Meeting up

It’s another child-free weekend. We’ve been having a ‘mini’ heatwave here in the UK for the last week and I’ve really enjoyed the feeling of summer, the blue skies, the sense of freedom that comes from being able to spend time outside. I’ve had some fun with the six year old – ‘playing’ tennis (AKA knocking balls around and having the odd rally which involved more than one misfired hit). I’ve also had a lot of grief from him but it was his last couple of days at school and I think tiredness played a big part, that and the slightly increased amount of time he has spent with his father lately who has no doubt been pinning the blame for all the woes of the world firmly on my shoulders.

Anyway, last weekend the boys were with him overnight on the Friday and all day Saturday. Friday night I met up with one of my oldest friends (who is single and child-free herself) and we went to dinner at the local branch of Jamie’s Italian. It was good to catch up – my mum and dad were away for the weekend so I was on my own apart from that.

On the Saturday morning it was sunny so I decided to take myself over the Thames and treat myself to Brunch which I think I’ve already mentioned in a previous post. It was fine to be on my own – not like I didn’t have the constant companionship of my phone and Kindle, but somehow the busy-ness of the place and the over-all social nature of brunch didn’t really quite work the same as taking yourself off to a coffee shop which has never ever bothered me. Being reliant on waiting staff to attend to you changes the equation as you can’t just up and leave when you get fed up!

This weekend the husband made a last minute request to have the kids overnight last night and all day today and tonight (Saturday). It is our youngest son’s birthday tomorrow and, mostly to please the husband, I have arranged a get together with all his family at a local country park where there are play areas and a café. I am going to go and meet them all there at 11.30am (picking my step-daughter up on the way over).

I have been trying to arrange a few things lately and one of those things was a blogger meet-up tonight. Whether it’s just really bad timing on my part (people do seem a lot busier during the summer holidays) or whether people just don’t buy into me as a group organiser (I can’t say I blame them – I’ve never had much luck in that arena) one by one every single invitee dropped out until I was back to the drawing board.

I’ve been looking at this website called meetup.com lately – it’s essentially a place where anyone can go and start up a social group centred around whatever it might be that they love doing – walking, yoga, speaking Spanish – whatever. I happened to notice that there was a very nice midsummer walk being organised for last night – all along the Thames to Richmond which is very nice and local to me. I monitored the situation to see who was popping up to RSVP – it seemed to be a good mixture of men and women – so I decided to bite the bullet and go along.

I have to say I was nervous. It was a bit like going on a blind date with 20 strangers. I also remember being part of the local Youth Hostel Association for a brief period back in my early 20s and observed at the time that that kind of group did seem to attract some oddballs and misfits who had probably had a hard time making friends through traditional methods. So yes, I did wonder if this would be the same kind of thing.

I nervously joined the group milling about at the designated meeting place, not really knowing who to talk to or what to say. Then another girl arrived and stood next to me and we got chatting straight away.

We ended up walking together all the way to Richmond and chatting together the whole way! We did talk to other people too at times and her and I also joined the group organiser and another guy for an al fresco pizza at the end of the evening but it was very lovely to come away from the evening feeling like I had not only done something very civilised and taken in the beautiful scenery of this little South West corner of London at it’s absolute best (a balmy, midsummer’s evening), but also now have a new friend too.

There is also the prospect of lots more opportunities – not just with this group but with any number of other groups, to be around friendly faces – other people who will be inclusive at a time when I might otherwise have been sitting alone feeling increasingly depressed and isolated.

After reading ‘The Pursuit of Happiness: and how it’s making us anxious’ by Ruth Whippman earlier this year, I am definitely more aware of the role community and feeling like a part of a social group contributes to happiness – more so than internal reflection and positive self-talk.

I’ve said before that I’m comfortable in my own company but there are definitely times when enough is enough I want to be around another human being! Having said that I know that I need to find the right balance right now. I could have gone on another, longer Surrey country walk today but I realised that I probably needed the time to sort out some stuff – present wrapping, party bags etc. as well as just some much needed down-time. I am going for dinner & drinks with another of my old friends tonight now (who is also single & child-free) and it’s a real benefit and luxury to have the time to re-connect  with people I’ve known for decades but not seen in a long time.

It’s been three weeks since my date and in a way I’m kind of glad that he wasn’t right for me – or didn’t even hit that borderline area where some boxes were being ticked and you could convince yourself that the grey areas could be ironed out in time. It’s too easy to waste a lot of time and energy on something that isn’t really right and in the meantime miss out on actually getting out and enjoying doing things you love and being your own person.

In other news, the husband is apparently bringing the new girlfriend and her 17 year old daughter to our son’s 4th birthday picnic tomorrow so that should be super awkward…

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The quest and the request

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about where my life is right now. I’ve kind of got over this flurry of obsessive thinking about men and relationships. The date I had recently – want to know what the best bit was? It was the bit on my own in the hotel beforehand – it was bloody lovely – listening to my music, rolling around on this super comfy bed :-), popping out to the shops, taking a nap, daydreaming – enjoying the peace – I felt so flipping happy – you know the kind of happy where you label the feeling in the moment. OK so that might say a lot about the mismatch between me and my date but it also proves that I am more than comfortable in my own company.

