“I am pretty fearless, and you know why? Because I don’t handle fear very well; I’m not a good terrified person.”
~ Stevie Nicks (Singer & former member of the iconic Fleetwood Mac)
Looking back over the last three-year of my life is like watching a film based on the life of someone else. It’s been an incredible roller coaster ride of emotion. It is a story filled with pain, grief, feelings of emotional and financial betrayal, and also of change, emotional and spiritual growth and of survival.
I absolutely have survived the separation of a marriage and partnership that lasted almost 18 years, and the subsequent divorce that followed. It was, to say the very least, a shock when the Taurus walked out on that fateful day, three years ago. We had been standing on shaky ground by then. Mistrust and lack of communication was taking its toll. My father had passed away and I felt emotionally abandoned by the man I loved as he grew more and more distant and passively aggressive in his silence.
Then it was over. Not just like that. But it felt like that – sudden and shocking and incomprehensible. I was left with empty promises made years before in a sea of satin and flowers in front of an altar in a church, and emotional and financial devastation. I was in shock, and for the first time in my life, I felt completely broken. Soul destroyed. In the space of months I had lost my father, my husband and marriage, my family home and all I had worked for, and my sense of sanity!
Looking back, separation can only be a defining point in your life. Nothing will ever be the same again no matter how much you will it to be at the time. Nothing could have ever prepared me for a new life of being a single mother, and a single woman. Having been one half of a partnership for almost two decades, I actually had no idea what my identity was whilst standing alone. Though I have always had an independent streak and many brilliant friends, the Taurus and I were a couple that did so much together. We were both family orientated and the kids were the centre of our lives. We liked to hang out together, and were absolutely happy for most of our years together.
So separation and eventually divorce was a huge shock. It knocked me on my arse really. I was for the first time in my life feeling soul destroyed and broken. It was possibly the darkest time of my life, which is saying a lot having survived a less than idyllic early childhood. What I didn’t realise at the time was the breakdown of my marriage would end up being both a curse, and a blessing.
I lived through the pain and the incredible grief of losing my marriage and the husband I loved and had vowed to spend my life with. I navigated my extreme feelings of abandonment and feelings of emotional and financial betrayal. I processed my feelings of being unworthy, unwanted, undesirable and unlovable. I juggled the extremes highs and lows of my children’s emotions and juggled a life orchestrated for two parents suddenly by myself. Through it all I worked full-time and as my ex had dealt with all financial matters for years, I re-learnt how to deal with bills and debt I had been blindsided by, and suddenly paying rent after having a mortgage on a family home I adored. I survived that loss of security.
What I eventually realised is that even when I was stripped bare, my bones were still warmed by the sun. I was still standing. The version of me still breathing was a times more hollow, and far more vulnerable, but I was indeed still standing against the waves that crashed against my soul on a daily basis.
I made a conscious decision to start living again. I didn’t know what my life was going to look like but I knew I couldn’t keep standing still in the dark. Something inside of me switched. I needed to figure out who I was – if not a wife. And who I was in the times when my children were with their father. So I took a deep breath, and I started to fill my time.
I revamped my wardrobe which was timely as I had lost weight through the stress and anxiety. I stopped the victim talk inside my head and chided myself when it crept back in. I started to tell myself that I could do this. I could have a life that was valuable and meant something. In the changing of my mindset, things slowly started to get easier. Instead of resenting that my ex was no longer present in the kitchen cooking up wonderful morsels of food, I started cooking again. Instead of dreading the time without the kids, I gave myself permission to do things I enjoyed doing without guilt.
I stopped listening to Adele and Missy Higgins whose albums had become the break up anthems of my life. It would be some time before I could happily listen to them again! As the expression goes, that too shall pass. I started listening to my favourites (especially those that my ex didn’t like) like the Ramones, The Violent Femmes, Cat Stevens and Magic Dirt and danced when I was alone and doing the housework. These became my new anthems of a brave life.
I read books that I bought after browsing in book shops for too many hours, and I wore strapless dresses in the Summer so I felt the sun on my shoulders over long lazy lunches shared with good friends. I watched documentaries, and I craved off long lonely nights by watching TV series that I borrowed from my local DVD store. I will always have a soft spot for Six Feet Under because it was brilliant escapism! I went out with friends to dinners, and to see films, and eventually to see bands or drink cocktails and dance in clubs. I’m not sure exactly when it happened but I started to enjoy my time. As a mum my children are always in my thoughts but I now embrace my own time without guilt. When they come home, my time with them is busy but brilliant. It gave me time to be a women, beyond motherhood.
