My Life in transition #1 – Creating Certainty

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

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


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Holding on …….

ID-10073599. vlado

Feelings surrounding the ending of a marriage are similar to a grief process that one goes through when someone or something dies. However, any comparison with a death always breaks down for me whenever I got to the part where I am supposed to ‘integrate’ my loss by ‘holding on’ to happy memories and pride in the former relationship. That is because my memories have become confusing for me as to whether they happy, sad, or painful. Was everything that I previously held dear, a facade?

Recently I read a book on bereavement that described the situation where the one left behind had loved the dead person and yet had been treated poorly by them. In situations such as this, often the surviving ‘victim’ continually sees history through the other person’s eyes. In the book, the author suggests to ‘rewrite history’; and for the victim to go back over their life and to see everything through their own eyes.

The action of my husband suddenly leaving me, combined with the fact he then went on a tirade of running me down, markedly weakened my self-esteem. Whilst I have never believed I am worthless, it has been inevitable that some of the mud has stuck. In particular there are voices inside me that keep saying ‘you are not good enough’, ‘you could have done better’, ‘who you are and what you do is of no value’, ‘you do not deserve respect’ and all that is because ‘you do not matter’.

After reading the book, I realised some of that ‘mud’ was seeing things through his eyes, hearing his voice and not believing I mattered enough to put my own viewpoint across. I decided to go through the exercise suggested in the book of looking back over my life, of writing down my life through my eyes, and to leave behind his thoughts and opinions.

I relied on my memory for my early life and went through actual journals for events over the past 10 years. It was a time-consuming task. I spent the best part of a day reading and writing down events and aspects of my life. As I did, I made three remarkable discoveries.

1. I discovered that I am good enough. I always did the best I could do which was in fact in some situations a dozen times better than others could do in similar situations. What I did do and what I still do is of great value. I have made worthwhile contributions to my family, to my own self-achievements and to society. What I do, matters. As a person, I matter.

2. I realised not only was I not worthless but indeed the attitudes I had shown throughout my entire life could, given the right application, lead to great achievement. These attributes include a passion to learn; having a clear focus; hard work; a desire to be of service to others; the ability to push through self-doubt, set-backs and fatigue; and persistence.

3. My life, my marriage and my contributions to society have been successful. I am proud of what I have already achieved. I have not failed. I am proud of myself, my marriage and my family. I have happy and proud memories of what we did together as a family. Those memories are real. I will hold on to that and take that with me forever.

I will hold onto these discoveries as part of my inner core to provide me with strength.

You may ask what is so remarkable about these discoveries? What is the difference now compared to my previously written posts that spoke of my own inner strength to carve my own positive future? The difference now is I believe it. I believe it because when I looked back through my life (prior to my marriage ending), those negative voices of self-doubt did not exist. They are not my voice.

My own inner voice is one of optimism, resilience and of marching confidently forward to my own destiny.

That is the real me.


Image courtesy:[vlado]

Peace, fairness and divorce

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

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

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

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

Just reward (my marriage)

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

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

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

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

Compassion (my life)

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

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


Big failure.

Fair trial (the decision)

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

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

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

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



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

My wants


“I’m here to be me, which is taking a great deal longer than I had hoped”.
Anne Lamont

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


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.


  1. Inner peace
  2. Respect
  3. Longevity
  4. Time with my loved ones
  5. Calm

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”
Stephen Covey


Image Courtesy [David Castillo Dominici] /

My values # 5 Integrity


In my reflection on values of importance to me, it is fitting I include a post on integrity, perhaps the most righteous virtue to aspire to. Integrity is consistency of behaviour based on values or beliefs. The emphasis is an honest adherence to a value or belief; rather than any specific value or belief in the first place. The truth is you can make up your own code and not all are admirable. If you really want to live righteously and fairly, then ultimately your own code should include moral and ethical concepts.

Some of the beliefs I personally aspire to are: do no harm, compassion, fairness, fidelity, honesty, privacy, freedom, justice, democracy, human rights, proactive civil society, utilitarianism, use of science creatively not destructively, creativity, and pacifism.

However, integrity is more than beliefs. Integrity is acting on your beliefs, consistently.

One of my greatest beliefs is being part of a “proactive civil society”. I strongly believe I should contribute to society – give back. More than that, if there is something ‘not quite right’, then I should speak out or act to change it.

