I slowly put down the phone after the call from my lawyer. So here I am – on my own, without someone to take care of me for the first time in my life! Do I have the ability to do this? Can I survive? My throat closes up in fear! Totally unknown territory with no map, no GPS, no stars to guide me either- it feels like a dark cloudy oppressing night that has finally descended upon me!

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I walk outside to the swing in my special little space in my garden. Fresh air! I can’t breathe properly! Thoughts come tumbling into my head like smarties falling out of a torn packet. My life followed a very traditional path up to now; mom and dad took care of my every need; older sisters to accompany me everywhere; boyfriends were always a little older, a little wiser; good friends to while away the hours with!

Then at 20, a husband! Leaving my parent’s home to  move to “our” home. That was how it was supposed to be. I am a girl after all! Boys get to do things on their own, move out, live on their own. Marry later! Not girls! What will people say, what about your reputation- no man wants a woman who is too independent and too strong! Boys are strong! Boys can- girls shouldn’t!

Somehow I have always understood that we are a herd species and that others are there to teach us, to guide us, to protect us, to keep us company, to keep us from being alone! I have also learnt that each of us have a role to play in this herd and that only collectively are we powerful. That on my own I have no power, and as a woman, a female, I have less power than my male counterparts. My role is to serve, to teach my children, to maintain my home, to visit his family, to entertain his work colleagues, to create a space that he can be proud of and approve of. A space where he is the leader and I merely the doer of his commands.

I also learnt though, somewhere along the line, not sure if it was a gradual process or a sudden insight that I came to, that alone and lonely, are not the same thing… that it is possible to be lonely even

when you are not alone. But can I be alone and not be lonely? Can I be just with me? Do I enjoy being with me? My husband eventually didn’t. Surely his opinion counts? He is the popular one, he is the charming -fit -into -all -places- and -all-people one.

He is the successful one! I am just the person in the back ground, the one who doesn’t understand about all the pressures of life, the one who used to be someone and who became no

one.

What will I do with all the time I now have?

No more washing and ironing his clothes because no one else is allowed to touch them, no more making 3 course meals, healthy meals, presented in a coffee table book style each day, no more running around to fetch the twins from school- he sent them both  away to an

exclusive boarding school; for their future’s sake , his decision! – no more collect this, arrange that, do this, do that…

I have stopped going to church because he said religion is for fools!

Who, after all in these days believe in things they cannot see? I no longer have friends because he didn’t get on well with their husbands – they were losers! I have stopped working a long time ago because his wife shouldn’t work and what will people say if they find out you are only a secretary? What can you contribute after all? The after care costs for children is more than your salary? I stopped listening to my type of music because it irritated him; I have stopped reading books because he said I didn’t listen to him when I was reading.

Then he said I bored him, I couldn’t have an intelligent conversation any more, my life was too small for the likes of him; we grew apart, he said; he grew and I didn’t, he said. So now 25 years on in  my this- was- supposed -to -be -my -dream – white picket fence -and -all- life -come -tumbling down- scenario, how can even I just be with me ?  Do I have any idea of who I actually am? What have I got to offer anyone? Where do I belong now? Where will I fit in now? How do I restart my life at 45? My parents are both gone, my sisters live in another country!

Yes, I have been lonely… but I found a way to manage that- I lived for my children, found my purpose in fulfilling their needs and his needs and sometimes at night , or while they were away during the day, I would escape into my own dream world where anything was possible, even for me. But those are just imaginings, fantasies, and unrealistic hopes!

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It feels as if I am left with 1000 puzzle pieces dumped in a heap on a table, to build a life for the future but no indication of what the original picture is supposed to look like! I can identify the frame work but it is not easy to see how all those pieces fit together! How much more difficult to attempt the completion of the detail bittybits as the pattern seems quite complicated and the colours run into each other . Judging by the different shades of blue and beige, it could be sea and sky and sand…it could be desolation or paradise!

Perhaps the only way to build this puzzle, is to put together what seems to go together- to find some order in the chaos, some pattern to begin with and then to decide what fits where, what makes sense and what doesn’t- perhaps I can try to remember what my own hopes and dreams were- those which were considered foolish for a woman to have; maybe I can study something and by the time I am 50 I can have a career! In my jubilee year! In the mean time, I have to find me in this chaos, little bit by little bit…

Perhaps for the first time in my life I am free! Free to be me!

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