. I could not extend a hand to help others because that may have pulled me under and make me sink. I had to protect myself from the storm clouds above, from the driving wind blowing in my face, and the mud below and ahead of me. I was so busy protecting myself and looking down at the mud that I did not notice the people and their situations and their faces. Those people are people – just like me. Sometimes they have been in mud of their own, and sometimes not.
Now the road is clear and I am looking up at their faces.
I can hear their stories – of the young gentleman at the firm where I had my car serviced who did not like the atmosphere at his previous job; of the lady from whom I bought my new kitchen pots who has a husband who is unwell; and the twice-divorced receptionist at my lawyers with a 30 year old son whom she adores, yet is lonely living on her own.
I can see their friendliness – the doctor’s receptionist embracing yet joking about their new computer program; my hair-dresser encouraging me in a new style for my hair; the sales-lady in the department store offering colour suggestions for my clothes.
I can feel their kindness – of that same sales-lady taking me around the store to find some matching accessories; of the manager of the department store allowing me to take my time with my purchases and then escorting me down the lift (elevator) as it was a bit spooky being the only one left in a huge department store 45 minutes after closing time!
These are interactions I am having with people in my everyday life as I now have an everyday life. I am now doing everyday things – an annual doctor’s check (six months overdue), hair-cut (four months overdue), car service (two years overdue, so low was its priority), buying new pots instead of putting up with old ones with no handles, luxuriating in buying new clothes rather than wearing the same clothes day in and day out for four years; and attending to my own legal affairs after years and years of attending to joint affairs.
In life around the corner, I have time for everyday life and within that everyday life I have found kindness and friendliness. It is all around me, everywhere I look, flowing from the crucibles of human life stories, pouring forth for me to drink and quench my thirst.
(Disclaimer: My apologies to all those in happy, healthy, monogamous, caring, understanding relationships with partners who love being together and yet who give each other space to be individuals.)
1. Previous thought: I was abandoned.
New thought: I was set free
2. Previous thought: I have no-one to protect me.
New thought: I have no-one to hold me back.
3. Previous thought: I have suffered intolerable losses of assets and income.
New thought: I do not have to stress about what someone else is spending.
4. Previous thought: I am alone in making tough decisions.
New thought: I am able to make my own choices – on absolutely everything.
5. Previous thought: I do not have a soul-mate to share my life with.
New thought: I do not have to compromise on anything, especially values and beliefs.
6. Previous thought: I am trapped in this prison between past and future.
New thought: I am in this wonderful place of now.
I am free. 🙂
Image courtesy[master isola]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“Peace involves inevitable righteousness, justice, wholesomeness, fullness of life, participation in decision making, goodness, laughter, joy, compassion, sharing and reconciliation. “ Desmond Tutu
In 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)
I 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.
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.”
This is the seventh in a series of posts on ‘My Responsibilities’.
No-one likes to talk about money and I am going to break through that barrier and talk about it anyway. We talk about happiness yet are reluctant to admit the part money plays in that or its role in our sense of security, one of our basic needs.
To comprehend the financial impact of divorce, there are issues to be understood.
A. Where Does Money Come From?
B. What Are Our Needs From Money?
C. How Much Money Is Enough?
Studies show increased stress in people who cannot meet essential needs. Above that, happiness levels rise to a point. Thereafter, increasing levels of income do not produce a greater level of happiness.
D. How Much Money Do I Need?
Approaching sixty, I would be happy if I owned my home, was debt-free, had adequate retirement funds to provide a comfortable lifestyle, with a little savings tucked away. I am not there yet.
E. What Is a Comfortable Lifestyle?
A basic lifestyle provides only for essentials. A modest lifestyle provides some non-essential items such as insurance, communication and owning your own car. A comfortable lifestyles allows some lifestyle choices such as occasional travel, entertainment and hobbies but nothing extravagant.
You need to account for higher costs in clothes and transport if working, additional costs if you have dependents, any house mortgage / debts, and amounts to put away in savings.
What Is The Impact Of Divorce?
I was travelling along earning a living, leading a comfortable lifestyle, and accumulating savings. After divorce it will be gone – the accumulated savings, the comfortable lifestyle, the means of earning a living.
(a) Depleted asset base
Approaching sixty, we had our house and investments for retirement. One important point to understand in divorce is that, even though one may have a sound ‘total asset’ base, as far as providing for living costs into the future, only those assets available for investment can be counted, not those funds tied up in the home. Come divorce, there are two houses to come out of our total asset pool, one for me, one for him.
The remainder of our assets are crumbling away in divorce costs, forced sale of investments in a poor economic climate, and the impact of the divorce on the business value. This depleted asset base will be halved and the resultant asset base for each will be about one fifth our original investment base. This is, looking at part A above, a catastrophic change to financial affairs for someone approaching retirement.
(b) Earnings through employment or business
My new asset base, if I retired today, would struggle to provide me with basic living costs throughout my retirement years. As that is distressing, I initially chose to continue with the business. After my epiphany, and wanting closure on our previous life, the business will now go. There goes the second source of money from part A above, the means of earning a living.
(c) Impact On Lifestyle
As a single person, my living costs are as much as three quarters of that of a couple, yet the financial ramifications of divorce will see me losing both my source of earnings and sound asset base.
I have pondered and researched these impacts. What I have learned is:
1) I am better off than many. After divorce, some end up with just their home, no home and / or mountains of debt.
2) What I previously thought was ‘comfortable’, was in fact a ‘luxury’ lifestyle, (though still not extravagant). What I previously thought were ‘essentials’ (such as owning a car and having insurance), are in fact discretionary.
3) Money does not make you happy. Inner peace makes you happy. However, there is a minimum money requirement for peace and happiness. If you don’t believe me, watch this closing movie scene where Will Smith finds himself out of the soup kitchens into secure employment.
How I plan to provide myself with a level of happiness that, for me, means a ‘comfortable’ lifestyle will be the topic of my next 2 posts.
Image courtesy of [CoolDesign]: FreeDigitalPhotos.net