This week my husband finally put in his application with the bank to get his own mortgage and release enough equity to buy me out. It will take ‘at least a month’ apparently. But either way by the end of summer I plan to be moving into a rental property with my children which is both cheering and worrying in equal measure. Cheering because it means I won’t have to do any more exhausting commuting, especially as my baby starts school in September and already struggles with tiredness in the afternoons (I wouldn’t like to mention  the number of ‘almost’ scrapes I’ve gotten into trying to keep him awake on our hour long drive home in the afternoons!).

Worrying because – money. And also, lack of family support from that point onwards (I mean ‘on-the-spot’ support – they will always be a phone call away).

The husband decided not to have our youngest on Wednesday as he was busy doing ‘something else’. I took another annual leave day. On the bright side, I won’t have to worry about this eventuality again as it is now the school holidays and I have childcare lined up with no gaps and no reliance on him.

He did offer to have the kids overnight last night and all day today which I took him up on. The house is a state is but I guess the kids won’t be too bothered as long as they get full use of the trampoline.

So yesterday I got a text from him saying “please pack the kids swimming shorts”, to which I replied that I would. Two minutes later he sent: “you’re welcome to stay over”.  Is it just me or is that idea entirely inappropriate? I didn’t bother to reply until we spoke on the phone and I told him “No thanks”.

I’m not sure what (if anything) is up with his new relationship, but I know he got drunk on Thursday night and had a very aggressive Messenger conversation with his sister which ended up with him telling her that their parents and her have been completely unsupportive and saying “Fuck you”.

It seems that the family’s attention has been focused elsewhere as my brother in law, who is an army man, was deployed to Somalia with the UN this week for 9 months. According to the husband no-one gives a shit about him and his failed marriage and he might as well end it all.

Any hoo, him and the kids are currently down at his girlfriend’s place so I guess it’s not as bad as his behaviour might suggest.

I am certainly becoming more and more focused on the quest to re-ignite a life for myself with the focus shifting from the idea of dating to just me becoming  an independent thinker again – someone who wants to have a good debate, read a great book and discuss it, go for a cycle, meet up with friends (old and new), get inspired to write, cook good food, visit the odd restaurant, be around people who make me laugh and smile and relax and give me the opportunity to be a great conversationalist too.

I joined this online ‘meet-up’ thingy. It’s like a place online where people set up groups (real world groups to actually meet in real life and do things that they enjoy doing, be that rambling, cycling, trance dance – whatever!). I thought it might be good to join up with a few groups and then on the occasions when the husband has the kids I could have some options.

It is making me laugh what is being sent through to me at the moment though. I guess I wasn’t massively discerning in choosing my interests so I’m getting groups who practice everything from ‘free-form dance’ to getting in touch with their spirituality through the vibrations of the local Stargate. 🙂 Er… OK.

It is also making me weep – I joined an activity group and one of the first thing they post is the opportunity to go on this amazing holiday to Malta – staying in this beautiful chateau with a crystal blue swimming pool, a bit of chilled out cycling and hiking etc. And of course I can’t go. I may be excluded from this kind of thing for the next 15 years. Who knows.

Today though, I had a nice day. My parents are away in the Isle of Wight cycling round the island with their friends and of course the kids are with their dad. It was a beautiful sunny morning so I took myself off to the nearest Bills restaurant (for anyone who doesn’t live in the UK, Bills is a kind of bistro which does brunch and has a kind of chilled out vibe). My local branch is right on the Thames riverside. It felt a bit weird saying to the waiter “it’s just me” but they didn’t bat much of an eyelid.

I ordered an Eggs Royale (essentially Eggs Benedict but with smoked salmon), an orange juice and a latte. They brought the food but forgot the drinks for ages which resulted in them giving me the drinks for free!

My next luxury was a leisurely browse round the nearest bookshop which resulted in me buying two picture books for my son’s upcoming fourth birthday (that’s not all he’s getting!) and two books for myself – a thriller and a non-fiction book called ‘Them’ by a bloke called Jon Ronson – a funny guy who, in this book, followed a number of people with extremist views in order to try and get the measure of them.

I did also buy myself a top in the Summer Sales and some earrings. Nothing like a bit of retail therapy!

Then I came home and listened to music, cooked, read a bit, and blogged a bit. Soon I will have to set off to go and pick the children up and so begins the next cycle.

Finding some balance

It’s been a weird couple of weeks for me. First moving back into our home whilst my husband was away, then moving back out again. Going from the fairly peaceful days whilst my husband was far away immersed in his training course to having him back in my headspace with his bitter words and attempts to sabotage my relationship with my children.

And looming even larger in my mind, the completely unexpected approach of a seemingly eligible single man who it turns out I had nothing real in common with and who just didn’t stimulate me enough (in any sense of the word!).

As I have said before the thought of a new relationship – the pursuit of a companion/lover/partner in crime – was nothing more than the vaguest of notions simmering away on a back burner up to this point.

