To be hated…

It’s been a funny kind of summer so far. I have heard very little from the Husband for a while – he has had the children on three occasions in June – two of them overnight. Tonight is the third and last overnight for June. It’s Thursday. This was arranged on Monday. I pay for the children to go to after school club on a Thursday – £24 and I normally pick them up between 5 and 5.30 after I finish my working day. He will pick them up, give them tea, let them bounce off the walls for a couple of hours before putting them to bed and taking them to school in the morning. He is also off work on Friday and over the weekend but he has asked for them Sunday afternoon only.

There is nothing for me to do tonight even though I don’t have to get up in the morning because it’s my day off. It was too late to arrange anything although to be fair I think I am probably too tired to do anything right now anyway – I will just enjoy this peace and quiet, not having to jump to the constant demands and break up the inevitable squabbles. I will enjoy having the freedom to start watching a DVD at 6pm or listening to my music loud or staying up past my own bedtime. Woo! What an exciting life I lead.

What has become very apparent is that the Husband has been spiralling into a vicious mood in recent days. I’m not sure what’s triggered it, whether it’s his lack of success with the ladies lately or his 8 days in a row at work culminating in two night shifts or just the fact that when he knows he’s going to be seeing the children it is his one chance to force his way into my life and my consciousness while we manoeuvre our way out of the shallows and into the cross currents which represent our co-parenting exchange.

His phone broke the other day and during the period when he didn’t have the phone I had to physically attend his house to write my number down for him as he made no attempt to contact me regarding child contact or indeed to speak to the children for over 7 days. I found out that he had his phone back fixed but all the numbers wiped out however he did not attempt to contact me or the children. In the end I texted him saying “do you ever want to see your children again?” to which he replied “who is this?”.

I replied “your children’s mother”. He countered “The one who left me?” before telling me he didn’t want to talk to me – “you are the last person I want to speak to”.

A couple of days later I thought I would pre-empt the shit storm that ensued last year by texting him with dates of parents evenings coming up at school plus an information evening up at the Junior school where our eldest will be starting in September and all the details of the birthday party I have arranged for our youngest at the end of July. He didn’t reply to this but later in the day he texted “It looks like your car is still registered at this address”.

I thought that was odd and looked out my Vehicle registration documentation and driving licence and both are registered to my current address. I asked him what he’d got there and he said “Renewal notice apparently”. I asked “renewal of what?” to which he replied “stop bothering me”.

I pointed out that I had gone to the effort of providing him with important dates recently and that it would be kind of him to simply tell me which document it was he was referring to – i.e. which agency it was from.

He replied “you FINALLY have started doing that. Remember the way you left me? You can crawl under the nearest rock as far as I’m concerned”. I told him I would stop providing him with information if that was all the thanks I would be getting and he said “you should be doing it anyway!”.

He then tried to get me to call him, tried to call me, which I declined, told me it was my loss and when I asked what he was trying to call me for he said “To tell you about the document!!”.

He tried to call again this morning and I didn’t answer. It was 7.40 am – prime school run prep time so no reason not to suppose that I could have been in the shower/making the kids breakfast, or any number of other tasks that need to be completed like clockwork in the morning so we all get out of the house on time. He told me “there’s always an excuse for you not answering your phone and I’ve had enough of it. Your post will be in the recycling bin, unless you want it somewhere else?”.

I texted “just leave it inside the door and I’ll get it when I drop the bag off”. He responded “Now why would I do that? You haven’t even tried to call me back”.

When I dropped the bag off the post was by the door. I flicked through quickly and immediately recognised the yellow logo of the AA (that’s Automobile Association for any of you Americans out there 🙂 ). It was a letter dated May telling me that my breakdown cover had been auto renewed.

He could have mentioned AA to me at any point and there would have been no need for any further discussion on the matter. This is a classic case of him using the smallest tool to try and manoeuvre himself into a position of power – some small piece of information that he thinks I will be desperate to get my hands on. Because I wasn’t and didn’t jump to his demands or take his calls, he became irate.

This afternoon he texted me “when will we be divorced?”. I replied “Not before September” (which is when our Financial Dispute Resolution appointment at court takes place) and he responded “I hate you”.

About half an hour later he texted “will the children have eaten?” – an entirely practical, innocuous, reasonable co-parenting type question which fails in any way to acknowledge his previous vitriol.

So there we have it – undisguised hatred. And what does that feel like? At my weakest moments it feels like a knife in the heart.

I am not a bad person – I have lots of friends and I don’t have enemies. I don’t engage in backstabbing gossip or think the worst of people. I try to always be kind and loving and open. I know from my recent attempts at relationships that I am the kind of person who wears her heart on her sleeve, bends over backwards to be thoughtful and generous – generous with my love and my affection, but also financially, I pay my way and I don’t expect to be given a free ride.

