Recently I had an article accepted for publication in an American magazine called Pilcrow & Dagger. The magazine aims to showcase writing talent. The May/June 2016 issue had the theme of New Beginnings. Post divorce, I’ve been forced to pretty much start my life again so I figured I was ideally placed to write from the heart. Here is the article in its entirety, including my author bio. Man, writing a bio promoting oneself is difficult to do.
Ally McCormick is a Kiwi farm girl with big dreams. In her youth, a psychic told her that she would one day be famous and achieve her innermost desire. Now in her mid-40s, Ally has been debating whether to ask for her money back. In the meantime, she has been working hard to get a novel published—any one of her novels would be OK with her. A mahjong aficionado, Ally loves most card and board games which lead to her craziest career move—a stint as a roulette croupier. She has escaped rural life several times but always finds herself sliding back down to square one; something she hopes will lead to a longer life.
Divorce is a Chance to Start Over
I must remember to thank my ex-husband for dumping me. Although our separation took me by surprise, it came at exactly the right time. I was in my mid-40s, and I was far from what you would call a siren. If you had to describe me, I was a frumpy mom who was busy bringing up her two daughters.
They are fabulous daughters by the way. Nobody could criticize my mothering skills. They are polite, intelligent, beautiful, sporty, graceful, diligent, empathic, popular, creative and up until our separation, they were carefree and happy. I have put everything I’ve got into being the perfect mother. It used to be my dream to be a mother, but the reality was that it turned out I wasn’t quite cut out for it. I found I was too critical, too fussy and too impatient. Nevertheless, I threw myself into the project and managed it successfully, no matter the cost. I’m very proud of the results.
I also tried so hard to be a good wife. I cooked. I cleaned. I assisted with accounts. I shopped and I made the home homely. I laughed at my husband’s jokes and tried to show an interest in his daily doings by questioning him and giving advice. Let’s not forget my most important role; to keep my husband informed and to remind him about appointments and jobs that needed doing. Oh wait, that sounds a lot like a mother or assistant instead of a wife. OK, I had a tendency to mother my husband, but he never complained, so he must have liked it.
While I’m at it, I really, really want to thank the girl whom he left me for. It didn’t quite work out for them, but I wish her well anyway because, let’s face it, if she hadn’t thrown herself at my husband he may never have had the impetus to leave me. He would never have realized just how much he was missing out on life and how unhappy he really was.
As I sit on my rustic wooden bench seat in my little enclosed garden, so full of multi-colored winter blooms, I read what I’ve written out loud to the weeds that are starting to infiltrate the once immaculate displays. I worry that my words have a sarcastic ring to them. Sarcasm is not my goal here. I genuinely feel thankful that my life has come to an abrupt halt. That my future is no longer certain. That my beloved home, which I may not be able to keep for much longer, is no longer tended with religious fervor.
This morning I received another rejection email from a job I applied for two months ago. It’s going to be a challenge to find a well-paid job, because I abandoned my career fifteen years ago in the false assurance that I’d never have to work full-time again. Challenges are just that. Something to strive for—and I’m game. The mounting rejections and the nil-score I’ve achieved for interviews have not broken me yet. One thing I’m finding out about myself is that I am a survivor.
You may wonder why, amongst the ruins of my life, I am grateful to the people who caused me this pain and uncertainty. Well, reread what I’ve written and you’ll see the answer is staring you in the face. After weeks of crying and feeling sorry for myself, the truth hit me with a clobber so hard I actually heard my brain rattle.
I was stuck in a rut. I was a mother, a wife, a home-maker. But I wasn’t a person. Not really. Somewhere along the line, I stopped living. I lost my “self.”
What were my goals now that I had achieved motherhood? The answer is, I hadn’t defined any.
Did I still get those exquisite feelings when my husband wrapped his arms around my waist and nibbled my ear? Well, I can’t remember when he last did that.
Was my marriage satisfying my needs or my ex-husbands? No, we were more like sister and brother, than husband and wife.
Were we nurturing each other’s souls and helping each other to grow and heal from past hurts? No, we were each trying to extract selfish things from the marriage.
I don’t believe I was ever likely to stop in my tracks to realign myself. I had to be forced to do it. My husband, however cruelly and unintentionally, was brave enough to leave first and in so doing he made me take a good look at myself in the proverbial mirror. I didn’t like what I saw, so at first I just felt sorry for myself.
The truth hurts. I needed to learn a lesson and sometimes these lessons are painful. A young girl I know well, learned that the hard way. She was too proud to train for a cross-country race. The previous year she had won by a good five minutes, so the next year she didn’t bother to practice. You guessed it … she finished 10th because, exhausted, she had to slow to a walk near the end. It was a hard lesson and a painful one because it meant she didn’t get chosen for the regional team. That girl left her running to chance, instead of taking control. I needed to take control of my life. For too long, I had been busy interfering in my loved one’s lives, but not maintaining my own.
