Thursday, 25 August 2016

Good Marriage and Good Divorce - Can you have both?

There was a lot that I loved about being married. We had a good marriage, we created adventures, dreams, a family, parties, companies, simply.... we were two visionaries with a gift of a life together. Creative, analytical, sensible, wild, expansive, private ... all these wonderful important attributes all in the mix of the container of our marriage.

Our 16 year union was a series of plans; some worked, some didn't, we each, with our skills, wove into a supportive life mesh a relationship for our children and ourselves. What we didn't know was that it was these skills that would ultimately carry us through our marriage ending and into and through our mindful divorce.  We chose to continue using and reworking that support structure... albeit there were hard times, but we found it more useful this way rather than letting it collapse and drain away, forgotten after the divorce conversation.   

We in society do not naturally feel guided to or encouraged to trust in a friendship with our 'soon to be ex-partner'. For many the relationship fabric dissolves leaving us with only the threads of fear and vulnerability, loneliness and anger to cling onto.  Being honest and remembering the parts of your marriage that worked for you both and taking them through into your divorce can be a most healing practice.  Letting anger go or subside so you can both be productive, sorting through what is left of companionship, parental responsibilities with respect can make the 'mindful' difference.

Fundamentally understanding your ex-partner, remembering the good and kind parts, the positive sides AND their flaws perhaps is the key to having a good divorce divorce.  This is not written lightly; the experience of marriage can be as good or bad as divorce; each with their darker and lighter corners. My divorce was not without marches up many a steep hill ridding myself of negative energy, nights crying myself to sleep or meditating so very often to calm my scattered wild mind full of thoughts, fears and worries about my children's future.

Not letting the end state of your marriage define your divorce or allowing your divorce to define the rest of your life is a gift you can truly both give each other.  Accepting and letting go rather than being resigned and holding on helped us both in our divorce so much.  

So giving myself permission to say I had a good divorce seems to be out there with a confessional "my new baby sleeps all night" conversation.  There can be a slight look of disbelief from those I meet, who have, like many divorcees had a pretty unpleasant time of it. Am I speaking my truth? Am I deluded?  So what to say? 

So finally 15 years later I can say "as a new Mum of the most sleepiest baby", I kept quiet at mother's meet ups. Certainly after the woefully sleep deprived stories shared on any said morning, I wasn't brave enough to say that my baby was indeed a wonderful sleeper. It seemed unfair to those crawling through the day, spazz eyed and caffeine fixed to say anything, but murmur the necessary words of support and encouragement.  My second dear baby was a full on re-flux screamer, so I didn't escape the unsocial lonely hours of motherhood.  I digress...

So I ask myself this - why is it as an adult I am still slightly apologetic about my good and mindful divorce?  Have I not fully given myself permission to recognize the huge regular ego-less work that was involved with mediation, conversations with lawyers and co-parenting? 

Was truly believing in a continued friendship and remaining trustful of a modus operandi that worked in our marriage going to see us through our divorce?   Is showing up and writing some of my most private of thoughts going to help others, I hope so ....

In the words of James Joyce "In the muddle is the soundance" - I like this, the reminder that in sometimes seemingly impossible situations there is something of importance happening. 

What I do believe is that within everything challenging and difficult therein dwells something good and positive... it's remaining brave enough to trust that just somewhere it is there, you can do the right thing and sleep better too...

With love Natasha x

Friday, 19 August 2016

Divorce Goddess - 9 Ways to Avoid Trouble on a Blended Family Holiday


So we are part of a blended family now and summer holidays is one of those periods of time when we really hang out together, mostly overseas with all our differences, relationships, emotions and with the fine art of balancing. 

With blended families there are many, many different relationships all bouncing off each other and whilst so incredibly rewarding for us all, still a monumental task in diplomacy, patience and mindfully letting those boundaries ease so we can accommodate everyone.  

Here are 9 potential trouble spots we avoided on our blended family holiday....

Blending Parents

Families on holiday, even the happy marital ones have expectations of how they want their annual summer kick-back time to be - whether it is a need to feel relaxed at the end of it, a shared supportive relationship experience or heightened expectations of a perfect happy holiday.  

