Tuesday, 23 October 2018

NAVIGATING DATING AFTER THIRTY


"I can't believe I'm still doing this at my age".

 Was what I defeatedly exclaimed as I threw myself down on the sofa to wait on my taxi before a date a couple of weeks back, putting a high heel on with one hand whilst juggling a gin & tonic with the other. The response I got was levelled and diplomatic. The kind of response one could only expect from a mother.

"There are a lot of unhappily married women out there Dawn who would currently kill to be in your shoes".

I knew she was right. But as my 35th birthday rushed towards me in the manner of a speeding train, I was seriously beginning to wonder if I could be bothered with it at all anymore. Having entered into my first serious relationship at 19 years old, I recently worked out that I have spent 10 of the last 16 years in relationships. And 6 single. I've never been bad at being single. In fact I've always been pretty good at it. Which I fear may be part of my problem. But what I have found and am finding with more and more clarity as each day passes is how bloody exhausting dating in your thirties can actually be. And I don't go on a lot of dates. In fact this year I have been on only a handful. 

Why? 

Because I don't like dates. 

And boy does it feel good to finally admit it.  

That's not to be confused with time spent with boyfriends. There's nothing better to me than Sunday afternoons spent walking through parks, pool playing in pubs and Sunday roast eating in front of a movie. I get positively ecstatic at the thought of a Saturday night in some posh restaurant in town, getting absolutely lashed with someone I love while telling them all the things I intend to do to them when we get back home. But new guys? The beginning bit? That very first date? I've just never really been able to get on board with it. 

Before I've even met them I've convinced myself the whole process will be demotivating and a waste of my time. Twenty four hours before I go, I start to piece together an escape plan. I get knots in my stomach like you wouldn't believe, I catastrophise they will end up being a serial killer (or worse, arrogant), and I start to long for what I would really rather be doing that evening anyway, which is watch The Handmaid's Tale on the sofa with some takeaway noodles. 

So much so that I often cancel. And if I don't cancel then I give them the opportunity to. Casually testing the water to make sure they still want to go. Breezily throwing it in there that I'm happy to reschedule to another date should they see fit. Secretly hoping they will take the bait so that I can go home and get into my trackies. But sometimes I go. And sometimes it goes well. Sometimes it does not. And I guess that's the risk you take with dating at any age. It's just that in your thirties the stakes always seem so much higher. 

I often think it would be bloody lovely to settle down again. Even if a marginal part of that admission is because I'm getting sick of taking the bins out. But dating in your thirties seems like such an exhaustive strategy, that the prospect of it often feels a little too daunting. The main thing I've noticed with dating past the big three-o is baggage. And there will inevitably be a lot of it. While I may not carry around enough to sustain me for a three week holiday somewhere with a colder climate, I am definitely carrying around enough to see me on a short haul domestic flight somewhere. Hand baggage, I like to call it. But once you get to a certain age, it's almost impossible to find someone who isn't. 

The point is that dating in your thirties is a completely different ball game to dating in your twenties. And the only thing you can really take from it is an education.  So what have I learned so far from dating at this ripe old age? Loads thankfully. Have I put any of these lessons into action and learned from them? Of course not. But in the words of my ever optimistic mother...

'There's still plenty of time darling'.

I've learned that even if I really wanted to I could never just settle because for a very brief period of time I tried it and truthfully I would rather just be alone. I've learned through a couple of dates with some very rich men that I would never marry for money (although the guy who offered me a large sum of cash when I broke up with him just to keep me remains a highlight and if you're reading this then I still have your number - just in case). I've learned that everyone in their thirties is carrying around some kind of fear and some level of issues sprung from lovers who spurned them, but that when you meet the right person you will be able to work on those fears together for the sake of something everlasting. So try not to worry.

I've learned that age doesn't really matter and that despite always dating men who were at least ten years older than me, I am a lot more adept at dating men my own age than I originally thought. I've learned (rather recently) to let go of the past or it will inevitably end up dictating your future. I've learned that men who are older and still dating often come with baggage of their own. Usually in the guise of some offspring, two mortgage payments or a nagging ex-wife. But try and just go with the flow. I've learned that it's ok to know what you want. And not to waste time on anyone who doesn't want the same things as you. 

Don't become disillusioned or beat yourself up too much over past mistakes. Understand your worth and that if you're not good enough for one guy you like, you'll probably be more than right for the next one you fall for. Let them pay for the first couple of dinners but always go round for round on the drinks. Don't over-analyse the beginning bit, even if you're scared. And become more tolerant. Even if every single bone in your body is screaming at you to do the opposite. 

