Thursday, 18 September 2014

Nothing else matters

Its a curious thing this blogging. Especially on a topic as... fraught... with emotion, as relationships are. Dating, and breaking up, and all that stuff in between is both intensely personal and yet one of things that pretty much everyone in the world experiences in much the same way.

What's even weirder, is that a blog like this - or at least, a blogger like me - gets to pour their heart out to a faceless audience - the feelings and thoughts that, if I was on a date, or  even in ''getting to know you stage'' would be considered totally off limits (way too intense, way too honest, way too scary!), and yet if I were in a relationship, would largely be completely moot points - after all, you're already there, right - no need to share the hopes and aspirations of something now attained - especially with the madding crowd!

And so as I reflect on the couple of hundred posts I've made so far, and can see the common themes, I find myself, once again, deliberating about whether or not in fact it is wise or even realistic to be sharing such deeply personal thoughts.  I have been variously described on here as too vulnerable, appealingly vulnerable, too honest, comfortingly honest, too ''real'', reassuringly sincere, and just about every other polarised opposite there could be when it comes to reflecting on human emotions.  

And today, I'm feeling especially honest.  A little bit sorry for myself truth be told. I think that's allowed sometimes don't you? It seems to be beyond belief that after nearly 7 years since my marriage ended, I am still (yet again, usually...insert adverb here), single.  Its not through lack of trying, and there are times when I'll admit, a good dose of self pity overwhelms me...the days when I think...how the HECK can it be, that yet again, I find myself holding the tissue box and wondering what just happened there!?! How can something...someone.. that plan and hope for a future..once so real, so....well... REAL turn out not to be, after all.

I can handle being alone. In fact I do it quite well. I'm OK with doing it for a while. A long while if need be. But it's not what I want from life. It just isn't. And I don't think there's many out that that DO want to be alone for the rest of their lives. 

Surely there can be no worse feeling in the world that realising that you don't matter.  Whether that be matter at all - or worse, not matter any more - no one wants to be rejected, passed over or usurped, even if there are (arguably) noble reasons for it happening.  Of course we MATTER as human beings without needing that from one specific being.  I'm not denying that.  In fact we should -to put ones happiness in the the hands of another is a huge responsibility to hand over. But I do believe that most people want to find that one person to whom they matter most. 

One of my favourite songs ever, Metallica - Nothing Else Matters, says this: (and yes I know it's just cheesy lyrics - humour me here!)

So close no matter how far
Couldn't be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
And nothing else matters

Never opened myself this way
Life is ours, we live it our way
All these words I don't just say
And nothing else matters

Trust I seek and I find in you
Every day for us something new
Open mind for a different view
And nothing else matters

Never cared for what they do
Never cared for what they know
But I know

How awesome, to feel so safe, that your trust could be so complete, that nothing else really did matter. Of course there's real life to consider - it's not REALLY possible to disregard it. But I think the key here is that the writer of this song saw his love as the thing that was above all other distractions.

The things I have always said I was seeking and offering, these things have not changed. A soft place to fall...a soft place to be. To be cherished. To MATTER. 

Monday, 15 September 2014

I don't know how she does it (but I think I know how I do)

I am just starting to put my head up from what is arguably the busiest two months of my working year. I've been pulling 18 hour days - juggling a massive budget, placating, bargaining, negotiating, book keeping, managing spreadsheets, and then delivering on one project that is a year in the making (and is still not finished, but starts all over again with barely a weekends break), combined with the regular part of my job, the starting of two other huge projects, and the end of year balance up for the two parts of the organisation

I'm lucky most of the year - even though my job requires me to work pretty much every day - either in the office, on the road or from home - and occasionally weekends, and some evenings it's only ''part time''. Which actually equals pretty much full time for part time wages, but the payoff is the aforementioned flexibility. It does mean I'm usually available for school trips, sick kids (I have one with chronic illness) and I have in the past got to indulge in occasional days sneaking away with my young man and avoiding the office.  But it also means that for some days, weeks, I am working every hour God sends, and squashing in bits of work between school things, trips to the Doctors and so on.  The kids complain often, that I never seem to be off the phone.  For me, it's the difference between being there, or not.

I often think that a full time job - ergo not actually being available to the children, or anyone else,  between 8 and 5, would be easier. I'd simply go to a job for 40 hours a week, 48 weeks a year and that would be that.

But then I think...who would do those other things? Who would go on school excursions, cheer the kids at a sports day, hear their speeches.  Who would do the sick kid days, Doctor visits (seemingly endless), the car WOF, the groceries, the continual pile of laundry?  Would there ever be time to do something for myself - a real need when you're a single parent!

