Hit and miss

I know we often want it all happy and positive, but that’s just not where much of humanity is. 
Many of us are overwhelmed with pain, undigested sadness, unexpressed anger, unseen truths. This is where we are at, as a collective. So we have two choices. We can continue to pretend it’s not there, shame and shun it in ourselves and others, distract and detach whenever possible. Or we can face it heart-on, own it within ourselves, look for it in others with compassion, create a culture that is focused on authenticity and healthy emotional release. 
If we continue to push it all down, we are both creating illness and delaying our collective expansion. But if we can just own the shadow, express it, release it, love each other through it, we can finally graduate from the School of Heart Knocks and begin to enjoy this magnificent life as we were intended. Pretending the pain isn’t there just embeds it further. 
Let’s illuminate it instead Jeff Brown - Soulshaping

Grief is, I think, the crappiest emotion that we as humans have to go through. To lose something, even if it's only a projection of reality, creates pain. And pain is at the heart of loss. On my other blog last week I talked about sadness and pain in a broader sense and of course I don't want to lose myself in that pain but I also have to acknowledge my reality. And I will no longer mask that. I will not lie about it any more. 

Nearly three months have passed since my last relationship ended. (Sheesh that's ironic. I thought it was going to be my ''last'' relationship! but I digress)... And as my readers will know, this blog, whilst a summation of many of my deepest thoughts and wishes, is not the place I tend to detail my liaisons, short long or otherwise.

But today, as I sit in bed, with a laptop, a phone, a book and a cup of coffee - inanimate, not talking things that may not require my attention, but don't give me any either - I am feeling in a different place. I am so TIRED. I am tired of bouncing around telling everyone how awesome my life is. Or worse, them reminding me. (Ironically, it is, mostly). I am tired of being reminded of my own worth (yeah I know that - but who gives a toss when the person you wanted to value you most, doesn't). I'm tired of having to act like I don't care. Like I'm a cool single woman who actually got a lucky break, if only she was clever enough to realise it. I'm tired of having to pretend I'm ''over it''.  I'm feckin' tired of people telling me I should be! I'm tired of still feeling feelings that I thought would have faded. I have tired of feeling like I just been hit in the solar plexus and am still gasping for air. 

About a year ago, I had a conversation with someone I cared deeply about. We talked about being honest, about searing truth, about abandoning rules in favour of following hearts. ''F**k the rules, I don't care for rules right now' - that's what we said! I decided to live by it.  Back then I wanted to hear certain words above all others and so I chose to ignore (or at least, accept) some things that troubled me, trusting that to be honest, and to abandon rules, and ''follow my heart'' was ultimately going to work out for the best for me (and my relationships). I believed that those actions would lead to happiness for me. In fact, it didn't work out at that way at all and now someone else has abandoned the rules, followed their heart and as a result it is me who (actually, if I'm going to continue to honour those rules and be honest) is frickin' miserable. And here I am - doing it again now. I'm going to abandon rules, I'm going to be searingly honest whenever I can, and I'm going to tell the truth. Not because I don't have an otherwise good life, not because I don't value myself, not because of anything other than this:

I still miss that relationship.

Do I miss feeling that in the end I wasn't enough? Good grief no. Do I miss the days when I was anxious and wondering was it me doing wrong, but too afraid to address it in case I really was the problem? Ahhh no. Do I miss the things that drove me nuts (cos we all have them)? Erm, maybe, maybe not. Do I miss worrying that the future was fading and feeling helpless to change that? Nope. Do I miss the pain I went through at the end?  Hell no. No way. And yes I'm smart enough to know that the reality is that no good relationship should have those feelings.. 

But there it is. I miss it. . I miss shared history and a planned shared future (OK so it turns out it was only me planning it but still). I miss the easy conversation that we had from the first time we met. I miss the shared interests - the ones I had before and the new passions I discovered but are no longer mine to share. Dancing. God I miss dancing.  I miss the non stop fun and excitement, the boring mundane-ness. I miss sleep ins, wake ins, early nights and late ones. I miss being part of a two person team. I miss not being able to pick up the phone to share something funny, or important, or not important at all. I miss being and having an ally. I miss being and having a supporter. I miss having someone to go out with, and come home with. I miss making complicated food and pouring over-sized drinks. I miss sharing secrets and confidences. I miss planning things with someone else. I miss the feelings of trust that go with being in a relationship. I miss hearing compliments and reassurances. I miss hugs. I miss feeling important and valued by someone I felt the same about.  I miss it all. And at the heart of this I miss the person who I believed was my best friend. 

