It's hard to take in that we are halfway through 2021. Life seems to have been in limbo for the best part of 15 months, although thankfully it does seem to be going in the right direction now. Last weekend I did something I haven't done in a few years. I partied hard! Last Friday, several of my local group members met up for drinks. We started at 4pm, the weather was fantastic, and we all got on so well even though most had never met one another before. We are all in our 40s, and it was like we had all been caged up for so long. This was the first time that some of us had been out and socialised, and we certainly made the most of it.
We left the pub at closing time then continued our party after in one of the members gardens, finally making our way home at 4am. After a few hours of sleep, I was up and out. A friend treated my son and I to a pub lunch by the water. It was baking hot weather but so lovely to eat, chat and enjoy the view. Also, a very rare occurrence for my son to spend the day out with me. We bumped into a few more people and another day of impromptu partying began.
It would seem I had forgotten I was 46 and that after hardly drinking for months the body doesn't recover like it used to. Sunday I suffered. Yes, totally self-inflicted but well worth it. I pottered around the house but really didn't feel great. Fortunately Monday was a bank holiday, so I had another full day to recover before work and boy I needed it.
About a year after my husband passed away I got into the habit of going out every day and for about 3 months partied far too much and honestly didn't really enjoy it. On reflection, it was to escape being in the house alone. My children had adjusted after their loss and were living their lives, and I felt lost. Rather than deal with it productively, I guess I hit the self-destruct button. It was only when my children pointed out what I was doing that I took stock and took control of my life. A few months later I was talked into joining a dating site. For anyone who has ever read my other blog will know, it was certainly an eye-opener.
I did meet a great guy and for six months we would go out for meals, cinema, concerts. We went away together and really got on well. 3 years later we are still friends. Nothing went badly between us. It just fizzled out, but he gave me the confidence to carry on dating and over the years I've met some very weird, some very nice and some down right strange people on my quest to find love again. I had my first relationship that for the most part was very good, and I saw a future I liked the look of. Sadly, it didn't work out. I started my other blog and then my group and this has opened my world up in ways I could never have imagined.
I run a Facebook group about dating and starting again, and many people have asked if I'm going to start dating again now the world has opened back up. I did set up my dating profile again, a couple of months back and quickly made it private when I realised it's the same old thing, and it bores me and my heart really wasn't in it. Being inundated with inappropriate messages is not my idea of fun and if I'm brutally honest there is not one person on these sites who has sparked my interest in a while.
Some photos were taken last weekend and sent to me of our night out. Although I hate my own photo being taken I look really happy, and I am, but as I looked at them, I realised there is something missing in my life. I miss being part of a couple. I miss someone to just cuddle up on the sofa and watch crap TV with. I miss the simple things like a good morning or good night text, holding hands and going for a walk. I miss the intimacy you can only get from a partner. Things that are all too often taken for granted.
This got me thinking about what I want. I do not want to be a party animal that is trying to fill a void by going out all the time. Neither do I want to waste time sifting through the endless mountain of inappropriate messages or men whilst trying to find someone honest and decent. I believe in fate, being in the right place at the right time. So whilst I may dip in and out of the dating apps (it does provide a source of amusement at times), I think I will leave my love life in the hands of fate. If it's meant to be, it will be. I'm a sociable person and my confidence is growing all the time, and I'm meeting new people through my group or work, so who knows what is in store for my future.
It's been 11 days since my hypnosis for confidence, self-esteem and self-worth and I can honestly say I feel great. I hosted a Zoom video call last Thursday night for my group, something I would never have done before in a social context, and I loved every minute of it. I have found confidence in everything from work through to my personal life and my anxiety remains under control as a result. I am still in awe at how I am feeling and acting but also still sceptical and have a small doubt that it could end.
I have always been fascinated by psychology, I started an A level in it whilst at college many years ago but sadly didn't complete due to circumstances at the time. Having my therapy and hypnosis has awakened a thirst for knowledge in me that I haven't had for a long while. I have signed up for a short psychology course starting from this week. Whilst I have no wish to pursue this as a career I am fascinated with how our brains work and how as humans we process thoughts and feelings. I have spent a lot of time looking at things that have happened in the past couple of years in my life. Events and people and what triggers my emotions and how I handle them. I now have a much clearer understanding of myself. I am relishing the fact that I continue to learn and grow each day.