Even though I give a lot less fucks than I did as a young person I still generally want to be liked and well thought of. It really hurts to know that someone is out there thinking dark black thoughts about me, sending their negative karma my way.

I unexpectedly bumped into the Husband’s mother in the supermarket this morning and I’ve never seen someone smile at me through such gritted teeth. I know there must be a mad concoction of what he tells them and the destructive behaviour they must witness in him which all adds up to them feeling nothing but angry and bitter towards me, but it is blind of them. I haven’t taken their grandchildren away from them, their son has messed his own life up – two failed marriages with children, two women who’s experiences mirror each others so closely that we have bonded over the debris and identify so closely that we are now more like family to each other than either of us ever wants to be with him again in this lifetime.

 

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Dating update

I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of the doubts and negative feelings you might experience in the early days of dating someone come through miscommunication or just different styles of communicating.

After my last post I’ve had a few more dates with W – we’ve been to the cinema and a live comedy show and meal & drinks. We’ve had a chance to really open up and talk about what we want and need and he admitted that he had found it hard to say no when I invited him out even when he wasn’t ready to be that intimately involved that quickly because he didn’t want to disappoint me so that’s why all the last minute excuses. I told him that it was more disappointing to have a date arranged and then cancelled last minute. He seems to get that so hopefully it won’t happen again.

I need to be the one to offer dates because my time is so limited and I don’t want to feel like I never know where I stand. In that vein I tentatively invited him to be my Plus One on my Big Birthday adventure in London which probably means that I might actually have to tell some family members that he exists…

In a few days time it will have been a month since our only night together so far which is weird for me although who knows – it might be completely standard for him. To be fair things have changed because I’m a single Mum now – the restrictions on my time are huge and my last relationship lulled me into the false sense that potential partners would be willing and able to be super keen and flexible.

The difference with him was that he was on the tail end of a long term work hiatus to recover from chemotherapy when I met him meaning he did not have the stresses and pressures of a regular work schedule and making an hour’s drive to see me of an evening after my kids were tucked up in bed doable as he could simply catch up on sleep the next day.

In hindsight it’s very telling that he chose to break up with me just as he was being integrated back into full time (shift) work.

With W what I tend to find is that no matter what kind of understanding we come to in person,  after a few days where our only form of communication is text I start second guessing everything – why am I being so enthusiastic when he comes across so flat and unenthused at times? Has something happened to make him lose interest or has he just had a tiring day at work? Does he like me keeping our connection going or is it annoying him? Should I back off or take heed of the fact that he told me that his previous partner sent him a clear picture of her real disinterest by leaving a three day gap between one message and the next?

Why does it all have to be this confusing and complicated?

Maybe I just need to bear in mind that right now we are on good terms, we have dates in the diary, we have both expressed enjoyment in each other’s company on all of our dates, we enjoyed our intimacy, we’ve talked about that and both looking forward to the next time. Of course I can only vouch for my own complete openness and honesty in regards to all these feelings but I’m not sure if I have any good reason to doubt him.

These really are the standard ponderings of a fledgling relationship and we’ve just started something new too – having a conversation on the actual phone! Weirdly it hadn’t even occurred to me to do that before now which just goes to show how wrapped up we all are in our social media world. There is no substitute for real voices together engaging over the course of over an hour. Maybe it’s because it’s Friday night and he’s finally unwinding – or maybe because we know we’re not seeing each other til Monday night but it felt really good just to hear his voice for the first time in four days.

All or nothing?

Sometimes I wonder if the dating game isn’t just some kind of self-inflicted school course in self discovery. With each new person and each new experience you gain knowledge of others (in my case, men, with all their gifts and faults) but in addition, you have your own expectations and needs reflected back on you and that can be disconcerting.

The latest person to enter my life is someone who I don’t have illusions about – he’s not the man of my dreams. But he’s OK and that’s good enough for me right now. Or is it?

I know I’m not in the right place to start a long-term, meaningful relationship but I still want to have an emotional and physical connection with someone. For me, that means communicating every day, sharing both the important and insignificant moments, if not real, then virtual kisses in the morning and before falling asleep at night, regular dates both in and out of my home with no date-free hiatus during which you feel like you’re in limbo.

But perhaps this is my problem? Perhaps this is rushing in headlong trying to impose intimacy on a virtual stranger in just a few short weeks. Perhaps this is where my last relationship went wrong (although I tend to think it was the introduction to the children and family life that sparked the beginning of the end there..)

I invited him (the new one) to my house three times in two weeks and each time he said yes and then backed out with some quite feeble excuses at the last minute. The last time this happened I sent him a message saying “you don’t have to keep making excuses, if you don’t want to see me any more please just tell me”. He responded (five hours later) saying “I do want to see you [Layla], just want to take it a bit slower if that’s alright”.

