Tuesday, 4 January 2022

Chapter 11. My one friend

The Janergy Effect e-book link

Part of moving to a new city and starting a new life means you have to, and need to build a whole new circle of friends. When I arrived in Melbourne, I knew two people I had worked with previously and one other person who was a family friend. I was grateful to know these people, but I had to begin to build my network outside of them.

When I was kid and also at school, I seemed to have lots of friends but as I grew older and more awkward, those friendships seemed to change and I found myself living a life that wasn’t empty, but sometimes felt devoid of the friendships that others appeared to have. They say you only need a handful of true friends and I am not sure I even had a handful.

I look back and consider two relevant things that may have hindered my friendship making ability and they are one, I never went on to do further study after high school. I feel like this is a place where people begin to form strong friendships when you are working your way through those wild university years and two, I didn’t go to university because at 18 I got pregnant.

I used to joke at school that I would never be that “girl” who got pregnant and I wasn’t, but I managed to get up the duff not long after leaving school. I had so much trouble with that controlling boy who I had been seeing that I ended up leaving town, fell into a relationship and kaboom, before I knew it, I was going to be a mother.  

Part of my struggle to find friends as an adult, was that I always felt like I didn’t have anything to offer. I had a child early, a broken marriage at 22, which left me feeling rejected, I was focussing on my parenting and recovering from my panic attacks and as I mentioned before, I wasn’t being a great friend to myself, so how could I be a great friend to others. And even though my world was rich with people who I would interact with, as people’s lives changed, so did the friendships.

Moving to Melbourne forced me to think about the things I was fearful of and tackle them head on and making friends was one of those things. I know some people seem to have the ability to just connect instantly with others and friendships blossom, but for me, I need to tend the friend garden for these to happen and often cautiously let people in.

I didn’t want a lonely existence, so set about finding places where I could potentially make the right kind of friends. I don’t want this to come across the wrong way, but I always want to be around people who are positive and uplifting and sometimes, I just see a world which is filled with people who are just going through the motions of life and don’t really look like they are enjoying it. I wanted to be around people who laugh, inspire, are spontaneous and feel joy – people like me….

I began researching lots of places and things I was interested in where I might go to meet other people. If it was cheap or free, I would go and check it out.

I went to photography classes, Meetup events and on the advice of the psychologist who was helping me transition from my old life to the new beaut one, I checked out a few groups she suggested. 
One group was a social club which held regular gatherings and I felt so excited as it would give me a chance to hopefully start making connections. I made a financial commitment to join this group and went to two of their events and after that decided it was not the place for me.

The first event was thankfully at a place close to home and it included a group of women and one man who was the organiser.  I’m sure he thought he was Melbourne’s version of Fabio, but without the hair or any Fabio-ness.  I wandered in, in my own cheery way and then the life just got sucked out of me.  I ended up sitting next to two sisters who were out of a real-life horror movie.  Whatever happened to Baby Jane came to mind. They were the real crazy cat ladies of Melbourne and as I tried to engage with the people in this group, all I began to hear was whining, whinging and negativity and after a while I kindly excused myself and got the fuck out of there. 

I then went to another of their events and that was the last one for me. I’m not sure if it was a mix of people looking for dates or mates, but there were lots of weirdos there and after having to make boring, meaningless small talk, I left. This experience was only topped by a night that I decided to try speed dating.

What the fuck was I thinking! I hadn’t done organised “anything” since high school, so why would this be something that I thought would look good on my life resume. It was fucking terrible.

I put this terrible group out of my mind till a year later when they sent me a renewal notice and I said no fucking way. If I had known how terrible it was, I would never had joined. Little did I know that they offered refunds within the first few weeks. If only I had read the fine print.

I think a lot of people find it harder to make friends in adult life. We become united with a partner, have children, and then when we may find ourself starting over again. Life changes, people change and often we need to make new connections and it can be really hard.

I did make a most wonderful friend when I took myself along to a meetup group in the local area. The group met every few weeks and at that time, I still had my car, so I was able to drive there and take all my fears, which were strapped securely into the passenger seat. 

My invisible passenger was talking non fucking stop. I could hear it saying things like ‘what will you say to people’? ‘How will you begin a conversation’? ‘You'll have to walk into a room full of strangers by yourself.' SHIT. Who wants to do that’? ‘What if nobody talks to you’? My laughing invisible passenger kept glaring at me and I told that chatter in my head to shut the fuck up because I was going to face my fears and get comfortable being uncomfortable.

I remember sometime later meeting a woman who was going to the same meetup group, but her fear stopped her from actually getting out of the car and going in. 

