I’ve just finished reading a book called Shantaram, and even though this quote comes from an Indian gangster in a book written by a convicted criminal, it pretty much summed up divorce for me… from both sides of the fence, for the mums and the dads.
“There is no objective and universally accepted definition of right and wrong or good and evil. And until there is we will go on justifying our own actions while condemning the actions of others.”
Reading that statement in my warm bed in the corner of a tiny island at the bottom of our little world was one of those quantum moments that Wayne Dyer talks about in his movie, The Shift. It was one of those moments that hits you smack between the eyes and makes you feel like your brain is exploding in new directions of understanding.
We can always find something to justify our actions and our opinions if we want to, in fact, we actively seek it out. It’s human nature. We can find people who will support us, we can rally our friends around us and melt into the warm, comforting embrace of their words ‘Hell yeah! You’re right, of course you’re right!’. We can Google research that supports our opinions, we can find experts who concur with us and legal cases that prove our point. And we very well may be right, but does that mean the opposing side is wrong? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes it’s just different. And sometimes we may be acting on biases we don’t even know we have.
I used to think divorce was about right and wrong… about justice and karma (and I’m talking about co-parenting and communication and general shitty painful divorce here, not abusive or violent behaviour), but as my son grows from the innocent clean slate of babyhood into a little person with feelings and the ability to hurt and be hurt and have ideas of his own, I’m finding that for me to love my son, I have to once again find love for his father.
The shitty part about that is that I also have to keep his father at a distance to protect my own well being and self respect. And even as I write those words, that idea still causes fresh tears to spring from my heart and dampen the now wrinkled corners of my eyes. I don’t cry anymore. Those tears no longer stream down my face, but their tiny puddled cousins are my ever-constant companions on this journey, a journey that I’m bound to for life. Every time I manage to find love for my son’s father, daggers twist and rip at my heart, but every time I don’t, the hilt of that dagger turns towards my son.
They say that time heals all wounds. I don’t know if that’s true. Sometimes the wounds stay, we just adapt and learn to work around them.
But time does give clarity.
It gives the foggy, choking clouds of grief and the stifling enrapture of unfairness a chance to dissipate so you can see yourself, your situation and the world in new ways, Every day, I can still almost feel the little electric pathways in my brain diverting and re-connecting to create new realities that I can work with.
And now, after 1009 whole days to recover and contemplate, make mistakes and feel the bulk of the experience that was my divorce, I, of course, have new ideas. Today I think divorce is about constantly striving to find a balance between self care and self destruction while your child’s well being teeters somewhere in the middle. It’s a messy, imperfect job to take on, one we seem to be expected to get right straight away and one where we’re condemned the second we get it wrong; even though there’s no official guide book and sometimes the ancient rules of right and wrong no longer seem to hold the value we think they should.
At almost every stop on our separation and co-parenting journey we hear the cry of the law ‘Act in the best interests of your children!’ And most of us stand aghast at the idea that we would ever choose not to act in the best interests of those tiny beings that come from our very own hearts.
But yet, we may watch as our co-parent behaves in a way that we don’t think is in the best interests of our children and cry out at the injustice when the law doesn’t hold us in its cradled arms, whispering to us that it’s all going to be ok. In the last almost three years I’ve seen cases where the law has left both mother and father crippled in pain and loss that both felt was unfair.
As humans we try to construct all these ideals to make sense of our world, and yet, none of them are perfect or absolute.
Somehow, as separated parents, we have to find a way to fill this gap, to fill the misunderstanding, the miscommunication, the different interpretations of right and wrong, of what constitutes best interests.
I don’t know exactly how we do that.
I’m sure others have tried.
But I think the answer lies somewhere within the realms of education and self awareness.
We need to educate ourselves with our team of supporters as we navigate the strange new world of single parenthood. We need our lawyers, our mediators, our divorce coaches, our therapists and our friends and family. But none of these are any good to us unless we’re able to do one thing; and that’s to have the ability and the courage to look at ourselves honestly, to look at our actions and our motives and our feelings and with truth know we are coming from the most unbiased place possible despite our pain.
And it won’t mean that conflict magically evaporates from our lives.
We will fall.
And the fathers of our children will fall too.