The thing is, I don’t know if it is alright. I said I’d just leave him to invite me out in future but I hate not knowing when/if we will see each other again and it makes me feel like the messages and chats I regularly instigate are not worth my energy. I feel out of control of the situation and it doesn’t seem to fulfil the needs I have.

Are my needs unrealistic and out of proportion and over the top? I might be deluded but I just tend to think of myself as a pretty cool, easy-going, attractive, open, honest, loyal, generous partner and it confounds me when someone holds all of that off at arm’s length. It makes me question them (are they playing the field, are they scared by the very idea of emotional intimacy, do they think that I will turn into some kind of bunny boiler and lock them in the second they cross my threshold?)

And if you tend to agree that my ‘all-in’ attitude is too much, then how does emotional intimacy even begin? Is there this one day where everyone agrees it’s OK to expect a bit more than a sporadic get together? When it’s OK to start holding hands? When you can finally begin to think of yourselves as an actual couple?

 

All change

I’m still trying to fathom how everything can change so quickly in the world of singledom (and single-mum-dom).

I have dipped my toe into the (very) shallow waters of match.com in the last week or so. I know I was feeling like my self confidence had been knocked after the complete lack of interest from the Scot so even though I was being philosophical and positive about single life I had this little niggle, kind of like an itch that could only be scratched by some positive attention from the opposite sex.

I had no intention (still don’t) of paying any money so a lot of the functionality of the site is out of bounds but I’ve discovered that I can have a full profile and full searchability and if someone has opted for this “connect” package I am able to message them for free on my part.

To be honest there’s not a huge amount of them but I’ve had a couple of chats. The first guy looked good in his pic but he was just so wooden to talk to. It was dullsville. I had a message from a 21 year old saying “age is just a number, right?”. Wow. I was tempted to get back to him saying “if you were 38 then, yes, I would most definitely be agreeing, age is just a number, but I am literally old enough to be your mother!”, however I opted not to reply as I didn’t want to enter into any kind of dialogue.

Then over the weekend I finally got talking to someone who seemed intelligent and normal who is actually relatively nearby but after an hour or so of chatting when it got to the bit where he might have suggested a date he just disappeared which I thought was a bit rude but only to be expected with internet dating.

He messaged the next day to say he’d fallen asleep but we had literally exchanged messages a minute apart. Meh!

Since the Meetup night out I went to a couple of weeks ago I’ve exchanged a couple of messages with one of the guys who books and organises the events. I only very briefly met him on the night but he got in touch with me a while back to ask if I wanted to book up for a comedy night coming up. At the time I did wonder whether he asked because he liked me or just because he was trying to bump the numbers up.

He then sent me a friend request on Facebook and started following me on Instagram. Plot thickens. We exchanged another couple of messages on FB – just general chit chat. He posted a status update over the weekend saying that he was watching the movie “12 Years a Slave” which has been on my to-watch list for a while so I commented asking if it was good and he DM’d me.

He asked about my taste in movies and whether or not I liked the Alien movies. I mentioned Alien Covenant which is just out here in the UK and he then asked me if I’d fancy going to see it and so I thought, why not?

We then proceeded to have a pretty long conversation actually finding out some stuff about each other. He’s the same age as me and he doesn’t have any kids of his own. He tentatively asked about my relationship status and I mentioned the divorce without going into too much detail. I mentioned the kids (he already knew I had kids) and a little bit about needing a combination of babysitters, parents and the ex in order to have a social life.

At that point I was wondering if he was thinking ‘heck, what am I getting myself into here?!’ but he persevered. He told me he had wanted to talk to me at the meetup night out but didn’t in the end as I was the newbie. I guess he meant he didn’t want to come across like someone who would be all over any new girl who happened to turn up!

To be honest it went completely under my radar. He’s not really what I would call my type at all but I like him, he’s easy to talk to and interesting and outgoing and I’m flattered that he likes me – it definitely is an ego-boost. It also makes a lovely change from just about every single guy I have come across through my admittedly limited experience of internet dating.

So we’ve got a date. Alien Covenant. Friday night. I don’t know what it is I want from this. Right now I think I just need someone who likes me to date with no expectations. I don’t want to introduce anyone to my children again – not the way I did with my ex – so soon and with so many expectations which were trashed for all of us after a few short months.

 

Overcoming loneliness

I’ve really been doing some self examination lately (well, I am reading Eat Pray Love which has got to be the bible of self examination, albeit personal to the situation of the author herself at that moment in time).

I’ve admitted before that I have a tendency to bounce between relationships – 2 years consecutive is the longest I have been single for over the course of the past 23 years. Once again I find myself seeking out a partner, however it’s not quite so easy this time around. I am older, I have young children, I’m in the middle of a divorce, I have less money to throw at dating sites, I have a lot less time, the stakes are so much higher – it’s not really happening.

