My kids get back today after being away for two whole weeks overseas with their dad to celebrate his big milestone birthday. I’m so happy they got to have this time together, bonding, connecting and celebrating. I was also incredibly happy to have this time for myself. You see when you let go of a marriage, you actually let go of a big part of yourself, a picture you lived up to every day.
Staying sedentary in a picture you signed up for years earlier and thinking this was the only way you could remain in life can literally be like a death sentence. We can tell ourselves that because we made the commitment to marriage and kids and have already invested so much into it, that we are not allowed to let it go. It’s like becoming way too attached to a painting hanging on a wall and the perceived value of that painting. Can you imagine tossing out a painting that’s been hanging on your family wall for so long and simply deciding to replace it with a blank canvas?
I imagined letting go of my marriage off and on for years. Many people who know me will be surprised to discover that. But you see I have a big heart, I’m a lover of love and I grew up in my own single parent family image and because of this, ending a marriage to become a single parent was the last thing I wanted to do to my kids or to myself.
But the more work you do on yourself (and boy have I done some work on myself over the last 20 years!) the more you reconnect with yourself. When you really allow yourself to step away from the picture and just breathe and explore YOU, only then can you start to see if the family portrait hanging on your family wall is the image you want to look at each day.
I knew there was more for me. More for my kids. More for my ex-husband. I knew none of us were happy with this picture and I knew I had to give all of us the opportunity to create our own unique pictures to live life the way we loved. I struggled to let the ‘helper’ part of me ‘help’ my ex-husband navigate this breakup that he wanted as well and help him find his new path. It was a big struggle for me to really step away and be strong and true to only myself.
I lost friends in the process that we shared with many not seeing the ‘true picture’ of what life was like for our family unit, our marriage on the inside walls of our family home. I had to let go of worrying about what my ex husband thought, what my kids thought, what our mutual friends thought, and what our extended family thought. I simply chose to focus on ME.
It’s been a massive journey to choose me above everyone but I know I wouldn’t be the happy, liberated, passionately woman wildly in love with life that I am today if I didn’t throw out that picture out and spend some time sitting in stillness (and often discomfort) staring at the blank wall canvas of possibility in front of me.
So I made a pact with myself when I ended my marriage. At 44 I decided I had lived just half of my life I still had another half to go. Another 44 years to live in ONLY the way I loved. Spending time doing ONLY what I love, with ONLY the people I love, and loving ONLY the people I choose to love. And I have LOVED every breath of this time since making this decision 18 months ago. I’m not going to say there wasn’t a LOT of tears, heartache, pain, confusion, indecision, worry or stress. But I am going to say none of that heaviness weighs in comparison to the lightness and love and happiness I feel EVERY single day now.
Having this time just for me while my kids have been away from our home for two weeks for the first time ever and since my marriage ended 18 months ago, to breathe, exhale, swim in the ocean, do yoga, learn to surf, meditate, and eat delicious food whenever my body clock told me too, I got to reconnect with ME – the woman. Not the mother, not the ex-wife, not the daughter, not the friend, just ME. And I LOVED every minute of it.
I didn’t miss the kids because that was not the focus of having them gone. I simply let go and said go and have the time of your lives. I won’t call, I won’t text but you can call or text me anytime you like. I am here if you need. I just want you to be present with where you are, with your dad and with yourselves and with your life adventures every day. I’ll write you a letter each day to tuck under your pillow to read when you return and you will tell me all about your adventures when you get back.
It took a LOT for me to let go. But I am so glad I did. Two weeks of days and nights just for myself felt like two months, perhaps it felt like 12. I actually made every breath of my life count during those 336 hours. It also changed the way I looked at motherhood and in response I made some changes to the way I parent my kids now they are back home. There was a slight knee jerk reaction from my kids but in stepping up and fully into this new light as a woman first, mother second, my kids have also benefited too.
As mothers we can have so much guilt centered around not being at our kids’ beck and call, attending to their every need. It starts when they cry their lungs out to be fed as babies or with their first fever and then their first fall. We run to their rescue to save and help them and it continues right through their lives. As mothers we are wired and programmed to respond like we’re connected through an electric current almost to jump and deal with our kids never ending issues and needs.
So how does a woman who has made the past 11 years of her life when she became a mum where motherhood was her primary focus to now look at life and say my womanhood is my first priority? How does a mum say I will still be here for you, but my focus will be to be here for myself first and in doing this I am teaching you how to give this to yourself too?
You see, by taking care of me and my health and doing the things I love to take personal time for – writing, yoga, surfing, swimming, and meditating. I am teaching my daughter to do the same for herself. I am also teaching my son to respect that a woman should always honor herself first and that to be a truly present parent, a mother really does need to be present with herself first.
It felt good not to miss my kids, because in doing that I gave myself the space to realise how much of myself I had been missing. As mothers we can fill up our entire daily schedule attending to our children’s schedule and then at the end of the day be too exhausted to attend to our own needs, wants and desires. Having my kids away for two weeks I found I had the head and personal space to take a wider look at the world around me and each day I have found so many new pleasures in the detail of my day. I also fell a little more in love with life in return.
There is that saying “you won’t know what you miss until it’s gone.” Think about that for a minute… as mothers, we often let the ‘woman’ go, the girl inside that feels passion on so many levels. We often don’t miss it because we don’t give ourselves the time and space to miss it. But to be honest we really can waste an awful lot of time filling up space with the responsibilities we think have to be done in every moment of the day to not give ourselves the opportunity to explore life and explore ourselves in the process. We busy ourselves with the usual routines and stick with them because that’s what life looks like – the painting on the wall we have become accustomed to looking at.
But what would happen if we were all to abandon the way we do things just for a short while, to create the freedom to explore the mind in new ways and in turn create new ways to live life for real. It might be an hour, it might be a day, a whole week, even a month or a year. I know now moving forward into 2016, there’s no other way for me to be, other than simply the woman first and tasting everything in life that it has to offer, sometimes with my children, sometimes not.
PS… I also started writing a new book (yes what a great surprise!) – it kind of poured out of me actually – I didn’t see it coming – it’s called (working title) “UNGUARDED… A Love Affair of the Mind” and it’s pretty powerful and heady stuff – whoooooska is all I can say! I’ve written well over 80,000 words in four weeks – crazy insane writing just kind of poured out of me. It happened because I gave it the space to arrive.
© Alison Nancye, 2016. All rights reserved.