Category Archives: Relationships

Trigger dates

For the last ten years of my marriage, August 5th, was a date that brought me joy. On  August 5th, 2005, after enduring four years of kidney dialysis, my husband was given the generous gift of a cadaver donor kidney.

I remember that day clearly; the lunchtime phone call from the hospital and their inability to contact my husband.  (Although he had a cell phone, he refused to carry it.)  Even though I was his wife, for reasons of patient confidentiality they couldn’t tell me the reason for their call, but they did answer my question.  “Is it time sensitive?” I asked.

The voice on the other line replied, “Yes’.

“How long does he have?” ”

“Thirty minutes.”

Thirty minutes and they’d give the kidney to someone else.

My son and I swung into action.  I phoned every person and place I could possibly think of where my husband might be. My son jumped into my car and literally cruised the streets downtown, close to his office, looking for him.

Long story short, they got to the hospital in time and he got the kidney.

I remember that night, seeing him post op, unconscious, his body swollen with all the fluid he’d received.  Honestly… he looked so white and awful I was terrified he might die.  But he survived and our lives changed. No longer were any of us – but particularly him – tied to the relentless demands of the dialysis machine.

Ten years later, on August 5th, my daughter discovered that the story my husband had fed all of us – that there was no-one else involved in his decision to break up our marriage – was an outright, and deliberate, lie.

Until that moment, I think I’d carried the illusion that our marriage might still be saved.  After that moment… after almost 40 years of loving him, I felt irrelevant and worthless. I wasn’t worth being told the truth.  What purpose did I have?  What meaning did my life have?  What meaning or purpose had I ever had?

Over the past few years, the sense of worthlessness has eased.  It’s a cliche but true – how someone treats you says nothing about you and everything about them. My meaning and purpose have started to crawl back, but August 5th is never an easy day.

And then, driving to pick up a friend from the airport today, I saw a sign by the side of the road that said, “You matter’.

It turns out it’s one of many signs displayed around our city by the woman depicted in this article. She states, “I believe that someone out there read that sign and it made their day better.”

I don’t know about anyone else, but Ann made my day better. Tomorrow – August 5th – will be much easier.

Thank you, Ann.

 

Should You Meet The Other Woman?

When my husband left me, he insisted there was no-one else… but hoped there might be someone in the future.  And he promised, out of respect for me and our kids, that he wouldn’t even attempt to date for six months.

In my gut I knew there was someone else but I was accused of being paranoid. Hadn’t he promised me there was no one?? But then the truth came out. Yes, there had been another woman all along. Continue reading

What do you need more of in your life?

Photo by Ju Carvalho.

Gumption: the ability to decide what is the best thing to do in a given situation, and to do it with energy and determination.

After a six-month break, I’ve started writing Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages again.  I’ve struggled for a few days getting even two pages written, far less three, so, to make things a bit easier for myself, this morning I used a journalling prompt I found on Pinterest last night.

“What do you need more of in your life?”

The three pages came quick and fast – oh yes, I need a lot more self-discipline, a good dose of self-belief, and a little male company wouldn’t go wrong – but it wasn’t until about halfway down the last page that I finally figured it out.  What I need – what I really need more of – in my life is ‘gumption’.  Find that, and perhaps the rest will fall into place. Continue reading

Welcome to Life!

A friend sent me this photo off the internet.  I don’t know where she found it, so I am unable to give it a correct attribution, and I also hope I’m not breaching anyone’s copyright, but it illustrates everything I have learned about life since my husband left me.

Times will be hard – often achingly so – but this picture reminds me of a lesson Fred Rogers learned as a child. “When I was a boy,” he said, “and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.'”

He might have been speaking about major disasters, but divorce is a major disaster in your life. And he is still right. Friends, family, people who support you through this time are your personal helpers. And they will be there.  Treasure them. They will lift you up.

Choose your words carefully.

I’ve been thinking a lot about subtext recently –  when someone says something that doesn’t match up to what they actually think or mean – and it got me thinking about some of the things people said to me in the days, weeks, months, even years, after my husband left me.

