Sunday, 22 December 2013

Feliz Navidad

I am the product of a blended family.  My parents both remarried when I was quite young and Dad went on to have more children.  The relationship between my birth parents is....strained.  My brother is married and his wife's parents are also divorced.
I separated from my children's father more than 5 years ago and enjoy a fairly good friendship with him, which is mainly for the benefit of the children who are still young.
I re partnered about 18 months ago and he too has children from his marriage although they are almost adults now.

For most of the year, none of this really matters - we all get on with daily lives and cross paths on a normal basis.  Birthdays and other occasions are relatively easy to negotiate without acrimony.

But Christmas. Ah Christmas how you torture us with your call to goodwill and unity!

Every year seems to become more difficult - and with extra partners, children, long standing 'issues'', geographical differences, ageing parents with declining health...good grief...this is not the season to be jolly no matter how much I might want it.  I find myself caught in the middle, the pacifier and yet somehow also the one who is missing out all round.  Of course I want to spend quality time with my family at Christmas time - just as I do at any other time of the year.  but Christmas takes on this extra dimension of pressure, not helped by time constraints, budget challenges, traffic problems and personality clashes.

I know I'm not unique in this.  In fact, when I talk to others, it would seem that the happy-family-who-play-together idea is actually the exception not the rule.  Almost everyone I know is in this same position, of feeling the need to race around on what ought to be the laziest day of the year.  There's an overwhelming sense of duty and pressure that, in ordinary circumstances, we wouldn't dream of putting on each other.

So this year it is different.  I'm staying home for Christmas.  and its going to be the simplest one ever. I hope that my nearest and dearest will all see me and the children, and me, them and theirs.  But it might not actually be on Christmas Day.  And whilst I know for some that is the important bit, for me it isn't - and frankly the thought of packing up the car in the heat (or the rain as is expected) and spending 3 hours of Christmas day driving does nothing for me no matter how much I want to see my family.  For me, it's a season, not a set number of hours.  This year, for the first time ( I think ever) I am spending the whole of Christmas Day at my own house.  I took the kids to church yesterday (where they both starred in the nativity play) so we won't even be racing off to that between breakfast and lunch. I'm yet to decide the menu for the day, but I'm thinking it's going to be pretty simple. There's a minimal number of presents under the tree.  Some, but not all of the decorations strung about the place.

And on Boxing Day my children are going on holiday with their father. Everyone else close to me will be away so it will be just me.  Also for the first time ever.

And so, I too am having a holiday. Possibility away from home. No duties to perform. No responsibilities. Only 5 days, but this is the first break like this I have had for 11 years. And I can't wait.

Happy Christmas.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Together apart

Gee, there's lots of pressure on couples these days to start cohabitation. To make a stand for permanent commitment. To provide status updates to interested parties.  Questions come from almost day one and gain intensity with every passing month.

The reality is for many that the combining of lives is really not that simple...It was, back in the day of one person and a suitcase.  But in the case of the re partnered there's so many other considerations that the romantic notions of ''just move in!'' can be overshadowed by the realities of what that actually entails.  So it's usually a far greater decision to be made, the more people/mortgages/pets/kids are involved no matter how appealing the idea of sharing space might be.

In fact I'd argue there's probably a certain ease in maintaining two households - essentially living separate lives for part of the week and then coming together to enjoy a paired life just some of the time.  It's not the norm, and it raises eyebrows.  Apparently it implies some kind of lack of commitment.  I'd argue differently. Surely there's more commitment in saying ''let's take time, this is working OK now - we're here for the long term even if we don't know what that might look like'' than to leap into shared accommodations when the timing isn't quite right just because it appears to be the next logical step - or the most convenient option.

Two friends of mine have been doing this for coming on three years - it probably won't be for ever, but for now, with the commitments they each have to their own careers, houses, families and interests, it works.   It's not a part time relationship - emotionally they are committed to each other for keeps - but yes, the ability to blend their lives, is, for now less than full time.

It seems to me that in some ways it's the best of both worlds - each person gets to pursue the things they want to alone but still enjoy each other in a far less pressured environment than the re partnered/blended family usually affords.  It might be for a short time, it might be long term, but as long as both are happy with the arrangement, then I say it's a win win.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

the naked truth

How come men are so much more comfortable wandering around with no clothes on, than women are?  The set up in the public loo is rather different - and I'm pretty sure it's mainly the women who scurry off to private cubicles at the gym or swimming pool.

