All the feelings

My ex-husband gets re-married next week.

A few people have asked how this makes me feel and the honest truth is that it makes me feel pret-ty shit.

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I hardly remember what his touch felt like, yet there is not a day that goes by where my fingers don’t subconsciously search for the wedding ring that was bound to them. Likewise, he and his family still feature in some of my dreams as though my old life carries on unaltered in some subliminal place.

My heart still aches for all the things I lost – including him. However the person he is today bears no resemblance to that man I once knew and loved deeply, and for that reason I feel no longing when I think of him now.

But, unfortunately his impending marriage has shone a harsh and humiliating light on my own life. While I know it’s not helpful to think like this, I have found it impossible not to compare myself.

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If I’m completely honest most days I feel like an almighty failure. I feel as though every.single.thing I have put all of my effort into has failed. The old “make it happen” or “never give up” or “if you can dream it you can do it” adages ring like hurtful reminders that I mustn’t have tried hard enough. I mustn’t be enough.

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I feel ripped off that I spent the decade of my twenties fighting for the things I knew I wanted in my life: my marriage, a child, my career, my house – only to lose them all. And sure, these weren’t my decisions so they may not technically be my “failings” but I still feel relegated to living a life I did not build.

What deepens this pain is the rising knowledge that all those dreams may now be lost forever. That I’ve run out of time.

People tend to scoff at me when I say this, given I am only in my early thirties. But I have been hearing the words “Oh but you are so young – you have plenty of time!” for so long now that I wonder if I am the only one who knows how time works.

In regards to the baby situation certain health issues mean this is looking less and less likely. Owning a house again is ridiculously unattainable. The career thing is too painful to discuss right now and will need it’s own separate blog post. And marriage… Well we all know how well that panned out.

I’m not saying it’s all bad news – I know so much more about myself now, I’m so much stronger than I ever knew. I have somehow survived years of infertility, infidelity, divorce, multiple blood clots, and much more. I have friendships deeper than I knew was even possible.

I stand up for myself now. I am not afraid of using my own voice. And, as long as people don’t mind listening, I think I will keep on sharing what’s on my heart.

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I have no idea what the future holds, I certainly never imagined that “cynical over-sharing cat lady feminazi” would be my life, but here we are. I might not be having a European destination wedding any time soon but I am continuing to push forward, treasuring all the many wonderful, beautiful things that have found their way into this new, unexpected life.

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Thanks again for sharing this bizarre journey with me.

x

When love leaves

If anyone who reads this also happens to be my Facebook friend, you would have noticed an exponential increase in the number of sad songs and cat photos I’m posting. This can only mean one of two things: either I’m trapped in my room with only a cat and the internet, or I’m going through a break up.

Actually, both options are clearly the same thing.

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As always, I have struggled to write this one. Why the hell did I call this blog ‘Lady Breaks’, and not ‘Lady Wins’, or ‘Lady Miraculously Prospers’, or even ‘Lady Has Largely Uneventful Life’? I guess at least I always have things to write about this way.

Almost two years ago my world fantastically collided with an exotic backpacker, let’s just call him ‘The Foreigner’. I wandered into a bar, all scared, naïve, and man-hating, and basically floated back out, hopeful, excited and happy for the first time in forever.

Our romance was intense. It was as if because we knew our time was limited, we tried to jam-pack a zillion memories into two working holiday visas. We went on fifteen (!) holidays, we lived together, we bought a cat, we stayed with each other’s families, we held each other ridiculously tight every night.

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The Foreigner picked me up and helped me heal. He helped me see that there can be joy and love and fun after divorce. There can be hope. He taught me that, even though I have been spectacularly rejected, I am worth loving.

However, this break up has been unexpectedly traumatic for me. I was stupidly under the impression that it would be semi-manageable because a.) I always knew we had a predefined, visa-ordained timeframe; b.) We weren’t ending on bad terms at all – in fact we probably were at the height of our relationship when our time ran out; and c.) A two-year romance surely can’t compare with a fourteen-year commitment.

I was wrong.