Don't settle. 

Trust your gut. 

Don't seek perfection.

Don't cancel on them before you've even met.

And learn to read a map. 

Just in case Prince Charming never actually does show up.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

CAUSE I’M BEING TAKEN OVER BY THE FEAR



I used to be one of those people who always took time out for herself when something with someone I cared about ended. I needed an adequate amount of time to move forward and overthink the situation before I powered on through to the next date. I would watch friends cut their losses, accept the demise of their latest fairytale and just plunder onto the next bloke. But they seemed determined not to allow themselves enough time to deconstruct what went wrong with the last one. And I got it. It's just that that kind of formula never really worked for me.

It genuinely meant a lot to me that I was able to sit back and reflect when things in my life ended. And secretly I was a little judgemental. I've always considered myself a classy sort of gal and while I am more than aware that getting over someone by getting under someone else all too often works - it's just never been for me. 

But the other day I did something really unlike me. I recently messed up something that might have had the potential to be really good. Because I got scared and convinced myself that I was going to get hurt. I don't want to labour on it because it's not what this blogpost is about. It's about what I did next.

I did what my sister, pals and closest allies have been telling me is the secret formula for years. I got straight back on the horse. I got back in touch with the guy who worked offshore who was home for 5 weeks and was desperate to meet me. Even though I had basically been ignoring his texts for ages. I went back on the dating app and reconnected with the couple of decent ones who had kindly taken the time out of their day to virtually smile at me. I started chatting to another guy who I had never managed to get round to meeting but whose utter determination to still make me go for a drink with him even though I kept going quiet was still rather inspiring.

It wasn't like me. And not my usual style. But I realised that I just didn't want to play the victim in the situation. After a significantly stressful break up from a very controlling relationship a couple of years ago followed by getting royally fucked over by a man with seriously questionable morals in the summer of last year, I simply couldn't face the prospect of allowing myself to wallow.

Because here's what I'm learning. Life keeps moving forward. Whether you want it to or not. People keep evolving, you keep evolving. All the new people you are about to meet in the world will never be finished masterpieces. And you probably won't either. 

But you have to keep moving. 

And you have to keep learning. 

How did these dates go? There haven't been any yet. I cancelled the drinks because I just felt it was a bit fast. I needed a few more days to get my head around what had happened. But you know what I realised? I probably should have just gone on the drinks date. Because even if all I was really down for was getting drunk and talking about what a fuck up I was, even if I had ordered us shots and confessed the whole sorry story of my previous liaison to him - what was really the worst that could happen? My expertly honed flirting technique and cheeky sense of humour would have probably gotten me through it. And what if I had liked him and he had listened and he had ended up wanting to see me again anyway? 

Then at least I would have known that what we had was real. 

And that's essentially what I am looking for. 

Something real.

Even if that sometimes means mess. I want happy emotions. But I want raw ones too. I want the rush of endorphins that comes with falling in love. I want to drink whisky with someone till 3 in the morning while tentatively asking questions about their past. I want to get nervous about cooking for someone for the first time and I want to spend half an hour picking a bottle of wine because I'm still dying to impress them. I want the kind of sex that leaves you feeling like you are living on a different planet for the next three days. 

I want to be scared of getting hurt. And to be able to deal with that emotion normally. And then I want the peace. The contentment and the trust. And the feeling of falling in love without fear. 

I don't want drama & I don't want arguments. I don't want accusations or passionate fights. I've only ever had one of those kinds of relationships and it's not an experience I ever want to repeat. I want respect & I want kindness. I want compliments and drunken dinners. I want to know I'm not going to get cheated on and I want someone who doesn't secretly check my phone when I'm not looking. I want someone to call me on the way home from work to talk about what we're eating that night and I want someone who knows my weaknesses but loves me anyway. 

Most importantly - I want someone who isn't afraid to fall. 

I am difficult, impetuous and reactive. I am far too deep and far too honest. I drink too much, think too much and swear too much. I'm a head in the clouds fatalist, a massive romantic and a complete & utter over-thinker. 

And I guess I am absolutely terrified of getting hurt. 

But I know that I deserve to give myself a chance. And that I deserve to give someone else that chance too. I scare easy at the beginning and it has always taken a little bit of time and work with me to get to the good stuff. 

But there has always been good stuff. 

Lots and lots of it. 

And there will most definitely be good stuff again.