I know of only one woman in my entire circle of friends that is happy to be unclothed and have the world (potentially) see her.  On the other hand, seems most guys are quite content with nakedness no matter what the time of day or the occasion.

And even then there are some degrees, especially for the girls.  There are some that won't dress/undress in front of anyone else, even their partner.  Its a generalisation but those women often wear fairly conservative clothes in daylight too. Nary a peek of cleavage will be allowed to show itself!

I wonder is this a reflection on the way we feel about ourselves?  Could it be that that confident people don't mind letting the world see them (physically) naked?  Or perhaps it runs deeper than that...could it be that the ones who are comfortable undressed - happy with their physical bodies,  are also more at ease with their emotional selves too?

Your thoughts?

Sunday, 6 October 2013

We need to talk

Yesterday I talked with someone who had gone through a marriage breakup many years ago, and is still very sad and angry about it, despite life having turned out pretty well (including finding love again). She talked about the feeling of failure that still lives with her. I asked, what part do you think you played in the breakup? What did you learn from it? She literally took a step back and stared in disbelief.

''To this day I take absolutely no responsibility for it. I did nothing wrong. Nothing. I was literally a perfect wife. It came completely out of the blue''. I, somewhat stunned, said, ''but surely you must believe you contributed to your partners unhappiness? Surely?''  She said, "NO it wasn't me. It was never me!"  I was completely blindsided.  How could someone not want to take any responsibility? Makes no sense to me.  After all, there must be literally thousands of books, blogs and websites dedicated to helping people find and keep love, and at least that many again that are all about getting (probably many of the same people) insight on why relationships fail , how to ''get over'' them. AND how to learn from your mistakes, no matter who the initiator of the breakup was.

In all that I have read, coupled with my own hard earned experiences, it seems to me that one of the fundamental reason that things ''don't work out'' is that one person starts to feel a sense of separation - perhaps under appreciated or misunderstood, and the other one misses the signs. Usually through no fault of their own, in fact I'd almost say, nearly always through no fault of their own. And from the people I know that have been through a breakup, most can say hand on heart that they believed they were doing all they could to keep their relationship happy and healthy, and found out much too late that they had missed an important cue from their then unhappy partner.

Of course I believe that it is not the total responsibility of one person to create or sustain happiness for another. But if someone thinks that it's you making them unhappy then it's you making them unhappy. Whether it be an action, an inaction, an attitude or just a vague ''feeling'', it's real to them. If they tell you nothing, it's pretty difficult to know where to start to address a problem - but in retrospect I bet most of us could say there was a vague hunch of some unease, even if it couldn't be absolutely pinpointed. The reality is of course, that the unhappiness probably doesn't  truly stem from the partner. Yes I know it might be about situations present being seen through the smudged lens of the past. Of course I know that, but perception is reality right? The tricky part, is that if you, as the unhappy one, OR the unsure one, say nothing and hope for an improvement - or accept it with resignation, then neither party is being fair to each other. Ironically most people tend to keep these feelings close for fear of their impact on the relationship, until its too late (it's that damn vulnerability/fear/nakedness thing again).   Or, as I've talked about before, one or the other of you reaches out for help from outside of the relationship and it is either misguided, or worse, not forthcoming (don't get me started...)

If I look back with an impartial eye over my own relationship ''non-finishings'' I have to take responsibility for missing cues.  I am guilty of not paying enough attention to whether or not my actions and behaviour were contributing to the unhappiness of my partner, and remain deeply regretful of hurt I caused - always without intention - to the people who cared for me. Yes, there's two people in every relationship - but the reality is that in mine, I was one of them.  After all, isn't the common denominator in these non-successes, me?

At its deepest level its about fear. Simply being afraid. For the minute you ask someone ''what is wrong'' you risk hearing that the problem is you.  The minute you say ''what do you need'' you risk hearing ''not you''. NO-ONE wants to hear that do they?! And so the outcome...No matter how much I wanted to fix my mistakes, no matter how remorseful, no matter what the issue was (a simple misunderstanding at one end of the scale to a total inability to be reconciled at the other), ultimately, to date, I have not been able to successfully negotiate a relationship as I want to, (and believe I am capable of doing).  This is not about self pity, or defeat. I cannot, and do not take 100% responsibility for the non-success I have had so far. As I said, there's two people in every relationship. But I remain a student of my own shortcomings. Dress it up however you like, but at the end of the day, I have to accept that I have not met the (admittedly un-articulated) needs of my partner/s.