I look at women who work full time and manage their families on their own. even the ones who do it and have a partner 'in house'.  I don't know how they do it. 

I won't lie...its feckin' exhausting being the only grown up living in this house! This is the life I live, but certainly not the one I would have chosen deliberately.  I have come to terms with it, but I am also keenly aware of the ongoing challenges of single parenting - despite having FDH local and involved with his children. I feel the responsibilities keenly - the buck stops with me.  I am responsible for it all - I need to earn the money, ensure there's milk in the fridge, get a sick kid to the Doctor, pick up the rubbish that infuriatingly seems to blow in  the gate onto my garden, decide everything.  And this is how I do it:

Firstly:  Amazing people around me.  Friends who help with babysitting. Obliging grandparents. Kids, who for the most part, are flexible and amenable to last minute planning or changes.  And, lucky for me, they are both smart, relatively organised, independent considering their young age, and good at cleaning up after themselves (and each other).  Secondly: choosing where I live: I have chosen to live in a supportive community where the school, friends, music lessons and other regular haunts are within walking distance of my house. My place of work is ten minutes drive away, or I can work from home. Thirdly, I plan. A lot.  A trip to the city has to have more than one purpose.  A trip to the town I work in usually does too, including either a grocery shop or library visit or similar.  I have lists. I have reminders on my phone, on the fridge, on the computer. If it ain't in the diary it ain't happening.  And finally, I maintain balance.  I am RELIGIOUS about having time for myself.  Kid free weekends are kid free. Bedtimes, after years of struggle are becoming more rigid not less.  I pay a babysitter so I can have a night out mid week if I want to.  And even though I might spend a couple of hours of an evening on work, I also ensure that there's plenty of time for talking with other adults (even if it's online and not in person), for reading and writing, and for just 'being'.  I choose to work the hours I do, because overall it works better for my family right now.  It comes at a price - less income, and possibly creating a 'halt' in my career path. But for now, its how it needs to be and I happily accept that.  I'm lucky I love what I do, have great people to work with and have enough other things in my life that I don't  need to, or choose to ''live to work''. 

Every day is different - and yet in many ways life chugs on the same day in day out.  I remind myself that routine is not a bad thing, in fact it makes life feel...safer...somehow.  But some days I crave adventure and excitement. the before children life I remember - the post children life I look forward to.  Others I yearn for more quiet, more calm.  Most of the time though, I cheerfully embrace the busy, noisy, family focused life I now live.  Ideally, life would be the perfect balance of all of those things. Ideally I'd be sharing all of this with a significant other. I can work towards that right!?  In the meantime I do my best to be grateful for all I have. 

And to everyone who is, or has been, part of my support team I want to say a massive THANK YOU. I don't know how the others do it, but I sure couldn't do it without you.






Thursday, 11 September 2014

Gasping for air ( my response to yesterdays guest post)

It's amazing how your life can be literally turned on it's head with barely a moment's notice...(a bit like a traffic accident really....)

After I read the guest post yesterday, I was struck by a sense not only of deja vous (for surely if it wasn't for a few traffic incidents this blog wouldn't even be in existence) but also the stark reality that is this: for most people who are post-coupled, they're going to end up under more than one bus.

Back when my parents separated in the early 70s - about the time that divorce was fairly uncommon, the usual scenario was that people would separate and then within a couple or three years, repartner and then remain with that person for good.  My parents have each been remarried 35 years or more, and the majority of the friends in similar situations then are the same.  Certainly they were younger, closer to  30 than 40, and the principal of being ''not yet fully formed adults'' perhaps made it easier to grow together than it does when you're in your 40s or 50's (more on this here)

But certainly my experiences over the past 6 years seem to be that recoupling and staying recoupled is a rarer and rarer occurrence. And I can't figure out why.  Is it that all this self-awareness we have makes us choosier? That we feel a right or expectation of perfection and when it doesn't materialise after 6 months, or a year, or more, that we start looking elsewhere? Is it that people are simply more damaged now and haven't ''got their shit together'' enough to actual form healthy relationships? Are we too hasty, too slow, too picky, not picky enough, over committed, under committed?  Is it cos there's just so much darn choice out there now, with so many more singles, that its impossible to just be happy with what we have? We say we will not settle for anything less than perfect...that we have paid prices, done the work, learned lessons.

Is life just a whole lot more complex now?  Back then it was an expectation that there'd be not much money, a bunch of extra kids, and a whole heap of sacrifice.  My parents bedded in for the long haul from day one. There simply was no ''let's see''.  And I suspect very few even considered their ''personal needs'', they just got on with recoupling.  I'm not saying that's necessarily a good thing, but since nowadays we add in adventure, better assets, couple time, alone time, chemistry, shared interests, common friends, obliging blended families, our own feelings of rights and 'what we deserves' - expectations are a whole lot bigger.

