Feeling lost was not something I’d experienced before, but when my marriage ended three years ago that was exactly how I was left feeling. From a young age my dreams were centred around getting married and having babies, so when I found myself facing single life six months short of my 35th birthday I couldn’t quite comprehend my new situation.
Earlier, I had celebrated the start of 2014 with the news that we were expecting our first baby. After several years of failed attempts through trying naturally, we swallowed the eye-watering costs and went down the IVF route. I can’t even begin to describe the elation we felt to finally have the news that we had desperately hoped for in many years. But unfortunately, our high didn’t last long as I miscarried eleven weeks into the pregnancy.
The grief we both felt at that time was overwhelming and the numbness that ensued felt like it would last forever. Slowly, with the help of counselling, the fog that we were sitting in began to lift. But along with that clarity came new questions about the future. Whilst I was beginning to feel excited and energised for our next chapter my husband was wrestling with his own inner demons and was battling with his own personal need for time out.
We took a tough decision to part ways which was terribly sad, and even harder to navigate because we still had so much love for each other. The sense of loss I felt was all-consuming, trying to comprehend that I’d started the year with a husband and a baby on the way, and was now facing the end of the year single. Wow!
I felt the loss, not only for the relationship we had, but also the dreams I had for our future. I really hadn’t seen this coming, not in a million years! The separation also meant acknowledging and saying goodbye to my hopes of being a mother too, at least for the foreseeable future. It was a triple blow.
I hadn’t quite realised how much my sense of personal identity had been wrapped up in being a wife and a partner, now that I was on my own I was facing a huge question……. Who am I?
I didn’t know how to answer that question, I wasn’t a wife or a partner anymore, but I also wasn’t the same single person I was before meeting my husband. So much had changed and I felt like I was back at the starting blocks of life again. Only this time I didn’t feel like I was excited to be exploring the new adventures that lay ahead of me, as I had felt in my early twenties. Instead I felt scared and apprehensive about what was coming next. All the certainty in life had been replaced with uncertainty and it was a new feeling, a sense of being out of control.
I reached out to my family and close friends and shared how I was feeling as I was struggling to make sense of it all. I've always found it easy to share what's on my mind with the people that were closest to me, but I wasn't consciously aware at the time that it was because I was comfortable with vulnerability. They helped me see things a little more clearly at a time when I didn't know which foot to put in front of the other. Whilst they couldn't tell me who I was to me, they could share who I was to them and how they saw me. They also reminded me of all the other dreams I'd talked about over the years, the ones I'd put to one side and forgotten in the midst of trying for a family.
Following my dreams...
My mum reminded me of one of those dreams, it had been one that I'd held for over ten years but had let go of a number of years earlier, thinking it wouldn't happen. That dream was to live and work in Australia. And as I sit and write this post I'm pinching myself because I've been living in Sydney now for two years and three months. My dream did come true! (I'll share more about how that happened in another post.)
Achieving this dream didn't answer my question 'Who am I?' but it did show me what I was capable of when I put my focus on something. So for the last three years that's what I've been doing, focusing my attention on discovering who I really am. I've observed what makes me happy and what doesn't, I've listened carefully to what my intuition is telling me about what is right for me and what isn't. I've spent a lot of time learning how to love myself the way I love others and feeling nourished by the kindness I'm extending to myself. I've taken up lots of new hobbies and dropped a few hobbies too along the way, paying close attention to how my body sends signals ahead of my brain when something isn't connecting to my soul. Most importantly I've learned to be honest with myself and consciously embrace everything I considered to be a weakness of mine in the past, and consider instead how it could, in fact, be a strength.
I mentioned earlier I was naturally comfortable with vulnerability but I'd always considered it my Achilles heel. I wear my heart on my sleeve and sometimes that means I get hurt. Whether that be in my personal life or in business, being vulnerable is often seen as something to be pitied or a sign of weakness. But each time I tried to show up as something different, say a much tougher and more stoic individual, it felt yucky and insincere. I felt more pain associated with that than I did facing the risk of someone else hurting me. Brene Brown, a researcher and storyteller, defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. Starting this website and sharing my personal story is the most vulnerable thing I've done. I'm uncertain about how it will be received by you, the risk of judgement is certainly high and emotional exposure is pretty much guaranteed! But with the definition of vulnerability in mind, consider the word courage: I see courage in facing this uncertainty, courage in taking a risk and courage in acknowledging that whilst emotional exposure is likely, that it is also something I feel is necessary. I recognise in being vulnerable myself I am showing others it's okay to be too. Life is too short to be anyone other than your true self.
For me therefore, Courage = Vulnerability. Next time you think being vulnerable is a weakness, stop and remember how courageous you are.
So, Who am I? I am Me.