Tuesday, 16 October 2012

How Will I Know?

I love Autumn. After the wash-out of a summer we’ve had, it’s nice to see the season properly change and to rediscover woolly jumpers, hats and gloves. Dog walking in this weather is lovely, seeing the leaves changing colour and lauding it about in my new Hunter wellies – not a fashion statement but a necessity, I promise! They do look good though…

On Saturday I spent an indulgent night with my parents. We watched all the usual suspects on the telly accompanied by fish and chips. There’s something really comforting about being in my old house. No effort to be made and cups of tea and Kit Kats on tap. The novelty wears off after approximately 24 hours but while it lasts, it’s lovely.

On Saturday morning my mum pointed out that the wardrobe in my old room was full of my stuff and I may want to take a look through it. I obliged and stumbled across a treasure trove of photographs, diaries, love letters, mix tapes. A veritable ‘This is Your Life’ style time capsule of friends, family and lovers past and present.

In the not too distant future, I am sure I will go through it all again. In particular, there is a locked box of stuff from ex1. I was 18 when I met him and our relationship pre-dated social media. There is no electronic record of our relationship but I kept everything. Ticket stubs from our first cinema visit, empty cigarette packets, champage corks, letters, tapes, dried flower petals, his signature on stuff, guitar plectrums. A hopeless Irish romantic he wrote me letters, poems and postcards all declaring his undying love for me and his intention to be with me forever. There is no bitterness with ex1. I believed every word he said because at the time, he meant it. In the end it just wasn’t meant to be. He was the perfect first boyfriend and I will never forget what we had together.

Not so well-hidden were the cards from ex2. One from our first Christmas together in which he declared his love for me, told me this was it and that I am ‘so good for him’ he never wants to let me go. There are others, one from the Valentines two weeks before he left me, telling me how excited he was to be building a future with me. I never started a memory box for him. Maybe I knew.

Then I look at the one card from Karate Kid. We had our first weekend away together after four months and I arrived to find a card and present telling me he how the last 4 months had been incredible and he looks forward to many more anniversaries with me. This morning he sent me off to work with a care package that Paddington Bear would be proud of telling me he wants to look after me forever.

Do you see where I am going here? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a true believer that it’s better to have loved (and been loved) and lost, but at what point do you start to become even a teeny bit cynical? Karate Kid loves me. He has told me and I have no reason not to believe him. After a particularly drunken and sexy night out he even told me that he wants to marry me and have a family with me.  In all honesty, it’s probably a little early for that but whilst there’s a devil on my shoulder shouting GO FOR IT YOU IDIOT, a little part of me is taunting me with my biggest fear. That I am just unlovable. That on paper, I’ve got it going on. I can even sustain this fa├žade for several months when I first meet someone. But once they get to know me, the illusion fades. I’m a fraud. And after 6 or 7 years! Well by that point it has become completely and utterly untenable that I may be a long term prospect.

I am not looking for sympathy here. I feel incredibly lucky that I have loved and been loved. It’s just that when I read other blogs by women my age, a lot of them seem to have found ‘the one’ and are so incredibly sure of this fact that I wonder what I have missed and, more importantly, whether I will ever have that confidence to stick with it and believe that it’s not all going to go up in flames. How the hell do you know?

Friday, 12 October 2012

I'll be there for you...or not

There was an article in Grazia recently (I know, I know) about being single. How you are left out of 'couply' weekends and how others view you with suspicion. How single people living alone spend, on average, an extra £5K per year. How there is a general perception that being in ANY relationship is better than being in no relationship. *yawn*. Honestly, these things kind of bore me. As a responsible adult, I am quite capable of living alone, making friends with people who invite me on their weekends regardless of my relationship status. Or am I?

I moved back to my hometown at the age of 26. Up until then I had lived in my beloved university city, blissfully happy and with no plans to ever leave. I would get married there, my kids would grow up there and I would grow old there. It wasn't just my city though. It was mine and ex1's city. We grew up there together. We moved from student halls to student houses to slightly nicer places and finally a lovely home there together. When we split up, things suddenly felt bittersweet. I needed a change. I started to spend more time back home with my folks and one of my best friends from school. The only one who'd stayed. Various things made me return. On a particularly boozy night out, I met ex2. The job I had once loved had become a chain around my neck. I missed my family. So I did a moonlit flit. It was unnerving at first but felt exciting, fresh, a new start. My best friend happened to meet ex2's close friend that same night and everything fell into place. I had a ready made friendship group. All 11 of us.