If ever there are potential weak points that can crack open, expanding crevasse like, it is when you are on holiday and spending lots of time in close proximity.  And when headed up by the two parents involved who are not operating as a solid, respectful and loving unit is an invitation to treat with a raising of the the flag of troublesome flags up the discordant flagpole, with separate family battle stations at the ready and THEN a real necessary requirement for a gentle blended family discussion...

You as parents - talk to each other, reassure each other and remember to really LOVE each other - this is always unknown boundary work in progress... and there is definitely a place for ....

Ground Rules

Yes, yes and yes - do it, have those tricky conversations about ALL aspects of how this is going to work, before you book your flights even.  Better now than half way through the holiday, especially if you are stuck abroad no where else to go.  Write that 'wishlist' rule book, talk about the ifs and buts, the worries and concerns.  And here is the thing, KNOW that there are always going to be the fast balls appearing even when you least expect them.  
For example logistics of babysitting if you and your lovely other half want a romantic dinner for two.  Do not be expecting the eldest to shoulder responsibility, a babysitter from the 'other' family is not always going to listened to or respected - so get a baby sitter in or sit out the romantic meal for when you are back... it's about sometimes letting this stuff go....

If you are thinking that no prior conversations about ground rules need to be applied on a blended family holiday or worried about having this chat, you are going to have blended family outcry.  

Food

Fussy eaters - try letting it go, cook for what suits everyone with - if you can, healthy, simple recipes. Applying battle station healthy eating rules on holiday for a couple of weeks is not going to make anyone ill, only yourself by stressing about food. If you want to keep things healthy make a joint parental stand about unlimited soft fizzy laden drinks and ice creams - keeping the peace with water is good in hot climates, less expensive for everyone and the kids are a whole load more calmer too.

Sleeping Arrangements and Patterns

With teenagers and younger ones - just knowing that being quiet in the mornings is helpful, if you have teenagers - they don't operate best on early rowdy mornings.  Just by getting your kids out of the sleeping areas, down to the pool or outside playing cards - can make a difference - everyone is happier and if you as a couple may not get your cosy morning love ins try practicing acceptance and letting this go for the couple of weeks rather than feeling resigned.  

Oh and electronics help too ... 

Electronics

The world as we know it is stuffed full of apps for communicating, games and entertainment... make a conscious decision to limit times for family fun, bring games with you that you can all play - the joys of Go Fish, Cheat and board games cannot be underestimated for family conviviality.  There can be many a shared union of laughter, togetherness and joy at all of you sitting around a table all playing together.

Energy Levels

Different kids have different energy levels, finding yourself on holiday with energy monkeys can be exhausting. A little forward planning of activities that encompass these different personalities keeps everyone happy.  Do not expect everyone to operate the same way, kids will adapt if you BOTH are willing to work at it. Finding parts of the day for everyone to have their busy and quiet time will pay dividends towards a more harmonious blended family holiday.

Male to Female Ratio

So not every blended family gets the kid mix right, finding each other in the world in itself with all the life baggage is a wonder second time round, let alone being with a partner who has children of the same age, sex and temperament.  Being mindful of the single daughter in a bunch of boys is important. Letting the girls go off and have dinner or shopping can be wonderfully balancing to the full on boy energy.  Equally if there is a single boy the same principles apply.  

Ages too are to be taken into account, hanging around a kids play area is not a happy teenager going to make nor is sitting on a sun lounger all day listening to Spotify going to work out male testosterone... a blended family holiday is WORK IN PROGRESS and in truth it doesn't stop.

Time With Your Own Kids

Make time for your kids, especially be aware of blended family'overload'. Don't let it get to the stage where your kids are feeling the effects of not having any time with just you. Listen to them, talk to them, connect to them and spend time on your own with them, just letting them know you are there for them.  It is possible for you all to co-exist together in a pool with a couple of different games going on and they know you are there for them.  

Talking through stuff with your kids - because it is tough for them too sometimes is really necessary... full on blended family life can be exhausting for everyone... all these personalities bundled together for intense periods of time if not managed well can lead to resistance, a feeling of not being heard and future negativity.

And finally ...

