Category Archives: Triggers

Special dates

Special dates hold power.  Sometimes they’re one offs  – graduation, moving into your first house, getting your first job, walking your child to school for the first time.

Sometimes they roll around every year – birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, New Year, Valentine’s Day.

Following a major life event – like divorce –  dates that once brought  joy, now bring… what?

I was married on November 2nd, 1977. Today would have been my 40th wedding anniversary, so it’s been looming large in my consciousness the past few weeks.  How will I feel?  How will I deal with it? Is it going to be as big a deal as I’m worried it might be.

Three years ago my husband and I were in the kitchen of our house.  I even remember what he was wearing – jeans, a blue and white striped shirt – and the scent of his aftershave – Old Spice.  We shared a kiss and discussed the fact that in three years time it would be our fortieth anniversary.  We’d been through a lot during our marriage –  separations due to his work, his infidelities and chronic health issues – and survived, so we talked about doing something special for our fortieth.

Less than six months after that discussion he’d left me for another woman.

Two months ago, they married.

To complicate things, November 2nd has always been a bittersweet date for me.  My dad died on our second anniversary, so while I celebrated the fact it was the day my husband and I were married, there’s always been a lingering sadness about the date because of my dad.

But that’s another story.

Today.

Today…?

What do I feel?

Honestly…? Better than I thought I would.

This is our third wedding anniversary since he left me.

The first one – our 38th – was very hard.

‘Firsts’ are hard, but in my experience, it was the second of everything – birthdays, Christmas, New Year, Wedding Anniversary – that was the worst.  The ‘first’ felt almost unreal.  The ‘second’ is when it really hit me – this was forever – but in the eyes of family and friends, you’re supposed to have ‘got over it’ by then – or at least, be well on the way to healing.  I know I was guilty of that kind of thinking before it happened to me, but for me, it’s this third year where things are really becoming easier.

Despite everything, I wish my husband and I had made it.

I wish we were going out for dinner tonight with our kids, our family intact.

But we’re not.

And it’s not.

And on this third anniversary of our non-anniversary, that’s… okay.  It’s getting better.

I promise you… whatever you are feeling now… it does – and will – get easier.

Hang in there.

Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight.

Two days ago, Isobel and I were discussing whether we should continue with this blog. We’re not getting a lot of traction on it, and after almost 3 and 5 years since our husbands walked out on us, we’ve been through hell, come out the other side, and are happier that we’ve probably been in years.

We’re happy.

Is that what someone going through the early stages of one of the worst experiences of their life wants to hear?

Only days ago I played a ‘game’ with myself where I took my ex and a friend, or family member, and said to myself, “If I could only see one of these people once more in my life, who would it be?” I went through a whole list of almost 30 people lining up each one against my ex. Not one of my choices turned out to be him, and oh… did I feel smug.

And then…

I knew my husband was remarrying this month, but it’s one thing intellectually knowing it’s going to happen. Hearing from someone that it had actually happened was something else. And then to check out her Facebook page – I know, I know. It was mad thing to do – and see her looking so young, pretty and deliriously happy…

All that pain came rushing back. I know in my head that after years and years of having to deal with his infidelity and chronic illness I am better off now than I was with him, but inside…

You can’t turn off 37+ years of loving someone just like that. Despite the divorce papers tucked away in my fire safe, despite everything, it hadn’t felt ‘real’.

And now?

All those feelings of inadequacy, hurt, pain, betrayal and loss came rushing back. Hadn’t I been the one to pick him up off the floor in the middle of the night when he’d passed out after his blood pressure dropped so low? Hadn’t I been the one to move our family, not once, but 3 times across the Pond so he could follow his dreams? Hadn’t he told me every day of our married lives that he loved me? What is so wrong with me that he left me?

Once again I thought about that spot in the river where I had decided that, if the pain got so excruciating that I couldn’t stand it any more, I would walk in and it would all be over.

You know something? This whole divorce shit sucks. It sucks big time. It messes with your brain, with your heart and with your whole sense of yourself. You look at yourself and the choices you made with your life and marriage and wonder – if this was how it was going to end up – how you could have been so f—ing stupid as to have stood beside him and supported him for so long?

And yet…

I was a good wife. I am a good person. When I heard the news of his marriage I was on one of the best holidays I’ve ever had in my life.

I was devastated. I wanted to crawl in a hole and weep.

But…

I will survive.

