Posts Tagged 'Relationships'

Coping without dad

As a single mother, when it comes to tasks like collecting furniture or fixing stuff, dad’s the man.  However his strange symptoms of late now preclude him from helping me in this way.  This vibrant, once physically capable man is now  unable to get out of a chair without almost falling over.  He’s unable to walk in a straight line.  He’s unable to drive because it summons all the strength he has to tell his brain to go straight when it wants him to veer off to one side.

The strain of not knowing what’s wrong is showing.  He’s so quiet when once he was the joker.  I can see the worry etched on his face.  I can hear it in his voice.  And there’s now the tears from mum when he’s out of the room.  Tears I save for when neither are around.  Like now.  His appointment with the consultant is on Thursday.  It can’t come soon enough.

For me it’s a double whammy.  I’ve realised I’ve taken so much for granted with him, thinking that he’ll always be there to help.  It’s a timely reminder that I need to think about friends locally who might be able to help more with this sort of thing.  As dad is retired and on hand always to help, up until now I’ve been able to make arrangements last minute (like collecting the wardrobe I won on ebay tomorrow night as a whim, or collecting my daughter from nursery when I’m stuck on a delayed train).  I need to get into the mind set of planning a bit more ahead and accepting a new reliance on others. 

It’s also the realisation that if this isn’t just a simple ear infection but something more serious, this is potentially the start of a rough ride for us all.  It’s hard not to think worst case scenario given his youngest brother died suddenly of a brain tumour and his other brother is now so ill with Parkinson’s disease he has to crawl on the floor to get to the front door to answer it if his wife is out. 

It reminds me just how awful and debilitating those stresses in our life are that we have no control over.  I understand all the psychology (it’s not events that stress us but our reaction to them, we can control how we react to situations etc).  But I defy anyone not to have a similar reaction when a close relative, particularly a parent, sibling or partner, falls suddenly and quite badly ill. 

I’m a daddy’s girl.  Always have been, always will.  That man is my rock.  My objective voice of reason.  My wise counsel.  He’s rarely wrong about ‘life stuff’.  We only ever argue when he’s stating a truth that I don’t want or am not ready to hear.  His experience, his pragmatism, his damn knowing, is my oxygen when I’m under strain. 

I love him so much and have much to thank him for in my life.  He’s the one whose eyes I want to connect with when certain pieces of music are playing.  There’s a knowing that only he would understand because it was he who gave the gift of the love of Oscar Peterson and other jazz artists to me.  There’s films I don’t find funny but will watch with dad because watching him laugh so much is such fun. 

I’m still amazed that he can laugh at The Blues Brothers like it’s the first time he’s watched it given I’ve lost count the numbers of times it’s been viewed by us.  And I forgive him now for every time he’s mortified me on the dance floor at the annual black tie do we go to by suddenly stopping his dancing arm in arm with me and breaking into a demented tap dance just to get laugh.

I’m not religious.  I don’t believe in God and I’m deeply sceptical of organised religions.  I suppose I’m an atheist buddhist (of the Stephen Batchlor variety – his book Buddhism Without Beliefs I cannot recommend highly enough).  But you know, right now I’m praying to whoever will listen that they’ll fix my wonderful dad.  Please let him have many more healthy years to enjoy with us. 

This is completely contrary to the buddhist views that I try and live my life by.  Such as understanding that nothing is permanent.  Such as accepting suffering and letting go of craving.  However I know enlightenment is a journey not a destination.  I also know it’s bloody hard path to take.  Yet certainly an easier path than the alternative spiral of never ending suffering that may reign.

Cognitive restructuring / Reframing

Since splitting up with boyfriend I have decided to do a bit of a ‘life laundry’.  I’ve decided to focus on what improvements I can make to reduce the things the remain in my life that are any cause of stress.  The biggest issue is my poor relationship and inability to communicate effectively with my ex husband. 