The lessons to be learnt?  To never assume. And to be brave. It's that simple. If there's a little problem, or even a little question mark, I hope that I can have enough courage in the future to address it.  Gently and without judgement, but with courage, ownership and commitment to successful resolution.  Assume success absolutely, but don't assume it will happen without work and change and maybe just a little pain.  I hope I can be trusted with such thoughts from my SO, and that there will be enough honesty and vulnerability from both of us to move forward through what ever obstacle we face. And that my partner will feel safe enough with me to bring up what ever small hurt is causing some pain, before it turns into a massive wound.

Why is it that we turn away from each other when faced with pain, rather than to our greatest source of potential healing? (A question for another post perhaps). As every currently unpartnered person knows - the totally stupid thing is that all too often we see leaving the problem as a whole lot more attractive option than fixing it. Sometimes it is. But in the spirit of everything I write about in this blog, I simply can't accept that there is any obstacle too great, any problem too insurmountable, any hurt unhealable, if both people are willing to face it together.

Idealistic?  Probably, it's one of my best qualities;)...But I'm also tempered with the reality that none of us are perfect - and when the first shiny flakes of crazy love rub off to reveal reality, we need to exercise a huge amount of courage, grace and compassion to each other to achieve success in our relationships.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

ah...THERE you are!!!

Following on from my post about ''getting involved'' a couple of  weeks ago, I am pretty stoked to learn that (in part) as a result of my sticking my nose in, the couple I talked about are getting themselves on track. How awesome is that!

I've had cause to talk about that particular post with a number of people, and almost without exception they have agreed that whilst the ideal is to be brave enough to have an opinion, most don't do it.  There's a variety of reasons, but largely it's simply that - and no one would actually admit to it - most people are pretty busy with their own lives and really don't have the time, or inclination to get involved with someone Else's. It involves risk, it involves commitment, and it also just might mean some inconvenience where you really don't want or need it.

But here's the thing.  Experience tells me that one of the perils of social and electronic media (and I've written about this before) is how easy it is to offer the commitment of non commitment.  Things like ''well come and visit me sometime'', or ''you know I'm here at the end of the phone if you need me''.  It invites the troubled person to make the first be supportive without actually giving real support.  Not always a bad thing, granted, as there are plenty of times that a person hurting just needs to know that there is someone there if they need them.

But, and for me this is a BIG but...for the person who is hurting, especially when it is as a result of a problem in a relationship (IE the person you are closest to is now no longer the one you can call on for support), there can be a real reluctance to actually ask for help or support from outside.  Fear of what you might be told, fear of having to talk about something painful, whatever, its really easy for the hurting person to retreat within themselves. I know, I've done it.

I've read a number of things that describe love as an action. That it's about ''showing up'' emotionally, not just going along for the ride.

Well, actually I think it's also as much about showing up physically.  I was told recently by someone newly separated that I was the only person who had actually checked in regularly -the only one who had actually ''turned up'' physically in this persons life.  That both shocked and saddened me.  Where were the friends? They had offered support, absolutely - call me, text me, visit me. But none had actually got on the phone, or in the car, and showed up.  I even asked a couple of them...did you call yet? Visit? And if not why not? And I got the same response...oh well, it's not really my journey...they know where I am...I don't really know what to do/say (as per

Yes there's a risk.  There's a huge risk that the person you doorstep will tell you to go away. The person you phone will say ''I don't want to talk about it''. The opinion you give (if asked for it or not) will be rejected or denied.  You might even find yourself being rejected in the moment - for whatever reason, your presence, at that time, is not welcome or needed.  Maybe you represent something the hurting person doesn't want to see or feel. Maybe they are talked out.

Frankly, I don't give a damn.  People who are hurting need people to show up.  Regardless of the ending and who did it, someone who has just left a relationship is sore - they are probably feeling unloved or unlovable. As the supportive friend, you're probably not the one they want to feel loved by but that doesn't mean you shouldn't love them anyway. They might not appreciate it at the time - you might not be the right person, and the timing might really really suck - but at least they need to know that someone - maybe more than just one - actually cares about them. Sometimes it means giving an unpopular opinion - sometimes it means just listening (personally I'm in favour of the unpopular opinion, because I reckon 99% of the time, that's the truth. Listening and empathising does little more than make a hurt person feel better about their hurt - often necessary, sometimes the easy option ).

