It's been a year since I started writing this blog, and what a year it's been! When I started writing, I was in a really dark place. Life had lost all meaning for me and I really couldn't see a light at the end of a very long dark tunnel. We were just entering another lockdown, and I can honestly say I'd never felt quite so alone as I did back then. Writing the blog has been extremely cathartic and has helped me in many ways. Writing my feelings down has helped me to overcome the dark times. I've written more than I've submitted as some stuff is just too personal to put in the public domain, but for someone who has hidden her feelings for a long time, the release my writing has given me is huge.
I quite often read back over my previous ramblings, and I'm encouraged by how far I've come. With the help of the RTT hypnotherapy, learning to set boundaries, and practising mindfulness, my mental health has improved significantly. I still have dark moments, but they are no longer having the impact on my life like before. A few weeks after starting this blog I started my other "jokey" blog and my Facebook group which has given me so much pleasure and fun. I've made some amazing friendships and as I've said before I could never have imagined what I could have got from a daft Facebook group.
My group has just under 1200 members and still continues to grow. I'm still receiving messages to say how the group has helped so many people going through rough times, and the sense of achievement is fantastic. I've met with a few members already and have been invited to spend time in some amazing destinations like Australia, The Norfolk Islands and Florida with some members I've got to know well over the past 11 months. Maybe next year I'll get there. One of my members who lives 3800 miles away in Manitoba, Canada, is coming over to visit in the New Year and I can't wait to finally meet him in person after many months of messages and calls. These people, who I would never have met if not for the group, have helped me more than they will ever know.
We have just had the 5th anniversary of my husband's death, and last year was the hardest it had ever been. It's always a tough day and as it's bonfire night the sound of the fireworks for a couple of weeks before always seem to highlight the day. I was a little emotional on the day itself, but so much better than I was a year ago.
The following day, my friend came down from Cheshire, and we went to see Portsmouth play at Fratton. I hadn't seen him since August, and it was the first football match I've been to since the pandemic started. After that, we ventured into Southsea for drinks and a meal. We had such a great day and night. I seem to have done more since July than I had in the last 2 years. I went to Victorious a couple of months back and saw Madness. I've wanted to see them for years, and I was not disappointed. It was amazing and for me meant I could finally dance again. Well, I use the word dance lightly, I threw myself around like a Looney for hours and struggled to walk the next day, but it was worth it. I've been to a couple of belated birthday parties for friends who turned 50 during the pandemic and again danced, laughed and thoroughly enjoyed mixing. I've a concert on my birthday in a couple of weeks at the O2 in London, as a present from my daughter and her partner. It will be the farthest I've travelled in a long time, and I'm looking forward to spending the time with my daughter. One of my friends has organised a group of us to go out the day after to celebrate my birthday and I cannot wait as I did nothing for my birthday last year.
I'm a sociable person and finally feel like I'm getting my life back. Work is going well. I can now work from home 3 days a week and the office the other 2. This has helped give me a great work/life balance, and I've found at my age I appreciate that more than ever. I've started dating again and have met some nice guys and had some lovely days/evenings in good company. Only one has ticked all the boxes, but he lives 150 miles away. Typical! It's early days; I'm enjoying getting to know him, but I have found that I've built some pretty big walls up to protect me, and they are a little too solid at the moment, so for now I'm enjoying the single life. What is meant to be, will be.
3 weeks have flown by since I last wrote. With further restrictions being lifted life is beginning to be fun again. I am now going into the office 3 days per week and work is definitely getting busier.
Last Thursday I had to take a huge step out of my comfort zone and give a presentation via zoom to a very large potential client. In a 'normal' world it would have meant a long journey to the North East. The introduction of many now working from home has eliminated that, so I guess one positive has come from the lockdowns we have endured.
Usually in my work I am very confident but the morning of the presentation I woke up and was a bundle of nerves. I had my hypnotherapy in February for my confidence, self-esteem and self-worth, and it has been life changing. Thursday did put it to the test. My therapist has helped me overcome my anxiety by getting me to realise the same physical symptoms I experience when anxious are identical to those when I'm excited about something, so Thursday I just kept reminding myself I was excited to have been given the opportunity to deliver this presentation.