I don’t know whether the strain of work, both my daughter and I being very ill with norovirus recently and the final break up with boyfriend have caused this.  However I’m just tired of fighting with my ex husband.  He continues to do battle with me in every way possible, dragging out the final filing of the consent order settling financial matters with amendment after amendment.  Now the clauses are finally agreed he’s now nit picking over the wording of the clauses. 

Naturally I find it hard to be anything other than cooly civil to him when he collects and drops off our daughter.  Yet continuing to be so angry with him and putting on that cool front, when I’m basically a warm, friendly and forgiving sort, is draining the life out of me.  Its taking huge energy and wearing me out.  I’ve had enough.  I want to rise above it.  So I finally decided to give myself permission to sort this out rather than rail against it.  As I always say to others, if you want more of the same, do more of the same.  If you want something different, change something.  If only I was good at it!

I happened today across a site talking about cognitive restructuring and the damaging thought patterns we get ourselves into.  I’ve been banging on to a friend lately about importance of giving himself permission to let go of some emotional pain he’s feeling.  Yet I don’t seem to be taking my own advice!

After a good bit of navel gazing I’ve realised that continuing to be so frosty with my ex husband it is my way of showing him that I will not ever forgive him for the way he treated me during our break up whilst I was pregnant.  I’ve got myself into a negative, destructive thought and behaviour pattern which goes something like, ‘if I’m polite to him then he’ll think he’s off the hook, that I’ve forgiven him, that somehow he’s got away with treating me like that and got off scott free’. 

This is clearly a breathtakingly dumb ass attitude now that finally, for whatever reason (and who knows why we have these epiphanies when we do) I’m able to take a step back.  No, I probably won’t ever forgive him for the way he treated me and risked my baby’s life by putting me under such unnecessarily cruel stress.  I now realise I can retain that lack of forgiveness and still move on and develop a positive relationship with him, on my side at least.

In conjunction with thinking this I was also pondering that if I let go of that thought process, what it would feel like to no longer have that tension when he collects and delivers my daughter?  The words and sentences that sprung to mind were telling:

  • Peaceful
  • Productive for our daughter
  • Laying the past to rest
  • Adult
  • Proud

I was starting to formulate these thoughts on Saturday night.  I did a test run on Sunday when my ex husband dropped my daughter off.  Instead of avoiding his gaze and talking to him through our daughter (i.e. “right, say goodbye to daddy” etc) I smiled at them both when I answered the door.  I asked if she’d been ok, which I don’t normally do.  He said fine.  I said goodbye directly to him and then got munchkin to say goodbye.  Instead of practically shutting the door in his face after those goodbyes I let her wave him off.

I can’t say it felt comfortable and I still had twinges of feeling like I was being a hypocrit.  However I know from previous experience that retraining your thoughts and behaviours takes practice.  It will feel uncomfortable for a while.  Sometimes I may regress but as long as I spot that and put it right asap it’s ok.  I’m not going to be too hard on myself.  I’m going to take it a little step at a time.  Eventually the awkwardness will pass and it will become more natural. 

The best bit though is that I’m doing what comes naturally to me – which is basically being nice.  I always says that being nasty or angry takes up huge amounts of energy but being nice is energising.  At least I’m starting to listen to myself!!

Shabby chic friends

My oldest friend came to visit Monday just gone.  I’ve known her since the age of 2 came, we share the same name, went to toddler group, play gropu and then primary school together.  Now history may repeat itself as her daughter is only 10 weeks older than mine.  So naturally she flew to my aid on Monday as she knew I had broken up with boyfriend and was devastated.

We’ve both been there for each other years although our friendship has had its ups and downs.  For a good few years we lost touch.  But I can still recall when we met up again it was as if nothing had changed.  I thanked her sincerely for her support when she visited me this week.  I also apologised for being a bit crap sometimes.  With running around after munchkin it can sometimes take me days to respond to text messages or emails.  She just laughed and said that all her mummy friends were the same.  In fact even quite a few of her non mummy friends were as bad as us nappy brained loons.