Yes, I've been told I'm unwelcome. Yes it hurts.  And I know when to take my leave. But in my world, it is about showing up. Putting your money where your mouth is, and actually being there for someone when they need you, even if they don't admit to it.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Everything changes, everything stays the same

Last night I took some time to read through the diary I  started when I was doing some counselling a couple of years ago. It was a time of self discovery for me, and with the aid of a fantastic counsellor, I was able to really define the things that were important to me - my values, the narratives that guided my life - and also to actually articulate the secret goals I had for myself. The piece of the diary I read last night spanned about 18 months and finished in June last year, the week of my birthday, when I was feeling at my loneliest, and yet also, my most hopeful, having been largely single for 4 years at that point.

I had made the comment that whilst all the advice columns tell single people to have a full and busy life, to not concentrate on finding a partner, that my own feeling was that when the rest of ones life was going well, as mine certainly was (eg great job, friends, hobbies etc) it was only natural to have a focus on the thing that wasn't. And I wasn't looking, I was just aware that this was the piece of MY puzzle that wasn't in place. Just as a niggly sore back might inhibit your pleasure in life, the constant reminder of being alone in a world of the coupled  - my entire circle of friends at that time in fact - was painfully obvious to me.

Fast forward two years and nothing has changed in terms of what I want in life with regard to a relationship.  I have had the absolute best of times - blissful is the word that comes to mind -  and more recently the absolute worst. But those goals and dreams remain the same. To love and be loved. To form a future with someone who loves me in spite of my flaws and insecurities, and whom I love in the same way, in spite of theirs - and with a healthy regard but fearless optimism to face any obstacles that might need to be overcome. To delight in the company of another. To feel safe. To feel that I matter. To give someone else the security to know that they do.  There's a reason that we refer to partners as significant others I reckon..and that's because we all want to feel ...well..., significant.  The pain of feeling I am ''not enough'', for me, is the worst of all - and that has nothing to do with my feelings of self worth, which are strong and defined, but somehow plucks at the very heart of what vulnerability opens us up to.

I am keenly aware of my shortcomings - in particular, the fear of failure that all people who have experienced it before carry with them.  The challenges that come with love.  (I know that love might be easy but, relationships take work, and the older we are, the trickier it can be, for all kinds of reasons). The risks that are inherent with being vulnerable with another person are scary, no doubt about it.  In fact in my diary I had noted that someone had told me some years ago ''you literally wear your vulnerability - men... can see it. You will be taken advantage of.''.  Well, so be it. I would rather be vulnerable than hard, rather be open than closed, even if that does mean risking pain and or heartbreak. To be vulnerable is to give another person a gift, and trust that they will hold it carefully. And the day that I no longer trust will be a sad one indeed.

I don't care how many people pronounce that life is ''better'' as a single. Sorry, I don't buy it.  Absolutely, it is a part of life that everyone probably needs to experience - in much the same way that one only appreciates good health after a bout of illness.  And yes, I absolutely agree it is perfectly possible to be happy and fulfilled as a single person, of course it is - our own happiness should not be that tightly reliant on another person or it is bound to end in tears. Its that horrible cliche that says one must love oneself, and trust oneself before being able to love and trust another.  But the risk of love (if that's what you want to call it), the gift of vulnerability, the stepping forward into an unknown future with someone equally as broken as me - I confess, for me, that's a good portion of what life is about.

To love and be loved. To be, and have, a soft place to fall.  No, nothings changed for me.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

read this (so they told me)

Over the last five years I've amassed a considerable amount of well meaning advice by well of (mainly) books and websites.

Rather than bore the minions with my own opinions (woohoo that rhymes!), this week, I'm offering you a selection of some of the best ones:


and some quotes to ponder

“We’re all seeking that special person who is right for us. But if you’ve been through enough relationships, you begin to suspect there’s no right person, just different flavors of wrong. Why is this? Because you yourself are wrong in some way, and you seek out partners who are wrong in some complementary way. But it takes a lot of living to grow fully into your own wrongness. And it isn’t until you finally run up against your deepest demons, your unsolvable problems—the ones that make you truly who you are—that we’re ready to find a lifelong mate. Only then do you finally know what you’re looking for. You’re looking for the wrong person. But not just any wrong person: the right wrong person—someone you lovingly gaze upon and think, “This is the problem I want to have.”  I will find that special person who is wrong for me in just the right way.  Let our scars fall in love.”
― Galway Kinnell

“I no longer believed in the idea of soul mates, or love at first sight. But I was beginning to believe that a very few times in your life, if you were lucky, you might meet someone who was exactly right for you. Not because he was perfect, or because you were, but because your combined flaws were arranged in a way that allowed two separate beings to hinge together.”
― Lisa KleypasBlue-Eyed Devil
To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow - this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.”

