This Christmas for me, like so many other people has been one of the strangest. Apart from Christmas 2016, just after my husband passed away, which even now I have little memory of, this holiday has been incredibly difficult. I am so used to having a house full of family and friends at Christmas, it really hasn't felt the same. I was not able to spend Christmas Day with my daughter and her partner as planned and this affected me badly. They did however drop my present round which left me speechless and made me cry. It is quite honestly the best present I have ever had. I have always preferred personal gifts to any other. They had been through my photos on facebook and had a selection of them printed on canvas. Some of my best memories. It really is the most personal and thoughtful gift and something I will always treasure. It also made me think of things that have happened this year.
As we approach the end of what I can only describe as the most bizarre year I've known, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on what has happened since last Christmas. Christmas Day 2019 was so full of fun. I'd recently entered a new relationship the month before, my first since losing my husband, which was exciting and terrifying at the same time. I usually spend both Christmas and Boxing Day cooking for everyone and end up eating far too much, and regretting it, but last year I broke from tradition, the first time in 20 years and went to the football with my friend. It turned out to be the most fun Boxing Day I'd had in years. I spoke to my friend the other day about it, and we laughed at the memory but were also both sad as we knew this year wouldn't be the same.
The New Year held so much promise. I was the happiest I'd been in a long time as I saw in 2020, all seemed perfect, and I was so optimistic at what was ahead. The months that followed saw me the most content, happy and relaxed. Even with the outbreak of COVID-19 and a national lockdown, which no one had ever seen before and the challenges that brought, I was happy in my personal life. I took a huge risk and allowed myself to fall in love. Unfortunately it wasn't meant to be. Whilst I have been incredibly sad things didn't work out I can look back on that brief encounter and be grateful. I have many happy memories and I discovered a lot of new things and have learnt a lot about myself, about what I want, what I like and what I need. I've met new people, and I've found the courage to write.
The ending of my relationship, contributed somewhat to me hitting the low point at the beginning of November. I felt very lost and made some poor decisions. Several weeks back I was asked out by a guy. I really wasn't in the right place but agreed even though I knew it was for the wrong reasons. We went out on several socially distanced dates. I guess I was enjoying the company and attention I was receiving, but I knew in my heart it wasn't right. I have never been one to jump from relationship to relationship. He was keen for us to progress from dating. I wasn't as I'm still trying to put back together my heart and my head. I withdrew and became quite cold and distant, something that is the total opposite to how I am normally. He was very persistent and started to send me gifts which just freaked me out even more. I asked advice from one of my closest friends, and he told me quite bluntly I was being an idiot and that I was just going to hurt a decent guy and end up making myself feel worse in the process. He of course was right. I did the right thing and ended it.
Whilst I cannot undo what has been done I can accept I need time. Love is not an emotion that can be switched on and off. I have only been in love twice in my life. As my husband died that love hasn't disappeared, it's just different. Having a relationship end is not the same. For me there's regret, hurt and unanswered questions. There is also the sadness thinking of the fun times and also an element of what if.
This New Year's Eve I won't be surrounded by people I love and care about. The first time in my life. I doubt I'll sit up to see the new year in, but I shall raise a glass and say goodbye to 2020. It's been a rollercoaster ride. I will also raise a glass to my ex to thank him for the good times and for giving me something that I am very grateful for, and to silently wish him the best for the new year.
I have one wish for 2021 and that is it will be a happier and healthy year for all. I hope we can reunite with loved ones and friends soon. I hope that everybody can look back this time next year and reflect on happier and fun times. Like the song by Soft Cell Say Hello, Wave Goodbye, I shall be doing just that. Saying hello to 2021 and looking forward to what it brings and wave goodbye to a year like no other, it's not all been bad!
Since starting this blog just over a month ago so much has changed for me. I was really rather broken and damaged, both physically and emotionally. I couldn't see beyond a day at a time and if I'm honest with myself I didn't want to. Everything seemed so dark and gloomy, and I couldn't see any light. I can now. My confidence was at an all-time low, and I was struggling to see my worth or what I have to offer.
I've struggled with my confidence for many years. This goes back to my youth where I spent my formative years aged 13 to 20 with a guy who controlled, beat and abused me on a regular basis. He belittled me constantly. Turned me against my family and friends and created a world where I would never find anyone better than him and nobody would ever want me. So I do have times of severe self-doubt. I worry that I'm not good enough, and I have huge body confidence issues.
I was very slim back then but endured years of being told how fat and ugly I was. It's a painful thing to hear but as time goes on you believe it more and more. I stopped eating for many months. My hair and nails started to fall out, and I looked as ugly as he said I did. My weight dropped to 9 stone and for someone who was almost 6ft tall that is not healthy. Nobody knew what was happening. My parents suspected I was being hit but the more they tried to get me away from him, the more I believed what he said. That my parents hated me. I constantly defended him.
I left home at 16 as life with my parents had become unbearable. The constant rows because they were just trying to do the right thing, and I was too stubborn to see, resulted in me leaving my safe comfortable family home and moving in with him. I had to quit college and my A-levels to get a job to support us both as he never worked. The abuse became worse then. I've told friends and family bits about what happened. I never told my husband the full extent, although he saw the photos sometime after we got together of the last lot of injuries I incurred. He was appalled and it made him sick. Fortunately he was the complete opposite of what I'd experienced before.