Do you watch Friends? That was us. A big love in to the exclusion of all others. Nights out, birthdays, holidays...we did it together. Some of us in couples, some single...who cared? It was ace and I loved it. Not one for cliques, I was often on the periphery. I was Phoebe if you like. There were a couple of times when these friends were the only reason I ploughed on in a relationship that was fast going downhill. My best friend got engaged, married, started trying for kids. I gradually got left out of those conversations. People just knew things were bad.

So finally, when I plucked up the courage to leave, I was deeply relieved to hear these same friends affirming I had done the right thing. He could never give me what I needed. I deserved better. It's a strange thing when someone's best friends tell you you're better off without the person that they love so dearly. Most of them said that anyway.

My best friend has always been high maintenance. Hyper sensitive and massively change averse, she struggles with my up front bolshiness and blind ambition. I love her like a sister. I knew she'd have to see my ex after the split but surely her loyalties would lie with me. Our friendship pre-dated any of our relationships. We are Monica & Rachel. I was wrong. She was quiet from the start. I remember a boozy day in Manchester just after it happened. Breaking down over cocktails and admitting some of the bad stuff. Then it went quiet. She was busy at work. There were no phone calls. No visits. I was completely lost. Stupidly, I had thought that I was over things. I was not. Those weeks and months seem like a blur now but I was a mess and all I needed was my oldest friend. She went away on a pre-arranged weekend with my ex. I graciously ducked out but there was no discussion about it. No acknowledgment that the situation was weird. I gave her the benefit of the doubt. It was tough for her too...right? I met Karate Kid and was desperate for her to ask me about him. Nothing. She was actually getting the skinny from one of our less discreet friends. Our meetings became stinted and awkward. I spoke frequently to her voicemail but no call back.

Then she relocated across the pond with her husband's job. She needed my advice and for the first time in a long time, we spoke openly and I felt some of the bond return. The week before she left, we had dinner. The cocktails did their work and we were laughing and joking like in the old days. Suddenly she looked awkward and told me that they were actually having a leaving do. On Monday. But she was very sorry, they had invited my ex. An embarrassing silence ensued and to end it, I mumbled that it was fine, I had plans. I later found out that all of our friends would be there. Her family, his family. Everyone but me. It was bad.

Two weeks ago, things came to a head. After a disastrous holiday with a mutual friend, I finally plucked up the courage to confront her, albeit on the phone. She was defensive. Said I was very difficult to support. That she had found MY break up very difficult. That she had found it worrying that I was so mad at my ex. That she felt I had embarked on a new relationship far too quickly. That she thought there was something I wasn't telling her about Karate Kid. Basically it was all about her. Turns out my reaction to heartbreak did not conform to her expectations. My desire to move on was, apparently, deluded. The support I had seen from other friends was not genuine but designed to make me feel better. For her, my being in a verbally abusive, negative relationship WAS better than no relationship at all. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that her reaction has been almost as painful as the break up itself. It has knocked my confidence. I have questioned my other friendships.

As a responsible adult, I can move on. I have realised that I don't need to rely on her for access to my lovely, supportive friends. They've been there all along. It has however made me question peoples' reaction to my single status. Being in a relationship, ANY relationship is a validation. Is being single and happy the modern day taboo? Discuss.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Sad Song

I haven't been blogging recently. Mainly because I am really sad. I know I am really sad because this week, there were two moments where I felt a tiny bit happy and it was a feeling I kind of recognise but haven't felt for a long time. In fact recently I have had this persistent, pervading thought that I just can't imagine ever being happy again. 

I am going on holiday to San Francisco next week with one of my bestest friends. We are going to shop, tour wineries, eat amazing food and I should be peeing myself with excitement. I am not. I don't want to go. 

I have burnt out. I am seriously stressed and just can't kick myself out of this ridiculous slump. It's as though I am stood watching myself, clapping my hands impatiently and telling me to pull my socks up. But I can't. I have an amazing network of family and friends all of whom would do anything for me. For some reason I just can't bring myself to let my guard down and admit how terrible I have been feeling. 

I am still dating a lovely, lovely man. We went away to the Lakes last weekend. He gave me a card telling me how happy I have made him and how the last four months have been incredible. And they have! The only way I can explain it is that I feel as though I am pretending to be his girlfriend. It's like I am on a boyfriend exchange (like a school exchange) where I get to try something else for 6 months but then go back to my old life and relationship, which has been hanging around in the background, taunting me all the time. Like someone's trying to tell me, 'you didn't just think you could leave all this behind and start afresh did you? Oh no no no....'