And so the bus metaphor.  We end up being 'thrown under the bus''.  And mostly, we get up, and have a go at catching another bus.  

And there's another thing - once you have managed to get out from under a bus, and all the visible cuts and abrasions have healed, it can be months...years...and another bus will race past you and the fumes will remind you of times past.   And of course, the seemingly healed injuries might only show themselves when you decide to climb on board again - or worse when you find yourself under another one. And as long as you keep getting up again, there's a risk of an accident.  And if you don't understand, or worse, ignore the road rules, it's almost a given that you're going to get run over again.

 I'm pretty sure that the buses that have had the misfortune to collide with someone probably have a few dents as a result.  But they too, bravely trundle on, sometimes getting the damage repaired, and sometimes doing a bog job and hoping for the best.

Some days I'd like to write a letter of complaint. Because stand up again I do.  And each time I stand up and look around I am struck by this: I don't want to be run over again. (I don't think anyone does).  It feckin hurts!!! .

The older I become, the fewer buses seem to be travelling the route that I want to take.  And it seems the less chance there seems to be that one will want to stop and take me to it's final destination. I can only hope that I haven't missed the bus altogether.

Life under a bus (guest blog)

The following letter was written by a friend and fellow wordsmith, following a marriage breakup.  My response will follow in another post.


Buses are big, smelly, noisy things but sometimes you just don't see them coming. Seriously, In spite of the tremors and the unrefined noise they make, they can still sneak up on you and catch you unawares.

And when you're pushed under it from behind, the impact is even greater, You're left dazed and confused, numbed and bewildered, gasping for breath. The impact has winded you, and you feel nauseous. Sometimes the will to go on is knocked out of you, along with the air out of your lungs. You feel that you want to die - right there under the bus, hidden from view and in the dark. It's also a confined space - there's little room to move or to assess the damage done. You certainly can't stand up, and you're at best forced to your knees; sometimes you're just forced face down into the coarseness of the road, and made to endure all the abrasions, grazes, and cuts that ensue

 It's a disorienting place to be. With all the confusion and chaos that goes with it, you can't really tell which way is up any more, or left from right. Your view and memory of the 'outside' world becomes distorted, along with your view of yourself. It doesn't help when you're being assailed with false accusations that imply that you deserve to be under there. The lies are insidious; they can take hold in your mind and in your heart and you start to believe them. All the time the bus is parked over top of you, and shows no intention of moving off any time soon. And it stinks being under there. It's dirty and uncomfortable, After a while you start to think that perhaps this is actually normal, and you need to adapt to this new life under a bus.

But the new 'normal' is not normal. It's not right. It's not justifiable. Or just. It's just plain shite. And you need to realise this and not become inured to it. Don't accept it as being an alright place to be. That's when you need to stick an arm (or a leg) out and ask for help. That's when you need your friends to rally around you, pull you out, and dust you off. To wipe your cuts and bruises, and to sit with you, because you probably won't be able to stand, not for a while anyway. They need to sit with you, and not necessarily say much. Just being, and being present with you is enough. Because sometimes there are no words that will assuage the pain that you are feeling. And words, even when spoken with the best of intentions and utmost thought, can seem empty and hollow.

It will take time to find your bearings again - to rediscover which way is up, left, and right. To see yourself in the mirror as you really are, not the distorted mishapen person that others think and have made you out to be. It's not easy recovering from the all out assault that is "the bus" - but it will happen. We don't have to stay under the bus - that's just not normal. But it's essential that we have friends that we can call upon to help us in our hour (and days and months) of need. And it's essential that we be honest and open with those friends - even if it does hurt to lay bare our woundedness and our frailties. It's in doing this that our strength is rebuilt, and our sense of value and of worth re-established. We start to see ourselves again for who we are, and start working on the ugly bits along with strengthening our weaknesses.

 I would say pray lots - but that in itself can be fraught with peril depending on how and what we pray. Sometimes, it's just better to sit, and wait quietly. Say nothing. Just be. It's easy and understandable to be really pissed with God at times like this. I know I have been, and I suspect I'm not the only one. Yet, strangely, in  spite of all my ranting and raving, my railing against God, my accusing and challenging, I felt like he knew that I didn't really mean it - that I was not much more than a small child having a massive tantrum, and beating my fists furiously against him - the solid, immoveable, wilderness that is God. And when I was spent, and had nothing more left to scream, there started to come the peace. The Pax Christi - the peace of Christ. Quietly it came, unannounced and uninvited, but still it came. We become part of the "slow and inefficient work of God".

