Tag Archives: Silver Splitters

Travelling Alone As A Single Woman

I’ve always wanted to go to Israel, ever since I read Leon Uris’ book Exodus back in the late 60s. I even dreamed of going to work on a kibbutz when I was in my late-teens, but wars and life got in the way.

And then, this year, I finally got my chance.

But I was scared. Although I’ve travelled with friends and family since my husband left me, this would be the first time travelling completely on my own – albeit as part of a tour group.

So I sat down and went through my fears.

1) What if I died on the trip?  Well… really… if that happened, I’d be out of the picture so it wouldn’t matter, would it?!

2) What if I got sick on the trip? This one did give me serious pause, because the opportunity to book the trip came AFTER Trump had made his pronouncement about moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  Given the violence that followed, the Canadian Government put out an official warning advising Canadians not to visit.  Because of that warning, my health insurance would now only cover if I got sick or injured myself  ‘naturally’. (Eg.  Fall and break my leg.  Heart attack.) Should I be injured and need care following a terrorist incident, I would be on my own financially.

That was a huge stumbling block.  The money I have now, barring government pensions, has to last for the rest of my life, so although I am relatively comfortable, I can’t take too many risks.

My daughter is my executor, so we had a long talk.  What if I did get injured in an attack?  What if the cost of care and returning me to Canada wiped out most of my money?

She’s done a lot of travelling, knew how important this trip was to me, and urged me to go.  I had lived in London through the IRA bombing campaign when it was at its height, and since 9/11 I have travelled to France, the UK, Germany, the US and Spain – all places where there’s been terrorist activity.  What were the chances?  Slim indeed, but still a chance.  But then again, there’s a good chance I will be in a car accident every time I drive on the roads in this city!

This was a very personal decision.  I know many of my friends would not have made it. If you find yourself faced with a similar situation, you need to think very carefully about how your future might be impacted.  

3) What if I missed connections?  I was travelling in the wintertime – what would happen if fights etc were cancelled due to weather?  That can happen any time – but I had travel insurance and a credit card.  As long as I didn’t panic, I would be okay.

4) Believe it or not, what scared me the most was the idea that I would be on my ‘own’ for a week when I was with the tour group.  Part of the joy of a holiday – for me at least – is sharing the experiences with someone, whether it’s eating meals together or discussing our likes or dislikes on a visit to a museum or stately home etc.

What if everyone else were in couples? I’d feel so isolated and obviously single, wouldn’t I?  What if – what if – no-one spoke to me for a whole week?  What if I had to eat alone at the hotels? It was almost a visceral fear like being back in High School.

But when I realized that was my worst fear – over and above being caught in a terrorist attack – I gave myself a good talking to.  Was I really going to give up on visiting a country I have dreamed about for decades because no-one might talk to me?

Really?

I mean… really?

You know what?  I had one of the best trips of my whole life.  Yes, most of the people were in couples or families – Canadians, Brits, Americans and Australians. (There was one other single woman there – a totally inspiring Australian lady – who has had the most amazing adventures alone. )

Of course people talked to me and I talked to them.  Apart from that first evening and first breakfast, I never ate alone and had plenty of people to chat during the day.  When you’re on your own, people seem to make an effort to ensure you don’t feel left out.  It’s not High School any more.

So, if you have a dream country you’ve always wanted to visit, but no-one will come with you – itemize your fears.  Are they realistic?  What is the worst thing that could happen to you?  And if it’s something you can live with, go for it!

 

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.  

Was he planning his departure even then?  Is that photo a lie?

And if it’s not a lie, if we were happy, if we were solid, if he did love me, how could he have stopped loving me so suddenly?

That’s almost worse to deal with.

That started the descent. I’m also jet-lagged, recovering from a bad cold and dealing with a chronic low grade pain in my hip which is currently being investigated, so finding that photo when I was tired and run-down led to the perfect storm.

I cried for about a solid hour  – probably the first time I’ve cried that much for over a year – and I know that, sitting here writing this right now, it wouldn’t take much to start me off again. 

I know it’s going to be better.  I know my life already is better.  I just have to look at the jar of dimes I started at the beginning of the year – two jars, one for bad days, the other for good days. I add a dime to one of them every evening.  There are only 3 dimes currently in the ‘bad day’ jar.  Three out of seventy-two – that’s pretty damn good.

But when you’re in that pain, it doesn’t help.

But… I’m holding on. I know I’ll get through.  I know I’ll come out the other end.

But I’m not the same as I was and I have to accept that.  That happy innocent woman smiling at the camera has gone forever.

On the outside I might appear like I’m moving on, that I have my life in order – and I am.  Trust me, I am. But inside I know that my heart is broken.  It will heal – it is healing – but someone who has had a heart attack is left with a permanent scar on his heart muscle.

It’s the same, I believe, if your heart has been broken emotionally. That scar will always be there.  Most days you’ll be fine, but once and a while you’ll get a reminder of the damage.

And then it will pass again.

Hang in there.

It Takes Two To Make a Relationship Work…

… or does it?

Princess Diana famously said, ‘There were three of us in our marriage, so it was a bit crowded.’

And then there’s that old chestnut, “It takes two to destroy a marriage.”

After my ex left me, I wrestled with both those sayings.

If it hadn’t been for my ex’s girlfriend (now wife) giving him an ultimatum, would he have ever left?