Monday, 10 September 2018

THERE'S SOMETHING INSIDE YOU, IT'S HARD TO EXPLAIN

As it's now my favourite time of year, I figured it would be a good time to embrace some Cosagach into my life. In case you hadn't heard, the Scottish word Cosagoch has just replaced Hygge as the buzzword of 2018. Cosagach (pronounced coze-sag-och) is an old Gaelic word and is used to describe how the feeling of being warm and sheltered promotes feelings of well being. And anything that encourages me to feel warm, cosy and generally nice inside is something I plan to embrace with full gusto. Especially now that it's no longer acceptable to eat dinner in the garden and all my summer clothes have been banished again to the back of the wardrobe. 

Back in February I spoke about taking the pressure off of myself a little bit and it's something I have been practising in a variety of different forms for a while now. And it's working. Self-care might be becoming the shitty, eye roll inducing cliched para-phrase of last year, but there's certainly something to be said for actually being nicer to yourself.

I love this time of year more than any other. There's something about the turning of summer into autumn that gives me a sense of happy and inner peace. I don't even mind all the rain. Well I do mind the rain but see it is a reasonable price to pay for all the aesthetically pleasing falling leaves, pretty autumnal colours, reasons to cook (and eat) lots off stodge and excuse to burn ridiculously expensive candles. I love leaving work in the dark (I know, I'm weird), the fact that the telly gets really bloody good (I know, I'm sad) and the cosy feeling I get from leaving little lamps and candles on in every room (I know, I need an environmental conscience).

So for the majority of 2018 I have been largely doing what makes me happy. Something I touched upon in my returning blog post a couple of weeks ago. And it's making me feel better than ever. I'm still drinking much more moderately and loving it and in terms of my eating habits I am slowly losing that terrible binge eat/starve philosophy I had taken years to perfect. My general attitude towards lots of different areas in my life has improved greatly too, to be honest.

I was surprised by how many girls got in touch with me after that blog post back in February to say how much that piece of writing had spoken to them. Some related to it in terms of always wanting to lose weight or drink less wine. Others felt I had subconsciously spoken to them about their need to settle down or desire to have a baby. Others just agreed that a combination of trying to look good, trying to be a perfect friend and trying to juggle a career and family all got a bit much for them too sometimes. It struck me that it wasn't just me being hard on myself. That we were all in this together.

So I took the blogging break because I wanted to be nicer to myself and it worked and made me feel much better. I bought the really nice face creams even though I felt guilty about not spending the money on Ava. And I made some big decisions regarding work, friendships and my general well being.

If I don't want to go out then I am slowly learning to just say no. With age comes wisdom and the dawning realisation that actually nobody cares if you don't go to the party. I'm too old for FOMO (fear of missing out) and if I would rather be cosied up on my sofa under a blanket with some chocolate and a dark Scandi crime drama then so be it. I'm not hurting anyone and from what I can see I'm not really missing out on that much either.

It's time we stopped trying to please other people all the time and just did what made us happy. 

I was chatting to a friend recently who was in a bit of a bad way. She was feeling shit, everything was getting on top of her and she couldn't escape a niggling feeling that a sort of depression was looming. She asked me for advice and what I would do in her situation. I told her to do the only thing I knew worked for me. And that was to gather up all her passions and to practise them. Every single day. To work out all the things that made her happy and brought her feelings of contentment and to chase them as often as she could.

These things are different for different types of people. For me they are mostly experience led and rarely cost me any money. Climbing a big hill on what was originally meant to be a lazy Sunday. A 5k run that accidentally turns into a 10k because I'm enjoying it so much. That first sip of Gin & Tonic on a Friday after a long week at work. Lazy Saturday morning brunches with Ava eaten at the table in our PJ's. Exploring abandoned buildings, cooking roast dinners & watching true crime documentaries on Netflix.

Scotland.

Eating.

 Writing.

A couple of years ago I wrote down a list of all the things that made me happy and then I swore that I would make them become my focus. And that's exactly what I have being doing. Not only does it give you a sense of purpose but it gives you an edge. It gives you your own exquisite personality. Whether its a predilection for science fiction or a geeky fascination with art galleries, discover what makes you feel alive and I promise you will never look back. It gives you something to talk about at dinner parties, it gives you things in common when you go on dates and it gives you a brilliant example to set your children when you're trying to drag them away from the iPad.

So find your you.

You don't have to explain.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

TIME WILL SAVE YOU, YOU DON'T NEED TO SAVE YOURSELF


Yesterday I put something on Instagram Stories about how I was currently undertaking a complete lifestyle re-haul - both mental and physical. I got lots of replies from people asking me how I was planning on doing this and a handful (just a handful - I'm not Zoella), asked me if I would blog about it. A few were even kind enough to tell me how much they missed my writing. So after 6 long months of a very much planned blog break, I decided to make this my returning topic of choice. 

