There were many reasons which contributed to why I had got to that point. All of them not insurmountable on their own, but piled up all together, it was a mountain that seemed bigger than Mount Everest. Unscalable except by the most resilient, strong and capable mountain hiker. Certainly not by the fragile, broken creature that limped out of my house every day wearing my clothes.
I would get up early – from the bed I chose to sleep in alone -and head to my part time office job with an earthmoving contractor. After about five kilometres of gravel road, the road turned to bitumen. That’s when the tears would start. Sometimes they leaked silently out of my reddened eyes to fall unnoticed down my cheek. Other times I would suck in huge lungfuls of air trying to control the sobbing which felt like it was being wrenched from deep down in my very soul.
Then after my five hours in the office, I would go to my clinic room and welcome five or six clients for massage therapy. Then after dark, pack up my room and my linen and cry myself home.
Sometimes I would wail WHY? Why do I feel this way? And I would check off in my mind the usual reasons why people are unhappy. My job? I loved both of my jobs. I had retrained myself at age 39 to be a massage therapist and I loved it. I loved looking after people and I loved making them feel better. I loved that my business was successful and that it made a difference in the small town in the South West of Western Australia where I lived.
My house? We lived in an old general Hall which we converted to a home. I absolutely, completely and totally LOVED that home. I looked forward to the moment when I would walk through the door – even though the smile was pasted on my face – and feel that connection to my space. I felt gratitude every single day I spent in that house. I cherished it. I loved it. I miss it keenly to this very day. So no, not my home.
My kids? Most people say they have amazing kids. Mine are no exception. They were – and are – kind, considerate, polite and generally wonderful humans. If anything, I felt that my current state of disquiet was somehow letting them down, so perhaps I kept a bit of a distance, however I was always available for them when they needed me.
My friends? Well, I am eternally grateful that there was no shortage of them. I am so blessed with absolutely true and real friends, and that I have the capacity and ability to attract more and more. In fact, in the moments when I felt completely and totally at my absolute lowest, it was the knowledge that if I was as ‘bad’ a person as I truly thought I was, then these bright, intelligent and well-adjusted people would certainly not be friends with ME. And I would re-group … and carry on.
My weight / health? Hmm yeah sure – I had had a spinal injury quite a few years before and I had struggled to readjust both my gait and my general mobility. I could certainly have done with losing quite a few kilograms. But deep in that mire of confusion, I saw my appearance as abhorrent and repulsive. My self-esteem nose-dived and my thought processes spiralled downwards in an alarming depressive pattern.
My marriage? Ah. Jackpot. I was desperately unhappy. And when is the right time or circumstance to objectively examine that!? Just like a marriage is a two-way street, so is it’s decline. I’m certainly not about to point fingers – or to take full responsibility; however, the reality was that I was absolutely and completely terrified that it was over. My husband was a nice man – he still is – kind, often thoughtful, never violent, didn’t drink or smoke, a wonderful father. But I had lost just what it was that made every new day something to look forward to with him in it.
But what did all that actually mean? I had nothing to complain about. We even had a ‘holiday house’ on the beach. Right on the beach. Literally, a dream house. Nup. Didn’t do it for me. I was still unhappy.
What an ungrateful person I thought I was.
Sometimes it was small realisations, not always negative ones either. Like, ‘I am grateful I have a lovely home to live in’. But then, ‘I am not sure I want to spend another weekend at home washing and cleaning’. But then thoughts like this would creep in; ‘how would I be spending my days if I was no longer married?’ Those were the thoughts that scared me the most, because even though I am pretty imaginative, I just could not picture this. I had no framework, no construct to build an imaginary scenario out of. Especially one like that.
I wondered if I could have a ‘trial run’. Like a tester period where I did not live in the family home and could experience what life would be like, but without the cavernous unknown in front of me. Of course, that situation would not be without its connotations also, as the very reason I would be doing it would be due to a serious fault surfacing in my marriage.
And just like that, the universe provided.
A good friend of mine was heading to Europe for six weeks and although she did not need a house sitter, she offered her house to me to stay in for that time.
The subsequent conversation was the hardest thing I have ever done. Both the one with my husband and the one with my children. We stumbled through the next few days. I gathered a few things. I made plans.
The first night at my friend’s house, I took a chair into her lovely garden with a glass of wine and I wept. I cried with peace. I cried with the realisation that I felt …. free. I cried because I knew what that meant. I knew where it would lead. But even though I was scared, I knew the alternative no longer existed. I could not go back. And however much pain I needed to cause would have to be metered out. And I wept for that pain too.
Enter “The Retreat”
A space. A place. A time away. A pause. No expectations, no requirements, no emotional agendas.
Deep breaths. Bright colours. Gentle sounds.
Time to think, time to process, time to be.
And at last. Clarity.
I gifted myself that space. And I honoured myself by respecting all the emotions and thought processes which surfaced in that time.
And little by little, more of ME has surfaced. Not totally without bruises. I still hurt when I think of the hurt I have caused the three most important people in my life. But I also hope they understand just a little bit.
I have learned that it’s okay to question. To question your happiness, to question your daily routine, to question how you make money – and why, and to question what all of that ultimately means to you. To ask the question is not to fail. To ask the question is not admitting defeat. To ask the question is not to give away power. To ask the question lets in a little bit of light. For wherever it may need to shine.
And when that light shined more and more on the most hidden parts of who I am, and I kept asking myself questions, I discovered a world that I wanted to explore.
And here I am in the UK ticking off my list of dreams…