Missing Their Absent Mums or Dads

Be prepared for your little people to miss their other parent.  This is okay, it is normal especially if they don't always live with you. It is not because you are doing a bad job - its just that it's their other significant parent who is not around.  Be mindful this can happen, they will want to connect, to catch up and perhaps tell them what a great time they are having, that they are simply missing them.  Giving yourself and the other children permission to include the other absent parent is important - be prepared for this, support it and see what a difference it makes for the children's well-being.

So why even go on holiday as a blended family? Why put yourselves through the craziness of balancing it all for a potentially monumental diplomatic couple of two weeks, washing up and very little time on your own as a couple? Because my friends you love each other, you care about each other and at some point all these little people in this new family set up are going to be gone, flown the nest and not wanting to be on a family holiday so much any more.  

Investing in blended family holidays can be immensely rewarding, with much laughter, fun and inclusion into something really wonderful that is a new fabric of a family holiday.... BLENDED! 

With love xx

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Divorce Goddess With Kids on Holiday - Bikini Perils


So what has happened to all the topless sunbathing on Mediterranean beaches? 

I was recently speaking to a friend about our mutual joy of sunbathing topless and how last time I was in Greece - over 20 years ago, I had fondest memories of topless freedom. So back in the day, if you were respectful and on the 'right' beach your holidays would always, if you were so inclined, come to a glorious brown boobed end... and no white triangles disturbing the brown peace on my upper body. 

So being here once again and really no one, not one female is feeling the need to remove her bikini top and the freedom that perhaps was once had is so really now gone.
I find myself reverting to defiant child mode and sneakily bagging the lilo, taking it a full 50m out to sea to remove my bikini top and exposing my boobs to a little sunnage .... whilst saving my children from the angst, embarrassment and possible humiliation of any judgement associated with "mi mam's boobs are out"!  And so since putting fingers to keyboard for this blog I have been joined by three more females, all topless on their lilos ... I love this!

So when did this all boob browningness grind to a halt?  Having lived in countries where it really is not 'de rigeur' to be obvious about one's body and showing of flesh I full understand the offence it causes in some cultures - I really get it and have been aghast at the lack of respect afforded by some nationalities when holidaying in said countries.  

So why is is it just not like that anymore in the Westernized world?  Has sunbathing topless become, like so much in the world fraught with a paranoid no's, social media angst or judgement.  Much of it being the worse kind JUDGEMENT and that is of self?

Why do so many of us walk onto the beach, nervous at the prospect of being seen devoid of wardrobe body armour? We buy beautiful swimwear in anticipation of stepping onto the beach and then when we finally do feel the sand between our toes, there is this maybe shyness of being on show. Our wonderful bodies exposed in all their glorious individual format, with scars, dimpling, stretch marks and all the extraordinary shapes and of all sizes.

The most embarrassed I used to get was picking up my photos. If you didn't do Trueprint (you know the little crunchy envelopes in airport stands waiting to welcome you home with a cheap offer, if you could wait, of posted developed photos). Your holiday snaps would be handed to you with a cheeky knowing grin by the young guy serving you behind the photo shop counter, with full knowledge that you were one of those risque girls brave enough to go 'sans' a bikini top when on holiday. 


So for me a trip to a beach in the height of summer is an encouraging, helpful and confidence saving experience ...  us amazing women are all out there in all our beautiful forms of amazing bodily wonderment. Tight, wobbling, firm, less firm, glistening, brown, white, freckled, pink, tall, short, large, small, the whole gamut of human beings.  So what has increased our self-judgement, our shame and awareness....?  What is it that has changed so much?

Social media my friends, the fear attached now to the devices that accompany us everywhere is what is sending us all into a paranoid state of being in such a gorgeous natural environment such as a beach... the permanent awareness that affects so many on a negative level when a phone is bandied about.  A 'happy holiday' scenic panorama photo of the beach can send us hiding our Factor 50 faces into our brightly coloured rafia beach bags, or affecting a 'look' with hastily put on sunnies or a quick ab crunch while said shot is taken.....   ahhhhhhh!

And the thing is I really do not care, I am here to relax, to enjoy my children's company and to come back home feeling a little healthier, browner and relaxed.  However there are new words in the English language and etiquette rules and it would seem as I was joyously loving the waves that presented themselves to us all on a Cretian beach yesterday... my bikini was not the best. I admit, for body surfing it wasn't great; bottoms a little large - hey hey and top a little revealing for delighting in the ocean surge....