I believe the answer is not in our court system. It’s in us. It’s in every mum and every dad. It’s in better preparing ourselves emotionally for the process that divorce brings instead of pulling in the toughest lawyers and throwing tens of thousands of dollars of our hard earned money trying to dampen a pain that money will never touch.
I wonder what would happen if that money was spent on therapy and education and learning co-parenting strategies and communication strategies instead?
It actually almost makes me laugh that the very reason many marriages fall apart is based on communication, but in order to co-parent, there’s even more need to try to fix those problems for our children. How very ironic.
And it’s something that requires both parties to be willing to work towards fixing.
A large task indeed if we were unable to do it when married.
I sat with my therapist some time ago and together we debated this exact idea as I tried to clarify who was right or wrong in some issue my ex-husband and I were trying to negotiate regarding our son. In this particular instance, I’d already spoken about it to a lawyer, a divorce coach as well as various friends and my family. And I got vastly different opinions from each of them. So, what is right?! And I sat with my therapist and stared at her in confusion and exasperation hoping she’d be the one to give me the answer. Finally she said ‘Wouldn’t it be good if you could look at Little Man when he is a grown man in 18 years time and say “I did not contribute “.
And those words shattered my idea of right and wrong into a thousand tiny, insignificant pieces.
Now, every time I hit a bump in the road I ask myself “What can I do to not contribute to the pain and conflict? How can I communicate better? Will my action/response/this one tiny word I’m choosing right now, this second, contribute to the situation or will it improve it?’
And this idea doesn’t necessarily mean avoiding conflict. It doesn’t mean being walked over and it doesn’t mean not standing up for what you think is right for your children and what’s in their best interests. But you can protect your boundaries and what you think is ‘right’ with kind (or even neutral if you can’t manage kind!) and constructive words rather than using your words as daggers.
Because no matter whether the daggers are justified, they will never heal the situation.
Throwing daggers will not make the person you are facing suddenly change their ways or realise they were wrong.
Only they can come to that conclusion.
On their own terms, at their own time, if they ever do.
It’s not your responsibility to bear.
So as I face the long road of divorce and co-parenting ahead, I’ve decided to give away the idea of absolute rights or wrongs and instead focus on not contributing to what can already be a challenging situation.
For my own happiness and that of my Little Man, for all the many years ahead of us, I hope it will serve us well.
After finally upgrading my broken 1980s tank-sized tv with one of those new-fangled flat screens, I’ve been indulging in some evening Apple TV time lately.
Tonight I chose a movie called ‘A Little Chaos’. Set under the reign of King Louis XIV, a strong-willed landscape gardener, Sabine de Barra, played by Kate Winslet, is chosen to work on a project for the gardens of Versailles. Despite being pish-tosh’d by men, she remains dedicated and determined to create something that pushes past old traditions and barriers, ending in a dazzling display of landscaping as no one has seen before.
As the titles rolled, the words ‘love letters’ came to mind.
Love letters? Love letters? What’s that all about? I pondered.
And then a scene from the Sex and the City movie gently puddled its way into my tired little brain (Yay! I haven’t had a Sex and The City reference for a while)… It was the scene where Carrie finds a hidden email account containing love letters from Mr Big. In the months after their failed wedding, Big retyped ‘The Love Letters of Great Men, Volume 1’ in emails to Carrie… Love letters from Beethoven and Lord Byron, John Keats and Voltaire. He used the words of others because he couldn’t find the words he wanted to say to Carrie himself.
Still a little perplexed about why these things were coming to mind, I let myself keep connecting the thinking dots….
And then the last movie I watched came to mind…
It was Mona Lisa Smile – a movie about 1950s art history teacher, Katherine Watson, who defies tradition at an all-female college; inspiring young women to think for themselves and challenge the lives they’re expected to lead.
And then the one I watched before that…
Saving Mr Banks – about the author of Mary Poppins and the 20 year process of her beloved book being turned into a Disney movie.
and the one before that….
Becoming Jane – about Jane Austen defying a life that would destroy her creativity and self-worth.
And the one before that…
Chocolat – where the daring and mysterious Vianne boldy defies the traditions of a small French village; bringing her own unique form of renewal and community to her own life as well as others.