Im sad that I know stuff that I no longer have a right to be supportive about. I'm sad that it is no longer my role to be the ally, the confidante, the soft place.  I hate the fact that I still want it to be. I hate that I am having to, again, reshape what my future is going to look like. I just don't wanna!!!

Maybe I have unrealistic views of what relationship is. Obviously I do or I wouldn't even be writing this would I!? I want it all. I want to share my life with someone, and I want that shared life to be a source of happiness for others. I want to be looked at like I'm the only woman in the room. I want to be able to have good days and bad days...or weeks...or years!...and be able to allow someone else to do the same. I want it in sickness and in health, I don't care if its for richer or poorer. I'll gladly take the worse with the better. I want to be someones lover, best friend, ally, sparring partner, thought companion and challenger. I want to be first choice. Every time. Every. Time. I want it all. I hope one day I can find that.

what a friend would do - part two

I was thinking today ....about the  people we treat best in our lives...the most consistently, with the most respect, with the most kindness and tolerance...the ones we are loyal to in the most trying of circumstances, the ones we take phone calls from at odd hours, make endless cups of coffee for when we have far more pressing issues to attend to, that we ignore the foibles and habits of.

How odd it is that these people are not our family - our kids, our sibling our parents.  They are not our employers.  They are not even our spouses . That group - family, significant others, employers - we make public promises to, even sign contracts with!

Don't you think it's strange, that the ones to whom we make no promises, that we don't have an ''official''  lifelong commitment to, that we don't have to provide a service to, or have a contract with....these people are 'just' our friends and no more - or no less, depending on your perspective.

I get that no one wants to lose a friend. Especially a close one.  Extra especially your ''best friend''.  I suppose that is why we treat those friendships with care, for years and years and years.  Others come and go, but the best friend is there for ever and those friendships somehow endure everything.

Is it because we give our ''best selves'' to those friendships?  We only ever show our best side, because the risk of warts and all might be too much for the friendship to bear? Or is is that we give everything and bare everything, and trust that the best friend will stick around anyway? I know my best friends have seen the best and worst of me and they are still there, decades later.

Why then, do we not afford the people we profess to love the most (sometimes have publicly and legally professed it even!) the same? Does familiarity breed contempt? Or do we have some weird subconscious belief that a spouse will stick around regardless of our behaviours, where a friend would not? Is it because we feel so safe with our spouse/family member that we can, for a time, abandon kindness or respect, sometimes in the name of honesty - or  even untruth?

Shouldn't we be treating that person with even more (insert quality here) than anyone else in our lives?

I think so. But we don't.  Not all the time anyway. And when a friend does betray us in some way, or act unkindly or inconsistently, its SO hard not to hurt, and hurt deeply. Somehow it is a wound that takes a long time to heal.  Weirdly, to be abandoned by a friend seems to hurt as much, if not more, than to endure a failed relationship.

I love the idea of my SO being my best friend, and have had the joy and privilege of this in the past. (and yes I know that friendship alone is of course not enough to any more than romantic love is, or any other single part of  - I know that what works is being in a whole, sustainable relationship). And I think in the early times of relationship we do apply those same standards. But I'm talking about long term mature relationships here - the ones that we all want (or at least most people do). The ones that get past crazy stupid love and into the deep trusting place of commitment and enduring love. The ones that could get so easily and dangerously close to the 'taking for granted'' place, the ''I don't really feel that friendly right now'' space. The ''I think I need a new hobby'' place! The 'I wish she'd just get out of my face'' space!

So...imagine if we treated our most significant others, and our relationships with them, with the same care and attention that we do a close friend - for ever! The fierce loyalty, 'drop anything for you' generous kind and 'best selves forward' kind of friendship we have with our best friends.  What different relationships they might be.