I will thrive.

And so will you.

There will be days when the pain and loss overwhelms you…

… but then you’ll wake up next morning and get on with your life.

If Music Be The Food Of Love…

maybe you need to change the record!

Noel Coward wrote, “Extraordinary how potent cheap music is.” He was right. Music has the power to conjure up strong emotions.

During that first year on my own, I just had to hear a piece of music from 1977 onwards, and it could bring me to floods of tears as I associated it with some part of our marriage. (Think Bridget Jones in her flat singing along to All By Myself.)

So I decided – in the short term – not to listen to music on the radio because I never knew what they might play and didn’t want to be caught unawares.  Instead, I listened only to music from before I met my ex-husband, and indulged myself in all the kinds of music I’d enjoyed when I was young; Broadway Musicals, The Beatles, Early Stones, Early Bowie, Early Elton John, The Monkees (I blush), and classical favourites amongst others. After attending a folk festival in Scotland, I also started listening to artists I’d heard performing there – Dougie Maclean, Duncan Chisholm, Ross Ainslie, Dallahan – brand new music that had no associations with my married life.

And you know what? It helped – a lot – allowing me to remember who I was before I became a wife and mother, and who I was now becoming.

I also created myself a playlist of empowering, inspiring songs. Here are just a few that helped me.

Let the Sun Shine.
Don’t Stop Believing
Defying Gravity
Let it go
When You Walk Through A Storm.
I Will Survive
Firework
Unwritten
Try

That cliché about time being a great healer is a cliché because it’s true. Now and then I’ll hear something on the radio and I might feel a pang, but time, and taking that deliberate enforced break, gave me distance… and strength.

If you have any particular songs you feel have helped you through your healing process, we would love to hear what they are.

Getting Through The Weekend

I’ve always loved the weekend. The anticipation of that last period on a Friday afternoon in high school, when our French teacher let us read old copies of Paris Match, instead of having to endure learning verbs or vocabulary or translating French to English or vice versa.

And then that drag on the stomach on a Sunday evening, listening to ‘Sing Something Simple’ on the radio, driving back from a day out on the coast, knowing school beckoned the next morning.

Or when the kids were young, and Friday afternoon meant the freedom of the weekend, just hanging out and enjoying being with them, before the Sunday evening routine of making sure homework was done, bags packed and clothes laid out for school next morning.

When it was just my husband and I, Friday evening meant going out for dinner with the weekend ahead to just hang out, sitting out on the deck with a glass of wine, shooting the breeze, going to a movie, visiting the kids, having our granddaughter for a sleepover, having the family round for Sunday brunch or a barbecue. Weekends were… perfect.

And then my world dissolved and everything went topsy-turvy. Now I dreaded Friday afternoon when everyone went home to relax. Friends who’d been available for coffee during the week were now tied up with their own husbands and families.

The weekend now emphasized just how alone I was. If I’d had a job, things might have been easier, but very often at this age we are retired, or have not worked in years. Now I couldn’t wait for Sunday evening when the world went back to ‘normal’ and I could, once again, look forward to meeting with my friends.

Two years in, I don’t dread the weekend any more. I’ve established new routines, but those early months were hard. Very hard. But you’ll get through them. I’m not pretending it will be easy, but you will.

Here are some ideas to help you.

Make Saturday and Sunday your days to do your grocery shopping and clean the house.
Sleep in.
Pay your bills.
Catch up on e-mails.
Go to church.
If you live in a city, buy a book on local urban walks and go exploring.
If you have a bike, pump up the tyres and see where your wheels take you.
Go window-shopping downtown.
Visit a museum.
Wash your car.
Read a book. (Caution, I know of many women – including myself – who were unable to sustain the focus to read a book for more than a year after being abandoned. If reading used to be a passion, it might take a while for your concentration to come back.)
Veg out on the sofa and watch all the shows you’ve recorded from the TV that week.
Work in your garden (if you have one).
Have a sleepover with your grandkids.
Go to a movie with a friend. (Don’t go alone – unless you go midweek – until you feel comfortable doing so.)
Cook (or bake) lots of food and split it up into portions which you can freeze for the upcoming week.
Go for a drive in the country.
Visit a historical site.
Volunteer with your local pet society and walk a dog.
Have a movie night – at home – with another single friend, either at your house or theirs.
Go shopping at thrift stores.
Sewing and craft projects.
Join a fitness centre and take a class.