All brave, innovative and determined women willing to push past society’s boundaries and create the things that were calling out from within them to be created, letting no one else’s opinions stand in their way. There was something in them that had to be expressed for the good of others, and even though it was painful and challenging, it’s almost as if they had no choice but to follow their paths.
All those women I admire.
The women I sit and stare at in awe and think ‘If only I could be like them’.
And then it all came together.
Over the past few months, I’ve been watching movies that are little love letters to myself.
Helping me to be brave.
Letting me know it’s ok.
It’s ok to be my authentic me; the me I try so hard to censor and contain in case it means I won’t belong.
It’s ok to let express love and my desire to help others; the love I’m scared of letting flow freely in case I’m accused of being too sweet and gooey and maybe even insincere.
It’s ok to tell people about my daring plans and spur of the moment ideas; the plans and ideas I’m scared of voicing or do so with a meek mousey ‘Oh maybe I’ll…, I don’t know if it’ll work…, perhaps I could…’ in case I don’t achieve them and then I become that blonde chick who no one takes seriously.
It’s ok for no one else in the entire fucking world to understand what I’m doing as long as I can hold it within me and know that for some crazy reason, whatever happens, it’s right.
Sometimes when we don’t quite know what we need; when we can’t find the words to express it or the courage to find it ourselves, something somewhere deep within us brings it to us anyway.
Little Man and I have been sick.
These days I don’t often feel like solo parenting is like ‘Oh my god, how the fuck am I going to do this?’ anymore. In fact, when I observe my married friends with children, there are indeed some things that really do rock about being a single parent. I’ve found solo parenting is just like anything and everything in life… There are good bits, there are bad bits, it’s entirely how you decide to look at it and respond to it that makes the difference.
Lol, of course there was a but…
There are still challenging bits.
I’ve been pondering the challenging bits, and today I’d like to write about the one thing that I find the shittiest of those things. It’s when you’re sick AND you’re little ones are sick, and you’re dealing with it alone…holy hell, now that is just a situation full of some of the worst snot and hellfire imaginable. It is definitely my most least favourite. And it still makes me do the entirely unhelpful ‘It’s not faaaaaaiiiiiiiiirrrrrrr’ thing on the odd occasion.
For the last two weeks both Little Man and I have had some cold type fluey cough thing that seems to have infected half of Tasmania, and it also feels like it lasts for. ever.
The first thing that is challenging about this scenario is that a sick toddler can be a seriously baffling creature. Their lack of ability to communicate coupled with the fact that they’re just feeling like crap and full of emotions they don’t know what to do with is like ‘What the?…WOAH DUDE!’. One night over the last few weeks, I stood at the end of my bed and wondered for a moment if Little Man had gone crazy. He’d woken up and toddled into my room asking for a bottle, so I shuffled off to the microwave, hit 40 seconds and held myself up on the fridge while I waited for it to beep. I handed him his bottle and he threw it across the room yelling ‘My want bottle!!!’.
‘That is your bottle, sweetheart’ I replied and handed it back to him.
He threw it again. Despite my best guessing game efforts, he clearly wanted something he couldn’t communicate and I couldn’t figure out… Minutes later he was running around the house screaming ‘No mummy no, my want bottle, my want bottle’ until his little head went bright red . So I sat with him, I tried to coax him back to bed. My head pounded and my body ached. I tried to get him to lay down in my bed. I tried to read him a book which is usually guaranteed to calm him down if he’s upset. He just threw that across the room too. So I pulled out the big guns – putting on a Play Doh video on my iPhone. That’s usually an iron-tight road to calmness and tranquility.
I managed to grab the phone off him just before he threw that across the room too.
And so I sat there.
I sat there at silly o’ clock in the morning and watched my baby scream.
He didn’t want cuddles.
He didn’t want anything.
Eventually, his screams turned into sobs which turned into whimpers and suddenly, his body softened, he looked up at me and said ‘Bottle mum?’ and I gave it to him and we snuggled up and went to sleep.
That was just one night over the past two weeks.
The lack of sleep, waning energy and maxed-out upper pain limit all culminated for me on Thursday night.
I’d finally managed to get Little Man to bed around 8:30pm.