What I hadn’t taken into account was the fact that The Foreigner had been not only my saving grace, but my Band-Aid. He had covered the gaping hole left from losing my husband, family, friends, house… even my beloved dog. For two years, I didn’t have to confront much of this grief. It’s only now that he’s gone that I can see how empty Christmases, birthdays, Easters, and even just weekends really are.

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I searched Band-Aid and cat and was not disappointed.

In all honesty I doubt I would have been able to cope with these emotions two years ago. The Foreigner really did come into my life at the exact perfect moment, and I have to have faith that he has left at the exact perfect moment too. Eventually I did have to confront these feelings.

So for now, I am learning to be single through copious cat videos, Tinder tutorials, and a diet of Tim Tams and kale. Stay tuned for inevitable awkward first date stories.

Love love love x

Lessons from a loser: 4 lessons I learnt from divorce

Man, I honestly don’t even know where to begin. I’ve got so much to talk about, but I also feel so fiercely protective of my life now. This ‘journey’ I have been on has taught me so much, but it’s also heightened my already Everest-level cynicisms about life, love, luck and loss.

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For any newbies to this half-abandoned archive of my PMS emotions, the story is pretty simple: my high-school sweetheart husband and I tried unsuccessfully for 8 years to make a family, attempting au naturel, IVF, and adoption. This deeply affected our marriage and my health, and culminated in said high school sweetheart lying, cheating scumbag having an affair with an 18 year old strumpet (who I had idiotically welcomed into my house and treated like a daughter). I was in hospital with deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism when I found this out, and subsequently, our 15 year long relationship came to an abrupt and fiery end.

I’ve now been divorced for over a year, and, while I grew up with divorced parents (and therefore thought I knew a thing or two about it), it turns out that there has been some pret-ty major lessons along the way. Some have been surprising refreshing, while others have felt like great and incomparable injustices.

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  1. Divorce time is D I V O R C E time

So you just heard your not-so-close friends Kim K and Kanye are getting a divorce?* Guess what – this most likely means that they are getting a divorce. The truth is, unless you are besties or family with a couple, by the time you find out about relationship problems it is probably unsalvageable. While miracles can and do happen, generally people take that D word super seriously. Marriage is a huge investment and a massive commitment, not many people throw it away lightly (*cough* Kim K *cough*).

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I can’t tell you the amount of people who contacted me once the news broke to plead/beg/pray/demand the restoration of my marriage. Not only was this highly hurtful and insulting as I had absolutely no way of restoring something my ex didn’t want, I obviously had tried with my heart and soul to ‘fix’ things before the horrible reality hit home – it was over and there was nothing I could do about it. By the time divorce news was out in the open, I was well into the long road of acceptance and recovery.

  1. Nobody cares

This was one of those refreshing realisations. When my marriage failed, I felt absolutely and utterly humiliated. I felt as though I had very publically declared to the world that I would stick by this guy until death, and yet, here I was, very, very publically failing at that. I felt disgraced – like my life had been a lie, and I now had to face the world with egg on my face. I felt like people were judging the kind of woman I was, the kind of wife I was, even the kind of human I was to ‘allow’ this to happen.

Thankfully my experience has been different from my diabolically low presumptions. People (well, the ones that matter at least) don’t actually give a damn D word about divorce. They care heaps and heaps about what is going on personally for you, but they, by-and-large, don’t view divorce in judgmental terms.

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  1. You lose, lose, lose, lose

This has been undoubtedly the hardest lesson. No matter whose fault it was, no matter who ended it – everybody loses.

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Of course I was always well aware that divorce would cost me my husband, my house, my lifestyle and half of all my things, but I never realised how much more you actually do lose. On top of the deep connection you have to your spouse and any material assets you have accumulated together, there are plenty of other unavoidable losses, for example:

a. Your legacy

One of the loveliest things about being in a partnership is the witness you bear to each other’s lives. Someone observes your successes and failures, they watch you grow and change, and can remind you of your achievements and goals. They can look back with you, knowing how hard you’ve worked to get where you are. This might not be relevant to everyone, but for me my ex-husband was there when I graduated high school, when I first went overseas, when I first moved out of home, when I graduated uni, when I underwent IVF, when I bought my first house, etc. I find it incredibly strange to enter a world where the people I date haven’t witnessed any of this journey.

b. Your future plans

Leading on from the previous thought, you also lose every notion you had of your future. Even though life (obviously) doesn’t go according to plan, people generally have an idea of what they are working towards. At the very least, I thought I knew where I would be living and who I would be married to. I now have a completely blank canvas, which is in some ways nice, but there is also a grief involved with closing the door on things long hoped and strived for.

