When I was 8 I fell off my bike and dislocated my elbow. It bloody knacked. The pain wasn’t helped by the friendly doctor in Accident & Emergency who helpfully advised me that ‘crying isn’t going to help’. Yeah thanks, wish I’d thought of that.
It was months before my arm would fully straighten and, although it hasn’t caused any long term problems, it’s always felt…different. Not in any way that I can explain, not in terms of any tangible feeling, just different. It could be a psychological thing I guess, or it might just be that we have a natural sense of our right arm feeling different to the left. Who knows?
Anyway, what’s the point of that random bit of rambling? One word: dislocation.
“Dislocation: disturbance from a proper, original, or usual place or state.”
This, ladies and gentleman, is how life has felt to me post-marriage; dislocated. And I’m not sure when, or even if, it will be fully straightened.
So much of the last couple of years has been spent adjusting: to being a single parent, to being single, to living alone, to dating (and then not dating, then dating, then not dating…); to being a different person to who I was before, cut loose from the conventions of marriage to navigate a foreign landscape, without a map.
So many things to try and make sense of, so many circumstances in which a new definition of self is needed, a self untethered from familiar roles and routines and guided by the compass of one’s own instincts. For better or for worse.
Prior to divorce my anchor point, my point of stability, had always been my family. That’s not to say life was all happy clappy (well, obviously, I suffered with depression and ended up getting divorced), but there was a sense of wholeness about my life. And now, well, now there isn’t.
That’s not to say I don’t appreciate what I have in my life – I truly do know how fortunate I am to have family, friends, a lovely home, a great job – but life feels very different these days. My life has lost that sense of wholeness and instead it feels… segmented.
One of the recommendations for a psychologically healthy life is to not put all of your eggs in one basket, so to speak; to focus on developing and maximising various aspects of your life so that if there are difficulties in one area there are plenty of other areas from which meaning and satisfaction are gained. One of the reasons ex-athletes often struggle to cope with retirement is that the single-minded and necessarily selfish pursuit of achieving goals in one aspect of life – essential if one is to reach the summit of one’s sport – is not conducive to functioning healthily within the ‘normal’ world inhabited by the ex-athlete.
Like I say, I’m very fortunate to have various ‘segments’ to my life that are hugely gratifying to me and provide a real sense of purpose and meaning but it’s difficult to shake that sense of dislocation, of a segmented life lacking in structure and cohesiveness.
I expect that many will wonder what the hell I’m going on about – if I’m honest I’m not really sure myself – but I know that that sense is there and when I’ve mentioned it to others in a similar situation they have identified with it too. Still, I’m finding it very difficult to articulate.
I know that deep down I hope to find that sense of wholeness, that feeling that things are as they ought to be and that life feels settled again. Don’t get me wrong, life has taken on a spontaneity this year that has at times been exciting, but the thrill of a rollercoaster lies in the brevity of its twists and turns, after a while you start to feel sick from lurching in every direction and want it to stop.
Will I find a sense of wholeness? I’m not sure. I could be all deep and profound and talk of a future shift within myself that allows me to feel settled and at peace regardless of whatever chaos may surround me. I would love to think that could happen but I can’t honestly say I expect it.
Ultimately my anchor – my family – has taken on a shape that I never expected nor wanted and it will never be whole in the sense that it was. I guess I have accepted that to a point but the truth remains that it still doesn’t feel ‘right’ to me that half of my life is spent away from my children, that half of their lives are spent away from me.
That’s my normal now, but normal will never be what the majority of my life has been spent believing it to be.
Life’s good, but it’s not right.
Driftwood – Travis