Friday, 19 February 2016
Discovering Silver Linings
This morning it was cold, very cold. In fact it was minus 1 degree Celsius. I don’t have enough words to describe to you how much I hate being cold. I have a ridiculously low tolerance for it. When I was at school I was the only one whose fingers turned purple and hands became claw like when playing hockey. I’m sure I was born to live in a warmer climate.
Also near the top of the list of “Things SPB Despises” is clearing up dog poo from the garden. It’s smelly, squidgy and just plain horrible. I know it only takes a few minutes to do but you’d be amazed at how many jobs I can find that are more urgent – tidying the under stairs cupboard, defuzzing the shower head, Googling the answer to whatever random question the children have posed that morning, alphabetizing my recipe book shelf… ok, you got me. The latter is a pleasure not a chore! But, as with the other tasks mentioned, it is by no means as urgent as removing canine faeces from the lawn when your kids want to kick a football around.
Not only was the temperature below freezing this morning but also the urgency to clear the dog poo had reached an epic level. Without swift intervention I may have had to report myself to the environmental health people. So, I stood at the back door with a heavy heart and a pocket full of poo sacks ready to take on the semi-arctic task. It was a low point in my week.
But here’s the thing… It was fine. It wasn’t a problem at all. The freezing temperature had caused the excrement to solidify meaning no more soggy smelly mess. The scooping was the most satisfying I’ve ever experienced. And I’ve done it a lot.
This light bulb moment really got me thinking. Let’s be honest, the job in hand, as it were, didn’t require a huge amount of brainpower. Two of the things I really hate, which when combined should have presented a double whammy of discontent, were actually much more manageable. What should have been a hellish job was almost pleasant. Maybe pleasant is the wrong word but I wanted to emphasize the impact of this defining moment in my life.
As I continued the bagging process, I started to reflect on recent things in my life that I thought were going to be awful but turned out much better than anticipated. Life at 40-something isn’t what I thought it would be. The separation and subsequent necessary changes in my world were never in my dreams but, with a little mental adjustment, I realized they weren’t that disastrous. It just meant looking at things in a different way.
Mentally, I went through my complaints’ list and tried to spot the silver lining to each cloud or the unexpected opportunity presented. Surprisingly, it wasn’t that hard…
1. Selling The Family Home
I didn’t want to sell my home and I particularly didn’t want to have to uproot the kids at such a sensitive time but it was necessary. All those memories of where they’d achieved a milestone, lost a tooth, banged a head, drew on the carpet and so on. I didn’t think I could manage without seeing that scenery each day. But those memories exist in my head and my heart, and to some extent my photo albums too. However, I realized that I actually needed to leave behind the ghosts of a failed marriage. The reminders of happier times now spoiled. The rooms where painful truths were revealed. The corners where so many tears were shed. It was time to move on and create new memories.
2. Moving To An Unknown Area
Splitting the assets meant moving to a cheaper area to secure a property for the kids and me. Goodbye lush green countryside, hello new urban world. At first it was noisier, busier and less private. I wasn’t sure how we would adjust. But after a week I realized I wasn’t scared going to bed at night. I wasn’t worrying about getting broken into the way secluded houses like our last did frequently. Plus the kids would be more independent and able to travel to secondary school or to visit friends by bus rather than relying on me to drive them everywhere. That gave me more freedom too. Mummy-Cabs was shutting up shop, or at least going part-time.
3. My Furniture Doesn’t Fit In The Smaller House
Well it might have done but I’m not sure double decker sofas will ever really catch on. The thought of having to sell my furniture was hard, but it meant getting rid of even more negative memories and choosing furniture for my new world. I found that quite liberating. Plus it was funded in part by the sale of the old items on EBay. Ah yes, I discovered EBay. If you haven’t done it yet, sell something on EBay and I challenge you not to become obsessed with checking your bids on a minute-by-minute basis. What a rush!!!
4. I Miss My Garden
Like the new house, the garden is soooo much smaller than the last one. In fact, it’s smaller than the patio of my previous garden! But on the upside, it’s much quicker to pick up the dog poo, simpler to take care of and significantly cheaper to Astroturf which is the new big thing I’m told! Although much to my children’s dismay I’m opting for green with a hint of brown rather than electric blue.
5. I Miss My Kids
Don’t’ misunderstand me, they still live with me. I mean I miss them both madly when they go and spend a day or a weekend with their Dad. I’m just not used to being without them. The three of us did everything together. Now suddenly they’re whisked away on a regular basis and I feel lost. I have to give the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy a new address this year and I don’t want to. This is without doubt the toughest part of our new lifestyle for me. But, motivated by the frozen dog poo incident, I am looking for the silver lining. It does mean that I can go out with a friend at the last minute without needing a babysitter, arrange a work appointment at the weekend if a client is busy during the week, or even go away for a couple of days myself for some pampering. Do I sound convinced? No, I guess not. I’ll work on it.
6. Lonely Evenings
Suddenly there’s no one to turn to and consult about what to have for dinner, what to watch on TV or whose family to visit at the weekend. On the upside, there’s no one to consult about what to have for dinner, what to watch on TV, or whose family to visit at the weekend! You can choose.
7. No More Intimacy
So, there are no more kisses, cuddles, shoulder massages…you don’t need me to continue surely?! I think you know where I’m going with this. The intimacy that comes with love and familiarity is no longer part of our world but here’s something you have over your attached friends… the potential for a first kiss with someone else! Remember that electricity? That tickly feeling in your gut? Who knows what, or who, tomorrow may bring…!
8. Awkward Friend Situations
Some people will pick sides, some will choose to spend time with you both, and others will just disappear off your radar completely. Ultimately, that’s their choice not yours. Is that really so bad? You may end up with one or two fewer names on your Christmas card list but you can count on the fact that those who stick around are true friends worthy of your time. The others are no great loss. Plus, any friends of your ex that you don’t really like… no need to pretend anymore!
9. I Need To Earn More Money
The end of a marriage can mean financial pressure to go back to work or increase your income, as your expenses are no longer shared. This can be tricky (see Single Plus Baggage… Plus Job!). But, it also has its positives. The workplace is somewhere to spend time with other adult human beings plus you can start to build financial independence not to mention your sense of worth, something that can take a bashing post separation.
10. More Silver Linings…
More wardrobe space, being able to eat pork scratchings without judgment, not having to unravel balled up man-socks, no need to defend your decision not to take the child who has just vomited to a doctor to rule out Norovirus and other possible afflictions… make your own list of upsides ladies and keep it for your darker moments!
So, it's not all bad. It’s tempting when you first find yourself like me, Single Plus Baggage, to wallow in self pity and feel like the victim of a crime but that’s not a healthy long term solution. That doesn’t mean we can’t be sad, grieve for our losses and hide under the duvet for a few days here and there, but it means when we reappear, we need to think positively and look to the future.
And we can have a happy future if we allow ourselves to. We just need to look at our situation from another angle and not assume the worst.
So, I won’t moan about the cold weather anymore, I’ll just wear more layers. And I won’t sigh when I have to clear up the dog poo, I’ll just imagine it’s Playdough. And on the days where the two coincide, I’ll smile to myself and remember the parable of the frozen dog poo!
Right, I’m off to bed in my most snuggly PJs to eat a packet of pork scratchings and watch White Collar on Netflix!