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c. Friends

Yep, this one really sucks. In my experience this has been a gradual and prolonged loss. Many of my friends were really there for me when the shit hit the fan, but then slowly withered away as time went on. My understanding is that something like this is just very difficult for people to know how to navigate.

The ex and I spent most of our time with other couples, so to begin with there’s always that awks problem of feeling the need to ‘choose a side’. Then, there’s the relationship dynamics – two couples having dinner, going to the park, watching movies, etc. works really well. A couple with their distraught, single friend bitching and moaning on the couch isn’t an ideal Saturday night for anyone. The invitations dry up very quickly. And finally, some ‘friends’ simply can’t deal with the changes you go through during this hellish process. Thankfully, there are some absolute gemstones who have carried me and loved me throughout it all.

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d. Family

This one tears me in half. I come from a very small family – it’s really just my mum and I who live in the same state. So every year, for fifteen years, we joined together with my ex’s family to celebrate Christmases, Easters, birthdays, graduations, weddings blah blah blah.

And now there is nowhere to go.

For fifteen years I had a large, loud Italian support structure around me. For fifteen years I had in-laws and siblings and grandparents and cousins and aunties, and now they are largely inaccessible to me. Sure, I’m still loved and cared about deeply by them, but I can’t exactly show up at a family BBQ comfortably. This is a loss that seems enormously unfair, and I would be lying if I said I don’t spend a lot of time creepily watching families at the park wishing I had what they’re having.

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e. Innocence

By innocence I mean trust and optimism and faith and hope – God help any of my potential suitors. Being cheated on, and lied to, in such an extreme way, over such a prolonged period of time, has all but destroyed my trust and faith in the opposite sex. I am filled with anxiety and dread that it might happen to me again. And, it’s simply not something I feel that I could survive a second time. If the man in my life so much as goes into the bathroom with his phone, my stomach starts doing backflips – men are now presumed guilty until they prove and prove and prove themselves innocent. This is clearly not a good launchpad for healthy and successful relationships, but it is unfortunately a reality for me now which will take bucket loads of counselling and good fortune to correct.

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  1. You are stronger than you realise.

Obvs I would never recommend divorce to anyone, unless of course you have a penchant for being dragged arse-first through personal annihilation and then pushed unwillingly back into the same body to restart life all pessimistic, fearful, scared, empty and alone… but, having somehow made it out the other side, I can confirm that what doesn’t kill you does indeed make you stronger.

Last year I was in a place where I was sick, I was going through a divorce with 8 years of infertility pain under my belt, I had no job, I had no house and then my car decided to die as well. I had zero hope for the future. But somehow, piece by piece, the jigsaw of my life began to come together again. I just had to push through that most awful part. Life isn’t all sunshine and French bulldog puppies now, but it’s a life I have pushed hard for, and I’m thankful for that.

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Phew… that ended up being a lot longer than I expected! As I said, I’ve got heaps and heaps to share and this one has been bubbling away in my mind for ages. I wish that I could have made my first post back a little more upbeat and positive, but the nature of this blog is to say things as they are, and, believe it or not, divorce is pretty shitty. So, sorry for my absence and sorry for the downer deluge but I still love this site, and all the incredible support and stories I receive on here.

x

*As far as I know Kim K and Kanye are doing juuuust fine.

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This too shall pass – World Suicide Prevention Day

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One of Bess’ beautiful images

I’m a firm believer that people enter your life for a reason. Sometimes they carry you, sometimes they hurt you, sometimes they only want you for your endless cupcake provision, but nevertheless, I believe we can always learn so much from the people in our personal worlds. Writing this blog has taught me so much about the innate strength and resilience of the women I have in my life. And today’s Guest Post is certainly no exception.