“Assumptions are the termites of relationships.”
― Henry Winkler

“Relationships are mysterious. We doubt the positive qualities in others, seldom the negative. You will say to your partner: do you really love me? Are you sure you love me? You will ask this a dozen times and drive the person nuts. But you never ask: are you really mad at me? Are you sure you’re angry? When someone is angry, you don’t doubt it for a moment. Yet the reverse should be true. We should doubt the negative in life, and have faith in the positive.”
― Christopher PikeRemember Me

“When we face pain in relationships our first response is often to sever bonds rather than to maintain commitment.

― Bell HooksAll About Love: New Visions

“The best you can hope for in a relationship is to find
someone whose flaws are the sort you don’t mind. It is
futile to look for someone who has no flaws, or someone
who is capable of significant change; that sort of person
exists only in our imaginations.”
― Scott AdamsGod's Debris: A Thought Experiment

“Oh the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are -- chaff and grain together -- certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.”
― Dinah Maria Mulock CraikA Life for a Life

Friday, 27 September 2013

really truly i mean it

I tossed up about what to focus on for this blog. I've had a few different things on my mind this month - one -  the importance, and inherent risks of being candid in our relationships, two - the weird rules we impose upon ourselves when it comes to interacting with others (be it SO, ex, friend, relation) and three - the value that we put on the opinions and thoughts of others

In the end, I decided, they are kind of all related.  Firstly, I think it's REALLY hard to be honest, 100% honest with people.  We want to be, we try to be, but there's always a risk that they will not like us much for what we say, and so, we temper it a bit.  Or there's a fear that it will somehow create a vulnerability we are not sure we want to risk.  Its kind of the ''having a conversation naked'' idea that I've blogged about before. And invariably there are times when in being true to the idea of being honest we say things, that the minute they are out - sometimes still hanging in the speech bubble by our mouths - we wish we could gobble up again.   Fear rules OK:)

It's also really hard to create your own rules for your relationships.  Society dictates that things should be a certain way - things like how often couples should see each other in the early stages of a relationship, when they should move in together, who pays for things, what kind of friendship you maintain if you part ways...there's SO many pressures.  Again, all wrapped up in the vulnerability of being honest. So what if you want to see each other every day? So what if you're ready to move in after 6 months? Its really no one Else's business and yet somehow the minute these things are made public, there's no end of advice...

Which brings me to number three. We DO value the opinion of others. All of us. Sometimes it's good (We really like that girl), sometimes it's not (don't you think you're moving too fast).  But we put great store in the input of ''stakeholders'' into our relationships.  I certainly value the opinions of others - sometimes they see things that we don't, and can also be our best cheerleaders - but the danger is that everyone has their own agenda (of course they do!) and  sometimes that includes telling you what they think you want to hear.  No one wants to be the deliverer of unpopular opinion after all. And so unless you're pretty sure of your own ideas, that can result in us not being honest, even with ourselves, and certainly can bring into question our adoption, or evolution of the rules that others impose.

So what can you do?  Today, I'm in a ''what the hell happened'' kind of mood (about someone Else's relationship not mine).  It may or may not be a good thing. I guess my ability to stick with that ambition of being (gently) honest, and  listening (but not necessarily adhering) to the opinions of others has been well tested.

On the other hand, if there's one thing I've learnt in 30 years of adulthood, it's that the first person I need to be honest with is me.  And that should be the easiest person of all to get naked with -  especially if it means ignoring rules, and letting go of the opinions of others.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Its what a friend would do

My Myers-Briggs personality profile is ESFJ, and a big part of that 'style' is wanting harmony for myself and others. A less forgiving person once described me as a ''unity addict''. Once I got over the insult, I realised she was probably about right.

Many years ago, when my marriage was performing the dying swan, I did my best to keep it a secret.  It was only later, much later, that friends and family offered observations on what they had seen happening. Many commented on how sad they felt about what had happened, which was nice to hear, and how they ''didn't know what to do'' which was...unsurprising but also disappointing.  At the time, there wasn't a single person in my/our circle of friends who was separated or divorced, so I guess no one really had any experience of the demise of a relationship. On the other hand, I wonder if maybe one, just one, person had said, STOP! don't give up just yet!, maybe it might have made a difference. I'll never know.