I have missed blogging. But my decision to step away from it was very much a purposeful one. To start with, the idea of my romantic interests reading my little corner of the internet became undesirable. I have always been fiercely protective of my love life when it comes to sharing online. When I'm in a relationship I am likely to say very little about it on social media and I rarely blog about boyfriends unless my musings relate to someone who is now in the past. Given how much I spill my guts here about everything else that goes on in my head, I'm not entirely sure why that is. But it's just something I have always found to be too personal.

Another reason I took a break was because I was sick of the silly 'filler posts' I spent my time concocting. That event I got invited to that I had to mention cause hell they fed me free champagne all night or the posh moisturiser I received in the post that I couldn't use without punting on the blog somehow. I don't write for that stuff and I never did. As the months of no blogging ticked by the event invites dried up and the free stuff practically stopped. Which is a-ok. Because that's not what this blog is about anyway. And it never was. So as I make my return to the blogosphere (with a slight touch of trepidation), you can rest assured that any future promoting I do (and I imagine there will be very little) will be done over on my Instagram feed and not here. 

Because we're going back to the real stuff. 

The slightly heavy, sometimes cheery, over-thinking, often angsty, hopefully relatable, spill my guts, talk about life real stuff. The stuff I enjoy writing. The reason I am here. And hopefully the reason you are too. And if my blog stats are anything to go by it's the stuff you enjoy more anyway. It might not be as often. I probably won't blog as much. But when I do it won't be to tell you I'm giving away a massive box of crisps, to gloat about a recent free dinner or to recap my week with a bunch of photos you have already seen on Instagram anyway. 

The main reason I sacked blogging for a while was to re-evaluate. I questioned how much of my heart I was willing to share anymore. How much of my head I truly wanted to expose. I got sick of the intense pressure I put on myself to over-share. It became enjoyable to get home from work on a Monday evening and NOT spend the next 3 hours writing and proofreading. Taking a million different pictures before editing and posting. I concentrated on doing lots of exercise, I started seeing someone, I cooked a tonne of new recipes and I got myself heavily invested in Love Island. 

It was nice.

But I missed it. Writing has and always will be a cathartic process for me and in the last 6 months I have realised that in order to survive this crazy, chaotic, exciting, rewarding, punishing & sometimes just bloody stressful world that we are currently co-existing in - I have to bash these thoughts out. Or I might go quietly mad. 

And so onto the topic of this blog post.

My decision to change up some of my lifestyle habits came about after I got pretty sick during a recent holiday to Cyprus. Intense stomach pains saw me bent over double & pulling two grueling all-nighters which then saw a Saturday night visit from the local GP which then saw a visit to A&E. Where I was given a great deal of well received pain relief, a rough diagnosis & instructions to visit my own GP when I got home. I'm still feeling mega run down and exhausted but some blood tests tomorrow will no doubt confirm what everyone is suspecting anyway. A fairly common stomach infection that is totally treatable with a decent dose of antibiotics.

I spent my last few days in Cyprus in a darkened and air-conditioned apartment bedroom watching old episodes of Kath & Kim on Netflix and occasionally dragging myself down to the pool when I felt up to it for a couple of hours of laying in the sun. And I did a lot of thinking. I was stressed. Severely stressed and a lot of it was my own fault. I found my job stressful at times, I wasn't thick skinned and I often took the bad stuff home with me whilst completely disregarding any of my accomplishments or patting myself on the back for any of the good stuff. The control freak in me felt my department fell to pieces when I wasn't there and that in itself caused me to put a huge amount of pressure on myself to be there, even when I was severely ill. And pressure like that is not going to make you get better any quicker. I had to take serious steps to look after myself a bit better. Both physically and mentally. I took some time to understand why I put that pressure on myself and then I took steps to fix those reasons and to stop them happening and now I already feel so much better. 

Learning to regulate how I react to stressful situations is key and the main thing I am working on. A job is just a job. Difficult people are difficult people. And you can't be everything to everyone all of the time. I love my job and I was born to do it. But I don't need to always take it home with me, or pack it in my suitcase and take it on holiday with me. I'm compartmentalising & understanding that stress (be it brought on from work, relationships or other areas) doesn't need to fully integrate into the rest of your being. And it doesn't need to drip into all the other areas of your life. Boxing things up into priorities, learning what matters and what doesn't and understanding that health and family come first are the main components I'm working on right now.