I met Bess about 10 years ago (omg we’re old Bess!) when we were studying art together fresh out of high school. Something between us clicked and we began to navigate “adult” life together in between life drawing and café breaks. Bess is an amazing person who is kind and warm and gentle and sweet, but also strong, honest, resilient and brave. She is also an incredible photographer, highly creative, and super-duper smart.

Anyway, life happened and Bess and I didn’t see each other for a number of years, so it was only when we reunited recently that I heard of her struggles with depression and suicide. Suicide is something that is so scary and so stigmatized that it’s almost impossible to discuss without fear or prejudice. But, we have to try. And so that’s why today, on National Suicide Prevention Day, I am so very humbled and honoured to share Bess’ story with you.

Personally, as someone who has only touched the tip of experiencing depression and suicidal ideation (and *that* was horrific enough), Bess’ words have helped to give me insight into a world that I don’t understand, as well as tools to help me know how to respond. So thank you, beautiful Bess, for having the courage and the ability to speak so candidly about your journey. I’m certainly so so grateful to you.

X

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Firstly I would like to say that I am honoured to be asked to be a guest on this wonderful blog. The honesty and courage that has been shown on these pages is an inspiration.

Today is World Suicide Prevention day. In the wake of the recent passing of Robin Williams much has been said on the topic of suicide; we have seen compassion but of course we have also seen ignorance. His suicide has been labelled selfish. To label suicide as selfish is to completely misunderstand the extreme and unrelenting pain that person is in.

In our society, unless it is a celebrity, we talk about suicide in hushed tones it is blanketed in silence. The media doesn’t report suicides for fear of copycat behaviour. This culture of silence perpetuates the grief and alienation felt by those who are left behind when someone they love suicides and it isolates those people who may be feeling suicidal, further from society. We need to start being more open about Mental Illness and suicide and recognise that these illnesses are real and acknowledge peoples experiences without fear or judgement. We need to do this so people feel they can speak out, to seek help, before the tragedy that is suicide occurs.

I can only speak from my own experience but the decision to suicide is not one that comes lightly. For me, it came after many months of agonising emotional pain. It was not a rational decision. It came out of desperation and despair. Of feeling utterly useless and out of control of my own life and mind. It is a terrifying feeling to have lost complete control of your thoughts and emotions and not one I would wish upon anyone, even my worst enemy.

I have battled with Depression since my teenage years but not having a name for it I found myself trying to cope through self-harm and alcohol abuse.

When things in my life were going well this darkness seemed gone for good, however as I grew into my twenties I could see the slightest upset or disappointment and the beast of Depression would be stirred out of the shadows.

As a side note: people with Depression do not ask for it, they do not bring it on themselves and they are certainly not given a handbook on how to deal with it! I cannot explain how terribly frightened of these feelings I was and exhausted by them. Because Depression is not a tangible illness we look for ways to illustrate it for those that might find it hard to understand, the black dog, the darkness etc.

I like to think of the rain cloud overhead. At first it appears just a slight drizzle and you haven’t got a raincoat or umbrella. The cloud follows you everywhere, even inside so you are continually getting wet. You can’t shake it and the rain gets heavier. Your clothes get wetter and heavier. You keep trying to keep up with life, with work and you wonder why everyone else seems to find it so much easier. By this stage your soaked through and frozen to the bone. Sometimes there’s thunder and lightening that roars and cracks right through your body, causing pain and making it hard to hear what else is going on around you. Still you try to keep going. Until it becomes too much. And maybe you collapse under the cloud. Or maybe someone offers you their umbrella to share or maybe you ask someone to share their umbrella. Acknowledging the cloud is there and telling people is the only way you can learn to deal with it.

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My journey to understand my Depression and learn to manage it in my life is an ever-evolving process to say the least, and of course there are good and bad days. I am extremely lucky to have a wonderful network of dedicated friends and family who help to carry me along. And who have learnt to be patient with me. I know it can be frustrating for them, trying to understand and know how to support me. I know I can shut down and forget how to be honest and open. Of course this comes from not wanting to burden them but in the end not being open often worries them more and I, in turn, suffer alone.