Over the past few years, I've had the unfortunate experience of seeing many other relationships fail.  No matter what the circumstances, its always sad. But in particular, the ones who from the outside at least, appear to be strong and potential-filled, hold an extra dimension of sadness.  There are ALWAYS cases of friends who clearly were not right for each other, or had overwhelming odds. But even that, in my ''unity addict'' mind doesn't make it any happier or easier when the demise actually comes.

So, after hearing ''I didn't know what to do/I wish I had done something'' so many times, I made a promise to myself, that should I find myself on that side of the fence, I would do whatever I could to help the person who came to me.  This isn't about fixing someone Else's relationship. About interfering in their business.  But is IS about being proactively supportive, encouraging, and offering to do whatever the person needs. And by that I mean not just saying ''call me if you need me'', because it's likely that someone in crisis won't call.  It means really being there for them.  Including offering advice if it's asked for - and shutting up when it isn't., but also being sensitively honest when sharing my own thoughts, rather than just saying what I think someone might want to hear.

So this week, I had cause to be in this very situation. I could have said ''there there'', 'cos to be honest I really am not feeling like being a supportive friend for someone else right now.  But I didn't. I literally dropped everything. Sat and listened, cried with a friend.  When she asked for some advice I offered it. (Not sure that I am a good person to be asking for advice but anyway). And the advice I gave was this:  Take a breath. Talk to each other. Remember what you loved about him in the first place. It might feel squashed but that doesn't mean it's dead''.  I didn't say ''I think you're wrong'' or ''I think you're right'' or even ''far out that sounds impossible'', I just suggested she take some time before doing anything big. I wanted to say ''don't do it!'' and the time may come for me to say that - if I'm asked. Still, I reckon sometimes another persons perspective is what you need. Even if it isn't want you want - or even need - to hear.

Now, these guys will work it out for themselves, or not.  Who knows. I hope they do.  Its hard to put my own agenda aside of course (I want everyone to live happily ever after...), but I will not just sit by and do nothing, whilst people I care about are struggling. I never want to be the person that said ''oh I wish I'd said something''.

Friday, 9 August 2013

single parent anxiety

I've had some changes in my parenting in the last few weeks.

As a result of working too many hours, and being way too preoccupied with my job (hm mm was it an attempt to subconsciously escape my home life...a topic for another blog), I turned into psychomummy and I'm ashamed to admit it.  Way too much shushing, way to much 'soon'ing and WAY too much yelling.

So I changed things.  I chose to go into my office rather than work from home. I have done my best to keep away from my computer and phone when I'm in the company of the children (OK it's a process, I'm not perfect).  As a result we have eaten better, played more games, and there's been a whole lot let stress in the house.

It takes effort - I have to say I'm not always super excited about hearing the long convoluted stories of school lunch time goings on, or even longer versions of a dream from the night before - but the upside has been that I feel way more in control of my parenting.  I don't feel the need to escape parenting the same and I'm not sure why.  Maybe because I've made the effort to stay in the moment with the children, and maybe because with every passing day I see the benefit.

There's just one downside so far.  I spend WAY more time worrying about the children.  Stressing about what will happen in their lives, and mine, as they get older.  I'm aware of the older one approaching tween age.  The younger one no longer a baby (hardly, he's 7 but mothers will get what I mean).  I wonder...what was I thinking, that I could successfully navigate two other people to adulthood with minimum stress and damage! What lies ahead!?!  Yes, too much time worrying.  But they are worries that I had until now managed to squash to the back of my mind.  I guess all I can do is go one day at a time.  Being called into the teachers office for her to tell me of ''age inappropriate behaviour'' for the second time this year didn't help.  Argh, what is ahead alright!?!

I addressed the issue, calmly. Firmly.  Kept my phone in my pocket and the computer turned off. I think we've dealt with it. This time anyway

Anyway, back to the stressing. And shouting.  I confess, I've been a shouty mother.  But I haven't shouted for 14 days. A record. And I have been keeping notes.

 I asked one of the kids about it yesterday - and got a blank look.  Were things better around here? Um haven't noticed.  Am I calmer and making a happier feeling house? Erm. Not sure.Oh well, they may not notice, but I have.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

the breaking and mending of hearts

July is a momentous month for me. In fact pretty much all of the major things that have happened to me (other than the birth of my kids) have happened in July.  This July marks 5 years of me being a single parent, and one year of being re partnered.

