I am single

I have been on my own, single, without an other half for a fair while now. Years in fact. But the assumption is always that I will meet someone. Eventually. I was out recently with Robert and I bumped into someone that I had not seen for a while and her immediate presumption is that he was my boyfriend (he isn’t) but I get that. I guess if I see someone that I know is on their own and they are out with someone new, then I sometimes make that same presumption too. It is tricky.

I guess for me, the presiding issue is that I seldom, if ever, find anyone else attractive. It isn’t that I don’t admire awesome qualities in others, or appreciate the pretty (I utterly do) but I look on these qualities with the same sort of admiration that I apply to lots of things, a beautiful sunset, a Lichenstein painting, the complete Oxford Dictionaries. I love them all dearly, except I don’t want to take them home and keep them forever. Okay. I lied on the last one. I would absolutely love to own a massive set of a letter a book dictionaries. But essentially, I hope my meaning is clear. I have to have a lot of love for something to want to engage with it further.

Sometimes I do. But there feels to be a social pressure to this, until I am coupled off, I am unresolved, thus other people feel a need to see me ‘complete’. But what if I never have that sort of relationship again? Was chatting with my daughter about how she might feel if I had a relationship with someone and her resounding answer was ‘that it would be weird’. I agreed.

It isn’t that I have resolved to never fall in love and do the things of relationship. In the past, I have completed two seven-year stints at this, but I can’t judge my now against this sort of standard. What I wanted back then is not necessarily what I want now. So perhaps it would be useful to spend some time working out what I do want.

It is still the dictionaries.

Map Point. Am I still judging myself against past wants?

Little boxes

Today I was reminded of something really important. Even during the worst of times, there are still good days. This is easy to forget when I have had tougher times, as that can make memories cloudier. But there are still good days, and it can be a better way to weave my personal narrative. Looking for the stepping stones and ignoring the river flowing through.

Quite a few of my friends at the moment are going through some massively hard things, stemming from the professional to the personal. I listen to these amazing people, trying to put into words feelings that are difficult to express to another, and likely also to themselves. It has made me ponder when I have not had words, and when I finally found them, I really didn’t want to. But acknowledgement of just how foul things are and then the responsibility of that offer the catharsis to heal.

For a long time, I have been able to categorise my sad things, but this is easy. I could distance myself from my words and could recite them with the emotional depth of reading from a catalogue. Although I knew what had happened, distancing myself from the events meant that I didn’t have to acknowledge my part in them. Understanding why I have allowed things to happen, or not happen was important, as it gave me a much deeper understanding of myself.

To give an example. A relationship that I had a long time ago ended utterly horrifically. It was a cliche of badness. A girl who was new at work had felt low, so had taken her out with my friends. Then my boyfriend of eighteen months left me. Over the telephone. And went out with her. In my adult life, I have only truly lost my temper a handful of times; this was most assuredly one of them. I have no idea what I said into that telephone, but it was loud, angry and in the finish, a friend who was with me at the time took the phone out of my hands. I think that we then went to the cinema. And ate icecream. I was desperately sad after. Many tears, much anger. At the time it was because I thought I wanted him back, retrospectively I didn’t really want him to begin with. I had wanted to have a ‘boyfriend’ as I had not previously had one, thus had no idea of the requisites that having one of those required.

When I think back to that relationship now, I can see that I was prepared to settle for anyone, irrespective of how I was treated. I understand why I did this, and curiously, resolving the issues behind why I accepted such poor treatment led to a huge loss of anger over this relationship. I don’t need to be angry at him, he became a mirror through which I could see myself with clarity. If I can understand what has motivated me, I can work to resolve that.

I don’t think that many people want to reflect on situations that will ultimately provoke more suffering, especially if they are currently in a space of acute pain. I left lots of things unresolved for years and years. It served me because I was scared to reopen certain things, and it didn’t serve me as that was a weight that I had to carry. So, whilst my emotional bag was heavy, I looked for the good days. And there were many.xx

Map Point. How can I make myself feel good today?



The amazing Mr Roy

When I think back to how I imagined relationships would be, I based it on a premise that there was a ‘happy ever after’ without ever being totally sure what ‘happy ever after’ actually was. Am still not sure that I have an answer. Then I thought about some of the best and most lasting relationship advice that I ever received. It was from Roy.

Roy is someone who I completely love having in my life. He is patient and kind, insightful and humble, ever observant and has an incredibly wry sense of humour. His facial expressions convey more than whole conversations. Roy has given me much advice, always indirectly and never with judgement. What he said about relationships really stayed with me.

I had gone out for an evening in London with Roy, Brenda and several other of their friends. It was near Christmas and we had gone to a massive Catholic church for their carol service. There were a few bits we all sang together, but mostly we went to listen to the amazing choir and soloists that were performing there. I think that this is something that I would like to experience again. I also had the tail end of bronchitis. We were listening to someone singing in one of the inner chapels, their voice resonating as if in direct communication with God, utterly sublime. And I am desperately trying to not cough. The suppression was not really all that successful, as my throat was as tickly as my daughter is when I just pretend to tickle her without actually touching her (which is massively tickly). Roy had some mints which saved a lot of peoples enjoyment that night. Then at the end of the evening, when we could all talk, and I had indulged myself in a good hearty cough, I asked Roy why he had never married.