Some people saw bruises at the time, but it was just clumsy me. Nobody saw what was happening inside as I did my usual and smiled and laughed. I developed a coping mechanism. No matter what he did to me, I refused to cry or fight back. I refused to let him see how much I was hurt. I simply stood or laid there, motionless and emotionless, and took it until I either blacked out or he stopped. The emotional abuse was harder to endure. The name-calling, making me point out men I thought were attractive, then hitting me because I had looked at someone else. Him making up wild accusations about my family and friends trying it on with him. Cheating on me as he said he could get better and many more cruel things.
I don't know where the strength came from to end things for good, but I found it. I was 20 years old, he had beaten me so badly I suffered a broken nose, several broken ribs, a broken ankle and numerous bruises, cuts and bite marks. My face was swollen and bruised, so I didn't recognise myself in the mirror. I was taken to hospital, and it was there I made the decision enough was enough.
I met my husband a few months after, but it took awhile for us to get together. I was scared. He showed me the true meaning of love. He never abused or raised his hand to me. He built me up, supported and encouraged me, and I was lucky enough to have that until he passed away.
People say that I'm strong for what I've experienced. An abusive relationship as a kid, cancer in my thirties, widowed aged 41, a mini stroke 7 months after losing my husband and both my children being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes within the past 4 years. I certainly have all the luck! I am not writing this for sympathy. I hope my experiences can help somebody else. There is always someone who is going through worse times.
I am not strong and the past few months have shown me that, but I am not and never will be a victim! I have survived abuse! I am almost 8 years cancer free! I have experienced love and loss.
People ask how I do it. The answer is I have to. I have chosen to live and not let my past define me, although it can come back to add insult to injury. The past few months have bought some old scars to the surface, and I'm trying to mend my heart, but I will get through it. I guess I sat there several weeks back at my lowest point thinking why me! Why do I always seem to have bad things happen? Why does everything feel like a struggle? Why can't I just be happy? I slipped into a spiral of self-pity which just made me feel worse.
So after my wake up call on my birthday and along with all the other things I've been doing over the past few weeks to lift myself, I have been reading about mindfulness and Laws of Attraction. It was something I was introduced to after my husband died, and I found it really useful then. I had put it on the shelf so to speak, but I am revisiting and again it is helping me to relax, deal with my feelings and emotions and start to think positively again about what I want from life.
I have also been scrutinizing myself and one thing that keeps coming to my mind is forgiveness. I have never once got angry about what life has given me. I hold no resentment or hatred to anyone who has hurt me. I forgive easily. Some would say too easily and that I'm a fool. There is only one person I couldn't forgive and that is me. I have had so many regrets and held onto a lot of guilt. I regret the way I treated my parents when I was younger. I can only imagine as a parent myself what I put them through. I felt huge guilt over my brother. He idolised my ex, as a kid of 10 would. My ex also introduced my brother to drugs, something I've never done, which resulted in my brother battling a heroine addiction for 20 plus years, that has caused so much pain and I feel so responsible for.
I feel guilt over the time I wasted when my husband was alive, things I should have said and done that I put off. Also regret for not telling people how I feel or expressing myself clearly because of my fear of showing my weakness. I held on to the thought that if people could see my weakness they would know how to hurt me. Some of those people are no longer here, others are but unfortunately I'll never get that opportunity. I have however started to write letters. I cannot post them, they will never be received, but I can finally say what I needed to say. They are written in a book along with my poetry. No one will see them but me. It's not the same I know, but it has helped. Maybe I can start in time to forgive myself.
My confidence has taken a boost recently. My other blog has been picked up by a large UK dating site, and they have given me a page on their website, just for my blog. I have been completely blown away with how my daft writing has been received. I've again pushed myself further out of my comfort zone by promoting my page. I don't do self-promotion well and struggle to see why people like what I've written, but they seem to. I have approached numerous groups, pages and people to help share my writing (as I've been advised to do), and have had to do this as myself without hiding behind a picture. That alone has been quite scary. I have made a few new friends along the way who are supportive and encouraging and are adding value to my life.
I have started to walk tall. Head up looking forward. I know that I'm not perfect. I have many flaws, but I'm learning more and more each day about me. I'm beginning to get the hopeful realistic optimism back.
I've thought long and hard about posting this but I've decided to be braver going forward, so here goes.
Last night I struggled to sleep. I'd had a busy day but just could not switch my head off. Words just kept going round and round. No matter which way I laid in my bed nothing was comfortable. The frustration of wanting sleep kept me awake even more. I got up, went downstairs, made a drink, anything to occupy my mind from the words that were bugging me beyond belief. I've had this many times over the years and never found a solution until this morning.
At 2:58 I decided to write the words down. I've said writing has really helped me and I hoped by putting the words down on paper they would get out of my head and let me find sleep. Below is what came out and the funny thing is as soon as I had written it I went to bed and slept like a baby. So here it is, the rambling words that had plagued me for hours but fell on to the paper within a matter of minutes.