30 minutes before the presentation I went for a walk to clear my head. I then went to the ladies and stood looking in the mirror and told myself out loud I can do this. I was dressed in business wear, the first time since November, I looked the part and felt totally at ease and confident entering the zoom conference in front of 3 senior managers and the MD of the company I was presenting to.
My presentation was to last an hour and I knew I was the last person they would be seeing that day, with 4 competitors before me. No pressure! With the help of my Networks Director the presentation was delivered. At the end I was informed a decision would be made in two weeks. I was also a little worried when one of the senior managers said he'd like to provide feedback. My heart sank when he said I've not done this with the others but…. He went on to say how impressed he was and lots of other fantastic comments. I wanted to burst with happiness but had to maintain my professionalism. I did pretty much float home.
Personally, life is going well. My Facebook group is continuing to grow. With just under 800 members and fantastic feedback and reviews I really cannot believe how well it has done in just over 4 months. I continually get comments saying what a fantastic group it is, how much fun people are having and what I love is the fact that so many people, like me, have connected with others we would never have met. I've already met with a few people who I've got to know through my group and have a night out planned this week to meet with about 10 others.
What started off as a bit of a joke at a very low point in my life has turned into something I am incredibly proud of creating. My therapist has been giving her services free each week to my group members, and we have covered so many topics including, confidence, self-esteem, setting boundaries, creating your own reality and many more. My silly little group has turned into a safe, fun network of like-minded people. We laugh and joke, there is a lot of innuendo and banter. We tell our stories, which are always met with positive and encouraging remarks. One of my male group members put a comment up the other day saying he thought my group was the best he had come across and congratulated me on starting it. I'm learning to accept and appreciate the compliments I receive, something I always hid away from before as I never thought I was worthy of them. Now I embrace it.
Somebody I cut ties with in January reached out to me 2 weeks ago. We had been friends for a number of years, but he did something that hurt me. I now know my reason for feeling hurt was because I never set boundaries. That was due to my lack of confidence. I do not hold grudges and I did accept the olive branch that was handed to me. He said he had missed me, and he does appreciate me. Something his actions didn't show in the past, but I guess that was because I allowed it.
I am still the same person I have always been but this time I have boundaries. I know my worth. I feel like me but a better version of me. I've stopped trying to please everyone all of the time at the detriment of my feelings. I like who I am. I like how I look and I'm happy. This version of me is taking some getting used to for my friend which I find amusing. Every day I continue to learn more about myself, about who I am, what I want and what I need, and I'm rather enjoying the journey.
Have you ever had one of those weeks when you feel as if things have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous? Well that is exactly what has happened since I wrote my previous post last Friday.
I'd said I felt I was going crazy, and I was living in an unrealistic world. Well this week things got very real.
Saturday and Sunday I was feeling very much the same as I had been. Very long-drawn-out days and nights with little sleep. Monday is when it all changed. I'm still trying to get my head around exactly what has happened.
Monday started off as any other day for me at the moment. I got up after about 2 hours of sleep, had copious amounts of coffee and did some work. My group has been going really well. With over 300 members in the space of two weeks and growing daily it's getting busy. Recently a lot of members have been posting up their own stories and experiences and not just about dating. Some have posted about break-ups, some about bereavement others about mental health. Some of the posts have been emotional and inspiring.
My group is open to anyone over 18, and it really has attracted people from all over the world. Males, females, single pringles, married and so on. It's a mix of stuff that is posted. Monday evening I was on a long phone call to my daughter and when I got off there were a number of private messages from group members disgruntled by some of the goings-on in the group. I checked and must admit was appalled. I and my moderator who was a very trusted friend need to approve every post. It's hard going as on Saturday alone we had 150 to sift through.
I can have a naughty playful side and I love innuendo and banter and all of that is appropriate for my group, however there is a line. My moderator knew this line, but he allowed it to be crossed. I looked at my group to see absolute filth had been allowed to be posted, and he was using the group as a dating site. Which it most certainly is not. I was not at all happy. In fact, I was more than upset.