I guess it’s time to figure out why I feel the need to continue with this relentless pursuit.

Some things about me:

  • I have lived on my own with my children now for over 8 months (after a 5 month stint with my parents).
  • I pay all the bills including privately rented accommodation;
  • I do 90 per cent of the parenting and the kids are pretty happy, well fed, clean, on top of their homework and want for nothing;
  • besides the wobble with my eldest a couple of months ago, their behaviour is pretty good – standard for their ages at any rate;
  • my family have been super supportive and we have a summer holiday abroad to look forward to with my mum (and possibly some good friends), plus I am lucky enough to be able to fall back on my parents for babysitting and consequently have a fair few social events lined up this summer;
  • I have proved to myself that I can tackle practical tasks that in the past I might have assumed were ‘men’s work’ – I put together a double bed which came completely flat packed without so much as someone to pass me the screwdriver, I can fit a bike rack on my car and I now mow the lawn and unblock the drains and put the bins out;
  • I’m an introvert and I enjoy my own company whether I be cooking, writing, reading a good book, watching an unmissable box-set or movie, shopping or treating myself to a Costa latte;
  • I have never been able to sleep well sharing a bed – I am super conscious of another person in my space and I love having a room of my own, decorated to my taste – somewhere I see as my sanctuary;
  • I have a can-do attitude when it comes to meeting new people and joining groups so even if I am child-free and have a whole day to myself I know I have options even if my old friends and family are busy.
  • I have lots of friends, near far and online.

All of these things add up to me being self-sufficient – i.e. I don’t need a partner and in some ways a partner would complicate my life – I might get less sleep and have to learn to compromise again when it comes to all the little decisions that I have found I am quite capable of making on my own.

I find for the most part that I am happy, I’m certainly busy with the children a lot of my time and I don’t often find myself at a loss for something to do.

The times when I feel down tend to be days alone with the children or evenings at home alone after the children have gone to bed. A great sense of loneliness settles upon me and I feel hopeless then and depressed. I’m a practical person though and I know from experience that all it takes to overcome these negative feelings is what they call a ‘meaningful connection’ with another person. That person might be a good friend or family member – someone who I know has got my back emotionally, rather than someone who doesn’t really know me who is only available for small talk.

I’ve got a list of about ten people who know me inside out and hopefully at least one of them will always be there at the end of the phone or online for a chat.

Its also a matter of being super-organised when it comes to planning play dates and get-togethers in advance in order to reduce the amount of time I have to be alone with the kids. It sounds awful but some Saturdays I just dread.

I know that there is obviously more to this desire for a partner than just overcoming loneliness though. Sex of course. Lately though I wonder whether it’s that big a deal. It can be fun, it can be really enjoyable. On a chemical level it’s amazing – Oxytocin highs – what’s not to like? But does my life suffer without it? Not so sure.

One of the biggest things that you can only really get through a romantic relationship though is that feeling of being really special. When you are someone else’s ‘significant other and they only have eyes for you and they treat you to romantic gestures – that kind of love makes you feel so secure and confident in yourself and having experienced that and then having had it taken away again leaves you feeling, well, the opposite of special I guess.

I’m not sure if there is any way of substituting something else for the feeling of self-worth you get from being loved in that particular way but finding that love is starting to feel like one of the labours of Hercules.

I read this morning that Liz Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love got divorced from her husband of 12 years last summer (2016). This was the Brazilian guy she met in Indonesia at the end of the memoir, the love affair with whom kind of signifies something like a happy ever after for all us emotional gap-pluggers out here in the real world.

She’s now a lesbian and who could have predicted that? Which just goes to show, we cannot steam-roller a path for ourselves – what will be will be.

It’s a no from me

So, yet more navel gazing from the frontlines of the confusing, frustrating, disappointing world of internet dating.

If you read my last post then you know that I was vaguely excited by what I’d considered a ‘good’ date yesterday. I was in the dark about how The Scot felt about me or what would happen next given hectic schedules on both sides. I needn’t have worried.

After about 8 hours I sent a brief message saying I’d enjoyed meeting him and suggesting that if he could get a night off soon then I would attempt to do the same, I got nothing back. At least not until 15 hours later when I receive the fairly lame “It was nice to meet you too, Layla. I’ll try and get a night off soon Xx”.

The first thing that irritated me about this was that, well, Layla isn’t my real name but I’ve got the kind of name that is shortened to the first three letters – always. I don’t feel comfortable if someone uses my full name – it’s not Elizabeth but if it was, and I was used to being called Liz then you can see how formal and arms length it would seem to use the long version. That’s the first thing he did.