I let go of the notion I had that without money I was nothing. I learnt valuable lessons about myself, the greatest being that beyond the marriage I was still essentially the same person. My values and my moral compass are still the same. I am not the sum of the possessions I own or my bank balance. I was still the same person with or without that lifestyle, I have the same friends and have made many more, and I’m very proud of that. I realised that my inner strength had been present all along, and was evident in the care I continued to show my kids when life felt like a tornado, and that I got up every day, hair and make-up done, and went to work in heels. There were many days when I found myself crying in the shower, or in my car, but I still managed to get through each day.
I started to go out with friends for great dinners, or to see movies and eventually to see live bands or go to clubs. I took better care of myself, and started being kinder to myself. I started to get angry instead of sad. I started to accept that certain things had been thrust upon me and that no, I didn’t deserve them, but also that they would not break me. I started to feel more human, and eventually even I was surprised by the face looking back in the mirror. I reclaimed the parts of me that I had suppressed and greeted them like old friends. Independence, vitality and my sense of humour returned like a bolt from the blue, and more and more I found myself smiling. My eyes seemed greener than they had in years. I started going out in the world with the kids as a proud single mother and had great fun with them, walking on the beach or kicking the soccer ball around the botanical gardens, picnics and cooking with them. We fell into a lovely routine.
Now I am not saying that I am Wonder Woman (though it’s true no one has seen us in the same room together!), but I started to feel capable and strong.
Dating was a brand new challenge and happened quite by accident. (Another lesson learnt. You will never be ready! ). Opportunity presented itself (confronted me) in the form of a gorgeous, fit Italian who was eleven years my junior. I met him once night when I was out drinking and clubbing my lovely friend, Bella. He pursued me, and eventually he won me over. Our was a relationship that endured as a brilliant friendship, even now that he is living back in Italy. Turns out I had it me to be a cougar! No one was more surprised than me!
It did wonders for my ego. He rang me often and sent me text messages every day. He told me that I was beautiful and in his presence I felt sexy and self-assured. My fears about being with another man beyond my ex faded away with him, and became symbolic of my liberation from the past. I let go of my ex husband. I got mad at him finally and not before time, and started to heal.
Dating has been an interesting journey in itself and I have learnt so much about myself. I realised I didn’t have a “type”, that my needs and wants have certainly changed since I was in my twenties! I’ve met some really interesting people. I’ve dated a very sexy Producer on and off for a year, and started to open my eyes to the possibility of actually being in a committed relationship again. He is, as it turns out, my muse. Being with the cool inner city creative unlocked what I describe as a shock induced writer’s coma, and I started to write again. I’m incredibly grateful to the universe for that!
I am still working full-time, and juggling kids, dating and my social life, as well as my labour of love – my blog, The Good Girl Confessional. It’s been cathartic and it never would have happened had I not been single. I Have evolved into a much more confident and happier version of myself and I’ve grown into myself. I like who I am, and I’m comfortable in my own skin for the first time in my life. I dare now to have hopes and dreams for my future, and to live my life with more courage. I meditate and I am far more positive that great things are happening and will continue to. I’ve learnt that I don’t have to accept bad behaviour from others. I’ve learnt that I don’t have to please all of the people all of the time. I’ve learnt that my ability to love the people around me is a gift and my greatest strength.
Our ability to get up when life knocks you down is what makes us fearless, and my refusal to give up keeps me walking, head held high into a brave new chapter of my life. Of course life is not a series of fearless moments, and I still have times of when I feel stressed and overwhelmed, because I’m a busy, single mum and woman. I am human. When life throws me lemons these days, I don’t make lemonade but I can make one hell of a gin and tonic!
By Charlotte Lea at The Good Girl Confessional
It is really an honour to have Charlotte guest blog for me. I had the good fortune of “meeting” her through her blog. This is one of the many things which I personally enjoy about blogging and writing – meeting other bloggers and writers from around the world. Through our correspondence, we found out that we are both single parents and it just took off from there. I do admire women like Charlotte who had to find herself and her own voice after a divorce. It is not easy for many women out there, or men for that matter.
Please do go check out her sassy tales from behind the picket fence, and show her some love 🙂
As always, start your own brand of fearless living and love the life you live.