I was in quite a dire relationship at the time, I wanted to leave, but had not yet worked out the mechanics of how. Almost everyone around me knew how bad things were. I was nineteen and things were confusing. Roy was possibly in his fifties at the time, and am not entirely sure what motivated my question, but it felt important. He told me that he had never met anyone with whom he could share the love that his parents had for each other. Even now, this holds such resonance for me. He had seen something that he viewed as perfect, and he wasn’t prepared to settle for something that he perceived as less.

This was the first time I had heard someone put such definites on their reality. He had decided something and stuck with it. I was amazed. I felt as if so much of my life was compromise, acquiescent to the demands of others. Being just me seemed to be a problem, as it was much easier to passively change bits of me than to state my needs. This has never served me well, but something that I find familiar.

It is easy to be liked when I am doing what someone else wants me to do. It takes much strength of will to decide that I am going to be entirely me and not worry about the consequences. I know people who live like this and I often wonder how they never seem to experience the uncertainty, the panic that I can feel so readily. One part of me envies that, and the other part pities. If I never experienced such lows, how can I ever truly appreciate the highs?

Map Point. What is the most valuable advice I have received?



People are not things

I was thinking about a friend that I have not seen for a while last night, Philip. Philip split up with his wife a long time ago, yet always held a sense of grief about it. He has since remarried but although he professes to love his new wife deeply, it strikes me that he fears losing her more than he actually loves her. He does everything for her, indulges her, is almost sycophantic, despite her being fully capable. Maybe he could love her absolutely, but he carries so much weight from his last relationship, so much fear of loss, that he is unable to.

Sometimes we treat people like things and it does not lead to happiness. A few years back I was in a relationship where I was indulged. I was treated with things, with adoration and it felt empty. I could have behaved however I wanted and I knew that this was not healthy for me or for them. I could have been anyone, and that reality was hard. I was only special to them because they required someone to love.

Now I am not suggesting that my behaviour is anything less than impeccable in relationships and clearly I am an amazingly lovable person, but to be aware that my presence was only required to endorse the other person was something new. To have allowed this to continue would have put me in a position of absolute power, and if you genuinely love someone, there has to be a balance that is free from that possibility of abuse.

In other relationships that I have had, I have been the one simpering, glad for any attention. It is a demeaning place to be where you feel rapturous for the slightest praise, the slightest endorsement. It left me with a sense that I wasn’t enough, not good enough, not kind enough, not anything enough. So I would up my efforts and it was exhausting. My health suffered accordingly.  I guess the other person must have realised the power that they had. It was something so obvious, but sometimes that is easy to overlook.

When my self-esteem is in a good place (like now) it is hard to see why I would have allowed such behaviour. But when you are feeling low, it is hard to see how badly you are allowing yourself to be treated. Similarly, if I need someone to worship me, then my self-esteem is in an equally bad place. Developing strong self-esteem for me was a long process but it has walked hand in hand with an increased sense of contentment with my world. I am allowed to define the parameters as to how other people can treat me, and I am not a thing.

Map Point. Where do give and take endorsement?

Looking at others to see me

Thinking about people in your life is mostly quite a hard task. It’s easy to group them by gender, or occupation or a myriad of other easy classifications, but to define the exact role that they play in your life is something quite different.

I used to have a friend called Louise, we were close friends for an exceptionally long time, very supportive of each other, but then after a relatively minor falling out, we stopped talking. And the strangest thing was – I did not miss her. It was only after not being around her did I realise how negative she could be sometimes, how critical. Her idea of funny was finding some way to demean me or to remind me of times in my life where I had made poor choices. I had lost my objectivity about the relationship, it relied solely on familiarity and ritual.

Let me explain, when we are in a relationship, any kind of relationship, it is incredibly difficult to see a person clearly, without all the nice things that they do fogging over their more negative traits. We all know the negative traits are there but it is easier, it is nicer if we just concentrate on the good bits. The days out. The unexpected gift. Their support for a new job. We are subjective in our view of them. Trying to take an objective viewpoint of our friends gives rise to two issues. 1) We disturb the familiarity of our lives and 2) What do these friends negative traits say about ourselves?

Using the people in our lives as a way to reflect ourselves can be an interesting task. It occurred to me, post-Louise, that I demeaned myself and spent hours contemplating past poor choices, thus she was only doing what I was far more proficient at. In feeling the weight that lifted after my friendship ended, and the relief that brought, if I stopped doing that to myself, would that increase tenfold? A hundredfold? More than that? And this was something that I wanted to explore further. How could I reach a place in my life where putting myself down didn’t come so naturally?

I guess there are myriad ways in which each of us put ourselves down or have negative ‘self-talk’. Through harsh experiences, through relationships, through our work and so many others. At some point, we have gently decided that we are not enough (whatever that is) and that we should berate ourselves for it.

Map Point. For what reasons do I put myself down?