I had said “I really enjoyed meeting you today [Scot]” and he responded “It was nice to meet you”. Not the same I’m afraid, in fact generically polite and dispassionate.

Despite these little niggles though the one thing that spoke volumes was the time scale. It quickly became clear to me that this was more than just someone who doesn’t really ‘do’ messaging. And once I had come to that realisation, I began to unpick everything – total deconstruction of the dating process, my expectations, what I want, what I need, everything.

Before I had even decided what the time lag was all about I already knew that whatever, it meant something to me – it meant that, to coin a phrase, he just wasn’t that into me. And that’s OK – disappointing initially, but OK. And actually, on reflection, I begin to see that there was something fundamentally lacking in our interaction, something which is really quite important to me: humour. There was no banter, no flirting, no naughty twinkle in anyone’s eye.

To be fair I’ve got myself in trouble before by my attraction to men who have a bit of the joker about them, and I realised that when I was scrolling through one dating website the first time I was even narrowing my search down to men who described themselves as ‘a big kid’. Then I happened to stumble across the profile of the Husband and noticed that he describes himself as ‘a big kid’. Oh dear.

Heaven knows I don’t want another child in my life but a sense of humour, the signs that the other person doesn’t take themselves too seriously, the impression that they enjoy the fun stuff whilst still being able to man up to the challenges we all face in our day to day lives and switch on a bit of depth for a real emotional connection – that’s a pretty big deal to me. Unless someone is naturally that way inclined then I find it difficult to feel truly at ease in their company.

I am a self-deprecating kind of person, I LOVE to laugh – live comedy is one of my absolute favourite things to watch. It’s part of my history, growing up as a regular audience member on the London Comedy Circuit. I would rather discuss my favourite funny films and shows than discuss politics.*

I would rather go to bed with someone who makes me laugh (not like that!) because it puts you at your ease and it’s the beginning of ‘playful’ and I like playful. All that intense Fifty Shades bullshit just makes me cringe.

So, yeah, all that to say, this whole experience has started with me feeling rejected and ended with me feeling grateful – grateful to be given the opportunity to re-assess what it is I need. Grateful that I have the ability to keep it all in perspective and not to take it personally, because I know that I would have dated this guy and I know now that it wouldn’t have taken.

  • I do talk about politics and political issues do matter to me but if I just put this out there: Ben Elton, circa 1986 and ‘a little bit of politics’… that’s the way I like it…

 

Post date analysis

Today I had my first ever day time/ coffee shop date. It was as much to do with convenience as anything based on two hectic parenting and work schedules but in reality it worked really well – no chance of letting alcohol do any talking (Latte doesn’t have quite the same voice in my head 🙂 ), and a chance to see the other person in broad daylight which is never a bad thing.

I went in expecting – hmm, not sure really. As I said in my previous post I had my reservations based on pre-conceived ideas I got from looking at his dating profile – pictures in particular – which give off the impression of being perhaps a bit of a player?

We’d had so little communication between us as well – I basically just took his lead and his texts were perfunctory so we agreed to meet, we imparted our availability, agreed on a date last Monday, then didn’t communicate at all until last night (Thursday) when I texted to ask if he still wanted to meet (half expecting him to say ‘thanks but no thanks’). He said he did, we agreed on a time and a place and that was it.

We met at 12pm in a little coffee shop about ten minutes drive from both of us and when I arrived a couple of minutes late he was already there and immediately got up, kissed me ‘continental style’ (he used to live in Spain & Italy) and went off to buy me a drink.

I was so relieved that he actually looked like his pictures after the last guy! We got talking, there were no awkward silences, he didn’t dominate the conversation although he probably did do more of the talking than me but that’s OK because I was super nervous.

He is interesting, we are completely on the same page politically, he also has an acrimonious relationship with his ex which, whilst not a good thing per se, was kind of re-assuring – I hate talking to people who have super-amicable relationships with their ex-partners – it makes me feel like even more of a failure!

He works nights, four on, four off as an aircraft engineer and he has his kids (7 and 11) living with him for the whole of his four off. He seems to genuinely enjoy the time he spends with his kids and described how happy he feels when he sees them again after four days apart.

He has a creative side and it sounds like he enjoys cooking as much as I do and to about the same level!

I found him attractive although there was no real flirting as such but maybe that was because we were in a coffee shop and actually, if he does like me as much as I like him then that is a really refreshing and respectful way of behaving on a first date.

I could also tell that he is a gentleman because he jumped up to open the door for a lady coming in with a toddler and a baby in a pram at one point and I got the feeling that that was his style, not that he was just doing it to create a good impression.

So now we’re in that weird ‘after-date’ place where presumably he probably has about as much idea of whether I like him as I have in reverse. All I have to go on is that he suggested we meet up again and I agreed and said next time we should have an evening date. We haven’t made an actual date as such.