Sometimes people worry about upsetting a depressed person by asking them if they feel suicidal. And I can sympathise with this. I have also had friends who are Depressed and felt unsure whether to ask them, but on the times I have and they have laughed and said ‘No Bess, I’ll be fine’ I have walked away thinking ‘Well better for me to be wrong and laughed at then not asking and being right.’

I also know the times when I have confided in someone that I was feeling suicidal, I felt a huge weight had been lifted and it was no longer just a taunting thought in my head that only I could hear, I was distanced from it by verbalising it.

It’s important for people to understand that people who are struggling with a mental illness are fighting a battle at every step. I try to acknowledge the little achievements. For me, some days, just to make it to work is one of these achievements. And I am lucky I often have a text from my Mum saying, ‘Just try to make it until lunch time.’

The smallest things become difficult when you are depressed so an offer of cooking a meal for someone or taking them out can make a world of difference. I also think in this busy world the ‘check-in text’, to tell someone you are thinking of them, can go a long way. But I guess the most important thing for both supporters and sufferers is patience. And yes, this is definitely still something I am learning! Like with most things in life: nothing is certain.

There is no quick fix for Depression. And whilst medication can help, for me and I think for many others it has not been medication alone. There is different therapies, identifying triggers and making life changes.

I hope that sharing this helps people to better understand the experience, helps them to feel confident in assisting friends or family they know to be suffering. I hope it also helps those people who may be struggling to feel brave enough to reach out and know you are not alone.

In the dark times I try to remember ‘This too shall pass.’ I try to remember that feeling of coming out of an episode. When you see the world with a new fresh gaze. When you can take comfort and see hope in the little things, a blue sky, a dog’s enthusiastic leap, a lie down in the sun.

On Dating and Stuff

Last week would have been my 9-year wedding anniversary. However, instead of receiving/ giving gifts and dining at the some expensive hipster restaurant, I caught up with some gorgeous girlfriends Sex-in-the-City-style to talk boys, boys, clothes, boys, and boys. *Side Note 1: I have to say that this was a much better experience than my last anniversary, which involved missing a Gold Class movie because we were driving a strumpet around.

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Anyway, because I started seeing Mr-Actually-Does-Break-Ladies at 14, I am in the somewhat unique position of being almost 30 and not knowing how to date. Add to this the fact that I am a generally awkward person, and you have a recipe for more than a few embarrassing encounters with the male kind.

Exhibit A.

After finding out about the rotten affair and trying to recover from the whole blood clot debacle, a good and long-suffering friend took responsibility for teaching me how to interact with the hairier gender. *Side Note 2: I am actually the hairiest girl who has ever lived so this is not an apt description of men.

Anyway, she literally took me to bars and patiently stood by while I was too jittery and awks to even order a drink from male bartenders. She even allowed the mentorship to continue after a guttural growl-like noise escaped my mouth when one of her friends asked my name. Yet, slowly but surely, with her patience and my growing posse of single women friends, I finally began to be able to actually speak human words to men. I occasionally even looked them in the eye without feeling the need to self-combust.

Exhibit B.

This is about the point where the pendulum turned. All of a sudden I was capable of interaction with guys, and had made some amazingly wonderful friendships with such creatures, but my awkwardness prevailed. Now that I could finally speak to men, I became the Queen of over-sharing city. For example, at a dear friend’s recent birthday party, I introduced myself to her male friend with my entire life story. I. mean entire. He didn’t even have anywhere to run.

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So, yeah, I’m pretty awkward.

But, seriously, this whole dating world is kinda effed – as in fun and funny and frustrating. I still have absolutely no freaking idea of what I’m doing but it is not nearly as daunting as what I thought it was. As it turns out, amazingly, men are pretty cool. Especially if you can speak human to them.

While I don’t think I will ever lose my awks-ness, I am forever indebted to my lovely crew for pushing me off the dating cliff in the most loving and gentle and patient way possible. Let’s do this then.