In practical terms, what can we learn from divorce or separation?
Flexibility in Our Thinking
The first thing I had to accept was that divorce was a possible and likely outcome of my involuntary separation. Facing up to this reality took a lot of sorrow and every ounce of courage I had. But the lessons didn’t stop there. I also needed to become flexible in all areas of my thinking. In many ways I had to loose myself before I could find myself. I had to strip away all my pre-conceived ideas and open myself up to new, more positive ways of thinking.
Learning to Love Ourselves
Possibly the most important lesson was to learn to take better care of myself. We can’t nurture our relationships if we don’t love ourselves. But my inner critic claimed that I had been doing very well with my children up to that point. Perhaps this was so, but what about all the other relationships in my life. Friends, family and my dear ex-husband had all fallen away, as I had ploughed on through my meaningless days, picking out curtain patterns. Learning to love my body, my abilities or lack thereof, my soul, my intent, and the place I currently occupied in the world was very hard. The truth is I didn’t love any of those things, and especially not the hole I had dug for myself. It wasn’t a nice comfortable hobbit hole, it was a desolate, airless prison. So I began by accepting where I was and then strove for change. This I found was possible by learning to recognize and be grateful for the good things I did have and building from there. Daily, I practice being grateful for the things I have. A great help with this process is Rhonda Byrnes “The Magic” book. A positive thought process lends itself to be a positive self-fulfilling prophecy rather than a negative one. My grandmother always told me that she was never sick simply because she wouldn’t let herself be. “Think that you’re going to get well and you will,” she used to say to me when she was looking after me during one of my many childhood bouts of bronchitis. I thought she was a crazy old lady talking nonsense. Looking back, she did keep in good health with a positive mindset all her long life right up until her last weeks, when she sort of gave up, lost interest in life and stopped eating. She was ready to move on and the end came quickly after that.
Learn to recognize and be grateful for the good things you do have and build from there.
These days whenever I’m feeling negative thoughts, I just give permission to go easy on myself. I don’t have to act on those feelings or even change them. If I can’t feel grateful at that moment, I can try to meditate or take a nap. If this is not possible, then I can bury myself in work, watch a movie or turn on the radio and sing a happy song. Anything to switch off my stream of negative thoughts.
Learn Who We Each Can Control
I discovered there is only one person you can control. That is yourself. You can’t control your spouse, no matter how hard you schedule him. His thoughts belong to him. You can’t control your children and if you try they will eventually rebel. You can’t even control a baby. A baby will do what babies do. They wake up when you want them to sleep, and sleep when you want to feed them and need their nappies changed at the most inconvenient times. You need to be satisfied with controlling yourself; Your thoughts, Your words, Your habits and Your goals. Instead of feeling shut out of other people’s decisions, allow yourself to be excited and delighted by their contrary ideas. Take what you need from the things they share but don’t allow them to orchestrate your life. Care about your community and current affairs, but don’t allow yourself to sink under the weight of the world. Take control of your own direction. Feelings like hate and jealousy only serve to give control to those they are directed at.
Think Positively About the Future
There is a future for you, no matter where you find yourself: no matter how old you are, no matter what illness you possess, or how many material objects you have lost. Perhaps there is something that you always wanted to do, but felt you couldn’t because of the hole you were in, because of the people who were controlling you, or because your mindset did not allow you to indulge in flights of fancy. Remove the word “can’t” from your vocabulary. Think outside the box and troubleshoot all those “can’ts.” Adjust expectancies and feel the place you’d like to be. Begin to live it, even if it hasn’t happened yet. You can do this by positive affirmations. “I love being single,” or “I will find the perfect man for me to love again.”
So, you’ve lost the person you thought was the love of your life? But you’ve also lost those in-laws that you could only handle in small doses. You now have a chance to find new love and remember how exciting the honeymoon-stage is?
So you may have to go back to work in a less than ideal job? But think how many people you will meet and how many real adult-conversations you will have each day.
You’ll possibly have to live in a less glamorous home. But think how worthless material items are in the grand scheme of things. You can’t take them with you when it’s time to exit the world.
Whatever your religious beliefs: whether you believe God is teaching you a lesson, whether you think the Universe is conspiring to make you grow, or just plain coincidence, don’t waste the opportunity that divorce brings for a new beginning. A new you.
Have I forgiven my husband for kicking me to the curb? Not really, I’m not that angelic. It’s not OK for a spouse to run off with another person and blame you for it. It’s more than disappointing to be abandoned by the one who stood up in front of all your friends and relatives promising to love you for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. But I believe that inadvertently this divorce will bring about my betterment and for that I am grateful to him. I must remember to thank him one of these days.