I have unknowingly enclosed myself in a fortress of my home. Beautiful as it is, I found myself in dire need to redefine my daily life.
Looking back, it started with COVID, then my total colectomy in October 2020. The exodus of my friends followed due to COVID had almost completely isolated me from having a social life.
Before my divorce, I was very involved in daughters’ school. I was busy playing the role of the perfect stay home mum and spouse. I spent my days tending to the home, making meals, chores, running errands，doing everything that would make my husband’s life easier as he had a demanding job. I made his life a priority.
I connected with several groups of mums — from my daughter’s school and filled my time with various volunteer work.
Leading my daughter’s USA Girl Scouts troop since she was 6 years old, being part of the executive committee, a member of my condo’s management team and doing other charity work kept me busy and connected.
Altogether, I felt that my life had meaning.
When divorce came, I lost a large section of my social life. I found myself shunned from my immediate family for reasons that till this day I do not know.
Divorce was like a “death” — who I thought I was, was attached to my husband. I was known as “His” wife, “Her” mother. Like an onion, all the layers that I thought protected me was stripped away. For the first time in my life, at age 41 — I was on my own, totally.
Fortunately for me, I found the strength to rebuild my social circle. The friends that I had made became my tribe, my family, my sanctuary.
When covid came along, many of my emotional support fell away. When my colectomy was done — I was confined to my house because I was physically unable to be out for any period without needing the bathroom. It was eat and stay home or strave to go out. There was hardly anything in the middle.
The years 2019 to the present has been an ever-changing landscape. There were moments of peace, struggle, joy and loss.
The weight of the hammer came down hard on me in the summer of 2021 — relentless was the beating of one obstacle, loss, and devastation. Unabatingly, one swiftly followed another.
When I thought I had suffered enough, and that I could not get any lower, another hard blow came in late 2021. At that point I thought that I could handle no more. But little did I know that more was yet to come.
With each loss, I enclosed myself even more. The drive I had within me to rebuild my life, and the means were totally removed. I had never been more afraid.
The fear was paralysing.
It took a hard push, a rude awakening that pushed me towards rebuilding myself once more.
Frost said “these woods are lonely, dark and deep. I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep”
I acknowledged that there was miles to go. I had to. So it was move now, or be forever paralysed. It was fight or flight.
I chose to fight.
I chose to fight for me. Again.
I took hold of myself, quietly, slowly. Each day, I sat to meditate, to heal, to understand my path and acknowledge my actions. I had made mistakes.
It was hard to acknowledge my failings. It was hard to say “ I messed up”. It was hard to accept with humility that even in my mindfulness I still made huge mistakes, but I did.
In doing so, I faced my fears.
I made a plan to regain control of my life. What I had been working on had stalled because I had lost the spark within me since last summer. I felt broken, worthless, and hopeless.
In facing my fears — I made plans to counter each of my fears, the greatest one was loneliness.
Not having someone to love feels empty. It was not just about being loved, for me, it was to be able to give the love that I had inside of me.
I fear growing old alone.
But “old” is not now, and so I took pen to paper and wrote down what I needed. Writing down my thoughts, wants, needs, fears and then how to manage them was a relief. It felt good to know that there is a plan. It felt good to know that there is Hope.
I started by joining activity groups — be it online or in person, seeing someone helped. It took courage to get dressed and to go outside again. In getting dressed for the evening, I remembered what it meant to be me — that I was not just a recuperating middle aged woman who had no one in her life. It felt good to look good, and that gave me confidence which I had forgotten.
Today, I organised a lunch for 5 via Internations — a meeting point for people all over the world. It was the best thing I have done so far this year. I made myself climb out of the fortress I built. Just with one lunch, I had managed to form a group of women from different countries and ages. We shared our stories and promised to gather again, to build together a commune of women so that we could support each other.
I came home today, exhilarated. I was happy! I had met strangers and turned them into friends. That itself gave me Hope, and more drive to do it again, to move, to carry on. Most of all, by facing what I feared, by taking action instead of allowing fear to hold me hostage — I placed my first cornerstone to happiness.
And for once, in the stream of darkness, I could feel the lift of the dark and know that the crack of light will come through as long as I solider on.