I have worked really hard in setting up and promoting the page and group and whilst it's all been for fun on the outside it has been a saving grace for me, and it has often been challenging considering how I have really been feeling. I couldn't actually cope with what I was seeing so decided to shut everything off for the night including myself. I wasn't sure what to do and was still trying to process the very distressing call I had with my daughter. She had text her grandmother only to find out she was in hospital and had been for many days and nobody had told us. She had also spoken to a wellbeing counsellor who had informed my daughter her dad's death was not traumatic, and she just needs to get over it. Now as I am sure any parent would be I was furious and devastated that I wasn't able to give my baby a hug when she needed it most.
Tuesday I needed to see if I had a group or whether the Facebook police had closed it down. I logged on. The group was still there along with other messages from members unhappy at the previous nights postings. I went through and deleted any offending posts, fortunately there were only two but that was two too many and the comments that a few so called 'ladies' and 'gentleman' had made were XXX rated. I'm no prude but there are plenty of other sites out there for that.
I felt very out of my depth and wasn't sure what to do. I also felt let down by my friend. I had work to do but in between was contacting the members who were upset. One of them was a lady who originally along with a few others encouraged me to set the group up. I spoke to my friend and to cut a rather long story short he apologized and said it wouldn't happen again. I trusted him so believed what he said. He is probably the only person on the planet other than anyone who may read this who knows what I've been going through and where my head is at, so why wouldn't I trust him? The long and short of it is, that I was wrong, and he allowed his ego to come before our friendship.
My confidence is already at the lowest it has been in years and this absolutely flawed me. I can't go into everything that happened as I am still trying to get my head around it. I put a very open and honest post up on the group and followed the lead from other members. I put a post up as me! Not hiding behind the profile picture of a fish but me, a picture showing my face. That took every ounce of bravery I had in me. My post was straight from the heart. I was going to close the group.
What happened next made me feel like I was in a fantasy. My alerts went mad. In the space of 20 minutes I had over 150 comments and messages of support. I sat reading everyone in disbelief. These people had taken time out of their day to encourage me to keep the group going. How much fun they were having and one lady said it had saved her. I received messages from a guy who runs Lads Bible page telling me I had created something unique and what an amazing job I was doing. Another from a lady who runs a group with 235k followers saying the same. Truly stunned.
Just before I went to bed I saw a blog from somebody I used to know. I read the last 3 entries and could see how well they are doing. It made me smile. Some of what was written about had been a bit of an issue when I knew them, some of it I could use myself, but the more I read the more the same feeling flooded through. Pride. Proud of them. Proud of myself.
Today is Thursday and the messages keep coming. It all seems so surreal. How can anything I have done impact this many people? I can't get my head around it. I have asked the consent of a gentleman who sent me a message yesterday and I would like to share that here. Not for praise, but I guess I am in shock, and maybe it will help me believe it's real.
Good afternoon POFUs. I just wanted to drop you a quick note to say how I think you are doing a great job and that I'm really enjoying the POFUs page. I've skipped over a lot of the stuff that's been said recently but what I have seen has made me sad for you. This is your group, and it is what you have made it to be. For those who want it to be something else, well, quite frankly they should be looking into putting the effort into making their own group in my opinion. I think you have the balance right between seriousness and frivolity and I think the community spirit you have generated is fantastic. I really hope that you are getting lots of support and that, while the detractors can be debilitating, that support is enough to keep to going. If I were to be running this group I would be proud of it, I hope you are too. Take care.
Absolutely no change for me since last week's post as to how I'm feeling. So I've decided to stop thinking about me and have thrown myself into my other blog and the growing group I have created. The posts on my page have been received extremely well, still no negative comments from the 8 thousand people that have so far seen it and many private messages from people saying how much they are enjoying it. The group was only set up 2 weeks ago and the members are growing daily. I have had help promoting my page through other much bigger groups like The Daily Mash and The Lads Bible which has helped get it around the globe. It is certainly keeping me busy as moderating the group can be challenging and some members do like to post, how shall I say, risqué content. As I have members from around the world with the different time zones the comments are 24/7. I am not complaining.
I've decided not to wallow in pity so instead of writing about my feelings I thought I would share my first post with you. I hope it brings you a smile.
