Building a life in a new place takes energy and courage and sometimes I’m tempted to give up. I don’t like walking down a street where no one recognises me, knowing I have to start all over again. I need to feel safe and secure and I need to feel I belong somewhere.
Yesterday I visited my old neighbours, that is, my neighbours where I used to live. The swans were on the lake, the people in my house, well, it’s theirs now, were feeding the king parrots, the beaches looked wonderful and my garden… I know it’s no longer my garden, but I started it from nothing and loved and cherished it. It was my first home and my first real garden, in a wonderful place, with wonderful neighbours.
Deb, my neighbour, values her family more than anything else and she has adopted me as her big sister. For me, this is priceless. I don’t have children and I can feel my lack of a “normal” family intensely. It doesn’t take much for me to tumble into a hole of self pity- “I’m all alone, when I am old no one will visit me, I don’t have the big family get togethers with my children and grandchildren I dreamed of, I don’t belong anywhere…” I know I’m loved, but most of my friends do live far away, as do my brothers , sisters , nieces and nephews. Christmas especially, can be a time of feeling sorry for myself.
One of my friends used to say that when he died there would only be about five people at his funeral and they wouldn’t know each other. At that time I used to walk my dogs through Waverley Cemetery (Sydney) and reading the headstones would plunge me into self pity. I would think that when I died, no one would come to my funeral because they wouldn’t know I’d died (too many moves, too many jobs, too many scattered friends) and I had nothing to put on my headstone! I was no one’s dearly loved wife or mother or grandmother… So, I asked my friends “Can I say ‘dearly loved friend of’…”and of course they said I could. Now I have a list of people to be contacted when I die and I can walk through a cemetery with equanimity. My headstone will show I did belong somewhere.
My aim to create a network here where I live is a priority. I’m passionate about the need to create community; for everybody to feel loved and valued; to have a place where they belong; to have that sense of knowing that there are people they can call on if they need; that they are not all alone.
A wise friend once reminded me to reach out, rather than fall in a hole. Or, to remember the words of St Francis:
“Make me an instrument of thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow your love;
“…grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love;…”