Seasons Of Life: Part One

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”

Hey there everyone! It’s hard to believe that it’s been just over a year since my 50th birthday blog and despite my intentions to put ‘pen to paper’ or rather ‘finger to keyboard’ and write regularly, life ‘happened’ and I was well and truly derailed in pretty much every single area of my life – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I have never ever in my entire life felt as challenged as I have felt over the last year. I was functioning (still going to work, still looking after mom) and looked very well, so many people would not have recognised or realised what I was going through but I had unravelled on the inside and it was affecting some areas of my life on the outside.

To put some context to what I’m saying, let me explain a little.

Following on from the mention I made in my blog last year regarding my father’s ill health, his health declined pretty rapidly in the subsequent months and sadly he passed away in Oct 2018. Caring for dad in the last six months of his life was extremely challenging not only physically but more so mentally and emotionally. It took its toll on us all. Sidenote: Although it is a privilege to look after one’s parents, it is not without its own challenges. But that’s for another blog!

Anyway, given all that I had already experienced in the previous five years (since 2013), my father’s death was like the straw that broke the camel’s back. Up until that point I had been holding my life together and I had ‘coped’ with so many different levels of loss and/or life challenges… but this one hit hard. I had to be signed off work for four weeks (that’s a biggie for me as I’m never off sick!).

Summary of ‘life blows’ from 2013-2018

  • Told by ex husband that he wanted a divorce
  • Ex husband left the marital home
  • Death of ex father in law following an accident
  • Unexpected death of ex brother in law following an illness
  • My mother’s health declined (signs of a TIA)
  • My mother suffers a massive stroke (Subarachnoid haemorrhage) and spends 15 weeks in hospital
  • Mom returns home disabled requiring 24/7 care
  • Mom had a 2nd stroke in March 2017
  • Death of ex mother in law, ironically following a stroke
  • Divorce finalised  
  • Dad’s health began to decline (multiple hospital admissions, significant loss of independence)
  • My dad passed away

In addition to the effect of those things on me, they also directly affected my children, in ways that one would never have expected (but that’s for another blog). They also had their individual challenges. One of my sons experienced a relationship break up (engagement broken off) and the other son was unfairly dismissed from work and had two car accidents. My heartbeat (my daughter) shared that she was struggling with depression including suicidal thoughts.

I’m sharing all of this with you, not for you to feel sorry for me but to just get a flavour of the ‘life blows’ that I was experiencing. I know that I’m not the only one and I know that there are people experiencing far worse.

I have always considered myself to be a strong, resilient individual who copes well under pressure… However even I had a breaking point and around August 2018 I began to crumble and unravel on the inside. I stopped walking (my favourite exercise), I comfort ate and put on (more) weight, I was struggling with my workload at work after I returned from my time off. Even worse, was that I was hardly attending church so I felt even more disconnected and spiritually depleted. Looking back on that 8 month period of darkness I realise that I was ‘a mess’.

It’s ironic, yet apt, that I’m sharing this at the tail-end of Mental Health Awareness month because every single one of us has a breaking point or a point at which we begin to ‘not cope’… no one is exempt… and everyone’s reactions to that ‘point’ is different. Please check on your ‘strong’ friend… he/she may not really be okay.

Thankfully for me there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel and I can see it… I’m walking towards it and I will share that experience with you in my next blog post.

Divorce: Not always the easy option 

If you’re ever in a relationship where there are adverse issues, sometimes it feels like divorce will be the option to resolve things but instead you swap one sort of pain for another. Divorce is not the easy option.
Rejected

Abandoned

Unloved

These are three words that still reside in my heart, even after four years of physical separation and fifteen months of being officially divorced. If you asked him, he would say it was ‘over’ long before he left the house… I would probably agree but for ease of reference I’ll use the poignant dates of exit and divorce as my memory markers.