*"Nip Slip Mum" came the charged call ...."Mum!" a whole load more loudly fired so soon after .... oh blimey, I thought, stop laughing and pay attention .... it was a brilliant proud Nip Slip I have to say and I was instantly transported back to a Greek beach in my early 20s. However my sweet memory was short lived as I tugged the offending bikini triangle back
into place... my joy in the waves slightly more measured by said bikini dysfunction as I tumbled, swam and smiled for the next hour still mindful of the term "Nip Slip" in this social media governed world ...

With love x

*Nip Slip Definition - A nip slip is a term frequently used by the celebrity press to describe an accidental, public reveal of a woman's nipple. 

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Divorce Goddess & Kids on Our Summer Holiday - Travelling


So for the first time we are on holiday on our own, the island of Crete giving us its best - sunshine, a lovely apartment and warm Mediterranean sea with beautiful sunsets and I was prompted to write several overdue blogs on what that means for me and my children.  

So here is the first ... 

I have a beautiful 15 year old girl and a handsome 12 year old son and we are fully embracing all that comes with warmer climes and with it all those slightly different scenarios, all so very different than holidaying with a Partner or Husband or Wife. So we have been on our own for a lot of our time together, whilst I was married and afterward.  Having lived in the Middle East for some of our life we are used to the heat, used to the regular application of sun cream but nothing really that fully supports those differences of not having 'another' there to guide you when things get a little tough.  

TRAVELLING 

Firstly we had the OMG I forgot my UK driving licence at the airport situation which so kindly presented itself to us yesterday... it was forgotten, left tucked away in a drawer in the UK, not added to essential documents much needed when so clearly necessary.  "I am sorry, but there is no way you can rent the pre-booked car, the insurance won't cover it" PAUSE FOR NOT MUCH BREATH...... comedic eyeballs on stalks and a sharp eeeeek as the rock of stress firmly embedded itself into my solar plexus and the potential for the self-flagellation yielding its disaster magma throwing arms at me... it is 36 degrees, we have some BIG heavy bags and a long journey ahead....by local buses... I rub my tum, trying to practice acceptance, being gentle to myself and the letting go of the impending journey of not one, or two but three bus rides ahead or a hefty taxi fare of 200 euros... the bus rides won!  

The children look forlorn, teenage daughter is cross, quite rightly so - it's so hot, she is in jeans and trainers and we walk across the airport car park to a bus ticket booth with grumpy ticket seller objecting to a 50 euro note hastily removed from the airport cash machine.  No matter, he helps us and we get on the bus and a kindly - I love kindly people - a German lady tells us she is also going to the Heraklion bus station heading westwards and she shows us the way.  

We are offloaded and make our way down side streets to said bus station, it is chaotic, hot and stressful...I am trying not to think of such a large amount of money wasted on the car hire, the return journey we will be facing and what is ahead of us for the next few hours. I breathe deeply into my solar plexus... 

We get on the next bus and journey length ranges from 4 hours to 2 1/2.... my mindfulness kicks in wonderfully and the salve of positive thinking allays my fears and I choose to believe in the shorter time journey. I begin to read a work related book, on mindfulness and I breathe, I meditate for 45 mins - unexpected pleasures of having a long bus journey and not driving, at having mindfulness in my life and understanding that it is with you always. 

We are then blessed with compassionate Greek people - seeing the single mum and her two children and really helping us get to our destination without further angst and we arrive, 5 hours later. The car hire company reimburses me almost all the money after a brief call and we then make our way to the beach, grateful for the warm sea water, the cooling sand and a wonderful sunset after a long day.  

So why the story, well here is the thing, in so many respects this scenario would probably have created an almighty argument on the first day of the holiday with said other, partner, husband or boyfriend, the blame game kicking in and grumpiness for the next 5 hours of buses ... instead the children and I spoke kindly to each other, supporting each other and grateful for our loving supportive company.  

Sometimes being, although difficult and scary, the only adult in charge has huge upsides, if you as the said adult can manage the thoughts and feelings emanating from life's unexpected fast balls. And so as we sat and watched the sun go down, with a cooling drink and local dishes, we chatted to each other about the value of our love for each other, that we cannot always get it right and that sometimes three is better than four...


With love x