Monday, 6 October 2014

Finding a New Me

There are certainly many aspects of me that Robin would still recognise today; but equally there are many he wouldn't.  When you lose someone it can take a while to untangle yourself from the couple you were.  I was with Robin for well over 14 years, and from the age of 18 when so much of who you are is yet to form.  You can't be with someone that long and not become a part of them, and they a part of you.  You change and alter to suit the new entity of the relationship.  Not in a bad way, just as is necessary for a harmonious life. 

When we were first together we bickered like siblings - each trying to find their role in the relationship, none wanting to give in.  Eventually that turns into a firm knowledge of the other and a new closeness perhaps - if you are willing to adjust and compromise.  Robin and I finished our transition from adolescence into adulthood together.  This made for a close bond which was special and can never be replaced (though I'm not saying another bond couldn't be equally special in it's own way).

Since he died I've had to untangle myself from the person I was in that relationship - and unwillingly too.  I fought the untangling as much as I fought for my voice in the pairing to begin with.  It's been a long slow progress as tomorrow is the 9th anniversary of Robin's accident.  I still sometimes panic and run to the shelter of that past version of me, but it's no shelter any more.  Time has taken it's toll and back there I am only a half person.

As time passes and the emptiness left by grief begins to fill with new experiences you begin to reshape yourself.  It's tentative at first - I went back to feeling like a teenager again on many occasions; having to remind myself that I was an adult and had a right to a voice - but it will eventually gain momentum, because as physics dictates - matter will rush to fill a void.

So the new me is finding her way in the world, overcoming the most awful setbacks and filling that void with new things.  New people, new hobbies and new belongings.  One of the best new hobbies I have found has been open water swimming (and it came hand in hand with a bunch of great new people too).  I moved to Bournemouth to be by the sea and I still love it every time I go down to the beach.  A couple of years ago I found a group of swimmers I could join for sea swimming - always better to swim with friends and be safe.  At first I would just have a short dip occasionally and didn't take it too seriously.  However, one of my new friends has had a dream to swim the English Channel for some long time.  Now she is a very determined lady and her enthusiasm and love of the sport has caught me in it's currents.  I agreed this year to be on her relay team and train to swim across the channel in 2016.  This excites me and scares me in equal measure - but this new me who is emerging from the chaos seems to quite like a challenge and testing herself.  On Saturday past this new, more determined version of me swam a mile, twice, in Bude Sea Pool to help save the pool, but also as part of a personal journey to save herself.  So easily the sea of grief can overwhelm those affected, but I have instead chosen to fight the actual, tangible sea.  I feel this gives me a much more fair chance of winning.  This task is more achievable, and each time I reach a new goal I believe a little more in my new self and where she is taking me (sometimes dragging me, kicking and screaming).  The old me would have been too timid to do this.  This latest version of me is emerging as a stronger and more resilient being. 

Perhaps it's a journey we all take.  Each relationship teaches us new things about ourselves.  But a long term relationship that was ripped apart by tragedy leaving chaos in it's wake is bound to take a longer time to unravel eventually allowing that person to gather up the bits of them that were laid bare and put them back together in some kind of acceptable order.  This mostly regathered version of me is where I am at - and she's working on a blank canvas - coming to terms with the idea that she can be anything she puts her mind (and body) to - including being moulded into a channel swimmer!

I'd like to believe that Robin would be as proud of this new me as I am of myself.  My friends have made me more brave, but ultimately it's me alone who will have to train and drive myself towards my goals and build up this new and improved version of me, and that is OK.  Who I am as just me is OK.  I don't need another person to make that so, just my own approval and a little determination and plenty of self belief.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

A Purpose - or Lack Thereof!

I'm happy to admit to quite often feeling lost.  I don't think I'm alone in this, nor do I think only widowed people feel this way.  Perhaps it is a result of our modern society with all it's myriad choices.  Or perhaps being a single parent has something to do with it.

The thing is, it's self perpetuating.  You may start off in life quite sure of your choices, or you may not.  But every time you change your mind or find a new interest or fail at something and lose a little confidence - it adds to the inner confusion about just what exactly it is you should be doing with your life.  Even if you don't fail, things can get dull and repetitive.