We have a tradition in this house of story telling.   I tell a story, or the children do, changing names ''to protect the innocent'' but based on real life events in our lives. Often they are bed time stories, detailing humour events in the kids lives.  It's become a way of processing for the children -sometimes they will talk through family events like the changes in our family makeup and dynamics.

Tonight my son (7) wanted to tell the story - it was about a mum and a dad who were happy with one child but then they broke up and another one was born.  It didn't happen like that at all in real life, by the way, but this was the way the story went.  He told it quite matter of factly, and took delight in creating a story with names for the parents and children, and other changed details.  And even though for him it is just a story - and simply a way to prolong bedtime, these stories still are, and maybe always will be, bittersweet for me.

As I have mentioned before I am fortunate to have a relatively good relationship with the father of my children.  They see people who get along together.  Not that this is always such a good thing - many days I have been challenged by them -''if you get on so well how come you aren't together?''  Or, more recently, by my 10 year old ''how come you get on so well - divorced people are meant to hate each other aren't they?".

No, I am not one of those people who say ''I wouldn't change a thing''. I am not one of those people who say ''I should never have married/had children with that person''. And I am not one of those people that says ''I'm glad how things turned out''.

But, I AM a person who can say, I am so lucky that the circumstances that have got me to this place in my life have made it turn out so well.  I can say, with a lighter heart than the sadness of uncoupling initially allows, that five years on from that first nightmarish week of single parenting, I find myself in a happy, hopeful and promise filled place.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

the lure of freedom

Ah singledom you're a slippery slope alright.

Had cause to have a discussion with a long singled friend recently who has got right in the swing of ''what you  like when you like''.  No partner asking when you're home for dinner. No kids demanding attention at 5 pm. Weekends are long and uneventful, or busy and exciting, depending on...well nothing really.  Money - all for one.  Fridge contents - whatever the heck I want, thank you very much!

I wonder if the novelty ever wears off.  Does it get more difficult to compromise for a significant other, the longer you don't have one?  Does the ability to share eventually disappear?

I am the first to admit that it is, on one horribly selfish level, sometimes easier to live alone.  (Or with children as I do).  There isn't someone to have to share decisions with, negotiate chores with, or cook for.  On the other hand, there's no one to share decisions with, negotiate chores with, or cook for. I've got in the groove of it (5 years now) but it life still feels a bit off-balance.  Even doing it part time is not the same as a permanent in my house partner.

I'm under no illusions, should and when the time comes, there's adjusting to do.  I'm a little scared of it, but mostly see it as exciting and forward thinking.  Ultimately, I'm with my original statement from one of my very first posts - that we human doings are not designed to be alone.

So how about the person who is? Is singledom, for some, a conscious choice, a move toward the act of total non-compromise? Does it become more, or less, attractive, the longer you are in it?

Your thoughts?

Monday, 18 March 2013

the no more tears formula

Yesterday I went to a wedding.  The truth is I didnt' actually want to go. Not because I didn't wish the happy couple every good thing, but because of the reasons I wrote about back at

So it was with more than a little trepidation that I got my fancy dress on and drove two hours in the pouring rain (OK so I wasn't actually the one doing the driving but still) to go and see a couple I barely know get hitched.  This was my also to be my first experience of a ''second time around for both'' wedding amongst my peers - the last having been when I was a child and my parents friends were all re partnering.

The wedding was held in a small marquee at a friends house, in fact the place these two had met just a year before.  The bride wore red, the groom wore a kilt.  All the invited guests were asked to declare their blessing on the marriage.  There were friends old and new, children and grandchildren of the happy couple.  The vows were spontaneous and delightful (him) and incredibly heartfelt  (her).  The readings were agnostic and humorous but clearly chosen with them both in mind.  The service lasted all over 15 minutes and then it was over.

There were no sweeping statements - no denial that both of these people had ''been there before'' - and an acknowledgement of all that had been, whilst still with the feeling of excitement and anticipation that any new marriage should have.

It was lovely.  It was real. It made me believe in happy ever after.

And I didn't cry a single tear.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

a healthy dose of self pity

Life has a way of backing up on me.  Things can be swimming along very nicely (thank you very much!) and suddenly there's a nasty rip that feels like it's going to suck me under.

I've had a few weeks of rough weather at sea now.  A friend called in last night and in the course of the conversation told me of her own bad few weeks.  I remarked that I felt I couldn't take a single thing more - the stress levels are high enough thanks, and one more little thing might just be my undoing.

