Seven years ago this week, my daughter and I left our family home and life as we knew it and started over, just the two of us.
At the time I had recently separated, and with no guarantee of how it would all work out, took the bold step to move, intuitively feeling that it was the right thing for us be doing.
I am writing this post because of all of the content I have shared previously here on the blog or on social, it’s the separation that people inquire about the most in terms of ‘how to’ get through it. My intention is to lend whatever strength, comfort or insight may be found for those going through a similar journey today. I want this post to be easily relatable and not a life story though I feel by the time I’m finished it may be as long! That said, I know that when we find ourselves in unsettling times, we are more inclined to look for something a little deeper than a pithy post of 500 words.
Given I plan on writing this kind of post only once, I feel I owe it to those behind me on the journey, to write it well.
Before you read on, it’s worth noting for context, that prior to my marital separation I was as physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally ‘well-rounded’ as anyone could hope to be. I was a Tigger personality and Tiggers don’t like to feel like Eyeore, but even in that, I learned a valuable life lesson about allowing. I think the life lessons learned may well have to find their way into another post!
The facts are as follows.
Please do read them as facts, not opinions or judgment of similar choices you may have made.
1. I have wished to be taken off the planet; to not be here anymore.
2. I considered fleetingly on more than one occasion how convenient it may be to just take care of that myself.
3. Having slept like a baby all my life (until I had a baby that is!) I did not sleep for months on end. How I functioned I don’t know, but clearly pulled it off because my then employers had no idea what I was going through till I told them. To this day, I believe that sleep deprivation is one of the most underrated harmful conditions for the human body to experience. It is with wry humour that I muse to what extent it was responsible for the above points.
4. I don’t know if I was what ‘they’ class as depressed; I’m sure there would be a hundred professionals who might label my dark states as such, but it was simply not a label I ever felt necessary… (despite point No.1)
5. For the most part, I went through the early stages without the support network of friends or family; it was my choice entirely as a reflection of my more private/introverted personality.
6. I went through this process with no more medication than chardonnay, peanut butter, Grey’s Anatomy and sleepeaze – (over the counter sleep aid supposed to help you get into a regular sleeping pattern again though I’m not sure to what extent they made any difference).
7. Finally, I stumbled upon a few decisions that would become my mainstay. I now believe these were absolutely key to being able to come out the other side of my experience as I have; it is these I will share with you next.
It’s worth saying again, that the above are the facts; everybody’s journey and experience is different.
What gets us through
What we do to get through is usually what others find most useful. After detailing the key decisions I made, I will share the ‘Things I Struggled With’ which some of you may also recognise, before finishing with a few insights I’d tell myself could I go back in time.
Seven years ago, I did not have the level of conscious awareness I approach life with these days as a result of personal study and training. My internal landscape felt so messy as I found myself living a life that had none of its usual points of reference.
What I did at the time was done by someone muddling through, not someone giving their best insight to them self. It’s no surprise that ‘The Balance Mentor’ was born out of the greatest season of imbalance in my life.
Without the purpose of a post like this, I’m not sure it’s natural to retrospectively dissect the elements that were key to our process but upon reflection, I believe these are the elements that helped me most and know they have the potential to help others too.
Exercise. I made the decision to move every day.
I knew it would release the endorphins and figured I needed all help I could get, it wasn’t even about ‘feeding my soul’ in the early days. Initially, this was THE singular thing I decided I could do thinking ‘if I can just get out for a walk/run today’ I’ll have done something positive to help myself’.
Gratitude. I was thankful for what I had.
At the time I was not consciously ‘practicing gratitude’ and it certainly felt like I was saying the same things every single day because every day looked the same! Now I know that this simple habit, a prayer if you will, was so important in focusing my mind on what I had, not what I did not have.
Help. I stumbled upon help in the form of books.
Without a doubt, the greatest comfort I received was from books that explained me to myself in a way that was so profound. The Untethered Soul, The Seat of The Soul and The Power of Now were an absolute lifeline. Books can be there for us when people are not.
I allowed for new life to be breathed into relationships particularly with my family. This meant getting over an inner caution about spending time with my parents mainly, simply because I didn’t want them to feel used. When I left home at 16, I quite literally left and got on with my life. I was a strong, confident woman, self-sufficient in almost every way from that age onwards, and though I was blessed to know they were always there for me, I’d never needed or especially looked for it. I wondered if it appeared rich to be turning up to Braithwaite life again when the proverbial had hit the fan though lovingly they assured me otherwise.
Being open is not something we want to do when we’re going through the wringer. We want to close down, retreat and protect ourselves. Hurting feels vulnerable.
I include this here for those of you who also have been used to being your own person and then find yourself leaning on the unconditional love of others be it family or friends. Allow for it.