A few days ago I received a text which disturbed my peace. Please don’t get me wrong, it was not sent with that intention at all but nevertheless I still felt a pang of hurt at what was shared as it was information that further solidified the split. I use the word split because divorce is the separation of two parts that were once fused together. If you can imagine two pieces of wood being glued together and being in that situation for years… as time goes on, the adhesive begins to fix firmly and there is nothing much that would make you think that it wasn’t one whole block of wood. When divorce happens, its like tearing those pieces apart and no matter how careful you may be, there will still be remnants of one piece on the other. So with divorce, no matter how amicable it is, there will always be something of each left on the other, sometimes taking years to erase if ever at all. So with that being said, when things happen even after years of being apart sometimes it will still hurt. It’s like a scab that had started to form over a cut being ripped off, rather than falling off naturally, exposing a wound not yet fully healed… in fact it’s still bleeding.
So why do I still feel like this? Is it because I loved hard and I was fully committed and that I didn’t make the choice to end the relationship? Is it merely because I’m a woman and I feel things more deeply? Is it because I’m soft? Is it because deep down I still want reconciliation/restoration? Actually, do I even want that? Am I envious that he is moving on so swiftly in his life? Is it because my life has been filled with lots of other trauma since our separation? Is it because my mommy, my go to person, is no longer ‘here’ for me to share this with? Is it because I’ve just lost my dad? Or is it all of the above mixed up together? Or none of the above, just part of bereavement?
I just don’t get why I feel this way sometimes… in fact it irritates me that it still gets to me… and it seems like there’s no one that I can turn to who would understand. You see, I’m not looking for someone to remind me of how much better off I am without him (how he was) in my life… or for someone to try and give me all the positives as to why this is a good thing… I get it already, I’m not dumb! (pardon the expression) I just want someone to understand how I feel and give me permission to feel it.
You see divorce grief is pretty much the same as death grief. Having experienced both, I would say it’s worse to be honest. However people don’t seem to allow you to experience it in the same way. If four years on, you have a moment of sadness over the loss of a 20+ year marriage, you’re expected to be ‘over it’, especially if both of your lives have ‘moved on’. However if it were the loss of a close friend, a sibling, a parent or a family member people would empathise with the fact that you will still sometimes feel a pang of pain for the loss of that relationship. It seems so unacceptable to be grieving over the loss of a relationship especially if it wasn’t even 100% positive.

So what do I do? How do I cope?

I ride the waves (allowing myself to go up and down with the emotions)
I cry (I mean I sob)
I write (that’s what you’re reading now)
I talk to myself (I do a lot of that)
I say a prayer (sometimes find it hard so it’s usually only a few words)
I search for a relevant scripture (thank you bible app)
I find an encouraging, motivational quote (thanks Google)
Then…
I dry my tears, brush myself off, reframe my mind, fix up, stand tall and face the world again… with a smile. After all, the past cannot be changed, forgotten, edited or erased… But it can be accepted.
Anyway like with all grief, this is just a stage… I’ll be ok!

What a feeling!

mixed-emotions-2

It’s just over two weeks since my fiftieth birthday. I’m still pinching myself at the thought of the number of my age. I actually find every excuse to mention my age. “It’s because I’m fifty” I responded to someone who complimented me on my dress at work yesterday! A totally ill suited answer, however, like I said, I’m finding any reason to mention my age. I’ll probably get bored of it soon, but for now I’m basking in the high that I feel from reaching this milestone year. Please read my last (first) blog post ‘Gratitude’, if you haven’t done so already, to understand what I’m talking about.

Anyway, this brings me onto what I really wanted to share with you today.

I was watching the insta-story of one of my favourite bloggers Ty Alexander-Williams @gorgeousingrey on Instagram or www.gorgeousingrey.com and she used the word ‘Multi-emotional’… Is that even a word? But as she was talking about her feelings on the day of remembering her Angel mom in heaven and celebrating her current wins in life, I instinctively knew what she was trying to express and resonated with that feeling. You see, at the moment, as well as having this new lease of life and excitement for the future, I also have other things happening in my life that are a complete contrast to all the positives.

Multi = many : multiple : much, more than two, more than one
Emotional = having and expressing strong feelings

To put some context to what I’m trying to say, let me reveal a little of my life.

People who know me know that my mother suffered a stroke almost two years ago. She had a massive bleed to the brain, spent months in hospital and has gone from being an active, sociable, ‘never in the house’, ‘always helping others’ mommy to one who is unable to walk or stand, unable to sit unaided, incontinent, lost all use of her left side, limited ability on her right side, has seizures, has short term memory challenges, aphasia and is generally a shadow of her former self. As a family we have been caring for her at home 24/7. She has improved in some areas over the course of the last 20 months but in general she is still completely dependant on all of us. During this same time period, our father’s health has declined severely. Bear in mind, he already had health concerns in the form of: high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems and he has a GIST. Unfortunately, the impact of Mom’s sudden ill health really ‘knocked him for six’ emotionally which manifested itself in this severe decline in his physical health. Honestly if I was to write about life for us as a family now, it would be another blog post all by itself. Actually I will do so one day, as I believe that there is a lot that I can share about meandering ones way through this season of life i.e. Looking after elderly or ill parents. 

So… the day before my fiftieth birthday (there I go again!) my dad was discharged from hospital after being in for two and half weeks. The day after my birthday, my mum was admitted into hospital and remained there for four of five days. As I write this post, my dad is in hospital again. I won’t bore you all with the reasons why they were admitted, but I will say that I’ve given up worrying about it. Unless God chooses to miraculously heal them, then ‘it is what it is’. I do not want them to suffer with ill health to this extreme for too long and due to the severity of what we have experienced in these last few hospital admissions, we, as a family, are being led to really think about life without them being around.