I've been reading a lot this week about living in the moment, embracing the now.  Initially I thought that  this meant ''seizing the day'', making things happen and changing what needed changing fearlessly and without regret.  But the more I read I realise it is really not about that at all. It's about stopping and feeling. About being in A moment and feeling it - acknowledging it for all it has in it, the good the bad and the ugly.  Not comparing it to what was, or what might or could be.  But owning and feeling the moment for whatever 'the moment' is.

Right now, I'm really not enjoying living in the moment.  Exactly one year ago today I was engulfed in more sadness that I could have imagined possible.  A  few people knew about it - and a few more thought they did -  but almost no-one knew the actual details, save one or two trusted friends, and the Doctor who was urging me to start taking medication (I lasted two days before deciding it made me worse not better, and will not go ''there'' again - for how can you truly live in the moment if the moment is dulled by chemicals?)

My 'seizing the day' action was to choose to be continue being searingly, bravely honest with someone, and asking them to be the same with me, and, as a result of that, I came out of those depths and moved into a new way of normal.  A few weeks earlier it would have been incomprehensible that I would have been in this position at all, and so today it seems absolutely beyond belief that I am here again.

The details of what happened in the ensuing year,  and how I came to be in a place of sadness again  are kind of irrelevant  - the purpose of my writing is to simply try and make sense of how I feel today. And today I feel...the sun is too bright, the night too dark, voices too soft, music too loud. My mind is full and yet empty, I feel everything and nothing.  I have clarity and total fogginess. I am, curiously. both insanely happy and insanely sad. There's a sense of inevitability and normalcy about where I am in life now, and yet also the feeling that my world has been knocked off its axis and literally onto another one.

I understand that this will pass. It has before. These feelings will, most likely, happen again - that's life right? We live, we love, we lose, and we gain again.

To risk love of any kind,  and to be vulnerable means to risk pain and loss. That I understand.  There are no guarantees in life, no matter how much we want them, offer or promise them, or even endeavour to deliver on them.  Believing this is also a part of living in the moment, because it has to be.  It's the price we pay for being human.

But for today, thoughts really are like butterflies...

The search for a soul mate - fact, fiction or flight of fancy

Back in November 2011 I confessed my secret but deep held belief in soul mates. I wanted to believe that there is this one person out there that is a true match - the one that 'gets' us the most. The one that we can be the most honest and vulnerable with. Yes the one who 'completes' us just like the corny movie.

I DO want to believe that. I do WANT to believe that. I do want to BELIEVE that.  But there's a problem...you see I know lots of people who have thought they have met their soul mate - announced it, celebrated it - and it hasn't worked out for them.  So that begs rather a lot of questions...Can we have more than one soul mate?  What if they die? What if you're together two years...ten years...twenty years... and then it doesn't work out?..Were they still your soul mate?  Does a soul mate have to be a life partner?  What if you never meet your soul mate...does that mean you're destined to have that missing piece for ever? What if you meet who you believe to be your soul mate, but you are not theirs? What if there is a meeting of souls, undoubtedly and profoundly, but life circumstances threaten (or worse actually are able)  to overwhelm that 'supernatural' connection with boring reality? What if...what if....what if....

I don't have any answers...I wish I did.  I think we all want to not just meet that person who seems to be our perfect fit, but to know that we can give them our soul for safe keeping and know that it really is going to be cherished and guarded forever.

Its a romanticised view...I get that.  I know that it takes more than a few seconds, more than a few months to know someone...to know their soul.  I know that the soul can be dark and ugly and unlovable at times, just as it can be bright and inviting and possibly only a projection of something else at others.  I get that a meeting of minds, a connecting of souls, or any other joining is potentially in the realm of the ephemeral and could well bear no relevance to the realities and vagaries of every day life.  So then what?

Of all the reading I have done on this, the views are completely polarised, and little offers any sensible, rational explanation of why we continue to cling to this ideal of finding a soul mate.  Because that is the key - we are spiritual beings and as such want to nurture that element in ourselves. But on the other hand we are also human, grounded on earth with the wants needs and selfish desires of people, not angels.