If he does like me then we are going to have our work cut out for us trying to find mutually suitable times but I’m guessing that we would figure it out somehow. He would have the same problem with anyone and so would I and at least we understand exactly what challenges the other is going through.

I’m still kind of buzzing from the experience – whilst it’s not the same kind of buzzing you get from being with someone for the first time who you know feels the same way, or having properly kissed, held hands or anything, it’s a tempered kind of cautious little happy feeling.

I’ve got a lot going on at the moment socially (weirdly!), having enjoyed the Meetup social I attended last weekend and put my name down for two more events in May – an Ed Sheeran tribute in a pub and a stand up comedy and pizza night, plus I have a curry & practice run night hike next Friday with my team for the Light the Lakes experience in June.

My parents have agreed to have the kids for all three of those nights in anticipation of the husband actually playing a role in the kids’ lives at some point (obviously not with any kind of pre warning).

Is there enough time left over to start some kind of relationship with this guy (let’s call him The Scot for now – he’s Scottish)?

I’m dying to know whether he likes me or not. I’ll probably text him later on tonight and see what I get back. In the meantime, I’ve got a Teddy Bear’s Picnic to attend…

Step away from the Comfort Zone

It’s been Mayday bank holiday weekend for the past three days. It’s Monday evening now and it’s been five days since the ex dropped out again all bar his brief little attempt to talk me back into a commit-free relationship on his terms (which I declined this time).

I knew that I needed to fill my weekend up with action and social interaction and activities. Crucially knowing that I had childfree time I wanted to make the most of it and where I would have been doing nothing more interesting than another hanging out with the ex “for old time’s sake”, I wanted to prove to myself that being single and making choices which open up new experiences for me is actually really valuable and it’s the part of my life that’s been missing for the longest time.

Last week I discovered a local tennis club and made some enquiries which led to me heading down there on Saturday afternoon to check it out. I very nearly ended up walking away without even speaking to anyone but fortunately two lovely guys approached me and said it was no problem for me to stay and join in. I ended up being there for over two hours and playing in three short matches. I came away feeling that it would probably be worth joining but that, whilst the people were relatively friendly, it might take a while to make any real friendships. However, as a way of burning energy, practising my game and getting the kids some lessons it really makes sense. I don’t know if they have “socials” outside of the game but if they do then that would be an added plus.

I returned home to do some cooking, listen to some music and watch an episode of my latest unmissable TV thriller before having a bite to eat and getting myself ready for an evening out with another group of strangers.

During this time I had to really fight my feelings of loneliness. Under other circumstances I would have revelled in these solitary activities but this weekend the final break up with the ex was a little too raw and feeling like I simply didn’t yet belong to the groups I aspire to be a part of made me feel like I was hovering on my own in limbo for a while.

I really felt super nervous about heading off to the Meetup.com social that I’d signed up for. Would it be awkward? How would I know who to approach when I arrived? What if everyone knew each other so well that they were cliquey and exclusive? Nevertheless I was pretty determined to see it through – I do believe that there’s no time like the present and you have to be a bit brave and get out of your comfort zone if you want to achieve anything in this life.

As it was I arrived bang on time and didn’t know who to approach. For a second I floundered but then the one other member of the group who was there caught sight of me and came to my rescue. It was all a little weird to begin with but as more and more people arrived I found myself chatting to one person after another and feeling more and more accepted. Admittedly at one point I did get stuck talking to a bit of a bore but eventually I managed to break away and join in with some of the other girls having a dance to the live music at the venue which was great fun.

By the end of the evening I felt pretty good about the whole thing and one of the more gregarious guys came over and told me that he was impressed that I’d had the courage to just come along not knowing anyone and really get stuck in. I felt proud of myself, and he was right, that first time is the killer – once you’ve conquered that you’re no longer a stranger and next time I will head out feeling excited to meet my new friends rather than nervous.

Weirdly the activity on the dating website I’m signed up to suddenly picked up after about a month of tumbleweed blowing through. A guy I messaged ages ago finally replied after re-subscribing to full membership (without which you are unable to write or open messages). He didn’t seem very chatty so I decided to cut to the chase and suggest meeting up in person for a coffee rather than entering into one of those excruciating ping pong message matches where delayed responses become a source of soul searching agony or it all fizzles out before it’s even begun.

Now I have a pencilled in date for the end of the week which is kind of awesome and terrifying in equal measure.

If I’m honest I have a few reservations about this guy. He is a single dad with kids just a little older than mine which is great but I’m having a hard time figuring out how the hell we would manage to see each other if he’s either working or solo parenting. Also, he has a kind of “come to bed” vibe going on in a few of his photos and I suspect he may be one of those guys who isn’t really looking for a relationship, just a string of dates to round out a bachelor lifestyle. That is also borne out by the fact that under “type of relationship sought” he’s picked “let’s see what happens” from the drop down box.