It's head admin for the soul and for a control freak like me it really seems to be working.

I've massively cut down on drinking although this was something I started before I went on holiday. I have never been a bottle of wine a night gal and never will. But I do enjoy a tipple. I'm not really a go out all the time and get smashed girl either, more a cliched, single mum, treat myself to a gin because it's been a hard day or what's wrong with enjoying a glass of red with dinner at home style kinda drinker. I will often (but not always) drink nothing Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, usually enjoy my first wine of the week while tackling the ironing on a Wednesday, crank it up to two glasses because it's nearly the weekend on a Thursday, then easily scoop a bottle along with a few gins if I have friends or company over at the weekend. And we have friends or company over most weekends. But having cut that down significantly to the odd glass of red I feel ridiculously better. No more waking up groggily in the mornings, no more of the booze bloat making my jeans feel too tight and no more of that slightly depressed but I don't know why feeling for the first hour of the day. That feeling of waking up clear headed, positive and full of energy feels too good to give up. And so it's staying. Along with my new found sensibility for moderation. 

It was always going to happen sooner or later.

An unhealthy relationship towards diet and my body are also two things I am working on. And two things I suspect I have been pushing under the carpet for far too long. It's come to my attention that I may be a little too hard on myself, perhaps even see something different in the mirror to that which everyone else sees. Which is not uncommon. I can start with adopting a healthier approach to eating. I have a ridiculous habit of skipping meals which started when I had to lose my baby weight and I often survive on only one meal a day for a few days every week. It has been suggested now by more than a few people that it could be my constant Ibuprofen popping (as a reaction to headaches & terrible period pains), on these empty stomachs that could be to blame for my recent tummy issues. It usually takes a few people and a fair bit of repeating for things to start to get my attention. 

But I am listening.

So for those of you who asked - these are the ways in which I am changing my lifestyle. And even though I haven't been practicing them for that long, I already feel bloody wonderful. A clearer head has resulted in a much more positive outlook, eating healthily but regularly hasn't cause me to pile on the pounds and a long hard look at myself and how I manage my job has already resulted in my passion and zest for a job I truly adore returning.

Truthfully I feel great right now. The fact that every single bloke I get involved with ends up being a cheat, an unreliable flake or a control freak isn't even bothering me that much at the minute. I just genuinely, honestly don't care. And they do say the less you care the happier you'll be. And the fact that I have suddenly decided to start blogging again only a few days after I find myself newly single cannot be a coincidence.

I'm not just getting back a zest for a job that I absolutely love. I'm getting back an intense zest for life. I'm learning that stressful things are just stressful things. Just throw those bitches in a box and deal with them in the morning. Anxiety is a killer and something I only really started to suffer from a couple of years ago but these days the bouts are few and far between and I'm learning the triggers and how to avoid them (hiya caffeine). When I'm stressed my skin goes haywire, I binge eat junk food and I drink too much wine. All of which leave me feeling sad and miserable.

The fact that I am eating so much better, drinking so much less and starting to look so much healthier is all testament to how much a fresh and positive outlook can change your entire approach and mental wellbeing. So my plan is to adopt these changes for good, to enjoy every single minute of life with Ava before she hits her teens & starts hating me and to continue to get my kicks through my love of Scotland and adventure.

And hopefully to start blogging a bit more. 

Thursday, 22 February 2018

TRY TO SOLVE THE PUZZLES IN YOUR OWN SWEET TIME


Lately I've been feeling edgy, stressed and a little all over the place. Lately I've been feeling flakey. And flakey is not a word you would ordinarily use to describe me. Not the gal who is always early for everything, never has an untidy house and who can't have more than three unopened notifications on her iPhone without breaking into a sweat. But lately I've been turning up for business meetings with no notepad. Lately I've been hitting the lock button on my car keys three times on the walk to my front door because I've no idea if I've already done it or not and lately I've been snapping at Ava for taking too long, only to discover the reason she is so far behind is because she is dragging the handbag I inconveniently forgot to pick up. I've even managed to be late a couple of times. And that is really not like me.

So what's been going on?

I've been refusing to let cars out just to be spiteful. I've been spending a small fortune panic buying skincare because all of a sudden I look old and I've been changing outfits a million times because nothing I put on looks right and I'm convinced I look unfashionable and dowdy. I'm breaking things like plates and glasses just by looking at them (which is ironic given I am not using the wine ones nearly as much) and I'm eating junk food at an alarming rate. To be honest, the only thing I haven't managed to do yet is scratch, prang or write off the car. 