As a couple, my husband and I lived by that code. We were active on community issues. We acted in tandem, with me being the quiet yet determined researcher, the gatherer of information, the planner of strategies. My husband was the negotiator, the ‘voice’, drawing in supporters and believers by his gregarious nature. We believed in measured, well-delivered strategies by negotiation and community participation. One thing was for certain though, if it was an issue we believed in, we did not let it go. One could even say that on some social justice and environmental issues, we were a “formidable force”.

All of this belief system crumbled and was lost on his leaving me. Part of my deepest despair was trying to come to terms with ‘what did that all mean?’ I thought that it had been our strong family unit and us as a steadfast strong-minded couple that gave me the energy to speak out, the courage to make a difference. I thought that is was our professed family values based on fairness, dependability, tolerance, keeping promises, not lying or deceiving, and respecting others; that gave me my warm inner core of strength. So strong I was able to give back. So strong I was able to stand up for my beliefs, for people’s rights.

What happened to those values, those virtues, those morals, those beliefs that we stood for together? When he walked away from me, from our partnership, did he walk away from that belief system as well? I was the believer, the unshakable one. He was the voice. Was it all an illusion? Did I only act the way I did, did I only believe what I thought I believed, because he was beside me?

His leaving me rocked my belief system to its core.

If I truly believe (as I thought I did) that one should absolutely contribute as much as one can to society, to right the wrongs, to stand up and speak out; and if I truly believe (as I thought I did) that I have so much still to contribute; then if I have now been crumpled down to a dithering mess, unable to even think straight long enough to remember to take my green bags to the shop, let alone try and save the planet; then what has happened to my own beliefs; what has happened to my own integrity?

Over the past months, I have read other people grapple with this same issue. ‘What is wrong with me?’ they ask, as they care for sick loved ones, as they recover from surgery, as they grieve the loss of friends or family. I understand their plight and am able to assure them “you are going through a difficult time… be kind to yourself”. I am less kind to myself. I feel I have lost my own inner compass.

It is time to reassess my own direction.

In order to do that, I need to accept my true self for who I am now as a single person, my strengths and my limitations. I need to affirm my own individual beliefs and choose a level at which I am prepared and capable of acting on. I need to accept that until I have regained my inner strength, I may not be able to make a difference globally, nationally or even at a community level. However, l can still act by my own code within my own home, within my workplace and with my friends, family and acquaintances. Then, if I keep acting within my own belief system, I may say once again that I am living with integrity.

“In matters of principle stand like a rock” Thomas Jefferson

I am woman

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

Since the separation from my husband I have reflected often on who or what I am.

Having been with him some 40 years, having had 4 children together, and having worked and synergized together on so many worthwhile projects;  I had previously seen myself as half of a couple living in tandem; and in the roles I fulfilled as a wife and mother. With my husband gone and my children grown, I felt lost as to who or what I had now become.

It took me some time to see myself as an individual, rather than as half of a couple. In reaching that point, I came to the realisation that for many years – in the commitment I had made to my marriage – there had been for me an overwhelming feeling of responsibility for the happiness and needs of my husband. I was often caught up in seeing all life episodes through the lens of the effects on him. At times, I even I began living my life through his values, standards and priorities. These were not necessarily wrong. They were just not always the same as mine. As such, and with my quieter personality, I often went unseen and unheard with my real self melting away.

Now I have the opportunity to live by my own true self and to become the person I have always wanted to be.

Who is that person?

I thought in answering that question, I would begin with who I am right now that I cannot change. Then I can take a look at who I am inside me that I can change if I want to, or not if I do not want to. Then with the strength of that inner core, I may take myself on a wonderful journey of discovery as to who I would like to become.

This is who and what I am now that I cannot change. This is the point from which I will start the next part of my journey:

  • I am 58 years old.
  • I am an introvert.
  • I am a woman

I Am Woman
-Artist: Helen Reddy. -Words and Music by Helen Reddy and Ray Burton

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
’cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again

Oh yes I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman

You can bend but never break me
’cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
’cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul


I am woman watch me grow
See me standing toe to toe
As I spread my lovin’ arms across the land
But I’m still an embryo
With a long long way to go
Until I make my brother understand

Oh yes I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to I can face anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman
Oh, I am woman
I am invincible
I am strong

I am woman
I am invincible
I am strong
I am woman

Week 36 – Recipe for a bigger divorce pie

Week 36 May 28 2012. This week marked us agreeing to a property settlement – not signed, but at least agreed to.