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x

Breathe in Now

So it’s been over a month since I last posted. Part of that was wanting to wait until I had something half thought-out to say, and part of that was wanting to keep all the things I’m learning stored away like precious treasure. And part of it is that I’ve been busy breathing and learning and living.

I really don’t know what in my life will resonate with people now, but I know that I friggen love life more than ever. When everything was so shit over the past year I used to have a mantra that I would repeat in my head just to calm down and be able to take another step through hell.

It was simply: “The sun, the breeze, the sky, the trees.”

Just saying that to myself, took the focus away from me and my private hell, and onto the magnificence all around me. No matter how effed up life becomes, these things remain, and they remain beautiful and pure and good and constant (well, at least until the sun explodes and obliterates us all).

Ok, so not technically the sun exploding but still an amazing movie (if you're into metaphors and all that)

Ok, so not technically the sun exploding but still an amazing movie (if you’re into metaphors and all that)

I lost basically everything – all of a sudden I had no husband, no job, no income, poor health, and (very soon) no house. I was suddenly untethered from everything that was stable and true to me. I was floating in loss and despair. But yet, those wonderful things – the sun, the breeze, the sky, the trees – remained. And what’s more, I actually started to notice them.

I have no idea what my future holds now, and for the first time in my life I’m okay with that. Losing everything can be somewhat liberating. It means that there is a new and unimaginable future ahead. It’s excitingly scary.

Yes, Life, I'm talking to you.

Yes, Life, I’m talking to you.

In my darkest moments last year I planned to take my own life, and I got terrifyingly close. Knowing this scares me like nothing else in this world.

It petrifies me that I had no idea of the beauty and peace and joy that was just around the corner for me. It is daunting to think I almost allowed my life to be reduced to someone else’s actions upon it. And it cuts me to the core that there are people out there who never get to realise that they are worth more than their circumstances.

I’m not sharing this for pity or concern, I’m sharing this to remain true to the essence of Lady Breaks. It’s about vulnerability and pain, but also about the strength and beauty that is garnered and discovered when everything is stripped and everything aches.

As far as I can see right now, life is impossibly painful and impossibly beautiful. And it’s worth it.

PS. The heading is indeed a reference to Katie Noonan’s (george) glorious, healing song, Breathe in Now. So powerful.

Lady Love

Yes, I know it’s been a really long time since my last blog post. To be honest, I’ve really wanted to write but I also wanted to wait until a time where words like slut, whore, home-wrecker, harlot, and strumpet didn’t fill up the page… Actually, who am I kidding? I couldn’t wait to use a word like “strumpet”!

1057No, in all seriousness, things are actually really going very well! All things considered I am really loving life and happy to be here – which is something I wouldn’t have been able to say at all for the past year. I’ve had so many beautiful people rally around me and lift me up that I can’t help but be filled with joy and the deepest appreciation.

In fact, my entire perspective on friendships has changed dramatically over this time. When my world imploded, a close and dear friend wrote to me and said that it will be strong women who will heal and buoy me during this season. And, yes, I guess since I write a blog about how strong and resilient women are I should have known this. But the truth is I have always been one of those girls who “finds guys easier to get along with than girls”, so my inner response was kinda more like “Bah, humbug”.

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When I promise cat gifs, I deliver cat gifs.

Over the years, I had let many of my female friendships wither, always choosing to spend time with the husband instead. So I guess I never had the opportunity to experience the true power of lady friends. Until now.

Despite me being a contender for the World’s Slackiest Friend, woman after woman after woman started coming out of the woodwork to heal me. Some cooked, some cleaned, some wrote lovely cards, some took sooky calls at 4am, some weathered my (misdirected) storms, some took me out, some kept me in, but all – I actually mean all – shared their own stories of pain and loss and suffering with me. And it’s been powerful. It’s inspiring to be able to hear and witness story after story of how women have overcome, how women have thrived, and how women have risen up despite.

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So, without minimizing the beautiful and touching efforts of all my lovely guy friends, I want to say thank you to the ladies – you have made my world colourful and abundant once more.

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