But give me time.

I need to chill. I need to chill the F out guys. I need to take a step back. I need to light some candles, bang on some Netflix and pour myself a god damn glass of red. Even if it's a Tuesday. I need to spend some serious time in the kitchen, listening to some Gaslight Anthem and knocking out more meals than Mary. I probably need to stop being such an avid and enthusiastic swearer. 

But baby steps.

So that's what I've been doing team. I have been doing all of the above and it has been helping. And once I calmed down, took a chill pill and started to feel a bit better, I decided to investigate my own good self a bit more and to try to work out what the hell was going on with me. And do you know what? Self analysis is a scary place. But sometimes a rewarding place if you do it right. And I worked it out. I worked out what the hell has been going on in this mad little world we call my head for the past few weeks and in all honesty - it's exactly what I've been doing to myself since I stopped wearing scrunchies and started drinking gin and tonics.

I've been putting myself under too much pressure.

It's pressure you guys. It's pressure I've been putting myself under for a long, long time. It's pressure that makes me feel shit. It's pressure that keeps me up at night and it's pressure that makes me occasionally narky with the kid. It's pressure. And it's no good for any of us. What do I feel pressure about? Hope you haven't got any plans tonight. Cause I suggest you sit tight. Maybe make a cup of tea. Put your sweats on and perhaps light a few candles. You might even wanna grab some snacks.

I feel pressure to be a size 8 even though I am a healthy, happy, curvy, wee bit wobbly, sexy, smokin size ten and I look FAB. I feel pressure to excel the hell outta my career even though I am smashing it in all directions and have come such a long way from the soul destroying job that made me so unhappy two years ago.  I feel pressure to have a family, another baby and a god damn back garden by now even though I HAVE a bloody amazing family (albeit a small one) and am at exactly the same age as the average first time house buyer in the UK and am on the property ladder so just calm the fuck down.  I feel pressure to be a perfect mum even though Ava couldn't be more polite, patient, well mannered and kind if she tried (like, seriously, are we sure she's even mine?). I feel pressure to find a boyfriend even though I am genuinely having a smashing time bringing her up on my own and I need to stop buying into this idea that I need to couple up just because it's what SOCIETY thinks I should do. I feel pressure to stay in when I was meant to go out and pressure to go out on the nights I would prefer to stay in. I feel pressure to save money in case my boiler breaks down but my Scottish escapes and cocktails bring me so much pleasure and what if I get hit by a bus tomorrow? I feel pressure to keep my nails chip free and to book the Botox to sort out the crows feet that have been doing my head in for the past six months. I feel pressure to concentrate on the political shit on Radio 4 in the morning instead of thinking about nice wall paint colours and what I'm going to have for dinner that evening and I feel pressure to read books that are literary classics and more highbrow than the February edition of Marie Clare.

There's pressure all around us. Everywhere we look. And I give into it. Every single day.  But when you stop, which is what I tried to do two weeks ago, it does start to make everything feel a hella lot clearer. I've been choosing the bubbles baths over writing the blog posts and know what? No one died. No one even cares. It's a hobby and no one's interested if I don't blog in over two weeks. It's not paying my mortgage (much to my derision). I've been deleting the dating apps (yes, I went back there), after a first date experience with someone a bit nasty and malicious made me re-evaluate why the fuck I was even doing it in the first place. I've always struggled with the idea of going on a date with someone I've never met (probably the reason I have met most of my boyfriends first through work) and always questioned why I could never embrace the buzz or the thrill of meeting people through Tinder or Bumble. But the sick feeling that would ensue as I put my make up on, the dread that would wash over me on the way to the bar and the panic that would creep in the nearer date day got has made me realise it's time to throw the towel in. That bad date has taught me that it's safer and wiser to meet people you already know a little bit about and that's my best foot forward from now.

I've been feeling so under pressure from this societal idea that I should have a boyfriend, and as a result so transfixed with actively going on dates to try and find one, that I never actually sat down and questioned if I even really wanted one. And the answer to that is the same now as it was 12 months ago. I don't really care either way. And that is an absolutely fine place to be when you stop putting yourself under so much pressure. Because god forbid I focus on my career, god forbid I focus on building a strong, solid family unit with my child (because two is still a team) and god forbid I don't end up with a 4x4, better postcode and a family membership to David Lloyd before I hit 35.

God forbid that eh?