I was tired. I had work to do, and with a hacking cough that is seriously the worst cough I’ve ever had in my life (and no I’m not exaggerating, I tried three different types of cough syrup and put Vicks on my feet. A friend told me that putting a cut up onion in your socks works… I seriously contemplated it ), I sat up until 1am to get it done, then crawled into bed.
My silly prolapsed disc has been playing up, so every time I coughed it felt like my spine was going to pop right out of my back and run away because it didn’t want to live with me any more. I was actually having to hold my back every time I coughed.
2am. I couldn’t sleep. I was in so much pain despite being filled with decongestant and Codeine and Ibuprofen and I coughed so damn hard that I actually saw stars. About 3am I got to that point when you start bargaining… With god or the universe or whatever you believe in ‘Please, please make the pain stop. I’m so tired. Please, I’ll be good, I’ll do anything, just please let me sleep’.
And eventually I realised I’d stopped coughing for a few minutes.
The I heard the pitter-patter of little feet.
Little Man climbed into bed next to me.
He was sopping wet.
His nappy had leaked.
‘Really??’ I thought ‘Sweet buttercups and buttholes, REALLY??’.
So, bent over with pain, I got up and cough-hacked my way to his bedroom to get a nappy and a fresh set of pyjamas.
I had run out of nappies.
How the hell had I run out of nappies?
Both of us had been sick for two weeks and my brain was screwed, that’s how I’d run out of nappies.
But luckily I keep a secret stash in the car.
So I hobbled outside in near freezing temperatures to get a nappy.
By this point I was in tears. You know those really tired, fed up tears where you can’t even really be bothered crying so it sort of comes out as a whimpering sob?
By the time I got back to Little Man, I’d made it to that pointless ‘This just isn’t fucking fair’ stage in my head.
And so I took off his wet nappy, rolled it up and pegged it across the room in frustration.
You know what happened next, don’t you?
Millions of peed on little nappy crystals spread themselves around my bedroom.
And sometimes it’s one little thing like that that can move you from the ‘It’s not fair’ stage to the ‘This is so ridiculous and I’m so exhausted it’s hilarious’ stage in your head.
And that’s when I remembered that I’d felt this way before. Two years ago when things were so hard and so shit and so sad, and I felt like this at some point every single day. And the most important thing I remembered about that time is that it does go away, you just have to let go, accept it and ride along with it.
So I got Little Man into a dry nappy and warm pyjamas and we snuggled in my big bed together and I cried and wished the pain would go away and we hugged each other and both eventually fell sleep.
A few days later and we were both (mostly) back to our normal selves, but if there’s anything I’d pick to win the award for the great smelly anchovy pizza of solo parenting, it’s that… It’s those times when things don’t go to plan, when there’s an upset in the apple cart, a break in regularly scheduled programming and you’re not running at 100%, or even 50%… When you and your kids get sick and a huge expense pops up or you have an emergency at work or in your business, and it’s just YOU, there’s no one else there to say ‘Can you just watch him for a sec?’ or ‘I’m so tired/sick/feel like I could potentially be dying so could you cook dinner/do the dishes/wash the clothes/ play with the baby/get shit ready for tomorrow/do the groceries/pay the bills/call great Aunt Fanny because it’s her birthday?’
Sometimes there is no bail out.
You just have to find a way.
And sure, we have our support networks. As a solo parent your support networks are essential. But when it comes down to it, at 3am in the morning and every one else is tucked up into bed in their own lives, it’s still all comes down to just YOU.
And that takes some damn hefty resilience solo mummas, it really does.
We should be proud of that.
I said a few times during my recovery from divorce that I felt like I must have had some sort of bi-polar disorder.
My emotions were so big and fluctuated so often that I felt continuously out of whack, out of balance.
Anger, pain, gratefulness, awe, loneliness, sadness, unworthiness, guilt… sometimes they were so big and fast that I couldn’t even name them. The best I could do was say I felt good or bad and they all rose up out of me and dissipated again in mere seconds or minutes of the day.
I thought there was something wrong with me, that I had to heal enough to quieten them again, to control them so I could finally be at peace.
Well, today, I think I’m mostly healed… but you know what I’ve found?
All those emotions are still there.
In fact, they’re probably more ‘there’ than ever.