I was determined to not to let my fear stop me and after sitting in the car for what felt like ages, and giving myself a little pep talk, I headed in, got a drink, scanned the room and headed towards a group of people who were already chatting and I did my best to engage. I quickly realised that they weren’t my people, so I went and watched the sunset for a bit, came back into the room and I saw a table of girls laughing and chatting, so I decided to wander over. Moments like this can either be sensational or sad, because it can go either way. You are either welcomed, or left standing on the edges smelling of parfum de awkward. 

These ladies were indeed very welcoming and some easy small talk followed. All was going great until I dropped the F-Bomb which is something I am very good at, and from then, the conversation just got better.

When people meet me, they think I look too prim and proper to swear but I am highly versed in all the swear words. In fact, my favourite swear word is MOTHER FUCKER, COCK SUCKER. I can highly recommend letting that one rip when you are stuck for words.

I quickly connected with a woman in the group who has had a very similar journey to mine and we formed a bond that we still have now.

She is Spanish and a natural social butterfly. Her ability to form connections is incredible and so natural. From that day on, we would do lots of fun things and most importantly, we would support each other through the emotional roller coasters we were both riding. It felt so amazing to have someone to hang out with. We would go dancing, she would share all her great finds that she had discovered over her time in Melbourne, we would have our Saturday coffee catch ups, long chats on the phone. We would share and laugh about our ridiculous dating stories, and I think we both found a kindred spirit in each other.

During the time my son was working through his addiction, we didn’t see each other as much, or do some of the fun things we used to do, but we knew we were only a phone call away.

Once we were able to get our social gatherings back on track, we began to make some great plans of things we could do to work with and support women. We were going to start running workshops for women just like us. Women who were beginning again and navigating all the challenges that came with housing, work, finances, dating and all things in between. These are tough times, especially but in your late 40's seemed even harder.

We had spent hours brainstorming what this would look like and were planning for this vision to come to life, but unfortunately, due to family reasons, she made the tough call to go back to Spain and leave her Melbourne life behind.

This was so hard for both of us, but we are both grateful for the time we spent together and the difference we made in supporting each other’s growth to becoming strong, empowered women who would never put up with less than we ever deserved.

My first friend

She introduced me to a few other people over our time together, who we would hang out with and one of her male friends who she met at a Meetup, was someone we would catch up with often.

After she left, I felt like I was handed an incredible friendship baton, as he too became one of my best friends in Melbourne and pretty much each weekend we would meet up for coffee at various places around the city and also share our dating fails, our life aspirations and remind ourselves of our awesome we are.

 My next friend

There is something truly lovely about having genuine people around you who you can spend time with and know that they will laugh with you, cry with you, give you a kick up the butt when you need it and just be there regardless. And my time in Melbourne was most definitely better because of these two beautiful souls.

When it comes to having the right people in our lives, it can happen by chance meetings, or by going to planned events. I did continue to go to Meetup groups and did meet some other wonderful women who I still keep in touch with even after travelling to the other side of the world and back, so there were definitely some great friendship moments from my time living there.

And now here in New Zealand, I find myself on the path to making new friends again, and here is some ways that work for m

  1. Say hello. You just never know where the conversation goes after say that magic word.
  2. Get involved in things that interest you, as that is a great place to meet people who share things in common. Facebook groups have linked me in with wonderful women.
  3. Volunteer - this has been a great thing to do as well, as I have met so many people and am also giving back to the community.
Eventually one friend turns to two and two turn to three and before you know it, your friendship garden is blooming.

Saturday, 28 August 2021

Chapter 10. The dirty stinky rat

 The Janergy Effect e-book link

As I mentioned earlier in my story, my ex-husband and I had still been talking and mainly about stuff to do with the separation of our lives. It had only been a few weeks since I moved to Melbourne and I remember one day he commented on a photo I’d shared and he said I looked happy and serene.  Well yes, having your peace handed back will do that to a person, I thought.

Embracing the serenity

It was only a few days later that we had something else we needed to talk about and during the phone call he mentioned something that got me wondering. I asked if he was seeing someone and he admitted he was. Not only was he seeing someone, but he was getting down and dirty with this new love and I remember just standing frozen on the footpath outside my work and thinking, how can this be.  This was a devastated man would never get over his broken heart and whose life I had ruined. What a confusing contradiction this was.

He had met a woman on Tinder a few short weeks after we finally went our separate ways and they were serious. Maybe they had met long before I ever knew, but they have since gone on to be married and I hope her life is filled with none of the torment that mine was.

This news really hurt, as there were layers and layers of guilt from the constant reminder that I had left him a broken man, with no hope and no future, and for being the one who made him angry and react the way he did over the years.  I was never responsible for his behaviour. It was just a way to take the focus of his inability to be a decent man and it seems that the man whose life I had ruined wasn’t as broken as he had led me to believe.

There is always pain in any relationship breakdown, even if you are the one who initiated it, and I felt pain.  Even though I was happy with my decision, I did feel disappointment to think that it was just so easy for him to move on with someone else, especially after I begged for so many years to do something to try and fix our relationship.  But why bother fixing ours, when there’s another one just a swipe away. And I think that is what hurt the most.

