In which I ponder…choices, walking and Moet

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Despite being on holiday in beautiful Noosa, today has been a tough day.

The reality is that sorting out your financial settlement post divorce, and extricating yourself from joint international tax difficulties* is hard work – intellectually and emotionally.

I’ve had to sit through a teleconference involving both my family lawyers and my tax lawyers, and I just can’t help thinking that there must be an easier, quicker and more efficient way to do all of this.

And of course, there is. I can forgo my right to legal representation, and just sign all the documents that I’ve been sent by my ex husband.

There isn’t a day that I don’t wish that’s what I had done. This process has been way more complicated, and has taken a much greater psychological toll than I had ever anticipated. But the reality is that I spent most of my marriage with my eyes shut, or open just enough to only see the things that didn’t make my stomach twist and my heart ache, and I promised myself that I would come out of it with my eyes wide open, and having ensured that I was aware of all the facts. For the first time in my adult life I wanted to make an important life decision in possession of all the relevant facts.

Right from the moment that I made the discovery that led to asking my husband to leave, there has been a part of me that wishes I could have allowed myself to continue my life in blissful ignorance. But I know that the path to real happiness – to joy perhaps – to go through your life journey properly present, aware of all its pains and its pleasures. And I made a choice, in the moment that I said ‘you will have to leave’, to do that.

And lately I’ve also started to really understand that how I deal with these issues is also a choice, that there is not much point in choosing presence if my default position is always to allow myself to fall into distress when I experience an upset or a reminder. It’s unrealistic to expect it not to hurt, to not feel sad, angry, frustrated. But that I need to acknowledge these feelings and then work to move on from them.

The best way I’ve found of doing this is to walk determinedly, a little too fast, for as long as it takes to make it all feel a little better. It’s unrealistic not to feel these things, but I’ve discovered that walking, outdoors, preferably somewhere beautiful, does the trick about 98% of the time. And if you can do this with someone you love, and who loves you back, all the better.

And for the other 2% of the time there is Moet.

*Yep. I totally get that this is a bit of a first world sort of problem. It’s not as international as say, a Mossack Fonseca style problem, but for me, it’s still been a big headache…

In which I ponder…being normal

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I was recently having a conversation with my ex-husband in which he suggested that the ‘normal’ thing to do in my situation would have been to partner up with someone again by now.

This took place in the context of a discussion about our (as yet undecided) financial settlement, and as a contribution to that discourse especially I think it has little merit. The answer to my concerns about my financial security going forwards is never going to lie in becoming dependent, or even partially dependent, on the income of someone else. I’ve done that once, and to be honest it hasn’t worked out terribly well. If I had one piece of advice for any women embarking on a new romantic partnership, it would be to behave from a financial point of view always as though your loved one might be gone at any time, in the blink of an eye – along with his income, his pension and his superior economic power. No matter how confident you are that it will last, or that even if it didn’t, he would look after your interests financially. I hope that the generation my daughter is growing up in will learn this lesson from their mothers, who are nearly always left financially disadvantaged by having prioritized parenthood over earning and career.

However, I digress…

This talk of ‘normal’ got me thinking. And anyone who knows me, knows that thinking is something I do rather a lot of.

What is ‘normal’ anyway? Being single is becoming more and more common. Does that make it normal? The Australian Bureau of Statistics predicts that the number of single person households in Australia will increase by 4.3m in the next 25 years – an increase of 65% – and that 54% of those households will be single women. Not that abnormal then am I, statistically speaking?

But more than that, I don’t subscribe to the idea that my normality is based upon my relationships with other people, particularly since that can create a veneer of said ‘normality’ which, when you scratch just beneath the surface, reveals something not quite so normal at all. My own marriage was a good example of that.

The thing is that I suspect my ex husband – along with many other people – takes some of his personal validation from the fact that he looks so normal, with an apparently healthy relationship, good job, nice home. Other-esteeming, they call that. Some people are unbalanced by people who refuse to conform to these social norms, or won’t let them define them. To be fair, men haven’t exactly been beating down my door offering to relieve me of my financial burdens, but I’ve not been in any rush to settle down, and these days I wonder if I will. I have a level of freedom that I’ve previously never experienced, and I am defined by no one except myself. I like that. Anyone who joins my life is going to have to deal with that.

My sister once said to me

“The thing about you is that you’ve never needed anyone”

I think I’ve mentioned this before here – but I was quite offended at the time. Now I think I understand better what she meant and I realize that to a certain extent it’s true, and not necessarily a bad thing (although I’m pretty certain her intention was not to flatter).

I don’t need anyone. It’s true. But not needing people means that those I have in my life have been chosen – for themselves and not just because they are able to meet a need in me. In doing so, I give them the freedom to choose me, or not. I think that’s healthy. My people are there because I have an authentic, real connection with them, they know who I am without the veneer of ‘normality’ and we chose one another. And we continue to choose one another every day.

If that’s being abnormal, then so be it. Seriously – who cares?