I still feel anger, loneliness, sadness, guilt, pain, gratefulness, excitement, melancholy, determination, awe a million times a day and they can change in an instant.
They change when I’ve had a conversation with someone.
They change when I read something and learn something new that shifts my whole perspective about life and the universe and my own life path.
They change when I’m tired, when I’m hungry, when I’ve had too much coffee, when I haven’t had enough coffee, when I’ve had too much sugar, after I’ve exercised, after I’ve hugged someone, after I’ve had sex, when my son put his arms out and says ‘Big cuddle, Mummy?’
The difference is, now I know how to be friends with them.
During the course of my marriage, I had shut off pretty much all of my emotions. I had a 12 month period of experiencing intense anxiety and panic attacks and then, eventually, all went quiet. I thought I had fixed the problem, but in reality my insides were numb, an empty chasm from trying not to be so emotional. My husband wasn’t a very emotional person, and now I can look back, he didn’t really like, or perhaps, know how to handle my emotions – I felt everything deeply and my emotions were influenced easily which possibly made my behaviour seem erratic at times So, seeing that they bothered him, I tried to put them away. That wasn’t his fault. I made that choice. I changed myself until I wasn’t myself.
Until I was nothing.
So, after my separation, when my emotions started flooding back… of course it seemed like I’d just stepped into this massive colourful, unpredictable, confusing world of chaos.
It was overwhelming.
And at times I did wonder if there was something wrong with me.
But slowly, after so much reading and therapy and watching TED talks and more reading , I’ve come to learn just how precious my feelings are, and more importantly, how they work.
They are my compass.
They let me know when something isn’t right.
They let me know when I need to make change.
They kick me up the butt when I’m doing something wrong.
They tell me when something is right.
I’m an emotional person.
I like that about me.
It’s sometimes frustrating and sometimes annoying and sometimes exhausting but it also helps me be a philosopher, it helps me think of the questions I need to ask to create beautiful interviews for my magazine, it drives me to try to be a better person, it motivates me to try to create positive change in the world.
And now I know how to sit with them instead of trying to ignore and control them. I know how to listen to what they have to say. I know how to name them, accept them and work through them. I know how to figure out why they’re there and I know if I need to listen to them or if I can tell them politely to go away please because they are there from some past hurt I’ve experienced, not what’s actually happening right here, right now (now, that last one is still a bit new to me, but I can see it fast becoming a very handy skill to have!).
For the first time in my whole life, my feelings are sitting comfortably with me, even the uncomfortable ones. They’re my best friends, my mentors, my guides and the things I listen to rather than looking to the outside world all the bloody time to tell me what I should do next, how I should act or who I should be.
Thank you little feelings.
Thank you for helping me be whole again.
Lately things have slowed down a bit, and not because I’ve been expertly practicing self-care, oh no, nothing so tricksy as that… It’s because Little Man has discovered the art of indecisiveness.
And so this theme of patience continues to wrap me in its loving grip of learning.
Yesterday morning I asked Little Man what he wanted for breakfast. Crumpets or toast.
He said he wanted Cruskits instead.
I thought that was a pretty fair breakfast choice, so asked him what he wanted on his Cruskits.
‘Honey’ he replied.
And so I lovingly spread butter and honey on a Cruskit and handed it to my little angel.
‘No, no Vegemite, Mummy’ he said as I handed it to him.
‘Ok’, I think. I can have the honey Cruskit and I spread another with butter and Vegemite for him.
‘No Mummy, jam!’.
‘But you asked for honey and then Vegemite, Little Man. Are you really sure you want jam?’
‘Are you suuuuuuuuure?’
At this point we were starting to run late so I slapped some butter and a glob of jam onto a Cruskit and handed it to him as I shoved the Vegemite Cruskit into my mouth.
‘Noooooooooooooooooo’. I looked down at my little sausage, there were tears of utter dismay shooting out of his face in every direction, ‘Me want Vegemite! Me want Vegemite!’
‘What?!’ I say… ‘But you said… oh ok’ I hand him back the Vegemite Cruskit, and for any of you who are parents, I’m sure you can guess what happened next…
‘Me no want broken one!!!’ (It was broken because I’d taken a bite out of it).
