Facing the New Year

I am fond of deadlines and boundaries. They give me a focus. I self impose them all the time, but if I don’t have to, that’s great.

New Year is a big one. It allows me to shake off the emotional detritus of the past months and draw a deep fresh clean breath as I look ahead. It allows me to let go of things and reach for the new. Fresh sheets on the emotional bed.

Yes, I could do this at any time. Sometimes I do. But having the ritual and tradition of a date embeds this practise into the very core of me, so I embrace and use it.

If you’ve read this blog, or simply know me, you’ll know it’s been a tough old time this last year or so.

In the interests of closure, I will finalise something left hanging – I’d been avoiding caffeine as I underwent some tests to check out a funky heartbeat. Luckily it’s nothing to worry about. There’s a thing called ventricular ectopic beats which are common if a little unsettling at times. Keeping an eye on caffeine intake (luckily not having to avoid it altogether!) and stress levels (hear that, 2018, you’re under doctor’s orders!) and all should be well. This is actually a useful weapon against those pesky brain goblins who often dislike me “doing nothing” as they view resting.

The death of my grandad shook me deeply, while not unexpected, it was the first family death I’d experienced for three decades, the first grandparent I’ve lost (knowingly as I don’t know my paternal grandfather) and it rippled on a number of emotional and existential levels. It also toppled the psychological box I’d been stuffing unprocessed grief into as I told myself I was coping and moving forward and out tumbled all the feelings I’d pushed aside as I tried to build up a new life. I was emotionally running before I could stand. I’ve learnt that lesson and slowed down. Back to clearing the ground before building my foundations. I don’t have to reach the sky yet. The first bricks are still waiting to be laid.

So as I look ahead to the new year, almost ironically, the first task is to let myself fully grieve for all that’s gone, all the changes that have happened and everything I’ve experienced. To allow myself to be still and rest. To breathe and just BE for a while. Part of my duties moving forward has to be taking better care of myself, not pushing myself as hard as I was. Not trying to have everything NOW. Ensuring I receive the nurture I give out; whether that’s from myself or close ones. Make the time set aside for rest and recuperation just as important as time spent building a new social life in my new town and making my work life what I need it to be.

Slowly the year will unfold around me in it’s own time. I have the confidence to know that I will get out there and experience it. The fear of isolation is just a fear and unfounded. I will explore my new home town more fully. I hope to branch out socially with new activities and reclaim the yoga and bellydancing classes that I dropped in recent months due to exhaustion. I hope to have time for my creative projects, time for meditation and mindfulness, for health and fitness. Time for friends, both old and new and those yet to be made.

Exploration and nurture seem to be my keywords for the year ahead. I like those words.

If I forget, please remind me of them. Especially the second.

wolf

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Anniversaries

“Bear with…” as Miranda’s friend would say…

It’s a time of anniversaries.

I hope it won’t last, I hope this time, this first time, is an anomalous dip. But I’ve now come through my difficult year and have entered the anniversary stage, the “this time last year” stage and for a while, it’s going to be painful.

I won’t allow myself to wallow, but neither should I forget. Forgetting means I don’t allow myself to recognise how far I’ve come, how much I’ve built, how brave and strong I’ve been.

And, how far I’ve yet to go, how much is yet unexplored and undiscovered in this new life of mine, this new version of me.

This time last year I was only just facing up to the decisions I had finally admitted I needed to make, but the pain of making them was still too great to bear. I only prolonged it.

This time last year I had balked against the idea of needing such major surgery and was waiting on a specialist to gently tell me that was the only option I had. While the physical effects are mostly healed, even my scar is fading into celebratory silver, the odd ache and twinge is echoed in a strange emotional reaction. While I was utterly content with my decision to not have children, while I have no reason to believe I would ever have changed my mind (especially having reached my early 40s), to have that decision, that choice, removed from me… that shook me to a depth I had no idea existed.

This time last year, my entire life was limbo for months to come.

So bear with me as I move through these next months. I may be erratic in my emotions, I may cope one moment and feel overwhelmed the next. I may speak up or withdraw.

I’m still grieving for all that I lost, all that I walked away from, the choices that were taken away or never really existed.

But there’s a reason I had a phoenix inscribed on my skin this last week. The image that sits after the semi-colon, the next part of my sentence.

We will rise. And fly.

phoenix

Of Internet Dating – my experience in screenshots.

Finding myself single at 42 for the first time in over two decades, I found myself wondering how I went about meeting new men…

Internet dating wasn’t really a thing in the mid-nineties, certainly not in the way it is now, and not something I’d ever tried. The last time I was single was 1996 where I got exceedingly drunk at a Halloween party, sat on someone’s lap and suggested he took me home. That relationship became a marriage and lasted 20 years. So it was with a lot of thought and no little amount of trepidation that I decided it give dating sites a go this year and see what happened. While not looking for a committed relationship, I did want to create a wider local social circle and, well, a girl gets lonely sometimes. Company is nice. I wasn’t discounting anything, I also wasn’t promising anything. No expectations. No restrictions.