I had a brief chat with my brother recently and when he asked how it was going with my new man, I said it is going well but fear I am coming across as a mental. He replied that as long as I keep it in the quirky mental ball park I am fine. Just don't cross into the psychologically scarred camp. That is bad. Apparently.

I am not sure which ballpark/camp I am in at the moment to be honest. Generally he laughs at me and thinks it is cute that I totally spun out at something silly. All I want to to is cry and tell him that I am actually falling apart at the seams and it isn't funny or cute.  So there has to be a middle ground, right? Quirky not scarred, quirky not scarred....

In an attempt to feel better, I am going to do three things I like doing to feel more like myself, and one thing I do not like doing:

1. Reading
2. Walking with my beautiful pedigree chum
3. Writing. This. 
4. Tell the guy I am dating that I am in a mess but please bear with me and I'll be just fine

Wish me luck :(

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Let's talk about sex (and some other stuff)

Yesterday I told Ex2 about Karate Kid. 'How very grown up and civilised!', I hear you exclaiming. Erm, no not really. I had tried  to get in touch with him but couldn't so I emailed him. At work. This is why:

1. I want to introduce my new boyfriend to my friends, the majority of whom are mutual.
2. I want to go out with him. Properly. Without the fear of people seeing us. I really want to give this a go.

I felt terrible after I did this. Knowing my ex's emotionally fragile state, it was a risk and the last thing I need at the moment is a teary phone call. Last night however I had a lovely cosy dinner with said mutual friends and was reassured that I have done the right thing and actually feel pretty fab today. For the first time I can feel my shoulders relaxing and can see myself just going. with. the. flow.

To put this into perspective, I often have to remind myself why we split up in the first place. This blog so far has focused on the fun and general frippery of being single and embarking on new adventures. Sorry to put a downer on things on a sunny Tuesday chaps but a bit of context is always good.

My ex-relationship was less than healthy. I actually knew this from early on but as I saw that things weren't quite as they should be, I started to see myself as the person who could save me/him/us from the situation. I would be the girlfriend who turned things around and we would live happily ever after! Albeit very unconventionally. If I were to give one piece of advice to my younger self, it would be this: go with your gut instinct. If it looks like a racoon, smells like a racoon and walks like a racoon...it's pretty much a racoon. As a confident, professional, career driven and all round sensible young lady, I am ashamed that I let things get so bad and find it very difficult to rationalise and reconcile the person I was before and I am now, with the person I became. Three reasons:

1. I was in a verbally abusive relationship. There. I said it. I wasn't a beaten girlfriend. I wasn't a nervous reck. But at regular intervals over a 6 year period, I was spoken to in the most disrespectful way I can imagine. I was told things about myself that were untrue. I was called names that I find difficult to say out loud to myself when I am on my own. I started to believe that the things he said were true.

2. I was controlled and manipulated. In between the nastiness, I was told I was wonderful, amazing, beautiful. It was a confusing place to be in. Gradually, bit by bit, most elements of my life were adjusted to fit in with someone else's perfecting standards. From the way I unloaded the supermarket shopping to the way I ironed shirts (cringe) I was never quite good enough. I became grateful of the complements. If someone could be so nice to me, surely I was making a big deal out of the bad bits?

3. I was in a sexless relationship. Out of everything that led to the breakup, this was the major issue that ran like a constant negative force throughout the time we were together.This is something I will write more about at another time. As a woman, it is almost a taboo to admit that your partner does not want you  'in that way' but it happens. More often than you would imagine. And it is devastating. There was never any kind of intimacy in our relationship. That amazing period at the start of a new relationship, where you get to know each other intimately and basically shag like rabbits. That never happened. And as time went on it got worse and worse and my confidence sank lower and lower. According to Wikipedia, a sexless marriage means less than 10 times per year. I was in a sexless (non)marriage and it hurt a lot.

I am pleased to say I have moved on and barely recognise my former self. He has not. He is living with his parents, rejecting his friends and sinking into an all round bad place. I have tried to help. I actually felt guilty about this. So to have sent a very clear message that I am moving on is very liberating and means that he is now someone else's problem. Harsh, but given the issues I have described, more than fair. 

Monday, 9 July 2012

Say no to love!