During this same call, he again told me I was his best friend and I just wasn’t going to entertain the idea that we had any reason to be friends. I was feeling quite distressed and I happened to run into my boss as I got off the phone and told her what happened.  She told me to go home and to just keep deep breathing. Not sure how that was going to help, but I went home and cried and thankfully, continued to breathe.

I had also started visiting our Employee Assistance Program to get some support to help steer my overall life change.  There were a few things she suggested for me to help navigate my new life and to also really move through the hurt I was feeling.

When I shared my feelings about my marriage with the counsellor, she asked me why I didn’t feel angry.  I am not someone who really reacts in an angry way about anything. I don’t even know when the last time was that I displayed any anger.  I like the peaceful path and for 10 years I saw firsthand that anger doesn’t really achieve much, apart from making you look stupid and raising your blood pressure.  I didn’t care for either of those things.

She said that it would be totally okay to feel anger and perhaps as a good release I should take a rolling pin and smash it into a pillow with such force that I would release my rage.  Rage – well I certainly didn’t have rage. Hell, I didn’t even have anger. I had disappointment and hurt. To see whether her advice would make any difference, I decided to go home and undertake the therapy.

I did find my rolling pin, went into the bedroom – which was wall to wall glass put the pillow at the end of the bed and began smashing it like I was smashing a pinata, and one that I imagined had his face on it.  FUCK YOU, I yelled over and over. And well, yeah, it felt kinda good and probably looked funny for anyone who might have seen what was happening from the outside.

Lots of people I know have harmonious friendships with their ex-partners and I thought that I would probably be one of those people who would have a friendship with him, even with all the shit that came with it, but as I really stopped to consider it, I decided that he wasn’t actually worthy of my friendship and my life didn’t need that fucked up negative energy invading its newly found peace.

The counsellor suggested I begin journaling. I find it quite hilarious that I am a writer who didn’t really like to journal, but I did get myself a notebook and I did a stocktake. 

I wrote down all the reasons why I made the decision I did (a reminder).

I wrote down all the things that I deserve in my life (a reminder).

I wrote down what I was feeling and accepted and acknowledged that it was okay to feel all the feels.

I wrote down any thoughts of regret that I had made the wrong decision.

I wrote lots of stuff and none of it I ever went back to look at because it was all now out of my head and buried deep in the back of a book.

There was one very visible thing I did that served as a great reality check and a defrag for the emotions that lingered. I got a giant Post It and wrote down the cold hard facts as to why I wouldn’t entertain any kind of friendship with him. There was plenty of reasons, including his future wife who sprung up out of nowhere and it was a reminder of the good I deserved in my life. I couldn’t be friends with someone who:

  • frightened me
  • humiliated me
  • intimidated me
  • blamed me
  • yelled at me, yelled at my family, yelled at strangers
  • was continually angry
  • didn’t want to try harder
  • didn't see how much they were hurting me

Blah blah blah blah blah. The list went on and when I looked at it in this way, I asked myself a very important question. Would I actually keep relationships going with any other people who made me feel this bad?  I know for sure that I wouldn’t, so there was no place for him, even though we had spent the past 10 years together.

Being continually sucked back into an ex’s life is a very real thing and it can take years for people to break free from the cycle that comes with it. Some people never break free, but I wanted to be fully free so I could get on with life.

I know many women, who like me, find themselves feeling the same feelings that I was, and being faced with the same scenario that I was and it’s easy to become trapped into a cycle of going back and forth with this weird, broken and unhealthy relationship. I knew that I had to change the whole way I was responding to this roundabout.  On reflection, I was in a very emotionally abusive relationship and there were lots of layers to peel off.

I would have memories of some of our great times together and thought that perhaps I was being harsh by cutting him off, but I would look at the list which continued to grow and reality would keep me on the straight and narrow.  I was right in my decision and getting all of this stuff out of my head was liberating. 

The list stayed on the wall for quite a while and it helped me heal.  Even walking past the list on the giant Post It, let the reasons sink into my subconscious and eventually I didn’t think about him or anything to do with our relationship, both good or bad. There was now space for new thoughts, new feelings and a new way of life.

Women give so much to men and often get so little in return and it can be a hard pattern to break, but this method worked perfectly for me. I bet we all know a woman who is in this same position right now – trying to please a man who doesn’t really care about her or her wellbeing.  She is apologising, she is shrinking and she is letting life pass her by. I can assure you that I know a few.

Another funny thing I did at the suggestion of a friend, was to get a balloon, write on it all the things I wanted to let go of and then let it float off into the never never. 

I am happy to try anything once, so I headed off and got a couple of helium balloons and began to write down things that I wanted to be free from.  I had a lot to put on this small space and before I knew it, the balloon was full and I was ready to go.