How did I find myself on internet dating at the age of 43? Some find they've been traded in for a newer shinier model, for others it's a choice they are single, for me, I was inconveniently widowed aged 41. I know a real bugger hey. So after my gorgeous lovely man popped off I was quite lost. Having been with him since I was 20 I wasn't really sure what to do. He had told me just before he passed to go out and find someone new. Not something I wanted to hear at the time and yes I know, a totally unselfish thing to say. If it was me I would have told him I'd come back and rattle the locks or move the furniture if he so much as kissed another woman. We can't all be perfect!
So 14 months later (not long I know but we all have needs and I needed someone who could use a screwdriver) and after far too many glasses of wine and with the encouragement of my friend. Yeah, thanks for that mate! I decided to dip my toe in the dating pool. Well actually I didn't just dip my toe you could say I dived in head first, and found myself out of my depth very quickly.
I had absolutely no bloody idea where to start. I was advised Plenty of Fish, or plenty of F#€k ups as I now call it, would be the best place. A huge site with millions of potential matches just waiting.
Oh, my dear life! It's hardly a list of Who's Who more a line up for Crimewatch. Now don't get me wrong there are some decent guys on there, you just have to sift through the mountain of shit to find one.
So my profile was created, I just needed to add a photo. Oh bugger. I hate pictures of me. The only way I look half decent in a pic is if it's taken in the dark with no flash. Picture added and we are off!
In all honesty I didn't have a clue what I was doing and before I'd even finished my profile I was alerted I had new messages. Oooh how exciting. I really had no idea at this point how naive I was.
I eagerly open the message it's from Paul aged 44. It's quite short, 'hi hun how's u?". I check his profile, he looks nice. Not really any other info other than the basics that you are required to fill in.
I hastily reply as I don't want to keep Paul waiting.
"Hi Paul. I'm very well thank you. How are you?".
I'm sitting there rather pleased with myself and quite excited with anticipation. Time ticks on. No reply. But I do have another 20 messages. I open each one, all pretty much the same format. I check profiles. Ooh, some are not really my type, but I can't be rude, so I reply to everyone.
In the meantime Paul has replied. "Yeah gud ta. What you looking 4". Again I hastily reply with a paragraph of what I seek and ask him the same. Paul replies a bit later "I'm looking for fun". I sit and think for a minute on how to reply. A relationship is fun, so I reply that I too am looking for fun. Now I do actually sit and cringe that I was that daft not to realise what he meant. Paul replies instantly " u on whatsapp?". Uh??? I ask Paul what it is. He tells me. I explain I don't have it. Again instant reply this time a huge paragraph explaining how I get WhatsApp, telling me it's soooo much easier to message, and he includes his phone number. Oh, he is so kind!
I install WhatsApp. I add his number and say hi. He replies straight away then after a few minutes I get a notification I have a new picture message. Oooh what can that be? I open it and all I can think is……..
Welcome to hell. 😱😱😱😱
Now I am not a prude, I won't make judgements on anyone but why the hell would you do that. Do what I hear you ask! (Unless you are a lady who's been on a dating site as you already know what's coming). I've opened the message and was faced with a picture of what I can only describe as a dead turkey hanging in the butcher's window. I look again to make sure it's not something else and my eyes are deceiving me, but no, oh no, my eyes are working just fine, and he really has sent me a picture of his penis. I think I'm in shock. Paul has sent me Little Paul. His knob. Paul sent me a F#€king dick pic!
I drop my phone. I go into a bit of a panic. It had been a while since I last saw one. I phone my mate. She has done internet dating in the past. She is so advanced and has WhatsApp. It would seem everyone does in 2017. She also seemed so unfazed by it. So I sent her the pic as I'm still in shock. I rant and rave about how I'm disgusted and how do I reply to that blah blah blah. She tells me to simply block him. Block him? So explanation on how to do that ensues followed by about 20 minutes of raucous laughter at how apt it was I called it little Paul.
After feeling the need to bleach my eyes and mind of that awful image I decided to log off. I needed to cleanse my mind, go to my happy place and have a large stiff drink.
Tomorrow is a new day, and It can't all be bad. Can it?
Now you'd think I would have learnt from that, but no, little old trusting naive me fell for it time and time again. I had enough penis pics within a week to fill an album.
That was just the first week of my internet dating experience. We are now at the end of 2020 and a few months back I became single again. This time through choice. So here we go again!
If this raised a smile please take a peek at my page. In the space of 2 years I had some rather memorable experiences. 🙄
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.