So at the moment I am NOT a lovesick lady pirate. I remain a lady pirate. I am just looking for something slightly different. Not that. Get your mind out the gutter. Well maybe that but other stuff too. I think it might be...shock horror...friendship. That's right. I want to hang out. Hang loose? Chillax? Whatever the kids are saying today. That's what I want to do. 

And for the main part, that's what I am doing. I am going to gigs, watching films, going out for lazy lunches. I am saying all of this because I have a gut feeling that my current beau (2 months in) may be on the cusp of moving things on. I remain smitten with him. Totally. 

Allow me to explain. This week I also indulged in one of my terrible habits and bought a lady-brain diminishing magazine. Let's call it Marie Claire. Ok it was Marie Claire. There was the predictably annoying article on dating. As though the entire rest of the magazine is targeted at women with fellas and us single ladies are afforded 3 pages of patronising BS about taking dating lessons. There was however one moment that rang true with me. It was about a woman, who at 31 became single. She commented at the irony of spending her 20's playing married couples whilst all her girlfriends rocked the dating scene and now they are all settling to marry, she finds herself single and apparently clueless.  

I can relate to this in some ways. Since the age of 18, I have spent approximately 12 months as a single person. I always exaggerate this if people ask me but if I am really honest, it's about 12 months. It was an awesome 12 months. After ex1, I was a mess. It was my first real experience of heartbreak and I felt as though someone had ripped my insides out.  Gradually though, the feeling of liberation crept up on me. So hang on...I can do WHATEVER I like? WHENEVER I like? And I don't have to think about ANYONE else?! Oh...and I can kiss boys at discos as well? Why didn't anyone tell me about this before? So I went out, had fun, started smoking again (just because I could) and kissed boys in discos. I slept in the MIDDLE of my double bed and marvelled at the space around me. I listened to loud music late at night on my headphones and danced around my bedroom like a loon. I also ate nothing but crumpets for 3 months. I wouldn't recommend that as a lifestyle choice but it was still kind of fun. When I met ex2 I was coming to the end of my adventure but I wasn't ready to give up the fun just yet. Eventually I was persuaded to hang my single shoes up and we got together, we moved in and pretty much played house. In all this time though, I didn't give up my independence. I was adamant that I would pretty much carry on as before, just with a man on my arm. And here's the thing. I don't want to do that again. If and when I find love again, I want to jump in, both feet and GO. FOR. IT. Regardless of what might happen. I don't want to be conscious of the single life I am giving up because I won't be giving things up. I'll be making things better. So when it happens, I want to make sure it's the right person. And that's why the thought of love terrifies me at the moment. 

Monday, 2 July 2012

I sleep in the middle of my bed

I have been incredibly tardy of late and usually I would come up with myriad excuses but this time I will be easy on myself. I am in the midst of buying my ex out of our beautiful little house. This is involving bank managers, solicitors and all sorts of other nonsense. Work is a mare and this all culminated in an embarrssing mid dog walk collapsing incident last Friday. Ambulance called, I was ferried off to my local hospital, where I spent a couple of hours being poked and prodded by a lovely doctor called Ken (not literally, you understand). He even offered to fashion some shorts out of my ripped up favourite dog walking jeans. Unfortunately I had experienced a temporary GSOH-bypass and had to rely on my mum to laugh at (flirt shamelessly with) Ken to protect his lovely doctor ego.

So fainting aside, I will update you on the last few weeks. I am continuing to date my Karate Kid Tshirt toting younger man and enjoying myself immensely. He continues to label me as his 'girlfriend', which I am playing along with nicely but to be honest, it makes me feel like a silly tween. 'Partner' makes me sound like a lesbian and 'wife' may be a little overbearing at this point so I guess g/f it is. He is good at dating. Very good. We have had some gym dates (shock! horror!), dates at his house eating scones, drinking tea (YORKSHIRE, OBVS) and watching Will Ferrel films, dates at wine tasting evenings where we had a 'pretentious comment off' and then bought some slightly expensive wine. Best of all was last Wednesday. After a particularly horrendous day at work (contributing, no doubt, to faint-gate) I went over to his. We went to Didsbury, had a couple of beers in a lovely, tiny bar and then had Tapas at around 10pm in the sunshine. I genuinely felt like I was on holiday.

So, why am I still hesitant about this guy. This lovely boy, who wants to spend all of his time with me and do lovely things for me? Here goes...

