An Honest Conversation with Ruth Clements
I don’t think that separation and divorce is a topic I’ve yet chatted about on the blog. One of the wonderful things about blogging and social media is all the people I get to meet (virtually) through it. And getting to chat with those people about something you might not do normally. The lovely Ruth Clements is one of those people.
Ruth has written a book about Surviving Separation and Divorce. It covers a subject I think is not talked about enough (particularly in Christian circles). And, if I’m honest it’s probably not a book I’d pick up because it’s not something I’m currently going through. However, we can learn so much from other’s shared experiences whether or not they are current for us. I loved having the opportunity to chat with Ruth all about what life looks like at the moment, to hear a bit more about her book and her heart for it. Hope you enjoy reading it!
How are you finding lockdown?
I’m finding lockdown a challenge and am emotionally up and down. There are definitely some great parts. We’re all able to eat lunch and dinner together every day whereas my partner’s not usually home for a 5pm baby-friendly tea time. I also haven’t had to cook a single meal as he loves cooking. I cook out of necessity so this is a major plus point for me!
That said, I’ve found it really hard because I thought I would have more flexibility and free time and that just hasn’t come to pass for various reasons. I’m having to adjust my thinking around that and the disappointment. I’m finding it hard to recognise and name my emotions. I miss seeing people, although I don’t miss the pressure to get places on time with a small baby. I think I need to start a gratitude journal – a friend did give me one a while back. And, to be more vocal about what I need to remain sane (like a lie in each week). I did some Pilates today with the added accompaniment of a small person and actually really enjoyed it.
Some of my family members work on the ‘front line’ and some have been ill although fortunately recovered. I’m acutely aware of how fortunate I am,. Yet that doesn’t stop life being difficult too and I think that’s good to admit.
You’ve written a book called Surviving Separation and Divorce. Why did you write it?
I wrote a book because I couldn’t find one I wanted to read on the topic. It’s about surviving separation and divorce (hence the title!). I really wanted to know what was going to happen next in a world that felt so topsy-turvy and unknown. I hope my book enables people to think through the next steps in that process and work out what they might want in a gentle way. Rather than telling the reader what to do, I share my experiences and the experiences of friends and ask questions to nudge the reader’s thinking. While it’s not a literal ‘this will happen next?’ step-by-step guide, it addresses the practical as well as the emotional aspects of relationship breakdown.
What would you love people to know about separation and divorce?
That if it’s happened to you, you’re not alone. Ultimately this is why I started writing about divorce. I felt so alone in what was happening and wondered if anyone might feel the same. It’s a great feeling when someone messages me and says they’re so glad it’s not just them, that they felt less isolated and alone in divorce or separation. There are lots of people out there who this has happened to. If you met me now, you’d have no idea that was in my past. I’m always happy to chat about divorce. I think building connections between people is extremely powerful to help them support one another too.
Why should people buy it?
If someone is going through separation, divorce or relationship breakdown (you don’t have to have been married to find it useful), then the book was originally written with them in mind. However I’ve had lots of responses that say it’s helped people to understand what friends are going through and to have ways in which to help them. I’ve found that very encouraging. It’s not a much-talked-about topic, but people have gained insight into what friends might be experiencing – and then given the book to them!
What’s your blog about?
My blog is ‘The Entirety of Life’ because I started writing about all the different facets of my life changing. I separated and got divorced at the same time as changing career. The majority of my blog is about the realities and practicalities of separation and divorce though. I do regularly toy with changing the title to something more relevant but I think that will have to wait for now! I want people to be able to find comfort, advice and connection there, whether it’s happening to them or someone they care about.
What does your week look like/what do you do?
I’ve actually just taken a career break to look after our daughter. So, it mostly looks like caring for her – constant meal creation, playing, and rushing home before she naps in the pushchair! I try and fit freelance work around her naps and in the evenings so life is pretty busy. I can’t remember the last time I finished a book which is sad. In my former life (!) I was a primary school teacher and then worked in Parliament creating the content for and delivering school trips. It’s been a fascinating place to work and be over the last 6 years so life looks a little different now, but I’m glad I get to invest this time in my daughter and her early years.
What thing do you love most about parenthood?