To date, the only thing I have found that makes the slightest bit of sense - even thought it rather flies in the face of all that I thought I believed! -  is some writing by an American psychologist (sorry about that) who says:

... if an individual wants intensely-passionate, short-term flings, then belief in soul mates will serve them well. Finding those initial commonalities and connections will feel like magic. It will be an excellent emotional high, at least while the illusion of perfection lasts.
In all relationships, however, disagreement, conflict, and incompatibility will arise. Ultimately, no one is perfect - or a perfect fit for a partner. It takes work, growth, and change to keep a relationship going and satisfying over time. When that happens, soul mate believers often become upset, disillusioned, and uncommitted....if an individual finds they are repeatedly falling in love with the "perfect" partner, only to be disappointed and dumping them soon after, their belief in soul mates may be to blame. It may cause them to give up when things are not perfect (but may be still good or great). It may motivate them to not compromise, work, or change, when others don't love them completely for being exactly as they are. Ultimately, it may continually drive them to believe that life would be more satisfying with someone else and endlessly look for a more compatible partner, rather than working to fit with, and be satisfied by, a very good one.
In the end, it is a bit of a cruel joke. A belief in soul mates may prevent individuals from finding the very relationships they think they are destined to have!

Read the full article here.  As always, your comments and thoughts are welcome.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Karmas a bitch

As a result of the goings on amongst a number of couple friends of mine this month, the expression ''karma's a bitch'' has been bandied around quite a bit.

I'm pretty sure that it is used these days as a bit of a throwaway line - an easy way in fact, of getting out of having to take a stand on an issue - much easier to say ''karma's a bitch'' than it is to actually have an opinion about someones behaviour, not least because I think by taking the perceived moral high ground we each run the risk of having our own shortcomings and misdeeds thrown under the spotlight. No one wants to be the one to be the confronter. To have to make a stand.  To possibly tell someone that they behaviour is NOT OK. We're afraid of it.

I'll admit it - I've been guilty of saying it too over the years - for much the same reasons.  By starting with ''I think...I can't believe...I don't agree..''.and moving through to ''but each to their own....they have to find that out for themselves...it's not what I would do'' I can salve my own conscience of inaction by adding oh well karma's a bitch to my statements, as if in some way that absolves me of action.

Today I made a difficult decision to confront someone I have found out is involved with a married woman.  It grieves me terribly. It's someone I really like and care about and have known a long time.   And it would be easy to throw the karma line out there and carry on as if it didn't really matter.  But I just can't.

Whether you want to call this karma, the butterfly effect, cause and effect, or consequence - at the end of the day it is true that (cliche alert) we all reap what we sow.  There's absolutely a ripple effect for every action. often more far reaching that we could ever have imagined with one decision - whether that decision was right or wrong, well thought out or impulsive, selfish or done with selflessness.  I also think that almost ALWAYS, we don't think through consequence at all before acting, especially in matters of the heart.

Relationships are complex things...at times difficult to navigate, often fraught with challenges, ups and downs - and I defy anyone who says that the ''right relationship'' will be easy.  That's absolute bullshit in my view. And I am the very last person to deny that my own actions have had their own set of consequences, that seem to go on. And on :).

But when I see someone I know well, doing something that will, regardless of how pure their intentions (it's borne of real love I am sure), create the havoc that I am confident this situation will, I'm afraid I can't just sit back and say nothing.

Sure, karma's a bitch, and there's a VERY good chance she's gonna come and bite both of these two of the butt pretty soon, but I will not use that as an excuse for inaction.

the horrifying magnification provided by a second pair of eyes and how it can spur action

After 6 years of sole parenting, I'd like to think I've got it sussed.  And I do. Mostly. Some of the time. Occasionally.

The same things grind me down each day (no doubt the same things that grind down every parent, sole or not actually but that's beside the point).  Bath times. Bedtimes. Getting up times. Homework times. Meal times. Chore times.

I find myself, MOST times, ''getting through''.  Usually with too much cajoling, often too much whining (theirs) and grizzling (mine) and, I'm somewhat ashamed to admit, too often with rather more temper testing than I would prefer.

But get through we do.  The children leave the house fed and dressed, with homework done.   Their rooms are clean and tidy.  Bedtimes...well that's another story for another day...but mainly they are in bed before I am.    Yet still...I yearn for calmer routine. Less of me growling, less of them resisting my requests.