I wrote earlier about the pain I had felt when I began to face the full fall-out of the financial insult that this break-up would bring upon me. Thinking over this predicament in the weeks since then had been a major factor in preventing me from moving forward in my life, of letting go of the life we had, of the future of us that will never be. Trying to accept the financial insult was a second wave of pain coming on top of the emotional pain.

Being together for 40 years and close to retirement years, the sums had been done many times. There was to be a pie with 40 pieces – one piece for each year together – that we had carefully put away. This pie of 40 pieces would have been adequate to provide us with a comfortable lifestyle income of about two pieces of pie per year. The initial shock on separation for me was that there would now only be 20 pieces of pie for me to live on, half of the original providing me with only one piece of pie a year to live on. This was a down-coming but not exactly horrific and being an optimistic person I came to accept this and tried to move on. However, slowly I came to realise that the Maths was all wrong. What struck me in April was the harsh reality of a much more severely depleted pie of only six pieces and only one fifth of our ‘couples’ pie.

Let me explain the Maths.

In the original pie of 40 pieces, 10 were tied up in the family home leaving 30 pieces for investment to provide the annual income of about two pieces of pie. In the post separation pie there is the reality of 8 pieces of pie being taken out for divorce proceedings, leaving 32 pieces to divide – 16 pieces each. From my half, once I take 10 pieces for the family home, I am left with only 6 pieces left to invest and live on – only one fifth of the original investment pie of 30 pieces! The equation is not a simple matter of dividing the total in two. Moreover the cost of living for a single person is more than half of that of a couple – with house and car costs incurred on one’s own. You actually require more than half to live on. Yet I would only be left with six pieces of pie to invest. How could I survive? As I sat working out the figures, turning them over, backwards and forward and upside down; there was also the horrible thought that the only way of getting more pieces of pie for myself was to become a combatant and fight against my husband through the courts, bringing up mud to fling, having to say vile and toxic things against the one person who up until 10 months before I had given my whole life and love to. I did not want to become that person necessary to get more pieces of the pie simply so that I could have a comfortable retirement. However, I was now on my own and I also did not want to have to fight for financial survival throughout my golden years. Financial survival versus soul survival. It seemed like a lose-lose situation. It was this knowledge hitting home to me that had sent me spiralling downwards early April.

Then I worked out a recipe for a bigger pie. There is another way and I created it. Rather than focussing on what we had had and lost, I focussed instead on the income I would require and created a pie that would provide me with enough investment pie to provide the income I would need. This is my recipe for a bigger and better divorce pie:

1. Your soul
2. Your choices
3. A clear head
4. Determination
5. Respect and
6. Your finances

1. Stay out of the courts. This gives you back 8 pieces of pie in the savings on litigation costs.
2. Compromise. Even though it seems unfair to give some bits away to the person whose choice it was for this financial mess, is it really worth fighting for two pieces of pie to lose four in the process?
3. Stay out of the courts.
4. Think of your soul. Do you really want to become a bitter toxic person by dragging down the person you gave 40 years to?
5. Think of your children. Save the children the pain of seeing their parents knocking each other over.
6. Stay out of the courts.
7. Compromise on the house – at least in your head. Accept that sometime in the future you will downsize from the family home to a smaller home and release another 4 pieces of pie.
8. Get a hold on your own personal budget, live more frugally, watch discretionary spending and make the pieces of remaining pie work for you.
9. Remember your own divorce code and stick to it.
10. Stay out of the courts.

Here is a comparison of the alternative pies:

Total pieces of pie                  40
Less Litigation costs             – 8
Remaining                              32
Half to me                              16
Less cost of home                -10
Pieces of pie to live on            6
Living costs per year               1.2
Years of income                      5

My recipe
Total pieces of pie                  40
No Litigation                           – 0
Remaining                              40
Half to me                              20
Less cost of home                 -6
Pieces of pie to live on           14
Living costs per year              0.7
Years of income                     20

Voila! This recipe will provide me with four times the financial security of what may have been and has saved my soul and sanity. Moreover, if you look carefully at the figures, by careful budgeting and a revision of my lifestyle – from what had been ‘our’ lifestyle – it actually provides me with more financial security than before separation as there is now no-one I have to compromise with in my careful budgeting to make it all happen.

Full steam ahead now with – my choices – my lifestyle.