I was reflecting the other day on my impending return home to Lancashire to see my mum. Since I left the place of my birth, I have tried to visit her regularly, but that usually meant a weekend. Time is short, and so it has been rare to have the opportunity to revisit the wild places I spent my time discovering when my marriage ended. This visit will be more extended, and suddenly a desire to return to the valley and surrounding hills that I spend many solitary hours exploring with my camera returned.
As I reflected, words and feeling swelled my imagination and dripped onto the page. At the time, I had no understanding of the value of these walks to my life, but as I put words onto the paper, I realised they were healing medicine to my heart.
Once upon a lifetime ago When my heart was repairing, I would drive these country lanes On early mornings looking for the sunrise . I would wander these hills alone . Exploring the paths , Watching the heather clothe the hills with royalty. The trees tread their resolute path to the top of the hill, The river gossip it’s friendly way out of the valley to the sea.
Once upon a lifetime ago My heart healed in these valleys. On early mornings when I found the sunrise. As I wandered the hills alone , The paths led me to new joys. The trees whispered tales of places new And I chattered with my friend the river, As we left the valley and headed out to sea.
That’s all very well and good you may say, waxing lyrical and writing poetry from the far side of heartbreak. So for what they are worth, here are my word of wisdom and how I tried to heal.
First – Face it. Look the whole sad, and it is a sad, event squarely and deal with it.
When the first warning signs blasted into my life that my marriage might be over, I crumbled. I was devasted and remember saying quite clearly to a good friend that I could not, ‘do this’. On reflection, it was the label that was more important than the quality of the relationship and the fact that I could not comprehend living on my own. As the relationship stuttered forward, I gradually found my own strength and self-worth, so that it was me, who eventually decided that if the choice were this relationship, or living for the rest of my life on my own, then I would take the second option. I faced it.
Second – Get out into the natural world and find a happy place
It will be tough opening the door and venturing out on your own. But a walk in a public park or wood would be a good start. Take something to do. It was photography that took me into nature. It gave me the focus to still my attention away from sadness and to notice colour, shape, light. I bought a book of local walks, a pair of walking shoes and I started to explore. I wandered the hills and valleys of my home county and found happy places by streams and with trees. I discovered people who shared a love of photography, and I learned from them. I made friends with folks who invited me to go walking so that sometimes I wasn’t on my own.
Third – Find your courage – go on an adventure
Do something beyond your comfort zone. For me, I bought a plane ticket to New Zealand and spent four weeks driving around the South Island. At the time, I was nearly forty, nearly divorced and didn’t really have a lot to show for my life. I freaked out a few times after the ticket had been purchased. But gradually the pieces of that summer adventure came together, and I relished another me who found it easy to swap stories with new people over dinner, sharing similarities and exploring differences.
Four – give something back
Get involved in a project that makes a difference. I got involved with a youth group that met weekly. It allowed me to be creative and get to know people from a completely different background to me. A good friend of mine took her broken heart to a stonewalling course in Wales. This year, I was a bridesmaid at her wedding to the man she met repairing walls.
Five – Learn to love your independence.
This one starts with the word ‘learn’. I learned to take myself to the cinema or out for a meal if I wanted a treat, whether I was with someone or not. In the early days, I felt as if I was being pitied as a sat on my own. In one cafe, I was overlooked as I waited for a table and when finally the mistake was realised the waitress asked: ” Is it a table for….one?” It was the excruciating pause that rattled my confidence, followed by the sudden loud exclaim from a former friend, who was sat nearby with her husband, “Are you are your own?!” Sat at a small table in the middle of the cafe I felt I stood out like a pimple, so I drank my coffee rather rapidly and made a hasty escape. I learned, but it took a while.
I hope these words of wisdom and this story help. I realised only on reflection, how the journey had unfolded. At the time I didn’t. I wanted to punch the person who said time is a great healer. If I had punched the person, I would now be apologising and probably adding and so does spending time in nature!
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