Since I was about 6 I wanted to be a writer.  But I didn't think I could do that as a career because it seemed to difficult to make a living out of.  So I started turning to other interests, and as I am a person with many interests the pile of things I enjoyed grew and I found I could build enthusiasm, at least temporarily, for most things.  I went through years of wanting to be a vet because of watching All Creatures Great and Small.  I came to choose options and listened to a careers officer who though economics would be good for me!  It wasn't.  I was choosing a degree course and followed the advice - do something you really love; and so I chose a degree in Geology and Cartography.  After all I was doing Geology A level and had loved maps for years.

That degree did get me quite far.  I did OK, got a couple of related jobs and set up my own Cartographic freelance business.  I still do this and I still have some enthusiasm for it too.  However, my real passion, I think, is still in books and writing.  I have started writing a couple of novels, but something always stops me.  Is it simply life getting in the way, or is it something bigger?

Well of course there is a lot of fear of failure.  In writing this blog I bare my soul to the world and that is pretty scary.  I have only had very positive feedback - thank you - but this is a mini project, not a business or money maker.  What happens when I try to sell my work?

This is one side of my issue; the lack of purpose.  The other side is: who am I doing this for?  I have to make a living to bring up my daughter and have a few treats.  I can't rely on others for help all the time and I want to be financially independent.  But I can't help but feel: what is it all for?  Make money just to spend it?  Have nice things?  Go on holidays?  Feel fulfilled?  Accomplished?

The point is, without a partner there to spur me on, encourage me and generally make things worth working for, it all feels a little empty.  I know it should be enough to do it for myself and for my daughter, but I can't help but still feel there is still this other great hole in our lives.  Another reason to work hard, to aspire for a better life and to make it all worthwhile.

Yes I want to be successful.  I want to sell novels or just write copy and make a living.  But how do I find my mojo?  How do I keep up my passion through the long days and difficult times?  Without someone there to share it all a firm purpose is a tricky thing to grasp and then keep hold of.  For now I do it all for Sophie and me - to try and obtain a little piece of independence and security.  I can only hope that at some point in the future I find my missing mojo and the strength to keep on getting up and facing reality - along with the energy that appears to have been sapped by the lack-of-purpose monster.

It's not that things are all bad, it's just they aren't how I would wish.  But Life so seldom is and I need to just get on with it.  So I'm off in search of my mojo - because it's not going to come and find me - and I will try my best to enjoy the process.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014


In the news at the moment there is so much distress.  With the ongoing problems in Israel and Palestine and the Ukrainian rebels shooting down innocents, I wonder if many of us have lost touch of what humanity means.

My dictionary says humanity is “the human race”.  To me this implies one race, one people.  It also says “the quality of being human”, then “kindness or mercy”.  At the moment there doesn’t seem to be a lot of humanity going on. 

80 children were killed in the plane in Ukraine, along with so many other loved ones; fathers, brothers, mothers, sisters, daughters and sons, uncles and aunts.  All those families that are now grieving because of politics.  Because a group of angry people decided it was OK to use such weapons because they were ‘freedom fighters’!  As far as I can tell the Ukraine government were not doing anything unjust to these people.  It’s all about politics: a change in government that they didn’t want.  But what gives them the right to take away other people’s lives in the name of their cause?  Are we not all equal as human beings?

And Israel, who seem to have the west’s politicians on their side, feel it's acceptable to massacre innocents in Palestine in the name of punishing Hamas.  I studied that conflict in school nearly 30 years ago.  It’s been going on since the 50’s when we gave land to a people that wasn’t ours to give.  Is it not time for the west to admit they were wrong and try to find a proper solution?  How many more human beings will be killed in the name of political cause?

From the point of view of a widowed person I understand loss.  My loss was through an accident and difficult as that was to accept, it was not really anyone’s fault.  It was caused through a bad decision and a reflex reaction.  Many of the widows and widowers I have met since, have also lost partners due to accidents, and many to disease, some to misconduct, some to suicide, a few due to conflict abroad or murder.  But when another human being takes away your loved one for political cause – often when they were nothing to do with the enemy – that is truly a criminal and unjust act. 

