Thursday, September 23, 2010

The revolving door...

It's about 25 days out from the wedding and Peter and I have been watching the rsvp's come in. There have been a few people yet to respond, and I sent an email to a friend asking if she was coming. What I got as a reply knocked me for six. On reading it at work the other day, I felt numb, and sick. I couldn't wait to get home that day and have a proper cry. It was not what I had expected at all.

In the email, my friend rehashed things from the last 12 months. She commented on conversations had over six months ago, stating that with my limited life experience (working for one institution and living with 2 boyfriends), how could I possibly give advice to anyone, and that to do so was arrogant. In reality you can simplify anyone's life down into a sentence, but it in no way encapsulates all that someone is. It got me thinking about lots of things. If you scratch the surface of anyone's life there is always much more going on. I have two brothers who are both married with two kids each. One recently lost his job and the other has a child with special needs. My Mum nearly had a stroke six weeks ago and my Dad's health is ailing, and his heart problems mean he cannot walk very far and with his circulation deteriorating he is showing signs of vascular dementia.

I then thought about all the people I know. And it struck me that every single person is dealing with something. Stress, grief, mental health issues, relationship breakdowns, financial stresses, chronic illness, anxiety, depression, complex family relationships, unemployment, job stress, juggling kids and life, dealing with teenagers, work/life balance, terminal illness and aging parents. Most people are dealing with two or more of these at any given time. Life's not a pissing competition though. The person dealing with the most doesn't win. It may elicit more sympathy and empathy, and because I know my friend has dealt with so much hardship lately, I can understand her a point.

She then went on to say that she thinks how I ended my relationship with the Ex was badly done and hurtful. That I was using one situation to facilitate another. By doing this, she states that she feels she doesn't know me at all, and cannot pretend to be friends with me, as I am not the person she thought I was. That one is the kicker. It was what I had feared some people would make of my life over the last 18 months. It floored me. You see, the problem is that I used to hold my cards very close to my chest. Externally life looked ok, but for the friends who dug a little deeper, they found the signs of anxiety and sadness I was feeling. I let very few people into those feelings, basically because I was having trouble dealing with them myself.

It has saddened me that someone I have known for over 15 years thinks this of me. I know she has faced enormous stresses over the last few years, and in reality I have not been able to be there for her. I'm not about to turn this into a Hallmark moment of 'Friendship is...' but I have realised that as you get older life becomes more complex. It's harder to find time for people amongst everything you have on your plate. But this does not mean that we don't think about our friends, worry about them, care about them. Sadly, email and facebook have replaced phone calls and coffees. But on the other hand, thank goodness we still have ways of communicating and sending a quick 'thinking of you' message.

When talking to Peter about this, he reminded me that we had feared that some people would not be happy with what had happened. That there may be collateral damage from my breakup. The interesting thing is that the mutual friends I have with the Ex have been amazing. I guess they understand that life is complex and that sometimes people make decisions that you may not understand, but is right for them. It seems that this friend is another loss from my breakup. It just took a while to surface.

I don't have a huge amount of friends, but I'm lucky enough to have some amazing people in my life. I have made many friends through work. Not surprising as I've worked for over 20 years and spend 7-8 hours a day, five days a week there. I have known some people since high school and some from in my 20's. I'm not part of any external group like many of my friends, who are in choirs, book groups, sports clubs, food co-ops, Mother's groups or bands. It has been interesting that some people I have known for a shorter amount of time, have been people that I have opened up to.

It has taken me quite a while to find my voice, and writing has been part of that process. This blog has helped in so many ways, as I am able to get thoughts out of my head and into some cohesive shape. That's why I am writing this entry at 4am. I could no longer lay in bed awake. Some people have commented that I really put myself out there in my blog. It's true. I have talked about much more personal things than I ever would have imagined. It's cathartic as I no longer what to hide how I'm feeling from myself or others. And perhaps it has helped prepare me for writing difficult email replies. I did not get angry with my friend, I simply tried to expand and discuss some of the issues she raised. But these are the last lines of the email:

I had hoped that we would find time to talk properly, as old friends do. I had hoped that you know my character enough to not think the worst of me. I would hope that even though we had not seen each other, that you would know that I have been concerned about you and all that you’ve been through, as I know you would about me. I love you XXXX, and miss seeing you. Your friendship has meant so much to me. And this is why your email has devastated me.

I am not expecting to hear from her. And as I sit here, I'm thinking about friendships. About how people grow and develop and change. About how some people have a connection and longevity in your life. And about those who unfortunately don't. I am lucky that there are new people coming into my life, and perhaps the reality is that sometimes friendships are like a revolving door. People coming and going. Thankfully there are lovely people who are in for the long haul. And on the 16th October, Peter and I will drink a toast to them, for they mean the world to us.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Will we ever learn?

For the last few weeks I have been going over something in my head. As you will know, each week brings me closer to my final settlement with the Ex. Over the past 16 months since we broke up I have faced some dark moments. I've had to, for the most part, keep my head down and bitten my tongue when abuse and insults have been hurled at me. For the sake of negotiation and getting things sorted, I have just been 'teflon-girl' and tried to let the pain and hurt wash over me. But with the end in sight, is it time to say what has been on my mind?

It's a tough call. Part of me thinks I'll just be so relieved it's all over I won't care any more. But there is also part of me that has wanted to argue back - and point out things from my perspective. A dear friend Kate, once said to me 'that revenge is a dish best eaten cold' and reminded me many, many years ago that 'living well is the best revenge'. I have lived by these words up until this point. I know that I am happier now, even with all the stress of legal wrangles etc, than I have ever been. But is there also a point in your life when you need to stand up for yourself?