When I was in the thick of my marriage – the bad bit – I remember thinking “I want nothing more to do with men”, I felt that I could happily be celibate for the rest of my life, that I am probably better suited to being alone and that having my first ever home – just mine (and the kids of course) would be an exciting novelty. For the only person controlling me to be me. For compromise to be a thing of a the past.

But now? This recent tryst has opened up the floodgates to a lot of feelings of self doubt and worry about loneliness – suddenly feeling sexy again only to be plunged straight back into long-term celibacy. Honestly, I just can’t stop thinking about it right now which is a bit shit considering I was doing so well just being me and being as good a mum to my kids as I could be.

I read a couple of articles yesterday about sex and the single mum and one of them really helped me come to terms with where I’m at – or at least put things in some perspective. The author mentioned that feeling of being in a daze at the beginning of a new relationship – totally pre-occupied, you know? Not great when you have small children who need you to organise everything from their homework, to their meals to their social lives. Giving 25% is kind of short-changing them somewhat.

Then there are all the thoughts about being in the dating pool, dealing with idiots, trying to navigate the sharks, trying not to get sucked into another relationship vortex, trying to decide if ‘casual’ no-strings relationships are the way forward or just the fast-track into an emotional mire.

I need to try and remember all the things I was looking forward to about getting out of a bad relationship and being single again. Yes, one of the things I wrote down at the time was ‘flirting’ (not much of that goes on in a bad marriage), but actually, most of it was about getting out and doing things I enjoy again, seeing my friends un-hindered and experiencing things that my husband would have disapproved of (festivals, blog conferences – ha ha!).

Plus despite my ever increasing years I need to remember that people don’t just stop having relationships once they hit 40. I don’t have a biological clock ticking any more which is kind of cool in that there is no pressure to rush into anything. Also one of my good friends at work – an absolutely lovely guy – just got married for the first time at the age of 55 to his partner – a two-time divorcee in her 50s with two grown up children and grandchildren.

The one thing that is dumbfounding me right now is that my husband, after a separation of four and half months, is deeply involved with another woman – someone who seems uniquely suited to him (although I don’t envy her long term). He is suddenly taking up tennis and talking about skiing holidays (two of my favourite sports which he would never have contemplated during our ten years together).

At one and the same time he has moved on so, so quickly, (I know they have already discussed moving in together – don’t ask me how!) and is yet still so wrought with anger over my decision to leave him.

So yeah, that’s where I’m at. Single, frustrated and under attack but still hopeful for the future because it’s in my own hands now.

My ex-husband’s ex wife and I

So, yesterday something kind of momentous happened. I was just checking my messages when I noticed a DM request had come up from my husband’s ex wife. She was asking me if I could arrange for her daughter to meet up with my sons without their dad having to be present. Apparently my 12 year old step-daughter has decided she wants nothing to do with her dad but she does want a relationship with her half brothers.

I messaged to ask her if she realised that I had left him and moved out of the family home with the boys and she was shocked. Nobody had told her or her daughter despite this all happening four and half months ago.

Now, I have to say, I have had my issues with her over the years – I have only ever had his side of the story and certainly it did used to seem like she was behaving in a selfish way – it was easy for him to spin it like that, although in hindsight it seems really obvious that she was simply protecting the interests of herself and her daughter and pushing for ‘parallel parenting’ rather than co-parenting with him as he is a nightmare to have to deal with.

We’re two quite different kinds of people – I think she was much more assertive than I was and she seems to have really ended up in a great position – she kept their family home, eventually buying him out of the court-ordered arrangement, she doesn’t seem to need to work, found a new partner and received a massive hand-out from her dad to pay my husband off and get him right out of her life. There have been, essentially, plenty of reasons for me to feel either aggravated or jealous of her.

However, once we got talking yesterday I felt a great deal of affinity with her and vice versa. She told me that the abusive experiences I described could have just as easily described her experiences with him. She told me not to be too pessimistic about the future because she’s living proof that it is possible to move on and find happiness.

We’ve put a date in the diary to meet up with all the kids. I’m hoping that this change in all our lives will mean that my step-daughter can finally make peace with my sons and begin to have a functional relationship with them – she certainly seems to want to try.

In other news my husband was an absolute PITA today! He phoned me at work to tell me that he wouldn’t take our son to the childminder because he didn’t want to go. He blamed me for causing insecurity in our children and told me that my behaviour was ‘not normal’.

In attempting to get him to pull his finger out and progress financial matters so that myself and the children can move back to our home town, he suddenly decided to point out that if I have a new relationship it would jeopardise financial arrangements. I pointed out that that would only be the case if I got into a serious relationship and moved in with someone to which he pretended to have an ‘aha!’ moment, suggesting that the real reason I broke up with him was so that I could go out and have lots of casual relationships as I’m now ‘over the hill’! WTF! I would rather have lots of casual relationships and laugh and be free to be myself than be stuck with him, that’s for sure!

So that’s where we’re at. I wanted to put a rocket up his bum to get things moving with the house/mortgage situation and hopefully he got the message. Only time will tell.