“You’re better off without him.”

“Think of it as being released.”

“He was a weight around your neck.”

“I never trusted him.”

“The first time my husband cheated on me would be his last time.”

“You should have walked out years ago.”

I know what my friends and family were trying to do.  They were trying to comfort me.  Support me.  Help me.  Love me.  I know they were, but sometimes those words of ‘support’ cut me to the core.

Because if you really look at those phrases, and how they can be interpreted by someone who is in emotional pain, it’s not hard to read the subtext behind them.  Continue reading

What’s in a name?

Deciding to change your name is a very personal decision. Although I loved being a wife and (love being) a mother, my feeling was that if my ex didn’t want me, I no longer wanted to carry his name. Embarking on my own Shirley Valentine quest to try and rediscover the me I used to be, I would do it with my ‘own’ name.

One reaction I got from someone who had only ever known me by my married name was very inspiring.  They claimed my own name sounded like a character from a Robert Louis Stevenson novel and told me to, “Go out and be the heroine of your own story.”

So what does changing your name actually involve?  When I married in the late 70s it was easy.  I had one bank account, a driver’s licence and a passport.  Done and dusted.

Now, 40 years later, it’s more complicated.  Some of it is costly, some of it’s not.  So how do you go about it?

No matter where you live, the most important thing to start with is to collect ALL of your ORIGINAL documents; birth certificate, marriage certificate and divorce certificate.  (Some people are tempted to dispose of the latter.  Don’t!)

After that, it will depend where you live.  I live in Canada, so this is how I proceeded.

  1. Driver’s Licence.  I took along all 3 certificates and got my new driver’s licence at my local AMA office. (Free)
  2. Once I had my driver’s licence for ID, I was able to change my provincial Health Care Card.  I also did that at the AMA office.  (Free)
  3. I then visited the bank with my new ID and all three original certificates and changed all my account info including credit cards etc.  (Free.)  I also have a bank account in the UK, so I needed to visit the bank with all three ORIGINAL certificates to have that changed.  (Free – except for the cost of getting there!)  This applied to my bank, it may not be the same with others, so check out what you need with your branch.
  4. Social Insurance Number.  This is where original documents are so important, especially if you were born or married overseas.  This was done at my local government office. (Free) They assured me the change would automatically be transferred over to the Taxation Agency, but it’s a good idea to…
  5. … contact your Taxation Agency and confirm that has been done.  Especially before you file your annual taxes. (Free)
  6. Passport.  Ironically I needed less ID for my passport than my Social Insurance Number – they didn’t need my marriage certificate.  Fortunately my passport was up for renewal anyway, so it only cost me the normal amount.
  7. House title.  I’ve still to do that, so I’m not sure what the cost will be.
  8. Then come other important considerations:  car ownership, car insurance, house insurance etc.  These were all free and done at my local AMA office.
  9. Then the minor things – library cards, loyalty reward cards, membership cards. Most of these will be free.
  10. Time share property.  I co-own an overseas timeshare property with my daughter – who is also my executor.  They need original documents AND it will cost approximately $300 to change my name on our joint title.  I will do that on our next visit to the property.

There are probably other things which I haven’t factored in, but I believe these are the most common.  In general, it’s not an expensive undertaking, but it is time-consuming, and here I am, two years after beginning the process, still catching things every so often.

Was it worth it?  I have friends who kept their married names and are perfectly happy about their decisions.  But for me, changing my name has helped me move forward.

One of the last scenes in Shirley Valentine is when her husband passes her on the beach.  She calls out his name and he stops, surprised.
“I didn’t recognise you,” he says.
“I know,” she replies. “I used to be The Mother.  I used to be The Wife.  Now I’m Shirley Valentine again.”

 

Can’t get you out of my head…

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It’s the way it sometimes catches you by surprise, isn’t it?  You’re living your life, getting on with things, and then you get an e-mail or hear word from your ex.  Your chest constricts, your head starts reeling, all those thoughts and feelings of pain wash in and you wonder… will I ever get him out of my head?