The brilliant thing about true, deep friendships is that you can pick up where you left off when life sometimes overtakes you.  You can forgive each other for being a bit rubbish with keeping in touch.  You just know that they are there for you if you need them.  Knowing they are there is hugely comforting even if you don’t actually have to call on them. 

As I was thinking about what furniture I’ll need soon when I finally buy a permanent home for myself and munchkin, it struck me that true friendship is a bit like a shabby chic piece of furniture!  Although it’s well loved, it can get a bit neglected sometimes, but in spite of that it means far to much to you to ever be thrown away.

Mummy Blogging – why would you want to share your personal life online?

This was a comment made by a friend recently.  I blogged recently about setting up a single parent network at work and how my sharing information about myself in the email I’ve sent around to try and get members has provided an amazing response.  That’s why you share your personal life online.  Or certainly why I do it.  It’s partly because I want to try and help others.  If I put some of my learning out there then who knows, it might “do someone a turn” as my mum would say. 

Also it’s about building networks, making friends, meeting people in a similar situation.  You can’t do either without giving some information away to build your credibility, to show you are “in” the situation and not someone commenting off the top of your head.

There are risks though.  Anyone blogging about their personal life needs to be aware of the full potential impact of their actions.  I have shared facts, but very limited ones, about my divorce and what led to it, what I did in the aftermath to move on and learn to cope.  That’s perhaps more than I’ve needed to share but it’s an amount that I am comfortable with.  Giving some thought to what your comfort levels are is important.  It can be easy to get caught up in the emotion of a moment and write a post that you’ll later regret.  To that end I generally blog about a week in advance so I have the chance to revisit posts before they go live.  Just in case.

I am also quite ready to keep this blog under wraps from my daughter.  I have no aspirations nor the talent to become an uber blogger and so I don’t think this is unachievable.  Moderated comments also mean I can delete my name if any of my friends who occasionally visit the blog forget about my desire for anonymity and include it in a comment.

It’s also about talking to your nearest and dearest about what they are comfortable with.  My daughter is too young at a wee 19 months to have a ‘right of reply’ to anything I say.  My ex husband too has no knowledge of this and cannot respond to any comments I make either.  So I do limit what I say about them directly to the most minimum of facts I feel 1000% comfortable and confident making due to the fact they are, well, facts!  But also limited to what the minimum is I feel I need in order to tell my story and share my learnings authentically.

Despite my efforts to try and be as thoughtful as I could before doing all of this though, one person I didn’t check in with was my recent ex boyfriend.  I didn’t stop to consider whether he reads blogs, understands them or the varied and colourful motives of their authors.  I didn’t ask if he was comfortable with appearing on the blog in any form.  Inevitably this caused a few stressful conversations which I hold my hands up were totally my fault.  It’s easy to forget that not everyone inhabits the weird, wired and wonderful online world as much as some of us do.

We both sat down and had an honest, frank but direct conversation about what our worries and fears are.  I was defensive at first.  I’m enjoying this so much I didn’t want anything to threaten it.  But he explained he was a private person and didn’t want his metaphoricals pulled down in public as he learnt how to be in a relationship with a single parent.  We quickly agreed some ground rules.  He didn’t want to feature here.  I respect that totally and that won’t change now we’re apart. 

Acknowledgement to  Salvatore Vuono for use of the photo.

The powerful threat of loss

I spent this weekend with my parents.  I desperately needed their counsel in the aftermath of ex boyfriend and I agreeing that our relationship can’t continue.  With my daughter off visiting her dad, I seized the opportunity for some intensive emotional repair work in their capable hands.

Aside from talking about relationship stuff we talked about what this means for me now that I have to once again consider getting out of rented accommodation and into a mortgaged property.  My equity from my divorce should be coming through in towards the end of May and the tenancy on my flat expires at the end of July.  If I don’t identify a vacant property and turn it around in that 8 week window between end May and end July I’m stuffed.  I can’t afford to get into a situation where I’m renting and paying a mortgage at the same time but my landlord won’t let me do anything other than sign for another 6 months.