My son was visiting at this time and this was before finding out about the addiction – and he decided to do the same thing.  I know he had his own troubles, so he wrote many things on his balloon as well.

I still had my cute car so we drove down to South Melbourne beach, walked out onto the jetty and let our balloons sail off into the breeze, taking with it all of our problems, in a metaphorical kind of way.  Even with all these freeing moments, there was still a couple of final relationship hurdles to jump.

The metaphorical freedom

My ex-husbands actions were certainly very self-centred and came with little thought or regard to my feelings or the relationships I had with others.

During our union, we were part of two magical moments and those were when we love matched two of my friends. One match was with a friend of my ex-husband and the other was with a mutual friend we made during our time together.  These two couples have gone on to have very happy lasting marriages and it’s great to see something so wonderful come from all the time I spent in my unhappy marriage.

I met both of these women at the same time and have known them for about 20 years.  My friendship with one was more active, as we lived near each other and socialised often so our bond was very strong.  Shorty after I moved to Melbourne, her and her husband moved to Sydney.

I was shocked when she rang me one day to tell me that her husband had agreed – without thinking about the wider effects – that it was okay for my ex and his new lady to come and stay with them for a long weekend.

That dirty stinky rat. Why would he want to do that? I had so many thoughts as to why they would want to go and stay with my friend – saving money was the only thing I could possibly think of. But I was more confused as to why his new girlfriend would want to go and stay for a number of days with my close friend, who now knew all the troubles that I had secretly kept hidden about my abusive marriage.

It was such an awkward time and was very upsetting for me as I felt a sense of betrayal from my friend, but we have been able to move on with our friendship and put this behind us. My friendship with her is more important than the feelings I had and I understood that she was in a really tough position and was caught off guard by her husband’s generous offer to host them. But I did love that she called me and had the conversation before it happened. That was a class act.

Things were still raw and this did hurt and I actually had the guts to call him and tell him that this was really shitty and thoughtless behaviour, but it fell on deaf ears and I was told to “behave” and received an ongoing blast which was colder than the winter wind.    

I thought after that, that our business was probably finished, given that following our separation it seemed highly unlikely that another marriage was on the cards for either of us. Although we agreed to have an in-person conversation about getting divorced should the time ever come, I was really thrown off guard when I received a call one day telling me there was someone to see me in our work reception area. I wasn’t expecting anyone, and was totally ambushed by a man who had come to serve me divorce papers and insisted that I sign them.

Wow, in the middle of my working day, I get that bomb dropped on me.  And what did I do, well I told the middleman to pass the message on that I wasn’t going to sign them and I showed him the door. Talk about cheeky! Not me, but him, for having the audacity to do that. 

I’m not one to try and make other people’s life difficult, but this was the FUCK YOU I deserved and needed to have. He had to do all the hard yards for the divorce and I just sat back and waited for the ink to dry.

I was definitely able to move on from that dirty stinky rat and that part of my life and I am healed and capable of and being open to giving and receiving love and I have built boundaries that I knew would never be crossed in the future.

For anyone else living in a relationship that isn’t healthy, it is possible to break free and go on to live a life that you deserve and one that is right for you.

Acceptance was my key to finding peace and I just had to accept that things were what they were. There were highs and lows and some loose ends to be tied up but I just had to keep focussed on the bigger picture and let all those moments that seemed like derailers, just glide on by.

Here’s some of my ‘how to get over the breakup’ tips that really helped.

  1. If you left the relationship and feel yourself being pulled back by memories of the good times, remind yourself of the ‘why’.  No if’s or buts, but WHY did you make the decision you did. Be realistic about whether your feelings of remorse and longing are true, or just a hangover that can be addressed with reality check panadol.
  2. Make the pro’s/cons, love/hate, why/why not list, so you have a really clear picture of the facts that support your decision. Be objective about it and feel those moments of pain and ask if they are the feelings you want to keep having if you go back to that relationship.
  3. Let yourself feel what you need to feel. Throw that pity party or a couple of them if needed, then clean up the mess and get moving.
  4. Find things to do in your time – start a new hobby, build a new routine.  Put roadblocks up that will keep you from circling back to the same old pathway, which can often be due to loneliness. Get busy!
  5. If you are really struggling, then tap into some professional help.  There is so much more you can do to help you heal.

This was a really tough time for me, as I went into that relationship knowing that things weren’t okay from the outset. I put up with a lot but I also knew that I didn’t want to be chained to the past and let it stand in my pathway to the future.  

It did take time to heal because I had to free myself from feelings that had been put on me over many years. I had to rebuild my confidence, my sense of self and a reconnect with my worthiness. I gave myself time and more time, to not only heal, but to rediscover me and begin to grow in a really beautiful way. Freedom and discovery became my new way of life.