The bad date made me realise that forcing myself to go on dates and 'find someone' has never made me happy and so I need to stop. And there's an obscene amount of pleasure in just focusing on spending quality time with the kid I've already got. After a miscarriage last year I threw myself into the idea that I desperately needed another child to fill the void. Even though that relationship dissolved faster than a bath bomb shortly after I lost the baby. I can see now that it was actually just grief. And only now after properly coming to terms with the loss am I understanding the value in just being grateful for what I've got.

A lifetime spent mentally punishing yourself for every god damn thing is not an easily changed cognitive process. It takes time, determination and a lot of focus. But apparently I have all those things in abundance. 

So I'm definitely on the right track.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

LOVING YOU'S A BLOODSPORT


Although the romantic in me has been guilty of looking at them through rose tinted glasses in the past, when I hear people talk about Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, I do sometimes roll my eyes a little.  Having met on a film set in 1964, the two movie stars fell madly in love and went on to make up and break up a multitude of times over the course of many years. They were deeply in love and thanks to an inability to ever really stay away from one another, ended up marrying twice. Although eventually settling apart, they were never able to truly let go, and only days before his death at 58, it's said that Burton penned one final love letter to Elizabeth. Elizabeth was eventually buried with the letter.

The reason I roll my eyes isn't because they weren't in love. I truly believe they were. Madly. The reason I roll my eyes is because in the interests of fairy tale romanticism, people these days tend to conveniently forget the harsh, bitter truth to the story. That their relationship was toxic and dysfunctional. A rollercoaster of fights, break ups and drink fulled rages. 

We want to believe it was the greatest love story ever told. 

Because we want to believe in love. 

A relationship like that is one I can relate to. As I spent nearly two years in a similar cycle. And I think that anyone who has been in that situation can relate to the dark and frustrating patterns that emerge from unions like it. Despite loving each other, we just couldn't make it work. For every magical weekend spent away together, playing pool, exploring Scotland and lovingly waking up in each others arms, there was a weekend of not talking to one another, avoiding each others phone calls and angrily batting emails back and forth to each other. For every open road we drove together, singing loudly to songs together, holding hands and sipping Starbucks together, there was soul destroying fights with one another, wild accusations and passionate proclamations that we never again wanted to see one another. And for every passionate night spent in bed together, naked and wrapped around each other, talking about our desires, dreams and wants for one another, there was nasty heat of the moment insults thrown at each other, drunken tempestuous rows and jealous challenges chucked in the face of one another. The relationship was probably the most passionate and intimate of my relationships to date. But it was also one of the most stressful, frustrating and emotionally weakening experiences I have ever endured. 

There are many theories thrown around by psychologists as to why people stay in these kinds of relationships. Many get off on the drama, feel alive being close to the conflict. Some are too scared to leave, too fearful of being on their own. For others it comes down to low self esteem or a lack of courage. But for me it was none of those things. For me it was love. It's taken me a long time to come to a point where I could write about it. Because before I write about anything I need clarity and that is something that can only ever be yielded through time. But almost two years after the demise of that particular relationship, I can look back with open eyes, searing honesty and an absolute certainty as to why I stayed. Why I went back. And why I never really wanted it to end. 

I was in love. And where there is love there is hope. And that is the simple truth of it.

A relationship so turbulent, toxic and chaotic changes you. It makes you a different person to the one who originally entered it. Even almost two years on, while genuinely happy with my life, I know that it has left marks on me that will never go away. I'm wary now in a way I wasn't before. When I do meet someone I often feel like a bystander, like I'm not viewing the interactions from within.  I cautiously watch from the sidelines, almost like I'm watching a movie, interested to see which way it will go. 

When two people who still genuinely and passionately love each other cut ties, there's an indelible mark left on you both. You carry around a secret. You carry around a knowledge. A knowledge that makes you different. Nowadays when I speak to someone who is going through a similar thing or I see the turmoil in the eyes of a friend who is keeping things a secret, I am careful to let them know they can come to me. I am careful to look them in the eye and to tell them that I am there. That I won't ever get sick of the stories or roll my eyes at the incessant break-ups. That I will listen. That I have been there. And that I know what it is like.

A year before her death, in a wheelchair but still mentally alert, Elizabeth told a journalist "Richard is the only one I truly loved and still care about. I shall miss him until the day I die". She was then buried the following year, along with that last love letter he wrote her.

It's easy to tell someone they should walk away. It's easy to tell yourself the same thing. But it's not always that easy to actually do it. In my opinion love is love and love is real. If I learned anything from my passionate, turbulent and bittersweet encounter it's that love does exist. But that love is harsh, hard and sometimes unforgiving. That love is not always the movie style fairy tale we all so desperately wish for.