Either way, it’s just another stepping stone – it’s an ego boost just to have a relatively attractive man even want to meet up with me (there are probably a load of other girls on his list but we live one town over from each other so it’s a nothing to lose scenario I guess). Plus I’m slowly beginning to see the merits in meeting a variety of people and not desperately clinging on to the idea of true love with the first person I happen to run into. I’ve lived my entire romantic life like that and I can only look back and wonder whether I somehow shut the door on a potential soulmate by settling for the path of least resistance.

So, I think I can safely say that it’s been a full on couple of days (including two days over at my parents with the boys and a roast with my sister, brother in law and niece).
Whatever the future holds i think I’ve proved to myself that life can be full and whatever you make if it if you just have the determination to put yourself out there.

Closure and new beginnings

It feels kind of right that this should all be happening in springtime – just as the blossoms fall like confetti to the ground.

I mentioned that the (ex) boyfriend and I were back in touch. It was a bit more than that. He responded to an innocuous message I sent via text a couple of weeks ago. He suggested we meet up again in person. We did. It was good but weird in that I felt we were just shadow puppets of our former selves, playing out a familiar scene from the past rather than two people re-connecting on a meaningful level.

I had told myself that it was fine – a “friends with benefits” arrangement; a stop gap; an occasional companion who I felt I knew and could trust. He told me he would do a few little jobs around my house when he got the chance. I began to feel like I could send him a few idle chit-chat type messages during the week to stay in touch without the fear of invoking a ‘subtext’.

We met up twice in two weeks – trying to fit these meet ups in at my child-free times but also taking into account his busy work schedule. I could tell that it was all on his terms.

Last Sunday night he came over – we talked about the next time. I suggested the following weekend and he agreed. I made arrangements for my parents to have the children as I was still in the dark with the husband about child contact going forwards.

Come Wednesday, I received a message from him at midday telling me he’d “fucked up” by double booking himself. He was going to be at a mate’s barbeque so he wouldn’t be coming to see me.

I’ll be honest, rightly or wrongly I was a little upset. I had carved out some free time specifically for him which is not always easy in my situation. Understandably people double book themselves for stuff all the time and under those circumstances someone always loses out and it’s most likely to be a case of last in first out.

Under other circumstances I would have been irritated but philosophical. Under these circumstances I couldn’t help feel like it was a really clear sign that he had placed me and ‘us’ in a category of friendship which could be labelled – ‘potential fun when convenient’. That didn’t make me feel too good. I guess naively, I’d hoped for more. I’d hoped that seeing me again would trigger those feelings of love and affection and happiness which we lived out for four months and put me higher up his list of priorities.

I mulled over any number of responses – all of which would have been bridge burning. I held back from responding at all until 7 hours later when I decided to go with “we all make mistakes x”.

I thought that was vaguely poetic. I didn’t realise at the time that it would trigger him into another, ultimately much more final, ‘goodbye and good luck’ response. He used my poetry against me. He told me all the nice stuff – I’m a ‘very special lady’ who deserves more commitment than he can offer etc. etc.

I cried. I felt like I’d been dumped all over again. I felt bitter. I felt lonely. I felt like I was ‘not good enough’. I’m a walking cliché.

That was two days ago and in that time I seem to have recovered. I did the passive/aggressive Facebook ‘unfriending’; I archived our WhatsApp thread – the one place I could go to find out whether he was still thinking about me due to the scrolling time-stamp; I found a Meetup.com social event which I could join up with on Saturday night and RSVP’d; I briefly discussed the situation with two friends at work and they both told me the same thing – it’s been a learning experience; it’s closure.

I had a nightmare or bad dream last night – another dream where I was watching a character in a movie being chased by a someone or something who meant them harm but seeing the situation through my own eyes at the same time. I woke up with a headache – no doubt I’d had my jaws clenched tight all night long.

However, today I have felt happier than I have in a long time. It’s a bit like a weight has been lifted off my mind – I no longer feel the need to look backwards in mourning. I can finally accept that my brief relationship with the ex was just a stepping stone on my journey and not the destination.

I spent a couple of hours with one of my good friends and her mum this morning having coffee and a good chat. I am in the process of joining a local tennis club where the kids can also get lessons. I am beginning to get my blog mojo back.

I finally heard from the husband who is going to have the children Saturday afternoon and evening which is great because it means my parents are let off the hook and I don’t have to do a 1.5 hour round trip to drop them off.

I am feeling more organised and using some of my child-free down time to get ahead with meal plans and shopping. It actually feels like a lot of headspace has been opened up by the demise of my relationship.

