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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