Just like Elizabeth and Richard were to discover for themselves, love doesn't always work. And recognising that, smiling even when it sometimes still hurts and having the courage to accept it is all we can really do. It's accepting that no one was right and that no one was wrong. 

It's accepting that good things still happen. 

That love is real. 

And that in the end, everything always ends up ok.

'If you bring two bar magnets together, there are two things that can happen: if you bring a north pole and a south pole together, they attract and the magnets may stick together. If you bring two north poles together, or two south poles together, they repel and the magnets push each other away'.

Friday, 5 January 2018

YOU ARE ENOUGH


The other day Ava and I were discussing something and I made an offhand remark about somebody being on a diet. Her reaction took me by surprise. She looked up at me with genuine interest and said, "Mummy, what's a diet?"

 I couldn't have been happier. Although I found it a bit unusual that at the age of 6, she had no idea what the word diet meant. Those of you who have been following my blog for a while may remember my post on the day a three year old boy broke my heart. After that rather upsetting incident, I swore to myself that I wouldn't ever expose Ava to the constant fat fears, size zero desires and insistent pressure put upon women these days to fit into some kind of idealistic size zero aesthetic. I threw away my bathroom scales and I haven't weighed myself in front of her since. I never use the word fat in front of her because I don't think it has kind or positive connotations and I encourage her to have a healthy attitude towards food that focuses on balance. It seems to be working.

I'm asked constantly online how I maintain a size ten dress size given how much I am always cooking, eating and Instagram Story'ing my snacking. People constantly question why I'm 'not huge' given my insane love of all things edible. But hey guess what? I'm not exactly a size zero either guys. I'm slim but by no means skinny, I hate my thighs and have a bit of a tummy. And I most certainly have an arse you can more than grab onto.

I hate low fat products and think they are a contradiction in terms. I use proper butter, would rather pour skimmed milk down the sink than put it in my coffee and I always keep double cream in the fridge for those 'shit what am I gonna cook tonight' last minute risottos. I am a massive fan of the 'good fats' like oily fish, avocados and nuts and seeds. All things that are high in fat and calories. But good for you if you don't eat them in excess. I love salads and vegetables but just cannot get on board with fruit. I operate an 80/20 rule. I eat as healthily as I possibly can during the week (bank holidays and the few days before my period obviously excluded) and then have what I want at the weekend. And that means bacon for brunch, crisps while the Saturday night steaks are cooking and sticky toffee pudding after the Sunday dinner. If I fancy something sweet after my dinner during the week I will still have it. Usually a few squares of dark chocolate or a small bag of Ava's Haribo. I just save the really good stuff (like a family sized bar of galaxy or my body weight in cheese) till the weekend.

I'm also a big fan of the fasting diet and although I don't strictly adhere to the terms and conditions of the popular 5/2, I have adopted my own version. Two or three days a week I will eat only dinner. And it seems to work for me. Although I understand that there are many people who can't go without food for more than 12 hours without fear of stabbing someone, I just find this easy, natural and the right thing for my body. But it's not a diet, it's a lifestyle choice and an approach to eating that I have been practising for years. And that's why Ava doesn't know what a diet is.

Because diets don't work.

Back in 2015, I wrote that: 'the important features we need to succeed in this world are learned behaviours. They are discipline, education, determination, drive and positivity'. All things that I believe are needed in order to maintain a healthy relationship with anything. And it's those thought processes, towards everything, that I try to work on and establish with Ava every single day. 

Sometimes I think it would be very easy to allow myself to fall back into the insecure traps that haunted my twenties. Feeling big and desperately wanting to be a stone slimmer. Questioning whether I was capable enough to do my job or tormenting myself over why I wasn't good enough for someone I loved. Even now in my thirties, these negative though processes are still very tempting. To buy the scales and starve myself to finally get back into that body-con dress or to Photoshop the Instagram post of my legs that I thought made my calves look bigger.

But I can't do that.

Because just like I said in my last post.

My daughter's watching me. 

As long as Ava looks in the mirror and likes what she sees then I am doing my job right. And a million likes on Instagram or the best diet in the world is not going to achieve that. But a healthy attitude to life, an appreciation of your own self worth and the knowledge that even the girl in the magazine probably doesn't actually look like the girl in the magazine will.

I believe that this is what we need to be teaching our girls. That whether it's their attitude towards their bodies, boys or botox - that they are enough. 

And that they will always, always be enough.