Hello. My name is LK. And I am a serial monogamist.

There, I said it. I am an excellent girlfriend. Seriously. I could do this shit professionally. I give everything in a relationship. I am happy, smiley, I cook, I am good with friends. Did I mention by parent-pleasing abilities? Second to none.

What I can't do is live in the moment and enjoy the bit between casual dating and declaring my undying love to someone. The bit where we DON'T live together and, actually, that is a good thing. I don't have a 3rd gear if you like. It's all or nothing. 

On Friday when I collapsed, I wanted all. I wanted him to run to my rescue and cocoon me for the weekend while I got better. WHat I actually did was act 'breezy'. I told him not to come over as he would inevitably meet my parents. NOOO! I fear I left him rather confused to the extent that when he did call in today, briefly for a couple of hours, I was devastated that he wasn't offering to stay the week just in case it happened again. I guess what I have learned is that articulating some of these feelings now and again wouldn't be a bad thing. Men like to feel useful and needed. He did bring me flowers though. And also looked super hot to boot. 

So tomorrow I am staying off work to do some much needed house admin and I will also think about some of these things. I don't want to jump in too quickly but allowing him to be my boyfriend may be a nice start.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Maybe I'm too young to stop good love from going wrong

I am living across two lives at the moment. All very weird. Strange, liberating, thrilling, scary. I feel like I have got myself back on track but for a few last annoying bits of admin. If you call buying someone out of a house you both loved 'admin'.

Life # 1
Ex2 and I are taking our shared life to pieces bit by bit, coffee table by 3 piece suite. I started it all 4 weeks ago when I went to the bank. The ease with which we could undo everything that we spent years building together blew me away. I guess it's a good thing in some ways. Functional. Unemotional. Bish bash bosh. In reality it was devastating but a couple of emotionally charged phone calls and emails later it looks like we have an agreement. He wants the coffee table. A bed. A chest of drawers. The rest is mine. I don't actually want the fucking humongous tv but it is heavier than the house itself so I won't be moving it in the near future. Maybe I am naive but I think once this is all sorted, I will be overwhelmed by a feeling of liberation. I have been warned that I may feel a pang of sadness. Maybe. It will pass. In the meantime it appears that all of our mutual friends have an opinion on what we should be doing. It's funny. In a way I want and need their advice but I can't help but get the feeling that this whole thing is fuelling hours of discussion, none of it in my presence. They'll get over it. More about that another day. For now I just want it sorted. Done and dusted. I don't want it to be amicable and friendly any more than I want it to be difficult and acrimonious. It just has to be a quiet acknowledgement that it is done. Over. And that chapter is closed. 

Life # 2
You will be pleased to know there is a saving grace in this whole sorry story. In fact this part of the story is anything but sorry. Whilst all of life # 1 has been going on, our protagonist has been, quite literally, picked up, as if by one of those mechanical arms in an arcade game, and lifted into an all round brilliant place. Karate Kid is still on the scene. In fact he IS the scene. The guy who is making me feel like an 18 year old on the verge of going out into the world for the first time to put my big fat stamp on it. Okay so he is meeting me 14 years later. Slightly jaded, more cynical and with a better haircut and a Marc Jacobs' handbag but stick with me on this. It is almost as though he knew all of the areas of my life, which had become particularly shitty and is fixing them one by one. Our dates have been amazing. We are loving one another's company. 3 examples that sum up his brilliance:
- Around date 6, we went into Didsbury to get fish and chips. We stopped for a pint on the way but got side tracked by the pub quiz and ended up staying til the end and eating Monster Munch for tea
- He bought me the Complete Peanuts cartoon book from a comic shop in the Northern Quarter. An item, which has been on my Amazon Wishlist for forever
- He plays Jeff Buckley to me whilst we're going to sleep. Really.

On Monday, he gave me a label in order to conform to society's conventions. He is ticking boxes in a SERIOUS way. He is hot. And shy. And cute. And clever. And geeky.  So why am I so scared? I guess there are 2 reasons.

1. Somewhere deep down I am worried that this is masking the hurt I feel with Ex2
2. Am I pinning everything on him? Am I effectively asking this guy to save me? Would it be better to meet him when my shit is all sorted?

I don't know the answer to either of those questions. But I do know that this guy has lifted me out of a horrid place and I have come up for breath somewhere altogether sweeter. Oh, and the maths degree. He got a first. Serious geek pornage. Swoon

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