So my friends (you know who you all are!), I thank you - for the coffee, the beer; the late nights, the listening ears and the understanding hearts. For being there - even if you haven't said much, your presence alone has made it all the more bearable. Just the knowledge that you have my back has helped me, little by little, to crawl out, dishevelled and bloodied, from under that bus. It has taken time to start getting my bearings again, but I am making sense of things now. There are still unanswered questions, and things I want closure on. There are things that sometimes keep me awake at night (sometimes it's passing trains that keep me awake but I digress) but I will no longer be held to ransom by them. I feel as though I have turned a corner. There are days when I'm still a bit wobbly on my legs, and days when things conspire to set me back and drag me down. But they are getting fewer now, and the impact of them is lessened. I'm not so naive to think that I am over it all - it will go on for some time to come yet. But I know that I am, at present, better equipped to handle this now.

You have helped me tremendously, but your work (and mine) is not yet done. There are still hurdles and obstacles that will need to be cleared, and each one of those will be a challenge of varying degrees, but again, let me offer you a resounding thank you.


Monday, 1 September 2014

Life is a half finished blog post

I have spent an hour or so casting my eye over my posts from the past two or so years from both this, and my other blog .  There's sure been a pile of highs and lows in there! Things I wrote and then came weirdly true with in a few weeks - and things I wrote about that I never in a million years thought would happen to me (but did), or thought would happen (and haven't).

There's quite a list of half finished posts - usually abandoned because a more interesting pastime came up than sitting in front of the computer navel gazing - or because circumstances had led me to take a bit of a detour (or maybe a short left hand turn) on that particular days meanderings.

And my goodness there's been some detours lately.  Some days I feel like I'm still standing on the side of the road wondering what the heck happened to the traffic!

And as well as working through my own ''stuff'' (reluctant to say road crashes...) I have spent a truckload of time in the past few days supporting FOUR different people who are going through heartbreak  - all of different kinds, but still all heartbreak relating to their adult relationships.  Life is not fair. No it's not. I have got a hard time for saying that - but stuff it. It's just not.  And when I look at all of these four, regardless of the parts they may, or may not, have played in this heartbreak it's still not bloody fair! Especially when the heartbreak-ER'S, without exception, are trucking on through life, happy as Larry and his wife. And don't be giving me this ''it will all work out for the best'' stuff (because, reader I bet that's what you're thinking....), because you well know, that when you're standing in a pile of broken glass the last thing on your mind is how marvellous the world is going to look through a new windscreen.

One day I will finish some of those posts. Maybe update them. Maybe publish them as is, as a snapshot of a moment in time.  But not today.  Today I will just sit.  Cry with, and for, my friends.  Sympathise that life is not fair. And hope that much like a half finished post, these stories too might need updating with happy endings in a year or two.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Choosing love

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook today.  It's got me thinking. A lot.

I  agree with it.  I think it really is a choice to love someone.  Whether that's a SO or a friend or whomever, it's a choice.  I don't think it starts as a choice...in that in order to continue to choose love I think you have to have had it in the first place - it has to have a kick start, as it were.  Ergo, there will be people that you will cross paths with and not love.

But there will be a few, a very few, that you will love.  Maybe fall in love with, that's semantics...but love. Truly love.  And I think once you are at that starting point, love is a changeable, thing.  I believe Love is steadfast (as it is described in the Bible).  That doesn't mean love doesn't change, it doesn't mean that it will always feel the same (in fact probably you won't feel it at all sometimes...), it just means that it's there, standing steady, because of the commitment of the person/people to hold it in place.  REAL Love doesn't happen of it's own accord in my view.  It IS deliberate.  A choice every day to love someone even if you don't like them very much that day. Or those pressures like those listed above seem to be far more real feelings  than the ones of  love. Or the impulse to jump ship is more overwhelming (and God knows we've all felt that...).

I've had a tough couple of weeks. Actually, a tough couple of months.  There's been a few times when I didn't feel love, like the movies might like us to think we should.  I chose to love anyway, steadfastly and deliberately.  Unfortunately for me, it didn't work out.  And I have, I must confess, in the past few days shown glimpses my own filthy side as I struggle to come to terms with it. I have not been very deliberate in my attempts to to be consistently patient and kind. (although God knows I've tried, I really have). I've certainly let my own ego get in the way. (Then again, who wouldn't?...) To learn than for some, feelings win over form is a painful discovery.  I have had every emotion - sadness, shock,disbelief, amazement, grief, insight, disappointment, anger, self righteous fury , worry, shame, self doubt, humiliation. And for better or worse, I still haven't yet been able to ''choose'' to turn OFF love (can you even do that?).