Wouldn’t it be great if – a la Harry Potter – I could just put a wand to my temple, extract all the painful memories and feelings my ex has left me with, and put them in a jar,  which I could revisit only if and when I wanted to? (Which would be rarely, if ever!!)

I’ve felt things building the past week, so I decided to make an appointment with the counsellor I saw back in 2016, when I was at my lowest. Kind of catch things before they got too bad.

I wrote to him beforehand – told him that on the outside of my life I’m doing fine, but sometimes the inside hurts really badly – and asked him for some strategies to help on days I find things really really hard.

This is what he suggested.

(Please remember I was in an upset state when I met with him, so I might not have remembered everything 100% as he said it.  This is my interpretation of his advice.)

The first thing he suggested was to actively stop when a thought about my ex comes into my head. He says some of his clients will actually raise their hand in a stopping gesture.  Stop and turn your thoughts around.

For example, think about the good things in your life now.  Things that you couldn’t do when you were married to him. For me, that includes the amount of travel I’m able to do now.

But…it still makes me think about ‘him’.  (He’s currently on a holiday with ‘her’.  A holiday he refused to take with me.  So this suggestion doesn’t work for me.)

The second thing he suggested, was to find a quote you like; something inspiring which speaks to you.  Write it down and carry it in your wallet, so it’s there if/when you need it.

Not long after my ex left me, I was talking to a friend I’ve known for over 30 years, but whom I only see occasionally.  He never liked my ex – the feeling was mutual – and his advice was to not to look back.  Keep looking forward.  Always keep looking forward.

I read recently that you feel sad when you look back and anxious when you look forward, so I’m going to try and stop doing both.  But the most important thing is not looking back into the past. Don’t look back.  Don’t you ever look back!

Which is ironic given that…

The third thing my counsellor suggested was something that really calmed me down.  He told me to think about walking into a house  Upstairs, there’s a corridor with four doors; two on the left and two on the right.

Go through the first door, and step into the room.  It’s a lovely room.  In that room, think of all the good things people have ever said about you in your life. Times when people have enjoyed being with you.  All things that are personal.

Then go into the second beautiful room.  This room holds all your ‘professional’ achievements; things like your high school diploma, badges from scouts or guides, music exams, university or college degree, professional qualifications.  Things you have achieved through hard work.

From there, cross the hall and go into the third room. This space contains your positive dreams for the person you want to be.  Do you want to be compassionate?  Brave?  A good friend?  A good grandparent? A painter? Climb a mountain? Run a mile in 10 minutes?

The fourth door opens into the bathroom.  This is where you get rid of all the s–t that you are still carrying around.

This is the strategy that I think will be most effective for me, and it got me thinking about a project my daughter did for my 60th birthday, just a few months after my husband walked out.  She contacted various friends, asked them what their memories were of me, and collected them in a box.

Here’s one from a friend from my nursing days.  Memories include the terrified look on our faces when we found ourselves sharing a bedroom for four having never shared a room with anyone in our lives on January 8th, 1973. Sitting in our tiny flat in the sunshine listening  to Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks. Being able to pick up  where we left off without any difficulty no matter how long we have been apart.

I think I’m going to add to that ‘birthday’ box.  I’m going to make a second one of all my ‘achievements’;  my nursing diploma, my university degree, a speech award, my army ‘pips’, photos of my kids as babies, etc.

In a third box, I’m going to fill it with words like compassion, courage, laughter, love, sunshine, mother,  travel, music, grandmother, reading, rainbows, etc.  All things that bring joy into my life.

And then when those bad days come – as they do – when I can’t get my ex and his new wife out of my head, I will open those boxes and think of the people who mean so much to me, the things I have achieved in my life, and the person I want to become.

So yes, even though I’ve chosen my quote as  – ‘Don’t look back.  Don’t you ever look back.’  – I am going to look back.  But only at the good stuff.  Because who I was then is who I am now.

But I am going to look forward too. Because forward is where I’m going.

Where we’re going.