Rediscovering my voice after divorce (By Caro Giles)
Good afternoon and happy Sunday,
I’m thrilled I’ve managed to actually get this out on Sunday. My goal is to get back to newsletter day being Sunday but sometimes life and things out of my control get in the way.
Today’s offering is a beautiful guest piece written exclusively for The Single Supplement by the writer Caro Giles fresh off launching her first book Twelve Moons: A Year Under a Shared Sky into the world. She has written for us about how she wrote herself back onto the page after losing her identity during her marriage and how nature has helped her healing and caring journey.
Here’s a bit more about Caro and her book:
Caro is mothering in the middle of nowhere. Newly alone (Twelve Moons describes so heartbreakingly the impact of the end of a marriage), yet constrained by the complex needs of her four daughters, she must find a way to build a new life for her family. Over the course of a year, she learns to love the Northumbrian landscape and call it home. Caro has written love story to Northumberland and a beautiful portrayal of the reality of single mothering and caring.
Hope you enjoy today’s piece. I’ve also added some recommendations below to things I’m listening to and reading at the moment. Paying subscribers will get an additional bonus email with a mini Q&A I’ve done with Caro and some additional recommendations tomorrow so look out for that if you are a paying subscriber. You can also sign up now if you’d like to join:
Have a good week!
Rediscovering my voice after divorce
By Caro Giles
I was forty when my marriage ended. I hadn’t been single for almost twenty years, so I was barely a woman. No one tells you how easy it is to lose yourself, but it’s simple: you just stop paying attention to yourself, place yourself further and further down the list of priorities. Like the sands that shift and move with each tide, the change is incremental, barely there, but one day you wake up and realise you no longer know who you are.
When I was a child I didn’t know it would be possible to lose myself. No one told me how fragile that sense of self is, how, like the candles I burn every morning, it can easily be snuffed out. Following the end of my marriage, I was hurled into a world of lockdowns, caring for four children (including one who was very poorly) and isolation from family and friends in the wilderness of Northumberland. I could no longer define myself as half of a couple, I didn’t want to be half of anything. I felt a deep desire to literally write myself back onto the page.
It seemed to me that I had become invisible. Carers often feel like this because their families’ needs don’t always match everyone else’s. My oldest child was often scared to leave the house and was, for a time, in a wheelchair, so accessing the places we loved, like the beach, was challenging. But as her physical strength returned it became apparent that she felt most at home in the water. We started to swim regularly in the North Sea, and I would watch her unfurl amongst the bladderwrack and the oystercatchers, her long mermaid hair floating on the waves. After many months of watching her in pain it was deeply joyful to see her at peace. I would swim with her, while the younger children squealed on the shoreline, and in the act of helping her to recover, I realised that I was undergoing my own reinvention.
The reality of being a single parent, particularly one who is also a full time carer, is that life inevitably revolves around the domestic; food to prepare, clothes to wash, medication to collect, appointments to attend, a cat to feed. I love being a mother, but I hadn’t factored in the curveballs that life inevitably throws at you. I hadn’t planned for my child not to fit into the school system; I hadn’t planned for my marriage not to last forever; I hadn’t planned to live alone with my children in this rugged place on the edge of the country. Somehow life had conspired to place me in a world that left little room for my own needs. But returning again and again to the beaches and rock pools near our home, I found a way to escape the domestic and unleash the wilderness inside me. The hidden woman began to emerge when the waves tossed me onto the sand, when I stood on the edge of an icy rock, my sadness still warm on my breath, or when I ran up and down the beach as my children searched for shells. The woman behind the mother was still there, she had been there all along.
For me, part of the process of healing from a time of sadness and trauma was rediscovering my voice. I had become an expert at advocating for my children, but I had also become an expert at trying to please others, often at the expense of my own self-esteem. In January 2021 I started to rise early when the sky was pricked with stars. I lit candles and began to write a story. My desk, a table on the landing outside the bathroom, is next to a window. As I typed words into my laptop the sky would lighten and silhouettes of birds on chimney would emerge in front of the pastel clouds. There was something dreamlike about these stolen hours between sleep and waking, as I poured myself onto the page.
I discovered that as each day passed in a strange mixture of despair and fierce love, I was slowly and gently building a new life. The very act of learning to be alone with my children, knowing that if I crumbled we might all break, allowed me to pay attention to exactly who I am and what I am capable of. I realised that I can be enough, that it is possible to carve out space for me despite huge caring responsibilities. Somehow I rewrote my life and, despite life’s inevitable curveballs, I’m excited to find out what happens next in my story.
Caro Giles is a writer based in Northumberland. Her words are inspired by her local landscape, the wide empty beaches and the Cheviot Hills. She writes honestly about what it means to be a woman, a mother and a carer and about the value in taking the road less travelled. Her writing has appeared in journals, press and periodicals and she was named Countryfile magazine’s New Nature Writer of the Year in 2021. You can buy Twelve Moons: A Year Under a Shared Sky now on Bookshop.org, Amazon, or wherever you get your books. Follow Caro on Instagram here.
What I've been listening to:
Specifically How to Fix Our Loneliness with Dr. Marisa G. Franco and The Secret to Making & Keeping Friends with Dr. Marisa G. Franco, which have both helped me understand myself better when it comes to friendships in particular and why things go wrong and how to maintain them and save them when they falter. Marisa is also brilliant on making new friends, if that is something you struggle with.
What I’ve been reading recently
Late to the party but this is my current fiction read. Fans of Almost Famous will love it (and Fleetwood Mac who the author is a big fan of). Really looking forward to the TV show:
These are the non-fiction books I’ve been reading. I explain in the caption to this instagram post why I’m so happy to own such good books about friendship:
Song of the week
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I’m Nicola Slawson, a freelance journalist, writer and public speaker based in Shropshire, UK. I founded The Single Supplement, which is an award-winning newsletter and community, in 2019 and have been exploring the highs and lows of the single experience ever since. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter.
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