Cut to two minutes later, one frazzled Mummy with a handful of Cruskits in one hand and a crying toddler under the other arm make it to the car and, eventually, after a lot of distraction techniques have been employed, eat our broken Cruskits on the way to day care.
Do I get a nap before I sit down at my desk?
Lol… anyway… so, since writing my last post about how we can lose our sense of self in relationships, people have asked me how they go about find themselves once those relationships end and they realise they’ve lost themselves.
Funnily enough, I sat down with my psychologist a while back and together we nutted out how I’d done it, then we turned that into practical steps and I wrote an article about it that appeared in the last issue of Lift.
So here you go, click on the article clip below to find out how I did it….
I’m nearly at 800 days.
And every day I’m still growing so much.
I’ve had this idea, an idea that I don’t know is correct… I haven’t been able to find anything to back it up, but I have this feeling that the amount of time it takes to recover after separation and divorce can to some extent depend on how far you moved away from yourself during your relationship (as well as a whole lot of other stuff, of course).
I’ve seen some mums recover a lot quicker than me and I’m all like ‘Holy hell, how did you get your shit together so quickly?’ or ‘How have you learned that lesson at day 30 when it took me all of 642 days!?’.
Like I said, there are many factors around all that, BUT I’ve come to believe that my divorce opened up a flood gate for me…. a flood gate to myself.
It was like I had been living in a desert…not a dessert, although that would be cool, I would choose flummery. You haven’t heard of flummery? My Dad used to make it for me. You can Google it if you like…anyway, yes, it was like I’d been living in a desert: sparse and dry and uninspiring, with me lying on the cracked earth without the motivation to open my eyes to the world any more… and not even really knowing why. My divorce threw me into a river of rapids rushing past all the things I’d become blind to for so many years. All the things I’d forgotten, or didn’t have the courage to see anymore.
I remember once, a few years ago now, saying to my ex-husband, ‘I don’t know who I am. How do you know who your are? How does a person figure that out?’ and he simply replied. ‘You just do’. I had no idea what he meant. And I struggled with it. I started desperately trying to find out who I was… and at the same time I started my search, I stopped going outside. I threw out all my books. I sat on my iPhone looking numbly at Facebook and I worked in a role that did not inspire me in any way. As I was so desperately searching for who I was, I was destroying myself at exactly the same time.
The last two years I’ve been playing catch up. I’ve been exploring and contemplating and sucking in every last interesting thing I can get my grotty little baby-germ ridden hands on. And it’s only now I’m settling and feeling a sense of stability, not in my life, but in me.
A feeling of things fitting into place.
Not in my life.
Deep within me I feel like I’m getting to know what I’m made up of, like wet cement dripping through cracks and gaps of solid stone.
I know what should be there.
And what shouldn’t.
Where I should be.
Where I shouldn’t be.
If a decision is right for me.
And for the first time in as as long as I can remember, I don’t feel that desperate need to search any longer.
I know who I am.
I know where I am.
I know that my path will take me the way I’m destined to go, without wondering if it’s right or what the final outcome or destination will be.
For the first time, I can switch off my computer at the end of the day and not feel the itch of needing to accomplish something or figure something out or find something new or fix a problem I have.
I can sit.
I can relax.
I can be still.
Even if I’ve been slack and not done a yoga class for a day or two… or three.
… and I’ve just bought myself an Apple TV so I can sit on my butt and be still and watch copious amounts of documentaries about Mt Everest (So excited).
So, back to my original thought… I had moved so far away from myself during the course of my marriage, that I literally did not know who I was any more. If I decide to have a relationship again, next time I will take much better care of, and valiantly defend this ‘who’ that I now know I am.
And I wonder… If I had known to do that that during my first marriage and retained my sense of self, would I would have recovered from my divorce a lot quicker? Or perhaps, if I’m really honest with myself, would I have in fact looked at the situation a lot more carefully and taken the initiative to remove myself before it reached such damaging proportions?
I don’t even know what day I’m up to today but I had to share before I flop into bed…
I was tucking Little Man into bed tonight and we realised he didn’t have his most favourite, very well worn bunny.
‘Oh no! Bunny must be in the lounge room’ I said ‘Do you want me to get him for you?’.
‘No Mummy’ he replied.
