Eight years ago I left what some labelled a good marriage. On presentation, it ticked a lot of other people’s boxes; the business savvy husband, gorgeous children, the huge family home, the holidays and a pretty comfortable lifestyle. However, this perspective depends upon what your kind of boxes are. I grappled for 2 years trying to bridge the widening gap between us.
My decision to separate was cemented on the tail end of my ex-husband’s words declaring if I was unhappy it was my problem, but to also remember he had all the money and he would be taking the kids
Needless to say, that launched us into legal proceedings which were endured for 14 months. Acrimonious they labelled it, which is just a dressed up way of saying it’s going to cost a lot. I lived the experience that when he does have all control over the money it makes for a powerlessness and helplessness I never, ever want to feel again. For a long time, I sat with not knowing what my life may look like post-divorce, which was reinforced by an ever changing story.
In the end, I was pretty sure I never saw the truth, just many versions part-thereof, but by then the cost had gone beyond money. I knew it was the right decision to go but it was a naïve undertaking. See above.
In a metaphoric sense, to stay in my marriage felt like I was amongst the living dead. What I didn’t understand back then, and really why would I, was that this would be the very unravelling of me. Little did I know this collapse would continue for at least 5 years afterwards, it was so far in my 46 years on this earth, the hardest, most difficult time of my life.
Everything changed. I was challenged on many fronts as every part shattered into what I thought would be irretrievable pieces of me. I felt intrinsically broken for a long time. I think I was.
This decision catapulted me into solo motherhood of four children, a changing identity that had more punch than I ever anticipated. I was judged. I was criticized. I was gossiped about. I was bullied. I was threatened. Aggression was delivered upon my front doorstep for years. The distain was palatable. Family relationships changed, and some ceased all together. Friendships ended. I lost any sense of whom I could trust, aside from two family members and a few friends, I backed away from a lot of people.
I faced a clinical depression for the first time in my life, sleeping maybe an hour a night as I began to live in a haze, barely functioning along side many desperate and dark thoughts. Warning signs that should not be ignored or down played.
In spite of this, and with the right professional and spiritual help, I began wading through the cauldron of loss and despair, and uncovered something beyond that wreckage and heartache. I somehow found myself rising through the wake of my divorce with an incredible call to keep changing my life. To back myself in a way I had never done before. I didn’t have the words back then. I think I always had this longing to come home to my self but it took being annihilated to find it.
Yet, this homecoming did not appear all at once in some magical moment, but rather it emerged as I began to move from threat and survival into living, wholeheartedly so.
In the past 8 years, I have almost completed the equivalent of five years full time university study, culminating with graduating my Masters at the end of this year. I started a small business, a counselling practice, where I have interest in grief, trauma and addictions. We have created a new family home in which I have continued to mother our four mighty children. And rather randomly, I have taken up hiking.
To really kick this off I went to the Dolomites in Italy a year ago and hiked the Alta Via 1 on my own, all 150kms of it. Hmm, there seems to be a solo theme here. I want to exclaim I do not know where I have found the strength and energy to do all of this but in the spirit of backing my self, this is who I am. Empowered, capable, and perhaps a little mad.
There is the honourable mention of being a sober alcoholic, which I must say is contradictory to read the word sober and alcoholic in the same sentence. I am grateful for being sober, and it has been a long time, 27 years of abstinence. I found sobriety at 19 years old, or rather it found me, so that makes me a teenage drunk. I was on a reckless and downward spiral into destroying myself.
To say I’m sober must include that this happened in spite of myself. I wanted to keep drinking until I couldn’t feel anymore, I wanted everything to dim out. Forever. Just quietly I’ve had some life experience.
Painstakingly I’ve slowly awakened to the truth that only I can make myself happy, I cannot live my life through anyone else. I’ve learned I am accountable for all of my actions, my feelings and my thoughts, and especially my wellbeing. No one has the power to control me, unless I give them that gig. I no longer accept aggression or verbal violence as someone having a bad day, now I close the front door or walk away. I don’t care that communication doesn’t get finished, it has ceased to be my problem.
My responsibility was addressing what it was in me that minimised and accepted that in the first place, and let’s say that’s been a journey! People can easily judge your life sitting on the sidelines, and they did, but the truth is they are not living yours every day.
I certainly do not live my life perfectly. In fact, there have been countless moments where I haven’t understood what I am doing, where I have made some what I’d call monumental mistakes; trusted the wrong people, gone against my intuition, questioned my parenting, given too much to people and too often, allowed those 3am negative thoughts to pummel my self-esteem, and much more. Sometimes wondering if there is even punchline to all of this. Like it’s a cosmic joke or worse.
At times, I have felt so alone, absolutely questioned my purpose and thought if there was truly a God, it has sure abandoned this ship. Frankly, the idea of God is a current write off. However, I believe in the power of good, and of love, thanks to those gorgeous and amazing humans who are my people.
Through all of this I have had to keep coming back to my self, realising there is no one coming to save me. I have had to save my self. You know, be my own hero. This realisation as I said has been bone-achingly crushing and ruthless, but it sure got my attention to where it needed to be. With me. I have lived with the story I am not enough for a long time. It had to change. It is changing.
My big life lesson, if you want to label it that, has been finding myself through everything I have both endured and experienced, I have discovered what it is to begin leaning inwards.
I found myself asking what if I leaned into the discomfort itself rather than pull away, looking for all sorts of outside influences to make me feel better? What if I backed myself, no matter how messy it got? What if I could tell myself I’ve got this? Surely, evidence shows that I have. I have fronted up, day after day, feeling utterly defeated at times and not knowing how I was going to crawl my way out of the unravelling. But I have. I am here.
I am a lot more willing these days to lean into the discomfort, face what is arising in me rather than desperately trying to find something else to fill the ache.
Returning to the hike in the Dolomites, the same questions kept arising in my mind, what if this boldness I was experiencing was an intrinsic part of me? What if it had been there all along? What would my life be like if I tried to live this every day? I thought I was experiencing extreme fear in those Italian mountains and in actual fact it turned out to be excitement, exhilaration and joy, maybe fuelled by adrenaline, but it was a positive, not a negative. It just got me thinking the way I often see myself is not the way I actually am.
Remember that homecoming to my self I mentioned earlier? Well exactly that. So much so, I’ve registered the business name, Leaning Inwards, started this blog, and created some products, which will be launched in the coming weeks on this page, to hopefully help others recognise and know they’ve got this too.
Even as I write there are parts of me that flinch with the thought of putting this out there. Alternatively, what if this hesitation is an opportunity daring me to courageously step up to my ideas? That’s not fear, that’s bravery. It’s time to own the boldness as a part of me, not something I had once hiking in Italy. I understand there are so many people facing so much, significantly much more than I ever have, and I want them to know, you to know, you can do this too.
Fear will attempt to dictate the worst that could happen. Discontent will demand you look outwards for the answer. Pain will whimper it’s too much. Doubt will want you to question your ability. But what if you were to lean into your fear, discontent, pain, and doubt? There is no safer place than coming home to your self. I call it Leaning Inwards. This is to remind you. You’ve got this. And then some.