WORDS IN THE NIGHT
How can the person you knew so well leave you lying damaged and broken, living in hell?
Was it all a lie I need answers, I do.
Was anything that was said honest and true?
Ice cold heart, dead inside, pulled along with the moving tide.
Eyes wide shut to see no more, the pain I was in on the floor.
An emotionless void the tears have run dry, there's nothing left to make me cry.
Dazed and confused.
I really had to say goodbye.
A life to live, my love to give.
Maybe another time.
The smile I wear shows no care, pretending I am fine.
I'm not sure you can call it poetry, to me, they are just my words and I'm finding it is so much healthier to get them out.
Nearly 2 weeks have passed since I last wrote on here and what an eventful couple of weeks it's been. When I last wrote it was my birthday and I'd had a bit of a wake-up call. I needed to get a grip and appreciate what I have and start living my life. There was something that had been playing on my mind in recent weeks and was adding anxiety to my life. I addressed it the day after my birthday. It took a huge amount of strength but I did it. It has given me closure and perspective.
I really have smiled more these past 2 weeks, I've had many smiles returned and it's amazing how differently I've started to feel now compared to the beginning of November. I'm still having moments when I could easily just hide in my bed, but they are becoming less frequent and I can honestly say there have been a lot more good moments than bad. I've made a conscious effort to get out more. I've met up with people and been out for quite a few walks and drives to the beaches and parks. I even managed to go to a pub at the weekend. Great food, drink and company. I can honestly say I have thoroughly enjoyed these past couple of weeks and I'm looking forward to what is planned for the next few.
I have also started a new project which alongside work and my growing social life is certainly keeping me busy. I said in my first blog I had been writing bad poetry, thoughts and feelings, little ditties and stories for years. Until I started this blog none of my writing has been seen by anyone. I have never been brave enough. I'm still not ready to give my name or put a photo up but this is a huge step for me. This blog has given me the courage and opportunity to off load my thoughts and feelings that I struggle to tell people. It has been extremely cathartic and has helped me in more ways than I ever thought possible. It's also been the catalyst for my project.
Just under 2 weeks ago a friend shared a page on facebook. It is called The Divorced Dad and is full of hilarious posts and stories. Have a look, it's a giggle. I laughed aloud reading some of his stories and it was so good to do so. He put up a post asking people to message him their stories, poems or thoughts and said he would post anonymously. I don't know what came over me. I thought about it for a while and thought oh what the heck do it. I messaged him a poem I wrote a couple of years back when I started dating for the first time. It was just a daft poem but it had humour in it. The reply I got really shocked me. He gave me amazing feedback and said I was very talented. (I still find that hard to believe). He told me I should set up my own page and put my stuff out there. We messaged each other for a few days about his posts and what I have, and he again encouraged me to set one up. I didn't know where to start and he very kindly became a bit of a mentor, encouraging and advising me on how to create a page. He has also become a friend. I created a page, wrote my first post and sent it to him before I actually made it live. He loved it, told me to be brave and post. So I bit the bullet and did it. I didn't post the poem I sent him to start with, I posted a piece of writing about starting over. Dating for the first time after losing my husband. It's a humorous look at dating over 40. I was terrified of getting negative responses. I have very little confidence and the past few months that's diminished even more. I have been suffering huge self-doubt in everything I do so to do this put my anxiety level on high.
I love humour, I love to laugh and I love to make others laugh. Seeing someone happy and laughing at something I've done gives me a huge amount of pleasure. My new found friend posted on his site my blog with a link to my page and within a matter of minutes my phone was going mad with notifications of comments, likes and people following my page. I was completely dumbstruck. The comments were fantastic and some shared their very funny stories. In the space of 2 hours I had over 100 people liking and following my page. I was totally blown away. Not one negative comment. Unbelievable!
I followed up my first post with my poem and again received great comments and private messages saying how funny they thought it was. I am still in doubt that it's any good.
The page has been running for a week now and each day I'm getting new followers, likes, comments and messages. I've been approached by a lady asking me to contribute to her web page. Which I have done. This may all be a flash in the pan but I'm enjoying every minute while it lasts. The fact that I've been able to bring a little light relief to a few people during a really crappy year really does fill me with happiness. In return the comments I've received have made me laugh and given me a much-needed boost.
Laughter has been the best medicine for me. I'm also incredibly proud of myself for how far out of my comfort zone I have gone. I feel like I finally have a voice. Through this blog and my own daft humorous one, I can get everything out. It's such a release. I even shared my Facebook page with family and friends. Although it's not under my name they all know who it is. I've had great feedback from them. Even my parents! One of my closest friends contributed on my page with his own dating stories. He now blames me for getting the writing bug. I'm happy with them seeing that side of me. The fun, happy and humorous side. I'm still reluctant to share all of my feelings but I have made progress. The tiny spark inside of me that I mentioned last time is growing each day. I'm gradually returning to my happy, fun, optimistic self. I'll be glad to say goodbye to 2020, it feels like a wasted year, but I am looking forward to what 2021 has in store.