‘But Bunny is your best friend! He’ll be sad without you’. I said with my best pretend sad face.
‘No Mummy’ Little Man insisted ‘He not best friend’.
‘Oh then’ I said, thinking he must have been referring to one of his day care buddies. ‘Who is your best friend then?’
‘Mummy is best friend’.
I think my heart just melted all over the floor.
And it’s just occurred to me that even though I didn’t make Little Man a baby book because things were a bit hectic back then, I still have many of our special moments recorded here 🙂
Hi there old friends 🙂
Today I’m feeling like a super mum.
It doesn’t happen very often. Lol.
It’s 12:19am, and it’s been such a long time since I’ve written a late night post… possibly because I used to write in the wee hours to take away the pain when I couldn’t sleep. These days I’m content and snoring my head off, eagerly trying to grab all the sleep I can while most probably having Little Man toes stuck up my nose.
These are good things.
But, back to being a super mum.
You know when you’re playing a computer game (My favourite used to be Alex the Kid, do you remember it?! I think it was a Playstation 1 game) and you’re trying to complete a level and either a) you can’t for the life of you figure out what you need to do to complete the damn level and you make your character walk round and round and jump on things and roll over things a million times to figure out what you’re missing or b) you do know what you need to do but you can’t master it and so keep dying and having to do the same thing over and over and over again and then in a fit of delusional exhaustion (when you should’ve been in bed two days ago), you end up screaming at your tv screen at 3am because you can’t possibly take a break and sleep before you figure out how to get past the stupid thing and onto the next level?
Ok, so I haven’t done that for many many years, but this has sort of been what my life has felt like lately.
Little Man has moved into his ‘big boy bed’ which was a novelty the first night but then he figured out he could actually get out of it and so the night time runs backwards and forwards from my bed to his have begun. We’re also toilet training and I’m considering asking the ‘dummy fairy’ to make an appearance and take his beloved dummy to the big dummy bowl up in the sky. But, let’s tackle one thing at a time. I’m not quite sure which order I’m tackling these in quite yet, but I think sleep is taking the lead for now. Lift is just, I don’t even know what to say… the stories and the people and the creativity and the chance to make a difference are all my dreams combined since being a little child, but it’s also challenging me in ways I’ve never been challenged before…. especially the part where I’m balancing creating a magazine, making it into a business, also doing freelance design work and writing and it’s all sort of jumbled together. There have been days when I’ve sat at my desk and said ‘I don’t know. I don’t know what to do next or how to fix this bit or if this thing is the right thing to do and agghhhhh’. But so far, it’s sort of working and it’s growing and it seems to be helping people. But this painful jumble of stuff also prompted me figure some things out… Given my love of creating big long pretty documents like Lift while also trying to pull my working life together into a more congruent direction, I’ve decided to niche my freelance design, writing and editing work on creating publications for women and businesses… books, annual reports, magazines and catalogues. In other news (literally!) I also recently had an article published about my story and Lift in the Courier Mail. That was both awesome and terrifying. It was posted online and as much as I knew I shouldn’t have, I looked at the comments, and I got blasted with a capital B. Mostly by angry men and mostly because of an area of miscommunication in the article, but that’s not the point. The point is that being criticized has been one of my biggest fears. Some people would rather die than attempt public speaking… this was my public speaking. And you know what, I’m still here. And you know what else? It’s really ok for them to have their opinions. I also got so many encouraging messages and emails and it gave me the opportunity to reach out to mums I wouldn’t have had the chance to make contact with otherwise. Finally, something I don’t like talking about much anymore, I guess because it’s a reminder of the past, is that I’m actually feeling somewhat calm about the mediation process I’m going through with my ex-husband. I wish I didn’t have to go through the process, but at least it no longer fills me with fear and dread. It just lives in a little corner of my life and I give it the attention required when it needs it, and if it help us create a positive outcome that we can both work with for Little Man in the future, it will be worth it.
So now it’s 12:25am, Little Man is snoring away, I’ve just published the latest issue of Lift, I have my next steps planned, there is snow on the mountain, we’re heading out for a play date with Little Man’s BFF from day care in the morning and before I tuck in, I’m going to test out the nommy looking muesli slice from this issue of Lift, courtesy of the lovely Domestic Mumma. (It’s on page 58 if you want to check it out) I know it’s stupid o clock… but hey, how often do I stay up this late anymore?