It deeply saddens me to think of all the hundreds of people grieving because of the selfish behaviour of a few who have managed to place themselves in power, or in control of terrible weapons.  And for what?  WE ARE ALL HUMAN.  WE ARE ONE RACE.  So why do we insist on squabbling over land, boundaries, political affiliations.  We are capable of so much more.  If we could only put aside our differences and see what we all have in common.  If all the energy that is put into hatred of our fellows, could be redirected to solving greater problems, such as climate change or research to cure disease, just think how much more we could achieve. 

There are too many of us for this planet, and I suppose we are seeing geographic theory in action.  When a population increases then disease, famine, drought and war will reduce it.  That’s the theory.  But if humanity would start acting human, kind and merciful, and work together I truly believe there would be no stopping us – we could reach for the stars and perhaps even evolve a little in the process.  Something that has barely happened since we emerged in our current form.

At the moment though I hold little hope that this will happen in my lifetime or even that of my daughter or any children she may have in the future.  There is too much bitterness and hatred.  We haven’t yet learned how to co-exsist with anyone who is even minutely different from us.  Even in liberal western countries hatred abounds.  Hatred of anyone different from us; anyone who doesn’t conform or happens to be ‘foreign’.  We think too small.  We can’t yet see the bigger picture – the endless possibilities that lie within out grasp – if only we could put our hatred and fear and bitterness aside. 

I fear for the future of the humanity.  But mostly I am sad for all those new people who have to grieve because of others hatred, greed, fear, politics, and for their lack of humanity. 

Monday, 12 May 2014

Single Parenting

There is a particular image painted by Government and Media around single parents.  They would have you believe that we are all teenagers trying to get a council house and just sponging off society.  Well here are a few facts and figures courtesy of Gingerbread (single parent charity):
  • Just over a quarter (26 per cent) of households with dependent children are single parent families, and there are 2 million single parents in Britain today. This figure has remained consistent since the mid-1990’s
  • Less than 2 per cent of single parents are teenagers
  • The median age of single parents is 38.1
  • Around half of single parents had their children within marriage – 49 per cent are separated from marriage, divorced or widowed
  • 60.2 per cent of single parents are in work, up 15.5 percentage points since 1997
  • The employment rate for single parents varies depending on the age of their youngest child. Once their children are 12 or over, single parents’ employment rate is similar to, or higher than, the employment rate for mothers in couples (71 per cent of single parents whose child is 11-15 are in work)
  • There are 3 million children living in a single parent household (23% per cent of all dependent children)
  • Around 8 per cent of single parents (186,000) are fathers 
  • The average duration of single parenthood is around 5 years 
  • Only 6.5 per cent of all births are registered alone, and 10 per cent are registered to two parents who live apart 
  • Single fathers are more likely to be widowed than single mothers (12 per cent of single fathers are widowed, compared with 5 per cent of single mothers), and their children tend to be older 
  • Just under half of couples divorcing in 2009 had at least one child aged under 16. Over a fifth (21 per cent) of the children in 2009 were under five and 63 per cent were under eleven 

Not quite the story you hear in the tabloids is it?!

People may have their own reasons for being quick to judge, but we have to accept that the presence of single parent families in society is really just part of life.  And families where one parent has died and who therefore have not made a conscious decision to become single parent families still form a sizeable chunk of the total.  We know times are tough for everyone on low incomes at the moment, but with changing benefit systems and expensive childcare, it really is tough on single parents.

And it's not just the financial pressures of course.  Weighing up working more with being there more isn't easy.  When there are problems; ill health, behaviour issues or just exhaustion, there is no back-up from a partner.  No-one to take over and give you a rest.  You are on duty 24-7 and it often seems as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Having said this, children in a widowed family at least have some stability.  Another fact from the Gingerbread site says: "Parental separation by itself is not considered predictive of poor outcomes in children. Parental conflict has been identified as a key mediating variable in producing negative outcomes in children. A comparison between couple families experiencing high levels of conflict with single parent families found that children fared less well in conflicted couple families, demonstrating that family functioning has a greater impact than family structure in contributing to child outcomes".  In other words, an unstable home with two parents not getting on is worse for children than a single parent home on the whole.