Of course the reality is one more little thing won't make much difference at all.  The things that I'm struggling with right now are no different to those of a million others out there - job insecurity, financial uncertainty, growing children and the ensuing parenting issues, an aging body.  I moan too much about ''doing it alone'' when in reality I'm not.  I've got good kids. I'm in a great community, I have a great partner and I co-parent pretty effectively with the father of my children.  What right do I have to complain, really?

Well, here's the rub.  Perception actually is reality.  So on the days when I feel like I'm doing it alone, I actually am doing it alone.  On the days when lifes challenges feel insurmountable they probably are.

The lesson for me - be kind to myself, be kind to others.  Back to my old mantra - offer grace and be be gracious in return.  Remember that life is always going to give me a few lemons.  It really is up to me to get stuck in and make the lemonade.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

relationship advice you already know but need reminding of

Considering the disastrous  eventful few years I've just had, you would probably be quite right in saying that I am the last person who should be giving relationship advice.  But, based on the fact that prior to aforementioned eventfulness I managed a 16 year relationship, and have now started the  re partnering process (successfully thus far;)), I have decided to share some of the gems of knowledge learned through experience - both mine and others - in vain hope that someone, somewhere, might gain from it.

I thereby present:
10 things I wish I knew about relationships then, but do now

1. It's only a phase if you can see an end in sight - and if you can't,  you are taking steps to change something. The same goes for ''rough patches'' and ''ups and downs'' .  If you do nothing the phase will become a habit and that, my friend, will be the end of your relationship
2. There's no such thing as one person being unhappy in a relationship.  Whether they or you admit it, if one person is unhappy it's about 99% likely so is the other one
3. If something is really troubling you in your relationship, you HAVE to address it, talk about it, discuss it.  No ifs, no buts.  This is not about compromise or being accommodating. This is about actually 'fessing up about something you're unhappy with
4. Actually your friends and family do have a fair idea of how ''things are going'' for you, so be under no illusions that you're keeping up a happy face even if you're miserable.
5. If you believe your (healthy)  relationship is truly worth fighting for then do everything in your power to keep it.  Everything. Move towns, change jobs, whatever. Nothing is more important.
6. Pay attention to amber lights.  Pay extra attention to red lights. Every time.
7. If you feel like a relationship isn't progressing because the other person ''isn't that into you'' (be honest here), then run/walk/limp away and maintain your dignity.  If someone wants you, you'll know
8. You are always worth it.
9. Privacy is good. Discernment is fine. Secrecy is not.  If you are a secret, or you are keeping a secret, then your relationship is not real.
10. Listen to your instincts. Every time.  Every single time.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

terms of endearment

Somewhere along the way, you're going to want to call your SO something cute right?

When no one else is listening you might be tempted to throw in a 'honeybun' or something similar.  When you're 65, dear seems to be the term of choice.

Read and be scared.  Very scared...

And probably, somewhere along the way, you're going to want to refer to your SO as something other than SO.

When you're 16, boyfriend/girlfriend sounds pretty good.  When you're wanting to strike a business deal, partner probably fits the bill.   Lover just sounds like you're about to describe a bodily function.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

a year of reflection - my post from New years Eve last year, and boy was I feeling sorry for myself!

It's been a heck of a year since that post, that's for sure and as I sit at my computer, house quiet and a box of chocolates beside me, I am reflecting on the good the bad and the little bit ugly that it comprised of.

I've learned a lot about myself this year, and in the process of stepping into the (slightly scary but no less exhilarating) world of repartnering myself, a whole lot about the kind of person I want to be.  I've also had a few revelations about how I think I can build a successful relationship, and learn from some of the mistakes experiences of the past.

Here's my list of reflections for 2012:

1 it's actually true that you have to like yourself quite a bit before anyone else is going to like you
2 if something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't
3 it's possible to have a disgreement with someone and it not degenerate into a full blown he said/she said argument
4 the minute you feel your core values are being compromised it's time to walk away
5 exes CAN be friends, and it's not weird, and it's not about unfinished business, but it is rare and other people may not understand it
6 major crises at the beginning of a relationship are often still just the stuff of everyday life
7 it really is important to listen to the feedback and responses of people you know and trust when you ask them for their opinion on your new SO
8 if it seems to good to be true, it doesn't necessarily mean it is
9 there really is no hurry
10 New Years Eve is still a million percent better when you're not alone for it