I think I just leveled up.
Happy mother’s Day for Sunday all you mummas out there.
Today I can officially announce that I have survived two years post life shattering divorce.
Sunday was my official anniversary, but Little Man and I have been away in the middle of nowheresville camping for Easter, so today is the day I’m writing about it.
I remember way back when my life had just pooped all over me and then thrown me head-long under a metaphoric log truck that definitely didn’t feel so metaphoric at all, a counsellor told me that grief cycles, on average, take about two years to do their thing. In the depths of my agony and unable to contemplate the idea that I’d feel that way for two years, I, was all like ‘Lady, why you be telling me this sort of depressing shit?’ and I decided I’d recover in just one year instead.
Today I can say that that counsellor was probably more on the money than I was and in fact, she may have underestimated it a little…. but I have always been impatient.
It took me one year just to feel NORMAL again, and considering what happened, feeling ‘normal’ was a pretty massive fucking improvement.
It’s taken me another year to put the pieces of my life back together in some sort of abstract form, and will probably be another year before I feel like it’s all getting where it needs to go, although, now I also accept that I’m always going to carry some scars. But hey, don’t they say scars are sexy??
And it’s only now, with a wealth of experience behind me, that can say that IT IS ALL OK. You see, what the counsellor didn’t tell me in those early days, is that while grief cycles are bloody long little stinkers, the human mind has a fascinating way of dealing with them. Because they’re ‘cycles’, they ebb and flow, they won’t always be with you one hundred percent of every day with the intense anguish that they command in the beginning AND like everything humans experience, you sort of get used to them being there and you’ll develop the skills you need to deal with them as you’re moving through them.
So, upon reflection of my ongoing two year grief cycle so far, today I’d like to say two things that I think are really really important when it comes to separation and divorce as parents…
Firstly, that the length and severity of grief cycles depend on so many factors that you can’t accurately predict when they’ll loosen their grip on you. Things like how long you were together, the age of your children, if you were already having relationship problems, if domestic violence or emotional abuse was involved, if the split was amicable, if the resulting co-parenting relationships is amicable, if you have financial difficulties, how much support you have around you, if your family are close by… they all play a role. So if you are newly separated, keep in mind that setting a goal for recovery is a great idea, but keep it flexible and re-evaluate along the way. It will take as long as it takes and you WILL have the tools you need along the way if you are open to them. The key here, I think (as you’ve probably noticed) is to document your journey, even if it’s only a couple of words a day. You don’t have to be a writer or even any good at writing, just put some shit down on paper so you can look back and remind yourself of how far you’ve come – it will be one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.
Secondly, the fallout from divorce as a co-parent does not always go away. Again, this depends on the situation and both co-parents involved, but in some cases (and I have no idea of the statistics on exactly how many) there will always be hurdles to jump and negotiations to battle, and it sucks and some days you’ll probably want to curl up into a little ball and cry and say ‘What did I do to deserve this?’. Some days you may just have to batten down the hatches and deal with some shiz you feel like you shouldn’t have to deal with, but as I said, it’s only SOME DAYS, and every time you do put your big girl pants on and face it, you will become SO MUCH STRONGER and the grip it has on you will become less and less.
Saying that, I think I’ll add a third point… To work through the above tough moments with as little disruption to your emotional well being and the emotional well being of your kids as possible, find yourself a damn fine psychologist who can act as an objective outsider to keep you moving forward. You may not need to see that person weekly or even regularly, but when the tough moments hit, I can’t tell you how comforting it is to have someone I can go to, who knows my story but is emotionally detached from it, and who can quickly pick up where I’m at and help me work through things. Sometimes she tells me things I don’t want to hear, sometimes she confirms things I was doubting, but even if it can sometimes be daunting, I always come out of her office ready to tackle that tricky next step. Try it out, and don’t necessarily settle for the first person you see, try a few until you find the psychologist-guru that fits you.
Your life after divorce will never be the same, but it can still be beautiful in a very real, slightly rugged, ‘chipped on the edges’ kind of way. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve always found that the well-worn, sorta wonky things in life are always the most interesting.