So the children of single parent families are likely to grow up to be rounded characters after all.  Even though the growing up may come a little earlier as they are given more to deal with and some of the innocence of childhood may be lost.  With grieving children there is a terrible extra issue to deal with - the loss of a parent. 

Sophie has mostly been quite matter of fact while talking about her father.  We have always talked about him openly and I encourage her to ask questions - though these don't always pop up at the most convenient times!  But she never met her dad and so perhaps doesn't feel the same loss as other bereaved children.  To her, living with just me is normal.  But that's not to say she doesn't feel the loss.  She sees her friends with their dads and at school she often feels like the only child in her situation.  The other side of it is she knows how to get around me and that there is no other parent to tell her off and be back-up to mummy.  She also enjoys a few extras from the family perhaps - though that could be because she is the only grandchild and maybe not just because her daddy isn't here to spoil her himself.

I actually believe - though hard on children - it's a worse deal being the single parent.  You are doing the work of two and mostly with less money.  Bills don't half when there's only one parent.  Holidays are difficult and can be more expensive.  You are regularly vilified in the press and by Government.  Emotionally the strain can leave a single parent exhausted.  You are always the one cooking, washing up and doing all the chores. 

I'm not saying I never get help.  I have some lovely friends and neighbours who will babysit occasionally and my folks are often down to help out too.  But there isn't that other person there who you can turn to and say guess what so-and-so's done now.  Or someone to cook while you give the kids a bath.  Or someone just to give you a hug and say things will be fine.  And weekends become scary as venturing out means being among apparently happy families. 

But it's not all bad.  I have a wonderful bright daughter to nourish and enjoy.  I am building a special bond with her that I hope will make us much closer and bring about more mutual respect.  We may not have much, but we have each other which is worth more than any income or holidays and cars.  If Robin could miraculously come back to us we would be whole and as perfect as a family gets, but as he can't I will continue to bring up our daughter the best way I can and we will continue to find our own version of perfect - and even though we may be an inconvenience to the Government (who think I should have found a new partner by now) we will be happy being us and we will do the best we can at living because that's all we can do.

Big love to all the single parents out there!  Keep strong.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Making Decisions

Sometimes it's the small things that are the most difficult.

I have made some pretty big decisions since Robin died.  The decision to move away from family and my job for example.  But in many ways those things are easier than the small things - like working out the best way to discipline a toddler.  Or what to cook for dinner.  Or even what to wear.

I think I've always struggled a little with these small decisions, but when you were used to having a second opinion on pretty much everything (even if it only made you realise your own idea was best), when that is taken away it leaves you feeling truly lost.  A lot of the time it has meant some things just didn't happen because there was no one to make a decision.  If I hadn't been pregnant, and hadn't had to take care of myself and Sophie I often think I would have not bothered with a lot of things - like eating or getting up even.  But thankfully I did have Sophie and that has helped a huge amount because I have had that reason to live, to eat, to make decisions.

It's not that I can't make decisions - I must have made thousands of the sort where you are actually conscious of deciding since that fateful day in 2005.  What to call my company, which web provider/energy company/phone and broadband package to chose.  Along with what school to apply for, which house to buy, where to go on holiday.  (And the one I haven't had much success with - who to date!).  In all these things I have made my decisions and done my best at that time.  But what I would have given to have that valued second opinion from Robin - to be able to speak to him - not just imagine what he might think.  That is a huge part of what I miss.  A burden shared.  Someone else to share the blame (lets face it) when things don't work out quite as planned! 

