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?

The things we want to do

Someone recounted a time to me yesterday that I dispensed some particularly good advice, but she couldn’t remember the wording. Neither, sadly, could I. So I thought that writing about the motivation behind my forgotten words might trigger something.

My friend is going through a time of fear relating to a specific environment. She remembered that I once explained why I take my daughter on so many different types of days out. On the low key end, we visit castles, theatre, museums, galleries and all the usual malarkey (not often to the cinema as for the most part, she really isn’t a fan! Argh!!). But on the higher key end, we walk around aquarium tanks, go on fast rides and zip wire through the trees. I am not sharing this saying ‘woo hoo, what a good parent I am’, but to explain the beginning of the rationale behind it.

I became a single parent when my daughter was three. I didn’t have any particular aspiration to jump back into a relationship, and I read a lot of the possible effects of not having a male role model predominantly in a child’s life. The first area I read about was to do with vocabulary. Apparently, children get most of their new words from their dad’s. I can see how historically this could be true. Men were out in the wider world, with industry specific language, which would then filter into the home. However, I don’t know how applicable this would be today. And this is not something that I would be concerned about as an issue in my home. I have a sizable vocabulary, my daughter reads widely and we see lots of people. New words are always abundant! The second area that I read about concerned me more. It was to do with risk.

I was a child who wouldn’t go on piers, didn’t like heights and generally wigged out about a lot of things. I wasn’t entirely without risk, I rode horses and loved fairgrounds, but I sensed that this would not be enough. I did take my daughter to horse riding lessons when she was around six. This came to an abrupt halt when one fateful day my brother’s girlfriend was asking her about her lessons, and saying that she used to ride too. She also said that it sometimes hurt her bottom. My child agreed, adding that it also hurt her bits too (Cue a room of adults looking at each other slightly awkwardly and somewhat amused). After a brief chat with her, it transpired that she no longer wanted to do horse riding! But then I was left in a situation where there was very little risk in her life. We got a scooter, and she also developed a propensity for climbing trees. The climbing has continued.

The climbing has continued. On one camping holiday, she easily made it thirty foot up a tree. I will confess to no small amount of panic. But I knew that this was my issue to get over, not her issue to absorb. So I braved it. There was tree top challenge adventure locally to us, so will a trepidatious heart, I booked us in.

Sweet Moses. This thing was skyscraper high! I clung to every tree for dear life, all muscles tensed and the sweat dripped. In reality, its highest point was around twelve meters. When I had finished this first foray, I was exhausted, I ached, but there was also a slight exhilaration. I had done something which I had not previously deemed myself capable. And that had a knock on effect.

Most primarily the effect was lots more tree tops challenges. I learnt to trust the wires that held me, and that gave me the confidence to jump, swing and climb even higher. So much fun! The strangest thing was that from my second experience of it, it no longer exhausted me. It was then that I realised how crippling fear can be, and how much energy it uses. We now go on much higher zip wires, and although I sometimes have a bit of a wobble with the height, I know that I have trust, and the moment passes. And this is what I want to impart to my daughter. Some things are a little bit scary, but trusting the equipment and people around you (and also yourself) can make the difference between finding the grit and determination to do something compared to sitting on the side, feeling a sense of disappointment. I guess this is not a battle that I win all of the time, finding that perseverance to keep going when things get hard takes a lot of energy. And some days I just don’t have it. But I am learning to find more.

I hope that my daughter can see the strength that she inspires in me, and hopefully me in her as well.

Map Point. Where in my life do I want to take more risk?




Post break up reality

I have been thinking a lot about the blog that I wrote yesterday, and about my process after splitting with my young one’s dad. It was almost eight years ago, and it has been one of the most transformative periods of my life.

Initially, after the break up it occurred to me that I would have to start sorting out the rubbish bins. It had been a job that I had managed to avoid whilst living at home, do possibly twice ever whilst living in student accommodation and almost never whilst young one’s dad was in residence. In every house there is usually a division of labour, and bins have never been on my list. A few years ago bins got super exciting in my area (mass recycling), but even before that I discovered that bins were not quite as hideous as I had imagined. If they are kept small and tidy. Big bins still make me feel somewhat queasy. But in terms of learning to cope with my new situation of being a single parent, starting with the physical things was important.

The other thing that I immediately noticed was how lonely I was. When I was with Bass, he would be around, his friends would be over, and although I saw my friends too, they were mostly all ‘out of the house’ type engagements. The house once young one was asleep was eerily empty. I moved in temporalilly with my mum as I was scheduled to have surgery shortly after the break and I guess this gave me some space with lots of people looking after me to begin to sort out what I was feeling.

I know there was guilt. My young one asked frequently and often about ‘when Daddy was coming home’. It was hard to answer that as although I would not have initiated the split (am sure there’s a whole book I could write on the cataclysmic perils of low self-esteem), but I felt good to be single. But this duality existed, I thought there would be the whole growing old bit, but I wasn’t happy, and I knew that the relationship was the cause of this. Acknowledging this was really hard. For years after the split, if I met someone new, I almost felt as if I was cheating on a relationship that was long over. I didn’t understand how to emotionally end the relationship within me.

So I decided to start engaging with people more. Over the years I have volunteered in many places. I did a fair amount of school fund raising (I still do this), I helped out in a cafe run by The National Trust at The White Cliffs of Dover, I gave my time to a charity that helps families in the community and I worked with a volunteer organisation teaching swimming. There could be other things as well. Meeting and talking to other people became an utter lifeline, as was finding friends in similar positions. Especially that were not adverse to visiting play centres after school, where they provided dinner. Cooking felt incredibly lonely.

Then somehow I found that my confidence was growing. I was putting myself forward for things that I knew I could achieve. I started to make money as a photographer, I was widening my social circles. People were starting to contact me to ask for things and this increased my worth. But I still had a long way to go.

And then I met Robert.

Map Point. Whose life have I had a positive impact in?