14 September 2016

Twists & Turns on the Rollercoaster

Huia Wharf, West Coast New Zealand

Ahhh Life. We never know what it'll throw at us.

I read a guest post on Ann Voscamp's blog the other day which really resonated with me, called "When you're living a life you didn't choose". That happens sometimes - we end up in a life that wasn't what we hoped/dreamed/planned.
We have a dream for the life we want to live, and then it isn't.
Life throws us a curveball. There's an unexpected twist in the rollercoaster. And oh help, here we go again on another not-so-great-fun adventure.

Right now you could say that I'm living a life I didn't choose - in so far as I never in my wildest dreams (or nightmares) would have imagined that my marriage would end after 15 years of trying.
But, yep, there it is.
I've been separated and sole-parenting for over three months now.
That's the twist my life's rollercoaster has taken me on.

Winter Sunrise
First freesieas - a sign of Spring

Out of respect for my husband, the details of what led to our separation won't be blog material (I'll not share the whys and wherefores in all their gory detail). But I've found it increasingly difficult to find a way to continue writing as normal when this super-huge thing has turned our lives upside down but for some reason I haven't felt able to write about it yet.

In the last few days I made up my mind to just go ahead and share it here - the fact of it - because this is, after all, my life.
To ignore my new reality and dance around the facts is no longer necessary since most people in our real world know by now. Also, in the early days of the separation I didn't know whether it would be short or long term, but as we've gotten further down the track, it has become clearer that this is permanent, there's no going back.

So I have a brand new bio that reads:

"Sole parent to three wonderfully quirky kids; brand-new WINZ beneficiary/part-time employee at her favourite non-profit organisation; proud (?) owner of a garden that is fast turning into a jungle, an empty pool still left up from last summer and a rapidly-growing rescue puppy."
The twists and turns of Life, aye??


Neglected backyard and empty pool waiting to be spring-cleaned
Life and beauty is everywhere, even in brokenness

Surprisingly (to myself if to no-one else) we're doing pretty damn amazing (the bills are getting paid, the kids are getting fed, the puppy is getting walked and I'm not crying hardly at all),
And I'm learning a lot. A LOT.

I'm learning about myself, about how strong I am after all, about how my brain isn't half as redundant as I thought it was and how to be in three places at once (actually that is a skill I am yet to master, but we try).

I'm learning that a puppy is a wonderful distraction, a powerful bonding agent, and that there are magical healing powers in licky dog kisses and furry dog snuggles.
I'm also learning all over again how AMAZING my community is - my community of mother-sisters, friends and family.

Friends get you through the rough times
Sunset from Mount Albert

I literally could not have gotten through the last few months without the strength and support of friends and family who have sat with me, prayed with me, cried with me, listened to me and encouraged me.

Friends who have brought over meals, taken over my kitchen and cooked up a storm, made cups of tea, taken my kids to play, to sleep over, to sports games. Friends afar off who message me and ask "How are you going? What can we pray for today?" Friends who send care packages wrapped up for each one of my children, friends who send books and chocolates.

Care Package

I'm thankful for friends who have been through this journey themselves, who message me back in the middle of the night from the other side of the ocean, and say, "I'm awake, I'm listening," when the tears won't stop rolling down.

Huia, ruggedly beautiful

Words will never be enough to express the gratitude I feel at the deepest level for friends like these.
When my soul has felt like it was held together by nothing more than band-aids, these precious ones have held me together. They have been God's hands of love to me and my kids.

I have also learned that the end of a marriage is like a death, but slightly more awkward.
You have the same grief, the same heartbreak, but sometimes people don't know what to say or how to act - so they stay away, keep silent.
They don't want to take sides so they keep their distance.
And that can really hurt.

Don't Stay Away

So I wanted today to share a few little insights based on my recent experience, so that if any friend of yours is ever unfortunate enough to go through a marriage breakup, you'll know what to do.

1. Don't stay away.

Loneliness - being overwhelmed by our new aloneness - is pretty overwhelming. We are now facing the rest of our life without a partner and that can be pretty scary. The thing that helps us get through is the love of friends and family. Good company, a good laugh over coffee or a glass of wine with a friend can re-energise our hurting hearts. Turning up to church or social gatherings on our own can be very nerve-wracking - we're wondering what people are thinking, what they've heard, and paranoia can be at an all time high. So pleeeeease don't stand back and be awkward. Come up and give us a hug, ask how we're doing, how the kids are doing. It will mean the world, truly.

2. Food is always a blessing.

You can't go wrong with dropping round a meal or a batch of baking for the kids lunches. Sole parenting is exhausting and relentless and money is probably tighter than it's ever been. A night off cooking is a beautiful practical expression of love. It also means a lot to the kids to see people caring for their family in a delicious home-baking way. "People are caring about us mum," my kids say when someone has brought over dinner or sent some treats in the mail. The blessing of food doesn't just mean the world to the newly-separated friend, it also means a lot to their heartbroken kids.

Hugs from Clyde the puppy cheer up the saddest heart

3. Don't be afraid to ask.

Ask how we're doing, ask how the kids are, ask if we need any help, heck, ask what happened. I would much rather someone came up to me and asked "what happened?" than that they assumed stuff or heard things second hand. The worst thing - the WORST thing - is walking around not knowing who knows, and wondering what people are thinking about you and who has heard what. It's the pits. I'd much rather people just asked me.

Spring blossoms defeat grey days

4. Don't assume.

It takes a whole lot of people supporting a newly-broken family to help us get through what is probably the worst time of our lives. Don't assume that someone else is in contact, don't assume that no news is good news - it's really really hard to ask for help, especially from the same faithful friends over and over (we worry that we're being too much of a burden). The more friends we have looking out for us and our kids, in little ways, means that the burden of support and care doesn't fall too heavily on just a few people. My main support people have been SOOOooooo amazing - but I worry that it's too much sometimes cos I don't want to be a pain.

Being supported by a village of friends when your world has flipped upside down can make all the difference in how you come through it, I reckon.

Even bare branches can be beautiful

So to all of you beautiful people who have loved us and prayed for us, been there for us, laughed and cried with us, provided meals for us and let us know that we're not alone, thank you. I love you all. I couldn't have gotten through this without you. You know who you are.


P.S. And gosh, please don't feel awkward about commenting!

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