It's tough having to be the one that's in charge - the grown up - the boss of my own life.  I know I have family and friends I can talk things through with - and don't get me wrong - their advice and counsel has been very important over the years.  Maybe that has replaced what I had with Robin - mostly.  It's easier to research online these days, and there's usually a mum friend who's been there with any child-related problem I find - but that's not quite the whole story.  I'm not sure it works quite as well unless the person helping make any decision is very close; intimately knows you and what makes you tick.  They need to know all the nuances of your behaviour, signs of stress or excitement or of just needing a hug.  That only comes from a partner I think.  That has been missing in my life for 8 and a half years now.

However, these days I am perhaps getting a little better at making those choices.  I have taught myself to rely on just me again.  Learned to stand alone.  But I don't always get things right and that's why I will look forward to the day when I might again have a trusted special someone there to be my sounding wall and that all important second opinion.

Thursday, 24 April 2014


When your partner is your best friend, it can be all too easy to loose touch with others.  Especially when everyone begins to pair off and settle down.  So when you lose your best friend you can find yourself very alone. 

I was as guilty as the next person of not keeping up with friends – letting things go a bit.  What with working full time and living with your partner, doing things with family, friends often fall by the wayside.  When times are good and everything is right in your world you feel like you don’t need anyone else.  Having a loving partner who listens to your problems and shares in your happiness seems to be all you need.  But it’s a false economy because if you don’t look after the people who care about you in good times, you can hardly expect them to be there through the bad.

We all know that people come and go in our lives.  That’s fine – it has a natural rhythm to it.  In ages past you would probably know the same small group of people all your life, but these days we tend to spread out a lot more, whether for the best jobs or lifestyle, we all scatter and so a pattern of coming together and moving apart develops.  At every stage of life there are whole new groups of people to meet and friends to make.  But you can’t keep up with everyone on a personal level – in spite of facebook and twitter, email and facetime.  So the people closest to you changes and evolves.  When you have a partner you maybe share some friends, but also have your own and so widen your group further.  It’s all part of life and what keeps it interesting.

When hit with the loss of your closest friend – your partner, husband or wife – is when you will most need those other friendships you have developed, but it’s also a time when many of those friends seem to drift away.  You have changed. Like it or not, you are no longer the person you were – not entirely.  Grief changes a person – and it’s not just the partner and family that is affected – it’s the friends too.  Some friends may simply find it too difficult to keep in touch.  That’s fine.  Again – it’s just how things are.  But when facing the darkness of losing a partner you do need friends around you – to help pull you through.

I have been very lucky.  I had a few good friends who helped me through.  Came to visit and kept in touch.  Not all the time, but they did think of me and that meant so much.  But no one really lived close to me, so I did still feel very alone.

About three months after losing Robin I started post natal classes at my local health centre.  That was such a lifeline, because suddenly there were these lovely ladies who lived near me and who were all dealing with having a new baby – although at that stage they all had partners.  We would go out after the classes, and when they stopped we would still make a point of meeting up for walks, lunches and even the odd night out.  Leaving them was perhaps the hardest part of leaving Raynes Park.

When I arrived in Bournemouth I had a few old friends visit me, but because life (and distance) gets in the way, that dwindled.  I found it quite hard to make new friends at first.  Taking Sophie to play groups helped, but those mums had already formed groups and I felt like an intruder.  However, over time I got closer to some of the mums and started to feel more settled.  I then was introduced to a creative group and that opened a whole new world to me.  This was another lifeline as it was time for just me, away from Sophie – out in the real world!

I’ve been in Bournemouth for 7 years and 8 months now and Sophie has been at school 3.5 years too.  She’s been going to clubs and lessons – and all the while I’ve been meeting new people and making friends – some closer than others.  The street I live in has many lovely families and we have become friends – our children play together and go to school together and we see each other most days at least briefly on the school run.

More recently, since starting open water swimming, I have met yet another group of lovely people and this time we share something else in common – we are all at different stages of life and many have children whilst others are single, some are older and some younger, but all are friendly as we share a passion for the sea.  Now some of my closest friends come from this group of special nutters.

Friendship has been so important to me, and such a light in times of darkness – whether related to my loss or just to other problems.  Friends have been counsellors, comedians, cinema buddies, creative sounding boards, advisors, babysitters and so much more.  And I have to say, for each and every one of them I am truly very grateful.