And if it takes two for a marriage to break down, then I must share 50% of the blame for the failure of mine. 

I asked my husband, ‘What did I do wrong?’ 

‘Nothing’, he replied.  ‘I just wanted more. I fell out of love with you and in love with her.’

But I continued to berate myself. I must have done something wrong, or there must have been something so wrong with me, that he would give up on our almost 40 year-old marriage without ever telling me he was unhappy. If he was prepared to go to pre-marriage counselling with his girlfriend to prevent them making the ‘mistakes’ we had, couldn’t he have suggested counselling for him and I before he decided to leave me? Maybe that way we could at least have tried to sort out what issues it appears we had?

What was the ‘more’ that I was so lacking?  The mental agony and guilt of wrestling with my ‘failure’ as a wife is, I’m sure, what led to me having a nervous breakdown in 2016.

And then a few months ago, I read this article https://pro.psychcentral.com/recovery-expert/2017/10/the-myth-of-it-takes-two-to-ruin-a-relationship/ and it was as if a weight lifted from my shoulders.  The article suggests that it’s not true that it take two for a marriage to fail.  It will fail if only one person is truly in that marriage.

If I’m 100% honest, there are probably some things I could have done that might have saved our marriage, but in the long run, I’m not sure they would have made a difference.  Given my ex later admitted he’d wanted out of our marriage for over 15 years, it means, for 15 years, there was only one of us in our marriage.

And it wasn’t him.

The reality is, we’re now divorced. He’s remarried. I’m rebuilding my life.

But the weight of that burden of guilt I carried has been somewhat eased.

Baby steps…

Not a quote today, but a cartoon I saw on Sarah’s Scribbles Facebook page.

It captures so well the reality of taking this journey of healing and recovery one day at a time – but it can apply to any challenge facing you.

For further inspiration, please check out Sarah’s website.  http://sarahcandersen.com/about

Christmas Decorations

‘Why do you have a spark plug on your Xmas tree?’ my son-in-law asked last weekend.

Ah… well… since 2005, every trip I’ve ever taken with friends or family, I’ve bought a Christmas tree decoration as a memory of that trip.

A few years ago, a friend and I were in Guernsey during the 60th anniversary celebrations of the island’s liberation from the Nazis.  The island held a parade where the islanders dressed up in uniforms and clothing of the time.  A rather dashing ‘dispatch rider’ – doesn’t a uniform really make a man?? – on a vintage motorbike stopped beside us, switched out his spark plug and handed me his old one.  That, I decided there and then, would be my Xmas memory of that trip.

One of the hardest things I had to do when sorting through the 37+ years of ’stuff’ that we had collected during our marriage, was figuring out which Xmas decorations to keep or discard. My ex’s sister had given us some gorgeous ones for our first Christmas together in 1977, including some silk horses I adored.  I remember the excitement in my heart the first time I hung them. But I couldn’t take them with me.  Those memories were too painful.

Culling each and every decoration was like culling each year of our marriage. In the end, I kept only the decorations from  trips without my ex, plus one belonging to my mum and dad which they’d bought in Germany in 1948.  I gave the handmade ones my kids had made when they were young back to them.

The rest, I left behind.

In 2015, I couldn’t contemplate putting up a tree.  But I had a granddaughter for whom Xmas was magic, so I strung up a set of lights and hung some stars from it. Each star represented someone who had helped me through the nightmare.

That year, a friend, whom I’ve had since before I even met my ex, cross-stitched me a banner that read ‘Happy Christmas’.  She wanted me to have something new, something I didn’t associate with my ‘married’ life, that first, hard, Christmas on my own. I cried my eyes out when she gave it to me.  After months of feeling worthless, stupid, of wondering if life was even worth living, I looked at the love in every stitch of that decoration, and…  well, she’ll never know what her gift meant to me.

In 2016 I moved into my new apartment and decided setting up a tree would be a declaration that I was moving on with my life.

For the past 30 odd years,  my ex and I had set up two trees every Xmas.  His was the ‘classic’ tree, decorated  with only white lights and red glass balls.

Mine…?  Although I called it the ‘Fairy Tree’,  my daughter lovingly described it as the Xmas vomit tree. Loaded with coloured lights, and every branch happily festooned with a decoration, there was nothing classic or elegant about it.  

The tree itself was huge, and with only the few decorations I’d brought from our house, it looked pretty sparse.  So you know what?  Another friend went to the thrift store, found some great bargains, and every single branch of my tree was covered. Xmas vomit to the ’n’th degree!

2017.

This year, there’s not a single ornament on that tree that doesn’t hold a deep and powerful meaning for me.

The Irish dancer?   Who could ever forget the sun setting over the Cliffs of Moher in 2005…

The four black labradors and one golden retriever…. How can I ever forget the love and support those amazing dogs gave me…?

The heart-shaped Outlander tartan… an amazing visit to Scotland this year with my friend and her daughter…

The hand painted silver ball my parents brought in Dusseldorf in 1948…

The cut out paper snowflakes my granddaughter made for me a few weeks ago…

The spark plug from that handsome fake dispatch rider…

When you’re divorced against your will, Xmas is hard.

All that ‘Happy and bright’ can feel very shallow.

But it’s just one day in the year.

One day.

It gets easier.

You’ll get stronger.

You already are.

And the lights will sparkle.