My trust in what love is, and should be, and could be, has been seriously rocked.  Not for the first time in my life I find myself wondering if this ''love'' thing really is just a bunch of emotions that not only cant be trusted, but are somehow both ephemeral and finite. Maybe the sages are wrong, and in fact love is NOT a choice. Maybe it isn't solid. Maybe it isn't something that lasts at all. Maybe it really is just about feelings and all this ''love is patient/love is a choice type thinking is just a way of getting us to live on logic not feelings.  Many is the day I have challenged my own feelings of love toward another.  In 25 years of adult relationships I think it would be impossible not to!

So...Maybe it's something you just get carried away on a wave of - and as so, can just as easily be washed into a new wave?  Even if you've been bobbing around in it for a while, with a life jacket on,  it would seem there's no guarantee that you're going to stay afloat. That's a scary thought for me - how can I trust that love really can be steadfast if that is the truth?

I can question all I like.  But I don't believe a word of it.  I think Love...to love... IS a choice. It has to be. Or the whole world would be rushing around from ''love'' to ''love''.  Sure, to love every day can require pain.  Commitment.  Sacrifice.  Letting go of ego. But it's also full of the potential for true joy, security and safety in being able to be 'us'. And I know this because we all do it - we do it with our children, friends, family.  We choose to love these people.

It seems that the only time we forget this is when it comes to 'romantic' love.  Why is that different? I welcome your thoughts.



Thursday, 28 August 2014

body image and the 40 something

It's kind of ironic that even though I am probably the fittest I've ever been, I wear my clothes better than I ever have, and I spend more time and energy (and money...) on my appearance than I ever have before, that I feel....Old.  Yep, that horrible word. The one that makes me cringe, and want to run to the mirror and check for wrinkles.

It's not that I look that old - I reckon I look my age but no more.  And probably not less.  I put a lot of effort into my hair and makeup and clothes.  I certainly don't feel old either - and I know I've got twice the energy of many people half my age, able to ''stay up late'' and indulge in a heap of physical activity but not tire out. So why do I feel old?  Because I look at myself with a critical eye, when the light is extra bright, or I'm hanging over a mirror (don't do it!!!!!) and can see the lines, the slow loss of skin tone, the grey bits in my hair, the general ''oldness'' that comes with advancing in age.  I might only be 46 but there are days - many days - when I yearn to be ten years younger, if only to get back the skin and vibrancy of better days.

Why is that feeling old and feeling ugly are so entwined...and so pivotal when it comes to our self esteem? It's not just because of our appearance-obsessed society surely?  Because people have been agonising over this for hundreds of years, not just since the Internet got invented.  I think it's because the two concepts are not agreeable - no one wants to be old, and sure no one wants to be ugly (and for ugly feel free to substitute fat/skinny/unfit/grey/pudgy/stooped or whatever your fear is)

Probably, it wouldn't matter so much, if I had someone telling me I was beautiful. My father tells my mother every day, even after 35 years of marriage.  She laughs and says she isn't, but to him she is, 72 year old body and all.  I have never believed I was beautiful.  A  good heart, sure.  Well put together, usually.  Smart and stylish, sometimes. But not beautiful.  That's not looking for sympathy either by the way, it's just stating a fact as I see it, born and endorsed through my painful teen years of red hair, glasses and a ''bit of a weight problem''.

I'd love to be one of those women who proclaim to the world that they are proud of their bodies. Those ones that wear their stretchmarks like tiger claw scars. That are happy to wear a strapless top even when they really shouldn't - or a bikini when they REALLY shouldn't.  But I'm not, I'm just a regular person, normal weight and height, with a regular body and the usual insecurities one might expect from a 46 year old mother of two.

Do I have poor body image? No I don't think so. I have had minor struggles with an eating disorder in the past, but that had absolutely nothing to do with my weight or shape, and all to do with a feeling of control.  Do I like how I look? For the most part. Sure there's things I'd nip tuck and transfer. I'd really like less wrinkles and I'm not adverse to cosmetic enhancement - botox, teeth whitening, large pots of wax, all seem like fine ideas to me.

Do I think I'm enslaved to society's version of eternal youth? No not at all, but I do want to look and feel good  - and not be judged for doing so. Appearances might not be everything, but clothes maketh the man!

So body image for me, might be more than skin deep - for sure there are people that I find absolutely gorgeous who are no oil painting at all - but the reality is that when I wake and look in the mirror, I am reminded that age is not my friend.