So my advice is to cherish those friendships, remember to get together and laugh (possibly with a glass of wine) because those friends will be with you when men leave, or jobs fail, or children are ill or just to share in some celebration.  Don’t judge those that fall by the wayside, just relish in how rich those people in it make your life. 

I should also mention another very special group of friends I have met through WAY – the organization for people widowed young.  There are a surprising amount of us across the country and we all stay in touch online and at gatherings.  It’s a huge support network where you know there’s a good chance someone else is going through exactly what you are – whatever stage that is.  If you know someone who has been widowed young – please put them in touch this group because at some stage or other of their grief it will be an immense help. (

Now go hug a friend ;)

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Moving On

There’s plenty of speculation about how long a widowed person should wait before moving on and finding a new love.  This is mainly because there is no right or wrong answer except – when you feel ready.  The trouble is it’s not easy to work out when that is.  You might be incredibly, painfully lonely, so your brain plays tricks and tells you it’s time to move on.  You never really know for sure until something goes wrong – which it invariably does if it wasn’t right in the first place.

It was just after the second anniversary of losing Robin that I met someone who liked me.  I enjoyed his company and found him intriguing and I was so very lonely.  I wasn’t sure from the start if I’m honest with myself, but I thought it was worth giving him a chance.  I was lucky in many ways.  He wasn’t a bad person and we were together for around 16 months.  He didn’t leave straight away when he broke it off  (he’d moved in) because he had to find a new home and so it was about another 4 months of living together – mostly nothing changed, but his departure loomed and became a dread.  When he did leave it was very sudden and with no goodbye. It was a wrench.

Instead of doing the adult thing and dealing with my emotions I developed a kind of self-destructive ‘fuck it’ button, which meant I said yes to a few things I really shouldn’t have which only led to more heartache. The loneliness got bad again and a friend ended up setting me up with a chap she knew.  All the warning signs were there, though not all from the beginning – he was very charming at first, but I was in some kind of downwards cycle and though friends warned me I felt this chap cared for me, but perhaps more enticingly I felt he needed me and I could help him.  He was an alcoholic with no real job and expensive taste.  But he came across as vulnerable and made me want to nurture him.  I helped with career plans and a new website, but a pattern developed and there was always a new venture.  He was selling books at fairs, but not making the money back because he really didn’t understand the business side of it.  He relapsed in the summer, and whilst drunk admitted to being unfaithful with a mutual friend.  I left him for a while and went on holiday with my family.  But he talked me back and made all sorts of promises.  The drinking got worse and there was really very little in it for me at all – but I stubbornly thought I could still help him.

Turned out I couldn’t.  Also turned out he’d been cheating with an ex and another girl who had apparently just wanted him so she could have a child.  When I finally had enough and left him for good he still owed me around £1000.  But in many ways it was worth losing that money (which I couldn’t really afford) to be rid of him.  My fingers had been burnt.  I had learnt my lesson and would not make those mistakes again.

It didn’t make it any easier to find a good man!  After years of avoiding them I finally gave in and joined some internet dating sites.  I found a couple of nice men that just weren’t for me, but found plenty of idiots too.  Most just ignored me and I started to wonder if they were real people or added by the site to make it look like there were more members than there really were.  I mean – what is wrong with all these guys?  I got the impression having a child already was an issue.  I was also by now thinking I didn’t want to have any more children which ruled out plenty others.  I just wasn’t finding anyone nearly suitable.  One of the major problems with those sites is that you tick all these boxes which makes it so easy to dismiss people that might actually be a fantastic match in real life.

I decided to give up; to concentrate on Sophie and me and just enjoy life.  We could be happy together, we had good friends and I knew that finding a man didn’t necessarily mean I would have my happily ever after.  After all other things were fine – work was up and down, but I was branching out and finding new ways to make a little living – Sophie was doing really well at school and we had our little routine.

