Be. Not. Afraid.

I’m a cultural Christian rather than a practising one, but last Easter Sunday, I attended a short service, held at dawn on Easter Sunday morning, on a beach on an island off the West Coast of Scotland, with my – very happily – married friend.

It was beautiful. About thirty of us gathered in a circle. A man in shorts and t-shirt led the service, while a woman played guitar.  Various others offered prayers, readings and hymns.

And then the minister, a woman around her fifties, with more than a passing resemblance to Dawn French’s Vicar of Dibley, gave a short talk.

Someone had asked her the most common phrase in the Bible.  After some research, she discovered it was Be Not Afraid.

Fear paralyses, she warned.  So…Be Not Afraid.

Later that day, my friend and I took the ferry off the island and drove north to Inverary. En route, we drove through Kilmartin Glen and passed the ancient hill fort of Dunadd. My ex and I had driven past the site many times.  I’d always wanted to stop, climb to the top and place my foot in the ancient stone footprint… but, for various reasons, we never did.

This time…  well this time was different.  Continue reading

Meet The Day

A video came through on my Facebook feed today –  an old interview with the actor Pierce Brosnan where he talked about the grief he experienced when his first wife died.  How did he cope?  His response – With young children to care for, he just had to get up and Meet the Day.

I remember my mum asking one of her friends, whose husband died when their children were young, how she had coped. Her friend replied that she just had to get on with it.  She had young children to feed, clothe, house and bring up.  And, she admitted, in some ways it was perhaps easier than if he she had been left alone later in life. She had no choice. She just had to get on with it – for the children’s sake. Despite everything, she had a purpose. A vitally important purpose.

One of the challenges of senior divorce is that we are usually left with only having one person to look after.  Ourselves.  And as wives and mothers, we’ve always put ourselves at the bottom of the pecking order behind husbands and children.  With our children probably grown with families of their own by now, it can be hard to suddenly switch focus from being a wife and mother to being… ourselves.

And there are times when it’s all too easy to wonder if the fight is worth it.

But it is.  Truly it is.  If you are at the beginning of this journey, please trust me. When it first happened to me, others who had been down the same path assured me it would get better/easier – and they were right. It will take time, and there may be a few missteps along the way, but it won’t always hurt this much and YOU are worth it.

Pierce’s advice is good advice  Get up and Meet The Day.

Set your alarm. Get out of bed when it rings, and make your bed before you can be tempted to climb back under the covers and sleep away the day.  Have a shower.  Put your clothes on – nice ones, not your ratty t-shirt and jeans. Meet that day face on.

If the day looms empty before you – weekends can be the worst –  make a plan of attack the night before.
For example:
– Arrange to meet a friend for coffee.
– If you need to go back to work, work on your resume and contact the library to see if they offer any free workshops to help you update your skills.
– Get outside if you can and go for a walk.  Or a bike ride. Go swimming. Volunteer at your local dog rescue centre to become a dog walker.
– Do something creative – write, draw, paint, sew, play the piano, redecorate your room, bake a cake.
– Keep a gratitude journal – find 5 things to be grateful for that day.
– If you have to meet with your lawyer and find it overwhelming, ask a friend to go with you.
– If you find Morning Pages useful/helpful, start your day by writing in your journal

It’s hard.  Painfully hard – especially those first weeks, months, year – but you can do it.

You are stronger than you think.

Meet.  The.  Day.

 

 

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.”

 

Feeling Scared

My ex-husband had kidney failure. That meant he was on dialysis for almost four years until he got a transplant.  Dialysis three times a week, times fifty-two weeks a year, times four plus years…

How many times did I pick him up from the hospital?  Probably at least 300, whether it was sunny weather, or minus 30C and blizzarding.  Add to that the number of times I accompanied him to doctors’ appointments, or got a nudge in my back in the middle of the night when he thought he might be having a heart attack and needed me to take him to emerg, or watched over him after his surgeries and procedures, or carried his boxes of dialysis fluids and equipment from the basement to the bedroom when he dialysed at home, or picked him up off the floor when his blood pressure dropped so low he passed out, or helped him pump the blood back into his body when we had a power failure and the dialysis machine ‘died’….

For the fifteen years after his diagnosis, I was there as his support, his advocate… his ‘soft place to land’, my arms open to him when his tears came.  But that’s what you do, isn’t it, when you love someone.  You do it willingly and lovingly, wishing you could take their pain away.

Cut to today.

I’ve had a minor heart issue most of my life.  Apart from three visits to emerg over the decades, it’s been held stable by medication for 30 years.  But over the past couple of months, I’ve felt things weren’t quite ‘right’.  So I went to see my doctor today.  He’s not overly anxious, but he agrees things aren’t as they should be.  It’s been at least ten years since I last saw a cardiologist, so my doctor is sending me for a battery of tests. What happens next will depend on the results.  In reality, it’ll probably just mean a tweak of my meds…

I’ll be honest, I’m running scared.  What if it’s not just a tweak of my meds?

I started crying in the car afterwards because what I wanted – what I needed at that moment – was for the husband I thought I’d had to put his arms around me, hold me safe and tell me it will be all right.

But that can never happen.

I’m not alone in this experience, so I shouldn’t be such a baby.  Everyone who is on their own – whether from divorce, bereavement  – must experience moments like this where you just want that someone to hold you.  My own widowed mother went through major heart surgery when she was in her mid-70s.  My brother, sister and myself, gathered around, did everything we could for her… and I know she appreciated it. But I’m sure it wasn’t our arms she really wanted around her, comforting her.

I’ll be fine. I know I will. My kids and friends are there to love and support me.  But today I’m scared.  Today I just wish it was five years ago, before this whole divorce thing happened, and I could relax into one of his hugs, feel his arms around me, his breath against my skin… and feel I wasn’t – for today – quite so alone.

Trigger Dates

Version 2

I didn’t feel great when I woke up this morning – kind of dizzy and lightheaded. When I looked in the mirror I thought I looked a bit pale. I brushed it off, putting it down to leaving the island on the first boat today and not sleeping terribly well last night.

We were on the ferry when my daughter said Continue reading

I Feel The Island Breathing…

 

Version 2

I feel the island breathing… Bobby Watt

Our lives are constantly evolving; friends come and go, we may live in many cities in our lifetime, career paths change, parents die, jobs end, children grow up and move away, illnesses rob you of health and strength, a husband – the man you thought was your soulmate – discards you.

But today, driving off the ferry onto the Isle of Arran, I felt my soul gladden and ease. Arran has been the one, dependable, constant in my life since I was seven years-old. As my daughter and I walked along the shore this evening, we discussed how, barring a few exceptions,  I have memories from this island for every single year of my life. Continue reading