Thankfully my parents have stepped in and said if I can get my stuff in storage, my daughter and I can stay with them as an interim measure.  I know this will be hard on them as they are retired and also get very tired these days.  However they know I have little choice and simply don’t have the money to do otherwise.  They also know that I won’t abuse their support and will do my all to get myself off their hands as soon as possible.

I always knew my parents were terrific and this weekend has rammed it home.  Also because I’ve discovered that my father is ill and we don’t know what is wrong with him.  He’s suddenly started veering off sideways when he walks along and can’t control it.  It could be as simply as an inner ear infection or it could be…well, really serious and I can’t even contemplate those thoughts without bursting into tears.  He’s seeing the doctor on Tuesday and that day can’t come soon enough for me.  I’m praying it’s just an ear thing and nothing more.

The power of the thought of losing someone you love is a powerful emotion.  Ok it’s worst case scenario that this thing with dad could be super serious but it’s reminded me of his mortality.  Which is pretty tough to bear right now on top of losing my boyfriend.  Life don’t half seem to throw me some curve balls.  And I never did much like sport.

A tongue in cheek guide to relationship idiot speak

OK, so now the dust is settling, the smiles are slowly starting to return.  I lay in bed last night reflecting on some of the conversations that have taken place in my life when relationships have come to pass.  In my younger days I would have taken some of the statements I’ve heard recently and in the past at face value. 

Once you get a bit more mature and relationship savvy (dare I say once you hit your thirties) you can spot the sub text.  So here’s my attempt at a bit of humour to lighten the mood.  Having debated this endlessly with girlfriends (and boyfriends) over the years, here’s some relationship idiot speak and what it really means.  I’ve said some of these things myself so I feel qualified to reveal their true meaning, as much as having been on the receiving end of some of them and then seen what’s transpired after such statements were made!

And can we all just take a moment to thank the author of Bridget Jones for bringing the phrase ’emotional fuckwittage’ into our lexicon.  Here goes:

1.  What they say: I love you

What they really mean: If said after sex, ignore.  It means that was a great shag.  If said within a short time of meeting you, ignore.  It means they’re in huge lust and trying to get a shag or secure more great shags.  If said some time into the relationship and its met with behaviours and actions that match the sentiment, you can start to believe it.  If said after periods of real strife and the behaviours/actions don’t match up, be supsicious.  It could be their spinning you a line to keep you on the hook whilst they’re working out how they really feel.  I’d much rather have silence than lies as far as this one goes.

2.  What they say:  I’m scared that if we continue and get x no. months/years down the line it might go wrong.

What they really mean: I don’t want to be with you any more but I’ve not the balls to say so.  Any relationship can go wrong at any point.  That’s just someone looking for an excuse to get out.  If that’s what they think, they shouldn’t be in any relationship, let alone one with you.

3.  What they say: I don’t have the confidence in myself to give you what you need / you deserve to be loved completely and I’m not enough for you / you deserve better etc.  In fact any variation on the theme of ‘it’s not me its you’ (this sucker can appear in myriad forms!)

What they really mean: I don’t want to be with you any more and this is my attempt at softening the blow by blaming the break up on me rather than acknowledging simply that I don’t think we’re right for each other.

4.  What they say: I’ve done some really stupid stuff and I don’t think you’ll ever forgive me

What they really mean: Either they’d like to start fresh with someone new so they have a blemish free sheet  (normally said by someone who has trouble getting over stuff themselves and has a tendency to hold onto things – bad in itself) or again, this is someone looking for excuses to get out rather than just admit they don’t want you anymore.

5.  What they say: you’re fantastic and I love you but I’m just not ready for this

What they really mean: this is a tricky one.  If dating a widower, this could be a geniune acknowledgement that they aren’t gone grieving yet.  If uttered by anyone else this is just another attempt at depersonalising the situation instead of just saying they aren’t into you.