My therapist had very kindly offered to run some sessions for my group. The first session last Thursday was an introductory to the psychology of relationships and dating. She got us to play a game that was great fun and showed us our personality types, ideal partners personality and preferred sex life. This generated a huge amount of laughs but was very interesting, thought-provoking and strangely true for all. The feedback from the session was fantastic, and we are running 5 more all completely free over the next few weeks. This week is all about confidence. I cannot wait.
Work has become a joy again. I am thriving and pushing harder than ever to gain the promotion I want. Personally life is fun right now. Yes we are still in lockdown. No I cannot socialise in person, but I can still enjoy things. Something I seemed to have forgotten to do in many months. I have not stopped smiling for the last 11 days. I actually wake up looking forward to what each day has to offer.
My group has been a huge factor in the fun I am having. Being in contact with so many new people from all different walks of life is providing me new hope and possibilities. Friday night we had a virtual 80's party. It started at 7pm and went on til the early hours with over 200 people taking part. Some were on video chats others just using text or comments, some posted pictures of themselves dancing. It was such a good laugh and a much-needed release in the current times whilst following the rules. There were definitely a few sore heads the following morning!
My bucket list is growing and one of my things 'to do' is looking like a real possibility next year. I have wanted to go to The Isle of Man TT since I was about 17. One of my group members lives there and has offered myself and a couple of others to stay so all we need to do is organise our travel when it does eventually happen. I am looking forward to ticking things off my list. I know life is incredibly short, and I want to live and make the most of it, not get 20 or 30 years older and be full of regret for time wasted.
After yesterday's announcement people have a new-found excitement. My social media has blown up overnight with people posting holiday bookings, table reservations at restaurants for 21st June and discussions about garden parties from the end of March. It is great to see the world excited again, but I am just a little reluctant to start making concrete plans and rushing things. I am an optimist but also a realist and a sense of we've been here before is lurking in my mind. Personally I would hate to make plans for it again to be cancelled, this would be a huge slap in the face, so I shall continue one day at a time. Enjoying what I can in the moment and under the circumstances we are in but also remaining hopeful as there is a light at the end of a long tunnel.
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!
Another week has gone by since I last wrote. It has been a mixed week. I've stuck to my plan and have been out on my bike. I definitely could have done with stabilizers on the first day as I wobbled like Bambi on ice. The second outing I was a little more confident and actually enjoyed it. Unfortunately the gears would not move from the hardest one and my thighs felt like I'd gone for a sixty-mile ride not the very slow six I actually did. I have since managed to rectify that and the third outing was far more comfortable.
I've been writing two positive things from each day. Saturday I actually had several positives and had my best day in a long time. I went to Holly Hill Woodland Park. It's a historic parkland and stretches from Sarisbury Green to the River Hamble. There are lakes with islands and waterfalls and dams. We walked around for several hours chatting, laughing and really enjoying being out. I felt relaxed and calmed by my surroundings. The colours, the smell, the sound of the water, the birds. I need to appreciate more the beautiful places' nature gives us so close to home.
There are a couple of wood carvings that you can see in the pictures. (I'm no David Bailey and my pictures do not do them justice). The carvings have been done by a guy called Paul Sivell. He takes dead or condemned trees and creates these sculptures. There is something quite beautiful about it. Something that is no longer viable, dead, decaying, and he transforms them into pieces of art that can be appreciated for many years to come. I found it strangely comforting that a new life/purpose could be given to something that would otherwise rot away.
One thing I noticed about the faces on the carvings, they were all smiling. I spent quite a bit of time Sunday thinking about this. About what a smile can do and how it can make you feel. I've missed smiling and I've missed seeing smiley happy faces.
I know that for most of us there hasn't been a lot to smile about this year. Since the wearing of masks we can't see if people are smiling at us, we can no longer see if the person in the shop smiles when they give you your change or if the stranger you've held a door for smiles as they pass through. I have found that quite sad.
It's very difficult to ignore a smile. If someone smiles at you, our automatic response is to do the same. Smiling releases endorphins, natural painkillers and Serotonin. These natural chemicals reduce physical pain, relax your body and elevate your mood. Smiling is a natural drug. Smiling is good for us! 😁
I have been told by several people that what they loved about me was that I was always smiling. It's really not a difficult thing to do and even when I'm feeling down, not having a great day, seeing someone smile can make me feel better. I am making a conscious effort to smile more. Even wearing a mask, a smile reaches your eyes, it changes your voice (you can always tell if someone is smiling when you talk on the phone). If a smile can make me feel better I hope it could do the same for somebody else.