Boundaries. I protected our airspace.
Not everyone has earned the right to speak into our lives and yet it can be amazing how many are ready to do so, even with well-meaning intentions. Similarly, not everyone is able to hold your gold or is able to deal with upset; these people are best not shared with.
Knowing this, we were very deliberate about who we told the news of our separation with and when. My family who I wasn’t especially close to at the time, didn’t judge or try councel me but extended love. I respect them hugely for holding space for us to find our way without being suffocating.
Releasing. I released my daughter to come and go.
Whenever she was due to spend time with Dad I would send her off or welcome her home with excitement and without emotional clinging. I chose not to tell her I was going to miss her, rather I encouraged her to have a good time. When she was old enough I explained my reasons for doing so; I never wanted her to grow up feeling responsible for my happiness or to feel bad for leaving. These days we do say we’ll miss each other, we allow for it rather than avoiding it, but in the early days, I felt it was a healthy habit.
Things I Struggled With
The early months were accompanied with a beautiful grace, the transition happened as well as you would hope and we loved our new home and location. There was even an air of excitement about the new beginning which I know is not uncommon. Eventually, though, the dust settles and the newness wears off.
How To Do Life
Gradually, I became aware I was completely unfamiliar with what it was to be a single woman and mother. Growing up, the roles I saw modeled were all married ones. My core wiring in this department had always been about how and who a woman is in the world whilst in a relationship with a man, rarely about who she is on her own.
How do you do life when all you’ve ever known is being in a relationship and doing life alongside another?
I had identified from my studies that the linchpin of my life had historically been the relationship I was in. It met my human need for certainty. With that linchpin gone, everything was uncertain and it felt like most things needed to be relearnt.
Did I need a replacement linchpin in the form of something else? How was I to find another fuel for my fire when NOTHING was showing up as a suitable replacement of its own accord. So much apparent waiting… should I jump in and make something happen?
Living and working predominantly alone and for the most part, intentionally, you might imagine that this has been a significant stage in the process. It’s not something you’re prepared to deal with until you have to. I didn’t think I’d be alone till perhaps I found myself that way aged 80 or 90, not when I was in my 30’s!
I found my strength in solitude.
The Balance of Being and Doing
Finding the balance between allowing for the process and feeling the desire to move on was tough, is not a science, and can be highly frustrating especially for people who like to feel they make life happen.
Suffice to say with all the above, I sat with the pain and discomforts long enough to find that there is a healing, an ‘other side’. I have learned how to do life without a man by my side and these days I cherish if not crave time alone.
Things I’d Advise Myself Facing The Early Days
As we reach the end of this post, there are a few words of wisdom I’d whisper back in time could I talk to myself which may help if you’re currently facing the early days in this process.
- Everything that used to give you feelings of certainty and security and your sense of self and fit in the world, has just been blown apart. This is gonna feel TOTALLY disorienting.
- I know you’re not a cry-er, but you’re going to find yourself crying a lot, you’re going to find yourself behaving in ways that aren’t ‘you’ normally, it will feel vulnerable as hell; it’s ok, don’t fight it because it’ll pass. People who judge you whilst you’re in that state, you simply do not need to be around. Remove yourself from that negative energy at the first available opportunity.
- You’re not going to feel yourself let alone on top of your game, and possibly for quite a while, because there is no game ‘as you know it now’. But there will be a new game, in time.
- Eat as well as you can, and MOVE. When you’re feeling down, life vibrates at low frequencies (that’s why you may find comfort in sad music or programmes like Greys!) The right foods and movement will really help raise that frequency.
- Give yourself a break, this is uncharted territory so by definition you don’t have a map but others have, learn from them what you can.
- There will come a time when you are ready to let go of the pain that has come into your life… when that comes, let it go. If you’re not wise to it, it can become a “me and my story” situation.
- Though you’ll never return to being the same person you were before, you’ll thank your experience and you will get your ‘Tigger’ back.
And Finally (if you’re still here)
As we do, I have learned and grown much as the result of a process I did not choose. Perhaps a future post would be fitting for all the positive things owed to this season of life that I would not be without now.
Going through this time, I personally held the belief that helpful though it may be to talk to others or to spend time in the company of friends, at the end of the day, when the door closed or the phone call was over, I was going to be left by myself and I had to manage. For that reason, I chose to do all I could to help myself in the ways I’ve shared above.
No-one can go through our pain for us and we all process our pains in different ways. – there is no right way. If you are walking a path like this at present, I hope that you will find the strength you need for today. Don’t become overwhelmed with the bigger picture and all the ways life doesn’t look like what you thought; focus on the very present moment, and then the next…
With love ~ Olivia.