My daughter! I think it’s the little moments that make my heart explode. Her smile when she sees a dog or picks up a stick or you go in to pick her up in the morning. Life is full of wonder for her and it makes me stop and look in a way I would never have done otherwise. I feel like one of the biggest privileges is being the person she reaches for when she doesn’t feel right and wants comfort. It can be draining but it is such a privilege to be that person. I love her so much!!
What thing do you find hardest about parenthood?
A lack of time for myself. I don’t make myself a priority in our house, until I’m down to the absolute wire with work and there’s simply no other option, which then doesn’t prioritise rest and relaxation for me either. I’m also not very good at putting myself first and stating what I need and taking time out. All of which would be more helpful to me. I’m a much nicer person if I’ve had a few hours to myself somehow throughout the week, be that evenings or during the day, or a lie in. If I was better able to ask for and articulate that I think it would help us all out.
What does faith mean to you?
When I was separated and divorcing it was the absolute bedrock of my life. God was the one constant in a world that was constantly shifting. I’ve said that in the past tense, yet it’s still true now. Right now I’m finding making time for a relationship with God, and having the mental space to be with him and talk to him, one of the biggest challenges of parenthood. It comes back to my lack of time and carving out space. I’ve been aiming for one prayer time a week where I choose to sit down, read my Bible, write down some thoughts and pray. Ultimately it’s who I am and I feel like I’ve lost that a bit although I know it’s still central to my life. I’m looking forward to reading more than 10 pages of Annie’s book, and also find Lucy’s blog helpful too.
What’s your biggest fear?
My biggest fear now is dying. Not so much because I’m scared of death, although I’d like to live a nice long life if possible, but because of the implications of leaving my daughter and any sense of loss for her – that is a simply unbearable thought.
Also more generally I’m scared of falling from a height and flying, but I conquered that with a fear of flying course which I’d recommend!
What do you love to talk about most?
Anything where people are honest. I love to talk about life but I want to talk about it ‘properly’ with all the intricacies and dilemmas we come up against. It’s not possible to do that with everyone, but I think especially since having a baby relationships where you can talk deeply and honestly about the very real and raw emotions and experiences have been invaluable to me. I also love to connect with people experiencing divorce and separation, so I help on Restored Lives which a great vehicle to meet and talk about this, as well as helping people to work through their experiences.
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
My daughter, my partner, my family and friends and my book. There was a long time while I was separating and divorcing that I didn’t know what direction my life would take. The support and overwhelming love of my family and friends was such a rock for me, and I’m so grateful to them. I also didn’t know if I would meet anyone else or have the opportunity to have children so to have met Phil and have our daughter is incredible. I feel so fortunate. And I always wanted to write a book. What a great question, this is definitely helping with the gratitude!
What do you value most in a friendship?
I really value honesty. The friends where you live miles apart but can ring up, offload all your emotions while each eating your way through a large number of biscuits, and both leave the phone call feeling lighter, those are my treasured friendships. To me friendship is being there when the person needs you, even when it’s not very convenient. Inviting people into your life to just ‘be’ alongside is something I long to do more of as it was so beneficial to me.
When did you last cry?
On Monday evening. We binge watched After Life Series 2 on Netflix and oh my goodness. Incredible writing and raw emotion. I’ve probably cried at least 50% of the lockdown days for one reason or another, tiredness, emotion, watching something even slightly sad on TV…
What are the most amazing things you’ve achieved in the last year?
If I can stretch it ever so slightly, in the last just-over-a-year I gave birth to our daughter, my book was published, we moved house and I’m embarking on freelance proofreading and writing having taken a career break from my job. It’s been quite the year…not surprised I’m tired when I write it like that.
What one thing do you wish people would talk about more?
I wish people were more open about divorce. It’s a really hard topic to talk about as there’s not much that’s positive associated with it often, but it is a beginning as well as an ending. There are many positives to draw from it, but you need to journey with people through the pain first. It’s often a very complicated time, takes a lot of emotional energy and is a long, drawn out process. It means that people often need to talk a lot about it at the beginning and this gradually lessens. I really appreciate that Phil and I can joke about my divorce – it’s not a funny topic in itself but it’s important to me to be able to laugh about it with him.
The course Restored Lives which Ruth mentioned can also be found here.