6.  What they say: Our lives aren’t compatible, you live here, I live there, I can’t see how we’d compromise etc (or any variation on a similar theme).

What they really mean: I’m not interested in finding any compromise because I’m too selfish or too stuck in a rut to want to change and accommodate you in my life.

Interestingly a chap called Drew has blogged about this and says he’d rather have silence than what he calls bullshit rejection lines.  I’d disagree.  Silence leaves you wondering.  At least if someone has an attempt at explaning how they feel it gives you the chance to assess whether they are spinning you lines or not. 

Spinning lines doesn’t always happen and sometimes the real truth is spoken.  In fact because bullshit rejection lines are so easy to spot, I’d say even when they are spoken if you have a bit of savvy you can unpick the meaning behind the words and get to the truth.  It just takes a bit longer.

Et voila.  Feel free to send me any you’ve heard or said and I’ll add to the list.  These are just my particular gems.

Back to being a single, single mum

I never dreamed six months into a beautiful romance that I’d be sitting here on my week off sobbing into a box of kleenex.  But I am.  Ending the relationship with boyfriend was a mutual decision and it was definitely the right choice.  So the tears I cry are not those of sadness at losing boyfriend.  You cannot be sad about losing someone who wasn’t right for you and who was not the person they led you to believe. 

No, the tears are different.  They aren’t for him but for me.  It’s sheer frustration that yet again I have wandered up (and was partly led up) a blind alley. It’s recognition that in daring to believe the words of commitment and promise, which now I realise were without depth, I let myself forget about the financial worries and emotional strain of single motherhood and doing it all on your own.  I let myself dream that I’d have a life partner and munchkin would have a step dad.  I let myself be bathed in hope that may be this was it.

You know what else though?  I let myself tenderley plant the seeds that, had it worked out, would have grown into love.  And that is so, so positive.  Its shown me that despite the emotional trauma of the divorce and single motherhood, I still believe in and are capable of being open to trusting and loving someone.

So as I exit my first “proper” relationship since my marriage ended, what have I learnt?

I’ve learnt that I’m definitely “over” my marriage break up.  Ironically this recent relationship ended on what would have been my third wedding anniversary and I didn’t even notice the date until a friend mentioned it.

I’ve learnt that I care about myself enough to not tolerate being treated without honesty, dignity of respect and that I won’t chase a relationship for the sake of it.  To use Bridget Jones speak, I can now spot “emotional fuckwittage” very quickly!

I’ve learnt that the non negotiables I wrote about before have stood me in good stead.  Part of the reason I was unhappy was because I realised that to make this particular person happy I’d have to sacrifice my career and/or time with my daughter which I’m not prepared to do given how little I see her already.

I’ve learnt that I have a lot to learn!  Some negative patterns of behaviour came out in me that I thought would die along with the marriage break up.  I need to focus on managing those much better.

I’ve learnt that I’m finally growing up and it feels good.  Previously I would have petulantly responded by making my profile on the dating website I’m a member of live again the next day and throwing myself into a new round of dating without giving myself time to heal, reflect, confront my role in the relationship demise, decide on how I need to improve myself and reassess whether the experience has changed or confirmed what I’m really looking for.

I’ve learnt that all the steps I took after my marriage ended to make my life bullet proof mean my life is just that.  I’ve been overwhelmed today with emails, texts, messages from friends and was welcomed into my parents’ home this afternoon with more love and tenderness than you can shake a stick at.  That I continue to ask for support, that I have the network in place, that such network has mobilised today in a way that makes me feel so loved and warm and supported is really all you could ever ask for in your time of need.

Well almost.  Actually all I need in times of need is my beautiful girl.  More than a few times today, when cuddling and rocking her back and forth, I’ve drifted off into a peaceful daydream of absolute nothingness.  Real delicious mindfulness.  In those moments nothing existed in this world other than her and boy did it feel good. Just like it always does. It still blows me away that the love for your children can bring you so much strength.


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