As you can imagine, if I were to dwell on the reality of this part of my life I would be quite depressed. Yes, I’ve had my moments where I’ve had a mini loss of composure but for the most part, I’m being strategic in how I handle this current season. After all, if I don’t look after myself and my own wellbeing then who will?

I have put some things into place, practically, in order to keep my sanity and to stay well balanced.

* At work, I pleaded until I got my own way, for an assistant to help me with my workload.

* On the home front, I have ensured that I regularly get some time away from looking after my parents to just ‘be’; whether that be spending time with my (grown up) children at home, or going out with friends or just chill-axing or working on my hobbies or better still resting! Rest aids recovery.

* At church I keep in contact with my leadership so as to ensure that I have their spiritual support and I pace myself with the things that I am involved in.

This is just a season, it will pass and life will then take another turn in the road.

So in conclusion, I agree with my friend Ty; It is absolutely possible to be multi-emotional (still not sure if that’s a word).

And no, you’re not going mad when you flit between two extreme emotional states, whether that is on day to day basis or in the course of one day. However, it is much better to be self aware of what you’re experiencing and to make a choice to face the issues, deal with them or manage them so that you can be more evenly balanced as a human being.

It’s what we choose to focus on which determines how we get through the season that we’re in. I have chosen to focus on all of the positives in my life: I am in employment so I can earn money to keep a roof over my head, I have hands and feet to use to get around even when I have no car, I have talents and skills to use, I have children & grandchildren who keep me young and give me joy, I have good health and a sound mind, I have my parents still here even in their failing health. I have so much to be grateful for.

And I have made moves to manage the challenges so that they don’t overwhelm me.

It is this disposition and self management which I believe keeps me smiling genuinely from the inside out.

I love you all and pray that you too can find a way to smile again!

Gratitude 

Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me! 🙌🏾 Lol!

As you’ve probably guessed today is my birthday. Not just ANY birthday but it’s the big 5-0, half a century, the new forty, my golden jubilee… And I feel so so SO happy! I’m sat here on my bed, thinking “I’m so grateful to God that I’ve made it to this landmark age”. Despite the fact that I was married for 26 years, have three grown up children, a daughter in law in waiting and two grandchildren I only now feel like I’ve ‘grown up’ and it feels good.

My life, probably like yours, has been a mixture of highs and lows, with the last five years being the most challenging of my life so far. If you know you know. However, for every challenge that I have faced in life, I can confidently state that God has proven himself to be my ultimate protector, provider, confidante, friend, healer, counsellor and he has always provided me with an unexplainable peace in the midst of it all. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some bad days when I didn’t really cope very well – went to work casually dressed, no make up, lol! You know it’s bad when that happens right?! Lol! Joking aside, I’ve had times of feeling so low that I really did believe that the world may be better off without me…. Woah, just reflecting on that I realise that I’ve been in very dark places. However, that was a very long time ago now and it feels so strange to even acknowledge that that is where I’ve been at my lowest because I feel SO different now, years on. I can genuinely smile from the inside out even in the face of life’s current challenges. How so, you ask, especially if you know my journey (that’s for another blog). Answer: Well it’s my faith in the Almighty God that has been my saving grace and because of Him; His faithfulness and His love – I smile, even though I hurt see I smile, I know God is working so I smile, Even though I’ve been here for a while, I smile, smile…

Last week I had a ’50 & fabulous’ photoshoot and I got the pics back a few days ago. Imagine though, I had to talk to myself hard because the first thing that I did was pick a fault with myself and make a negative statement… It’s not often that I do that but some bad habits take a while to disappear completely. When you’re looking at full body shots from every angle and all you’re used to doing is head shots everyday (lol!) it can be a bit shocking to say the least… BUT I quickly rewrote the narrative in my head and told myself that “THIS IS YOU Dawnie!” And despite what changes I may wish I had made before the pics were taken, regardless of what others think of me (like me, dislike me, love me or hate me) and irrespective of anything negative, I love me, all of me and I make no apologies. It may have taken 50 years to get here but it’s been fantastic… Even the negative experiences have taught me lessons and for that I am grateful 🙏🏾

So today I say THANK YOU

To God – for being my ‘all in all’, for loving me, keeping me alive and in good health

To my parents – for looking after me, loving me, nurturing me, teaching me. I don’t know how much longer I will have you around but I cherish every moment that I spend with you.

To my family (immediate and extended) – family love is something else! No words can adequately describe the levels of love that I’ve been shown by my family over the years.

To my children – having you three has been my greatest achievement in life to date and you all make me proud. Thank you for lovin’ on your mama especially these last few years.

To my friends – The bible says that a friend loves at all times and I know that to be true. I have lived long enough to be able to sift out the real ones and also to have met some new ones who have become incredibly important to me. You know who you are!

This is the first of series of blogs that I will be posting with a view to share my life experiences (good and bad) so as to inspire, encourage and motivate anyone who resonates with me and what I have to share.