I remember vividly the day that I took the decision to sell my home, a year post divorce. It wasn’t particularly difficult to know that it was the right thing to do. The house we lived in had been a begrudging compromise so, for me, there wasn’t much sentiment attached. But more than that, I was starting to struggle with difficult memories – the place that was supposed to provide comfort was becoming increasingly uncomfortable as the realisation sank in of all that had happened. If you missed the last post and need filled in then click here.
I had been acutely aware however, quite early into my split, of the expectation upon me. The expectation that, as an Asian woman, I should be returning to my parents’ home now that I was divorced.
“You’ll be safer back home”
“You won’t feel so lonely”
“It’s the right thing to do”
“Girls shouldn’t live alone”
An insight into some of the comments I would hear, some well meaning and others not so much. I held off, trying not to succumb to what others thought was best for me.
I sold up fairly quickly but unable to find another home I liked, I did infact move back in with my parents. The divorced woman’s walk of shame, I thought to myself. Yet another humiliating notch in what felt, at the time, as an already humiliating story. However, I comforted myself in the knowledge that it would only be for a few months.
I STAYED FOUR YEARS
If I think back to why I stayed so long, there’s not really any one factor I can pin point it to:
Year one – I was glad of the company. Unbeknown to many, I barely liked myself at this point so it was a daily battle to feel happy alone.
Year two – I left to work overseas. Uncertain as to where my life was heading, I held off on the house search. Fair enough, I think.
Year three – I returned and decided to make Glasgow my base. However, as year three ended, I became aware that something more troubling was affecting me. It wasn’t that I couldn’t find a house, I had stopped looking altogether. My self-esteem having already taken a major blow during my marriage had now plummeted to an all-time low. I had absolutely no confidence in my own capabilities. It was easier to pretend, to myself and others, that I was comfortable where I was and so, I continued to live in the family home.
Year four – My much-loved uncle passed away at the age of fifty-four. Grief is a different topic for another day. His diagnosis however, his battle with the illness and subsequent death, as selfish as it sounds, sent me spiraling into self-crippling fear . I wasn’t scared of becoming ill as such but coping alone if I did.
I met my good friend, Diane, for a coffee in the midst of my anxiety. Diane and I have been friends since we were four years old; that’s thirty-one years of ups and downs. My first memory of our friendship was wailing over my grazed knee after tripping in a school race, only to find Diane had turned back to help me up. We crossed the line (last) hand in hand.
Diane touched upon the topic of my living arrangement and I’m certain that she never expected the “ridiculous”* conversation which followed. “What if I get ill – how exactly will I manage?!!!”, I shrilled to her, downing some disgusting coffee that I always ordered yet never liked. “I won’t be able to pay a mortgage…..I’ll be out on the streets!”. I pictured myself trailing black bags around the streets of Glasgow. I panicked at a sudden realisation “I’ve never even owned a sleeping bag”. She tried to rouse me back to reality – there were insurances to cover those types of things, I had family to help if things went wrong etc. Diane presented, at the moment, as the image of a good Samaritan talking someone off a ledge. She offered to come with me to some viewings. I
abrasively politely declined and half-heartedly continued the search knowing that I was gripped by something that I was unable to shake off nor fully understand…. until last year.
January 2018 rolled around and sat at a meeting with my boss, I asked him what word he would use to describe the previous year. “Gratitude”, he replied, “what about you?”. “Reawakening”, I told him. “You’ve always got to be different, don’t you” he commented. Yet by the time 2018 hit, that’s exactly how I felt – re-awakened. Amassed by more baggage, shame and self-esteem difficulties than I care to admit, it took one incident last year to eventually break a half broken me and send me on a journey of self-care and self-love.
Working on yourself is hard work. It’s probably the hardest type of work you can do which is no doubt why many of us run away from it. I tried by myself and failed then I tried again, did a little better but eventually got stuck. If you know me by now, I’m very much a fan of talk therapy; counselling, coaching etc so I found an old friend/trained counselor to help. As I worked on myself – my thoughts and attitudes started to change. I adopted a more positive and less critical inner voice particularly towards myself. I say this with slight trepidation however; I don’t believe people when they tell me “I’m always positive”. For my part, I believe in realism yet knowing that most situations in life will work themselves out. I believe in believing – not hoping any more. A friend once described hope as the beggar of life and I was starting to understand what he meant.
Upon returning from Palestine this year, I knew what I wanted next – my own home. I practised manifesting. It sounds a little like witchcraft but I promise it’s not…..I mean, I’ve never even read Harry Potter (sacrilege!). A disclaimer however, I love the weird and wonderful; channelling energy, reiki, energy healing, sage smudging, chakra cleansing……. give me it all!
For those religiously inclined, manifesting is somewhat similar to praying except you know exactly what it is you’re wanting as opposed to a half-hearted request. For everyone else, it’s throwing things out to the universe, kind of like “The Secret”. In this instance, I visualised the type of home I wanted and believed it would be mine. Three weeks later, I viewed a house and knew it was the one; a week later my offer was accepted despite another six being made. Call it manifesting, positive thinking, being proactive, a prayer being accepted; whatever you want to label it as, it worked.
Whilst it’s what I want now, I don’t take away from anybody who has had to move back home for whatever reason it may be. We live in a society which places expectations of where we should be at particular stages in our life with little empathy towards the story. At thirty something years old, moving back home was not ideal but it was good for me. I was very much aware however of the jokes at my expense and even joined in to deflect away from the sting I felt.
If you’re in that situation, do what you need to do until it feels right. Whilst fear is usually irrational if, like me, that’s what’s stopping you, it takes time to understand that especially if you’ve been through a hell of a ride. And there’s nothing wrong with taking time to become healthier.
If you are held back by fear and can’t see through it yet then I hope you have good people around you to help make sense of it all. Friends like Diane who followed up on my ledge moment with the message below:
“Just know, while I have a roof over my head, even if the worst happened, you would never in your life be without one”
*Whilst conversations, like the one here, seem ridiculous – this was infact a very real train of thought. It took just a few supportive people to break it down for me; to allow me to think of what I needed to do to become comfortable. One of my favourite mantras when I feel the twinges of negative self-belief comes from Tara Brach – “My thoughts are real but they aren’t true”.