For a few days after my trip to Holly Hill I was definitely beginning to feel much better. I was sleeping and eating well. I had certainly smiled more. Monday a friend came to stay (we are in each other's support bubble so lockdown rules were followed 😁). We chatted for ages, and he did manage to get me laughing. He also gave me something I haven't had in a while. A hug. I hadn't realised until that moment how much I needed that simple human contact.
Tuesday I struggled. I tried really hard to keep busy. Work was really productive but I found myself very distracted. Tuesday evening dragged I couldn't concentrate on tv or reading and listening to music just made me worse. I love music, I love to sing (badly), I usually love how music can make me feel, remind me of places, people and things that have happened in my life. Music can take me back to that moment. Lyrics can hold so much meaning. They can inspire me. But not Tuesday!
I often think my playlist knows what day it is, taunting me, a bad joke. If there is an anniversary or something happening in my life it seems to deliberately play songs that evoke memories or seem to be related to what I'm going through, like a soundtrack to my life. And that's exactly what it did that night. I had it on shuffle and the first three songs that played transported me. It took me back to happier times, when I was excited about the future and that left me feeling incredibly sad. I didn't sleep well that night so yesterday started off rather miserably. I managed to focus on what I needed to do throughout the day but retreated to my bed when I got home, to hide away from the world.
Today is my birthday! It started out really badly as I found out my mother-in-law has breast cancer. She has known since September, had surgery last month but decided to tell me in my birthday card. This really hurt. I am of course incredibly worried about her but left feeling even more cut out of my late husband's family. I was feeling very emotional and was contemplating going back to bed, but then something happened that left me speechless, which is usually quite difficult.
I was completely and utterly bowled over by human kindness. I had set up a birthday fundraiser on Facebook for The Rowans Hospice. I hoped that I may raise a little to help them as I know charities are finding it particularly difficult this year to fundraise as normal. The Rowans Hospice is very special to me, I can never repay the debt of gratitude I have for them. I know a lot of people this year are finding it particularly tough financially and I really didn't expect to raise much. I was literally lost for words when I checked my page to see the donations. I had friends donate that I haven't seen in 30 years. Other friends had shared my page and complete strangers had donated. A school friend who has recently been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer donated and shared my page. His comment was extremely humorous although a little warped (I do appreciate warped humour).
I stared at the page and cried. I was so moved by people's generosity and my friend's sense of humour during a horrific time in his life, that I sat and took stock. I felt incredibly humble. I thought about what I have in my life.
I have two amazing children who continuously make me proud and who make my heart swell with love for them. I have a good job that even though I have only been there a short time is providing me with challenges that I thrive on. I have my own home. I have some amazing family and friends that love and care for me. I really am very fortunate. This has inspired and motivated me to get back to being me. This has helped me turn a corner. With all the misery and sadness in the world there is still so much to be grateful for.
Tonight for my lockdown birthday I am being taken out for a drive and treated to fish and chips at the beach. Thank goodness for heating in a car! Something very simple and inexpensive but much needed.
So I find it quite ironic that on my birthday, 46 years from the day I was born, I feel like I'm waking up for the first time in a long while. It's really corny but I feel like I've been in a cocoon and finally the cocoon is opening. I've been in a mire of self-pity and sadness. On a rollercoaster of emotions for several months. Concentrating too much on what I've lost and what I don't have. Those acts of human kindness and generosity. The human touch. Appreciating what nature has to offer and the realisation I have a lot to be grateful for has shown me that I do have a life ahead of me that I want to live. It's not mapped out, there is no grand plan, but it starts today!
I'm already making plans for the days and weeks ahead. Things to look forward to. When I started writing this blog I just wanted to get through the day, then the next couple of weeks. Now I'm embracing what I have and starting again to work towards what I want. I believe in fate, that everything happens for a reason, even the bad stuff.
I'm continuing with the bike and writing the positives from my day. I can feel a little spark inside of me. It's not yet a flame but it's the start. I know it will take time for me to be back to my happy self but I'm finally on the right track. Who knows what is ahead? I certainly don't but it's kind of exciting.
Thank you for taking the time out to read this. Keep well, safe and keep smiling 😁