I get through, and put up with more than I probably should, mainly because I'm the only adult in the house. Most of the time, there's no one here to a/ back me up, b/ take over or c/ tell me off give me better ideas, for how I'm directing the traffic.  It's only when there IS another adult nearby that my shortcomings as the grownup in the house get thrown into sharp relief and I face the gruesome reality of how stressed I can become at those crucial mealtime/bedtime/cleaning time-poor moments.

I've put a few things in place as a result of some previous highlighted moments...and I'll admit its a continual learning curve.  FDH used to (actually no, not used to, STILL DOES) tell me that the reason there is stress in my house is because I am as bad as the kids: I answer back, raise my voice, get grumpy and generally can be disagreeable when things aren't going they way I want them to.  Well, yes, that's probably true actually - but heck, I'm the grown up here - sure I shouldn't have to do all those things in the first place (yeah yeah I GET that) but I reckon if anyone should be allowed to get iffy, it should be me.

So what to do?  This morning it happened again.  Son was being particularly uncooperative. Daughter was compliant enough but grimly enjoying co-parenting son with me (by way of echoing barked instructions and being generally bossy).  Which results in squabbling. Which results in me grizzling some more. and so on. And so on.  You get the picture.

Ordinarily I'd GET THROUGH but today, I had my young man here (a rare occurrence mid week) , and with a second pair of eyes on the scene I realised just how inadequate my morning routine was, (I really didn't think it was until now...), and how ineffective my parenting style could be. Am I being hard on myself? Yes, probably. But when I found myself mid-rant, and wishing I could wind the clock back and hour to start the day again, I knew something was gonna give.  

It's a bit shaming.  Embarrassing.  AWKWARD!!!! But I happen to quite like having that other set of eyes around the place...so some more things are going to have to change.  And it's probably going to be easier to change my own actions and attitudes than than change my kids.

So, because I believe that writing things down makes them more likely to happen - and because I'm going to be printing the list out and putting it on the fridge, our new morning rules include:

- The TV does not, under any circumstances, get turned on before school
- Children are to be fully dressed before coming out of their bedroom
- Breakfast is compulsory if you are a minor and must be eaten at the table
- Tooth brushing is also compulsory before leaving the house

I'm hopeful that these four simple rules might make for a calmer weekday morning.  They have all been in place before but somehow get muddied...or something...and the end result is me nagging repeatedly - and it must be said, ineffectively, for action.

Time will tell.

The houseworks never done

I was a bit surprised to see that it's been a whole three months and not a single word from me on this blog.  A few offerings on the other one to be sure - but clearly my life has been less single minded of late!

Not to say that it has been any the less exciting for that.  My young man and I have had a remarkable summer of experiences and are now planning a few more for the winter.

A recent catch up with a newly coupled friend (and his partner) went like this:

Come and sit in the garden - it's a bit overgrown but it's lovely this time of year (us)
Goodness so it is - but a few hours would sort it out (them)
Yeah but when do you/we ever have the time for that? (us)
That's what weekends are for! I got stuck into his garden last week actually (the friends new her)
No way, rather pay someone and go for a motorbike ride (my him)
Uncomfortable silence.

Yes it's true, the garden is overgrown.  It probably could do with a few hours love. But right now, this month, at this stage in life, I'm not that excited about gardening - well not enough to want to give up a whole weekend to it.  And for me it is ''giving it up''. I (nor my young man) love gardening enough to see it as a terrific way to spend a weekend.

In fact, when conversation turned today (between us) to the challenges of being the only adult in a house - for me it's been almost 6 years, for him more than two - we agreed that the ongoing, and  inherent challenge is that there's never being quite enough time to do all the 'boring' things that need doing which adds an extra layer of stress to already busy lives, and  - and as a result every spare and free minute becomes precious.  The downside is the slight shadow of the need to fill each moment meaningfully (that comes with it's own pressure) but the huge upside is that we plan and dream and DO so many amazing things, OFTEN.

Hence, gardening, blogging and other leisurely pursuits are put aside in favour of real time, real life experiences. Not a bad thing in my view.

The day will come I am sure, as it has before, when I will be content with a weekend in the garden.  It may be sooner it may be later.  But right now, while the sun is shining, and there's some dollars in the bank (to pay the gardener), the weekends are about having an (almost) single minded focus on having fun, and enjoying exciting, shared adventures.