We all hear the stories…. I decided I would publish some of the less appealing offers I received.

For every picture you see, there were others that weren’t explicit, disturbing or funny enough to screenshot and publish, but were still uncomfortable to receive, made me feel like part of a numbers game rather than a person they wanted to know. One that I wish I’d screenshotted before blocking him answered my polite “no thanks” with his penis size… as if that would change my mind.  There were many messages that put a toe just over the boundary line with a mock innocent expression – not enough that you could call it out, but enough to make it was clear they weren’t interested in my sparkling erudite personality. Which is a shame because they’re missing out on a treat there.

So onto the screenshots –

This person had messaged me before and got a polite no thanks. I then took a break and hid my profile, meaning it couldn’t be found unless someone accessed it via a previously sent message:

Sometimes a simple request gets a simple answer:

Not enough coffee in the world for this. Dude. It’s barely morning:

Not even Instagram was safe! I rarely post selfies on Instagram, it’s more about my craft projects, but every now and again a girl feels good and wants the world to know it.

And for the record, there are tons of cute larpers – if you can’t find them they are clearly hiding from you:

My attractiveness has nothing to do with the fact that your age is not a defining factor in wanting to meet you:

For the record, I am exceedingly sexy and kissable, however I suspect the type of friends you are wanting to be comes with benefits and those are earned not given after one message:

Spelling and lack of poo emojis will go a long way:

Absolutely because meeting a complete stranger who’s only interested in proximity is my only requirement in dating. Oh wait. The other thing:

Only with plenty of lube:

The conversation had genuinely been going well until this point:

Sometimes no answer IS your answer. Take it and move on:

Amongst all this were the decent conversations and a few people that I’ve kept in touch with. But there were also conversations that while not warranting a screenshot, were… just off… in their tone. And I consider I got off lightly, while also hating that I’m set up to think this way.

It begins

2016 sucked, 2017 will be much better – was the general hopeful statement over the festive season and each time I swallowed back my reaction with a variable amount of success and thought, no, not for me, not for a while, roll on 2018, can I have a Tardis please, can I just fast forward to the bit where everything is okay again and everything is healed both physically and emotionally. Can I just skip over this bit?

But of course it doesn’t work that way. We walk the slow path, step by step, making what choices we can with each one and hoping each step is moving us in the right direction.

2017 sees me undergoing both marriage separation, something that’s only recently entered the public domain, and major surgery – subtotal abdominal hysterectomy to remove numerous small and one large fibroid.

Both these things clouded my head before I was able to be open and honest about them and that incongruence hurt me almost more than the events themselves. At least I’ve been able to be honest in recent months.

I then had three months of limbo. It gets tiring fixing the smile on your face and answering, no date yet, in answer to well meaning acquaintances. Knowing they can’t see the frustration because they don’t deserve it.

As I need a secure place to rest and recuperate from the surgery, I couldn’t even begin to start sorting out a new life or deal with separation. And so, apart from some vague decluttering and a deed poll to return to my maiden name, not much changed. And the emotions were easy to pop on a mental back shelf for later. There is a frustration about having to plan for everything and nothing, being held in limbo but there’s also a safety because nothing can change.

Then the letter arrives. The date is known. And the reality crashes in.

My first reaction is a bigger declutter. I spend the next day divesting myself of as much stuff as I can. Anything I think can raise pennies is offered for sale. A new life costs money. Money in the savings account is security, options. Anything else is donated to a nearby charity shop or chucked in the bins. I feel clearer. Lighter.

I let people know my date, discuss plans with close friends offering help, work out options and schedules with them – it’s important to me that anyone offering help doesn’t feel used or sidelined. I read as much of the hospital information as I can deal with, I put dates in my diary and I start lists.

What to take with me. Who can be around when.

A post surgery groceries list.

The obligatory crafting list.

How to keep my strength and immune system top notch.

Perhaps not surprisingly I wake today feeling ill. Sore throat, snuffly nose. So it’s a day of rest. And a day to let the emotions speak up.

I’m scared. While I need and want this surgery, while I’ve been waiting for this for months, I’m terrified of it. My anxiety disorder relies on experience to calm it down. I have no experience with which to quiet the whispers in my head. Only practical tasks. And there’s only so many of those I can do.

I’m scared of waking up attached to things. My anxiety can be triggered by a feeling of being trapped, the thought of being connected to medical equipment and not being able to get out of bed (not that I’ll be wanting to anyway, but anxiety isn’t rational) is terrifying.

I don’t like not knowing when I’ll be home. I want to plan for it. I want to plan for everything. It makes me feel safer.

I’m scared of what will happen to my.body after. I can’t carry on the way I am, I am usurped by invaders and they cannot stay. But will things return to normal and my control after? Will my body be mine again or will it be changed? Will it kickstart menopause? That’s the big one. I’ve been told it shouldn’t but bodies are complex things. Will I stop looking like a pregnant egg?

21st April feels both very close and ages away as I face this next step in getting rid of Freddie and whatever comes after.