Peter and I have talked about this A LOT lately. We've thrown around the idea that perhaps if I write a letter, the writing part might be cathartic enough. I may or may not decide to post it. As I sit here thinking about it all, there are so many things I have wanted to say. To point out that the person I left him for wasn't was me. His anger, and over-reactions to things when something went wrong, made me anxious on an ever-increasing scale. His paranoia about others, and always looking for the worst in people dragged me down and made me see the world this way. The fact that he always saw himself as the victim, and how things were always being done to him. His social awkwardness that meant he was withdrawing from social situations was isolating me from my friends. His reluctance to be responsible and leaving me the joy of filling out things like home loan applications on my own made me feel stressed. The fact that all these things made me feel too anxious to talk to him about things, big things, important things that mattered.

I also believed that there was too much damage done in our relationship to come back from, from my perspective. I suppose I didn't honestly think he could change to become the type of person I needed to be with. And frankly how he has responded since the break up has done nothing but reinforce this. There were good times and I hope that one day I can look back on our time together and remember some of the adventures we had. I can't block out those 13 years, and I can't taint them all with the awfulness of how it ended. I am currently wondering what it will take to get me to that point.

A friend, Kat, posted something on facebook the other day. I have looked at it many times and keep smiling. I've attached a copy to share with you. This flowchart sums up simply the hardest lesson to learn in life. So many of us want to be happy, but we keep ourselves in the loop of doing the same thing. Acting the same, doing the same, being the same will only accomplish that...the same. Breaking that cycle is fucking hard. It's damn scary. But as someone talking to you from the 'change something' stream of the chart - I can confirm that the outcome is indeed different. The internet tells me that Albert Einstein said "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". I guess I can see that the Ex is stuck in that loop, and to some degree I keep wondering if not saying something to him is part of that for me. Should I break the cycle and speak up? I certainly feel stronger and that I have a voice. But I think I will still be considering what to do for a little while yet. In the meantime, I'd love to hear anyone else's thoughts on the subject. Is it time to do things differently?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Learning to let go...

There's nothing quite like a car accident to bring the world back into perspective. No, not me. Luckily. But poor Peter. His car has been written off, but thank goodness that he is still very much with us. Apart from bruising and soreness and shock, he's ok. It is a reminder about what is important.

I'm not going to go all preachy about people being more important than possessions. Well, apart from that being true, what I actually mean is that people can, at times, focus on all the negative things that happen in life. We could be wound up about the fact that it's about 40 days until the wedding, and with everything else going on, Peter needing to sort out insurance and finding a new car, and how he's getting to work in the meantime, is just a case of the worst timing ever. But we're not.

I haven't written a post in quite a few weeks. Part of the reason is that I got some crap news a while ago. I was counting down until settlement on the house and sorting out the paperwork with the lawyers so it can be lodged with family court. We were aiming for the 26th of August, as that is when the money from the house was to be divided up and the financial burden I find myself in, was to end. But I got a phone call from the conveyancing lawyer saying there was a stuff up with the title (long story) and that the guy who bought the house would still go ahead if we could sort it out 'soon', but the worse case scenario was that it would take quite some time and the buyer would back out. On hearing this I couldn't even contemplate the worst thing. And I had the joy of telling the Ex. I just told him there would be a hold up, rather than the possible ugly truth, and crossed my fingers. Luckily, a positive phone call from the conveyancer this week meaning that we were moving forward again, and hopefully within the month, settlement can happen. But it's been a nervous few weeks.

In reality Peter and I have quite a bit on our plates at the moment. Both good and bad. And what I love is that we deal with the crappy stuff and focus on the happiness. This is how I've always wanted to live my life, but I never really knew it. I was telling Peter today that things were so different with the Ex. When stressful situations arose I was not only dealing with the situation, but also the Ex's response. So I was getting a double dose of stress. This is one of the things that ultimately did me in. Too much anxiety, just waiting for an over-reaction to anything. Life is so much simpler now. Even when I spoke to him the other day, after he rang to query something about the lawyers and began ranting about being screwed over and how he's got nothing...I just hung up on him. I was a bit agitated, but nowhere near as distraught as I once was dealing with him. Peter pointed out that perhaps it's because I've spent a lot of time processing everything that's happened, and that means I'm not the person I once was. The Ex did text me later apologising for his the passive/aggressive behaviour continues.

It's nice to think I'm moving forward, evolving, and maybe even growing up! I am learning to let with the ups and downs that life throws at us. I know that I am lucky. I have known people who focus on the glass half empty. Things can be great, and at the first sign of a bump in the road it's all doom and gloom. Life will never be all smooth sailing, but it's how you deal with the hiccups that gets you through. I'm glad that no matter what has been thrown at me, I've always been able to get up the next day and face the world.

So, I am waiting for a new date for settlement, trying to get through work and Uni, get shoes to go with my outfit for the wedding, amongst anything else we've yet to organise. Peter has to deal with all the fall out from the car accident, find a suit to marry me in, juggle work and study and wedding things and commuting up to Melbourne each weekend to come home. We're busy and tired, but still smiling. We hold on to the stress as long as we need to...and then let it go. There are far more precious and joyous things to be focused on, like the fact that Peter is ok. Everything else will just sort itself out in time. It's been a hard lesson to learn, but a good one.
Let go of fear, stress, negativity and anxiety. And take a step towards the future. Take a deep breath and smile. Everything will be ok.