Tag Archives: loneliness

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.

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.

When The Pain Comes…

It all started last week with one of those stupid quizzes: Based on your star sign, how many times will you fall in love?

Of course, I checked out my ex’s first – his sign is before mine, astrologically speaking. His said 3. So he’s on course.

Mine? One. Because you when you love, it’s forever.

Great!

And then I had a conversation with yet another friend in this situation. There are so many of us around, aren’t there; women who’ve been married for 30+ years whose husbands move on to a younger version.

Maggie voiced something I’ve been holding secret in my head for so long, scared that if I said it aloud, people would think I was even more foolish than I usually feel. She admitted that her ex was the love of her life. That she will never – could never – love anyone the way she loved him.   Wasn’t that stupid? Wasn’t that crazy? Doesn’t that make her a grade A loser?

Well, I guess that makes two of us, because that’s exactly how I feel too. I loved my husband and I still love him. They say that hate isn’t the opposite of love. Indifference is. On the one hand, I’m mad with him, furious at him, I want to strike back and hurt him the way he hurt me.  On the other, I worry about his health and the damage he has done to our family and his relationships with our kids. So, I’m still feeling something.

He however… remains indifferent.

Over the weekend, things continued to build. Just little things; not feeling 100% physically, putting up with winter in the minus 20C range for days on end, not being able to get out the house for some fresh air because it’s so icy out, having to figure out some major financial decisions that could have long term ramifications, learning that one very dear friend has cancer while another has MS, the relentless cheery Valentine movies on TV…

…so I booked an appointment to see a counsellor later this week. I haven’t felt the need to see one for more than 2 years. I’m moving ahead. I’m travelling, teaching, doing things I never dreamt I was capable of. And yet, inside… Deep inside…  I wanted to get on top of things before I felt myself sinking under again.

And then, this morning, my ex informed me he is now off on yet another holiday with his new wife. In four years, they’ve now had more holidays than we ever had – either as a couple, or as a family – in almost 40 years. We couldn’t travel because work always came first, or the chronic illness that he had couldn’t be ‘dealt with’ anywhere else outside our home city. Forty years ago, he couldn’t even be bothered organizing a honeymoon and was back at work well within a week of our wedding.

And so I cried.

And cried.

All those doubts, all those feelings of worthlessness just hammered back down on me. I know, I know… the way a person treats you says everything about them and nothing about you, but when you’re at the receiving end of betrayal and rejection, you can’t help but wonder what was so wrong with you that he left you for someone else. What is so wonderful about her and so awful about you?

Last year I kept a jar to which I added a dime when I had a really – really – bad day, feeling upset over my ex. I’ll be honest, I seriously considered adding my first dime of the year today. But I didn’t.

These days will continue to come and go over the years. They don’t hit as often as they did, but they still hit hard. I’ve asked my counsellor for some tools and strategies to help me on days like this. Things I can do to help me get through that darkness until I step back out into the light again.  I’ll share what he says with you.

I will step out into the light again.

And so will you.

How to be the Opposite of Lonely

Canva - Trees in the forest.jpg

It’s never Too Late to Begin Again – Reigniting a Sense of Community is the theme of Week Three in Julia Cameron’s book.

By Day Four, I figured I had blown it.

Morning pages – I wrote a measly three. Artist date – none. Walks alone – none. On the last day, it was the memoir part with its remembering tasks and questions.

I looked at the blank pages in my notebook and knew I was a failure.

Failure at growing up, failure at marriage, failure at life. Oh, yeah, the self-pity demon was in full force on that seventh day. Continue reading

On Being Alone

Turtle underwater

Every day I am stronger.

I see it in the way I stop to listen to the robins as they flit around the back garden, pouncing on worms for their fluffy, chirping babies. I feel it flow through my body when I set off for a walk with the dog, sunshine warming my bones, unlocking the stiffness in arthritic joints. And then, unexpected, a certain song comes on the radio, words open the lid on the well of sorrow and loneliness that sits deep in my heart, plucking out fat, salty tears of loss.

I can rationalize the death of our marriage, the death of might-have-could-have-beens. I absolutely know that my life is happier and better in so many ways without that dominating, angry man turning all the colours grey but…I can’t deny that I did love him so very much. No matter what happened between us through more than 40 turbulent years together, no matter how much he hurt me (and perhaps I hurt him), I once loved him with all my heart.

A few musical notes, poetic words and I am so overwhelmingly sad. A deep ache of loneliness for the man I thought he was, the man I wanted him to be. Most of the time, I hold down that pain with my busy, happy, free life. I am blessed with loving children, grandchildren, and friends. I smile a lot these days.

I had thought my sorrow was for lost dreams and found disappointments but it’s becoming clear to me that it comes from a dark hole of loneliness. From the moment we are born, we seek a loving touch. Even at the advanced age of 66, its absence just plain hurts.

I notice I’ve developed the habit of hugging. I encourage my dog to jump up beside me on the bed at night. I plant my flowers, trim my shrubs, and fill the bird bath with loving hands. All these things help, but I have to face it–despite the unhappy years of being with someone who didn’t love me and the ugly exposure of separation and divorce, I long again for a partner in life, someone with whom to share all the joys and fears of the fading light. I am so very lonely. I am so very sad. Finally I can admit it to myself. I relish the hot relief of tears spilling some of the sorrow from my heart.

The song finishes, and I wipe my wet cheeks with my sleeve and once again count all the bright blessings in my life. I remind myself that no one has it all, that this longing isn’t demeaning but simply part of being human. It’ll be okay.

And hey, it isn’t over until it’s over. The music of  life is playing. It’s sad and joyful and so very beautiful.

 

 

My Year of ‘Yes’.

 

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person

 

Mum

May 2016 be your year of yes.  May it be filled with love, family, adventure, travel, new experiences and empowerment.

All my love,

xx

That was the inscription my daughter wrote on the book she gave me for Christmas 2015    Year of Yes (How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and be Your Own Person) by Shonda Rhimes,- the incredible creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and Private Practice (amongst others).

2015 was the year my husband left me, and that Christmas, despite my daughter giving birth to her first child a few days earlier, I was truly lost and in despair.

There was one particular paragraph in the book that really resonated with me.  Losing yourself doesn’t happen all at once.  Losing yourself happens one ‘no’ at a time.  ‘No’ to going out tonight. ‘No’ to catching up with that old college roommate.  ‘No’ to attending that party.  ‘No’ to making a new friend.  Losing yourself happens one pound at a time. Continue reading

This too shall pass…

There are times when all the inspirational quotes in the world, all the positive self-talk, all the telling yourself that you should be over this, that you’re moving on, that you’re stronger and better than you were, all the kind supportive comments of friends, family and counsellors just don’t cut it.  Something triggers you and the tears and pain and grief cuts right into your soul leaving you as raw and in such emotional agony as those early days.

There’s nothing – nothing – anyone else can do to help or console you. You know you’re just going to have to go down that dark path by yourself and know you’ll come out the other end into the light.

And when you do emerge into the light, it’ll be bitter-sweet, because you know that somewhere down the line – maybe not for weeks, months or even years – that darkness is waiting for you up ahead, hiding out of sight, waiting to pounce again when you’re feeling vulnerable.

For me, it was a combination of things. I had packed away all the pictures that include my ex-husband – or at least I thought I had.  But last night I came upon a family photo taken of us all a couple of years before he left me. We look happy.  Solid.  I’m looking at the camera with total innocence, his arm around me, no idea that my marriage and family are about to implode.   Continue reading