Buy Long-life Milk

I am in the process of packing up Anna, Ben and my home (along with Sophie, Rufus and Muffy and our latest foster, Lloyd) to move to a more manageable place that we will doubtless come to love as much as every place that we have ever lived, regardless of the circumstances that led us to move.

During the sorting and packing, I have found many things including my knitting and sewing from grade 9 (maybe my Home Economics ability was an early ‘heads up’ that wife may not be my calling); my wedding speech (I can still remember my second one, so yes, the one spoken at the marriage to the father of my children); as well as much that represented the wonders and disappointments of my marriage(s).

And as I say goodbye to the parts I have grieved and take with me the parts I have loved (as well as the Le Creuset pots), it has made me think of my friends who have begun the journey of divorce. This post is for you.

  1. Don’t for one moment think that this will be your ‘new normal’ indefinitely. Having your dreams crushed or crushing those of someone you once loved , while trying, among other things, to parent, friend and earn, while being emotionally battered as well as consonantly forgetting to buy milk for that soothing cup of tea, IS NOT NORMAL, new or not. Contentment, a strong and healthy sense of your identity as an individual, showing vulnerability and having it lovingly and graciously received and reciprocated is normal. As is buying long-life milk in bulk.
  2. Time does not heal just because time passes. If it mattered, you will need to intentionally grieve what you lost, even if it was just the dream of your marriage. Go through the stages in your own way and in your own time. In the beginning,  dating felt like cheating, as in the infidelity kind. Forever becoming never is like a time-machine gone wrong. Bad drugs couldn’t even take you on that trip
  3. When you are ready to date again (there are countless variations of ready), try and keep a few things in mind:
  4. If the answer to “How did you contribute to the breakdown of your marriage?” involves, I don’t know; my ex is…. ; I tried so hard to love him/her but….; RUN (like Usain)
  5. Being dry humped (absolutely terrible phrase, I know) while kissing him goodbye at the door is not a good sign. I have foster dogs who are also lonely and desperate. Say goodbye and come to my house where the dog will add a lick in the face too if you’re into that. And I will make soothing tea with my long-life milk.
  6. If he/she wants to marry you within six weeks because you are perfect, do not be flattered. Wait until he/she has shown he/she loves the whole you, good and bad, and that you feel the same before even considering a commitment that involves life-long promises.
  7. Don’t waste time with people who don’t think you are beautiful. Beauty is the sum of all your parts. Anyone who dates you and implies your beauty is conditional, may be considered a beast (Or a narcissist, *insert swear word here).
  8. If your ex meets another woman/man (no matter when or how or where), and he/she spends time with your children, be gracious (medication may be necessary). You may believe you have control over what goes on in his/her house, but I assure you, you do not. Being bitter, blaming, self-righteous and pretending it is ‘in the childrens’ best interests’ fools nobody, least of all your children. This is a first hand account. I am not proud of it. Neither would you be, my precious friend.
  9. There are so many good people in the world. Open your heart to them once you have experienced their goodness (not just been told) and have made sure you can love their badness too.
  10. Most importantly, always remember that you are loveable no matter what. And allow yourself to be loved by those who love well, with generosity of spirit, openly and unconditionally. You are so worth it.

And don’t forget to buy long-life milk.

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Freedom

Freedom: the state of being free, unrestricted.

I am mindful of the freedom I have that has been denied to so many others for a multitude of reasons.But before my large intestine was removed I felt enslaved to an illness that brought fear and feelings of powerlessness.

The feeling of freedom I felt when I regained my health was tentative at first. Hopeful, although watchful and cautious. But once I had explored it more, it was an exhilarating feeling to be healthy. A different state of being.

One of the most restrictive elements of being ill before I underwent my colectomy, was my diet.
I reacted badly to foods that were high in fat; to high-fibre foods, foods containing artificial sweeteners, to caffeine and alcohol. It was really challenging not being able to drink coffee or tea without my intestine becoming acutely inflamed. Not being able to drink alcohol was very restrictive. Living in London as a young adult, unable to drink alcohol at work-drinks or any social functions made me feel isolated by my difference and my limited choices.

Eating my first handful of nuts a few months after surgery felt like I had gained so much freedom. I chewed every mouthful of the raw mixed nuts that my colleague and I had bought on our way back from a home-visit. And going out in London became even more thrilling. It was amazing to go out for “two-for-one’ cocktails and have the same choices as each of my friends and colleagues, our drinks being determined by preference rather than health limitations. The feeling of freedom was particularly exhilarating when travelling in the US and Mexico seven months after my surgery. Being healthy was amazing!

But what I have come to realize is that my freedom, although affected by my health, is not dependent on it. It has been far more greatly influenced by other factors.

While doing some reading for work, I came across a book called “Nurture by Nature”-How to Raise Happy Health Responsible Children through the Insights of Personality Type (Tieger and Barron-Tieger, 1997). They talked about how self-esteem is, at its core, about self-love and acceptance. They also talked about how when self-worth is undermined, it erodes our sense of ourselves as strong, capable and resilient.

Those words resonated with me and I realized what a massive impact self-worth has had on my life. My childhood, although happy and functional, included bullying and conditional acceptance. When I was diagnosed with a chronic illness that is associated with shame and concealment and underwent operations that have left very ugly scars on my body, my self-worth was further eroded. This left me imprisoned.

But through life circumstances, supportive relationships, therapy, prayer and doing lots of reading and questioning, I feel as if I have had numerous revelations which are beginning to bring me true freedom as I develop a deeper understanding and acceptance of myself. I have realized that I felt unacceptable, unworthy and a fraud. My biggest insecurities and failures were my greatest sensitivities and I felt as if I needed to defend myself for protection. But it seems to me, that being defensive more often highlights our insecurities and makes us vulnerable to having our fears about ourselves confirmed.

What I truly want is beautifully articulated by Tim Keller in his book on “The Meaning of Marriage. “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretence, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

And that surely brings great freedom.