I’ve realised that I could look at my situation one of two ways: 1) I am screwed by my lack of routine, my lack of control and inability to attend regular events or commit to anything or anyone. It will be impossible to find love because no one is that flexible; 2) I am single and free to become a part of many groups and get involved (albeit sporadically) in any number of activities. I am embarking upon a spontaneous journey in the pursuit of happiness – one which doesn’t include a map or any road signs. Romantic love may not be a part of my story for a while but that doesn’t mean I am lost, lonely, unhappy or done with all the opportunities that might become available to me at any given time.

On the school pick up this afternoon I was walking along behind a couple who were having a minor domestic dispute and for the first time I felt lucky. Relationships are fraught with power struggles, little resentments and compromise. I am willing to accept the work that is involved at the right time with the right person but for now, it’s good to have a breather. There is a power in being a strong, single, independent woman who can fend for herself, tap into her ingenuity and recruit others for everything else.

I intend to expand my networks, keep up with my interests and keep working on my relationship with my children because they can only benefit from my undivided attention.

I don’t promise that this super positive mood is unbreakable. I know I will still have low moments when I pine for love and affection and miss my ex but I also know that those feelings will pass – quicker than they did before because I know now that there is no going back.

Why is it so difficult to take my own advice?

It’s Saturday evening. I’ve been solo parenting for two days now (yesterday was the last day of school holidays). I’ve taken them to a posh “play barn” and today an expensive “leisure pool” with lots of water slides which was actually better fun than I’d anticipated.

We had all been getting on great but then I had another difficult afternoon with my eldest who became really stroppy when I told him that we were going to the park so his little brother could play with his new ball (I got them both £3 plastic balls at the supermarket this morning).

He was out playing with the neighbourhood boys and actually getting into a bit of aggro along with his trouble-making friend. He threw a complete wobbly at the suggestion of going to the park until I stretched the truth and told him it would only be for five minutes.

All the time we were at the park he was moody and whingey and kept threatening to throw his brothers ball in the fishing pond. When we got home I let him go back out on the proviso that he would come in with no fuss when I said it was time. Of course that didn’t happen and another immense wobbler took place which involved all sorts of bad behaviour including planting grass cuttings in my bed and chucking one of my boots across the bedroom, narrowly avoiding smashing a mirror (not his intention but still). At that point I lost my cool completely and raged at him which at least got him to back down.

Anyway to cut a long story short he calmed and mellowed over the following couple of hours and has accepted that he is grounded after school on Monday.

I have been struggling with my feelings around the (ex) boyfriend again. We’re back on friendly terms and I know he was off today for a weekend of camping, fishing and general merriment with all three of his 20-something children, his best mate and his adult kids too.

Even though I never met his kids, don’t like the idea of fishing (ok, can’t think of anything more dull!) and am more of a fair weather camper (it’s April in the U.K. and 3 degrees Celsius later on tonight) the thought of him out there surrounded by friends and family, able to do all the things he loves with the people he loves best makes me feel a huge sense of sadness and loneliness.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge him that happiness but I feel excluded from this happy picture and I wonder if he was thinking about times like this when he chose to break up with me. Did he struggle to see me fitting in? Think I’d cramp his style or just fail to imagine it being my cup of tea or something that could be planned around my parenting schedule?

I’ve sneaky peaked his Facebook updates and pics of the event. That didn’t help. I texted him to ask if they were having fun. He asked me how my evening was going and I very nearly mentioned the struggle with my son but checked myself. I didn’t want to give him a reason to pat himself on the back for having the correct instinct to dump me and leave me to my parenting woes! He was probably right, who would actively invite that kind of a headache into their life?

I decided to just give a one word answer to his question “Great. X”. Obviously I’m not a very good liar because he then asked “is that a sarcastic ‘great’?” To which after some thought I responded “I’ve got strawberry lime cider and Line of Duty on the iPlayer later. Bit lonely but life could be worse – I’m not facing down a Japanese death squad #everycloud 😂”. He agreed, life could be a lot worse. I thanked him and wrapped it up telling him to enjoy his evening with his family.

I continued feeling weepy, lonely and royally shafted by my current situation – I love my kids and I love having a balance between time with them and time at work and time to myself but sometimes everything falls out of balance, everyone else in the world seems busy and unavailable and feelings of being hurt, rejected and excluded come surging forth.

I’m very much one for positive thinking, ( I love the wisdom in the quote “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”) and I want to be happy, I crave happiness. I also know that happiness is integrally linked to our expectations. There’s no actual “secret formula” to it, it’s a matter of adjusting your reality. I’m still an optimist but there’s something in the expression “expect the worst but hope for the best”. Also, if you write yourself into a story where only one possible outcome can make you feel happy or successful or fulfilled then you’ve just chucked all your eggs into one basket in a rather heavy handed way…

So maybe it’s time I start taking my own advice.