It was then that I discovered some WAY members had set up a facebook group for people ready to move on.  A friend signed me up and it was fun.  It was mostly ladies, but we had fun with some banter and sharing experiences.  As there weren’t many guys signed up the organizers decided to let us introduce non-widowed men to the group.  That is how I met my most recent boyfriend.  He worked abroad so we really got to know each other by messaging before we met.  I totally fell for him.  He was fun and liked similar things to me; he treated me when we were out and was a real gentleman.  It wasn’t long before he told me he loved me and was 100% sure about us.  We introduced our children – he has a boy and a girl who are older than Sophie.  It all seemed so good.  We took the kids to a festival and he took Sophie and I on holiday for a week last summer.  We worked around the times he was away and though I missed him, it was OK, because we got on so well when we were together.  We started planning an amazing trip to New Zealand – a country he loves and wants to one day make his home.  I was so excited as I always wanted to go there – even before Peter Jackson increased their tourism nicely.  We were going in January.  My parents would come to stay at my house with Sophie and the cat.  Over Christmas he was at work, but I had a good time and we were always messaging.  My back problems, which had been in check, resurfaced in the holidays with all the visiting and lack of routine.  There was no time to sort it out, but I did get anti-inflamatories before we left.  It was fine if I could keep moving but the flights out were very painful – I was in tears and couldn’t sleep.  By the time we got to Auckland I was shattered and had been up about 40 hours straight.  But once I was moving around again it wasn’t too bad.  The trouble was it was a road trip for the most part.  Sitting in the car was painful after about 30 mins, and I got virtually no sympathy so just bit my tongue.  About half way though NZ I got some better drugs and my back eased off a lot.  I was having an amazing time and loving all the places we went, but could tell something was wrong, just couldn’t get him to share.  We had four nights in Queenstown at the end of the road trip – and on the surface things were fine.  We met his friends there and had more of a rest, but still things seemed a bit strained and I couldn’t get anything out of him.  He seemed colder and more distant but just said he was a quite person.

We came home via Hong Kong – which was also an amazing place to visit.  I stayed with him the night we arrived back in the UK before heading home to see Sophie – I’d missed her so much.  He went back to work, but our conversations had lost their sparkle.  He still refused to tell me what was wrong.  Then just before coming home again admitted he was annoyed with me for not sorting my back out before we went away.  Apart from me being in pain and him doing all the driving, it really hadn’t impacted that much on our holiday.  But I accepted that and thought things would be better.  They were on the surface and when we saw each other again the problems seemed to melt away a little.  Messages were still cool though.  After the second weekend when I’d been up to see him with Sophie things seemed a bit sour again and he cancelled his next trip down to us for fairly weak reasons.  That weekend things were strained.  Finally I suggested putting whatever it was behind us and starting over.  I loved him and was sure we could sort things out.  That’s when it finally came out that he had decided in NZ he couldn’t risk moving to be with me and wanted to concentrate on his kids.  So all that time when I knew something was wrong, it was.  What I hadn’t realized was how easily he would just discard me after making that decision without discussion.  We only live a couple of hours drive apart, but it turned out to be too far for him.  After planning to move to Bournemouth and set up a home with me, he now didn’t want to move until going to NZ and that wouldn’t be for at least 5 years.

It was the cruelest thing.  To show me this wonderful life that we could have over there – and I did love NZ – only to decide with no discussion that it wouldn’t be with me after all.  He wasn’t willing to risk investing in this relationship and losing everything again as he had through his divorce.  That’s how little faith he had in me after I had agreed to move around the world for him.

I’m still coming to terms with this – it’s only just happened after all.  I am still struggling to work out what happened really.  I guess this time it was him that wasn’t ready to move on.

So – dating as a widow has all the same pitfalls as normal dating, but perhaps it just hurts a little more because you know that you should never have been in this circumstance in the first place.  If Robin hadn’t died he would be with us and Sophie would have a Dad, I would know I was loved and wouldn’t be lonely, and Sophie may not have ended up being an only child.  It’s so hard to not go over all the ‘what ifs’.

So listen up men – you need to be good to us ladies.  We deserve to be adored and respected.  We deserve to be loved back as much as we love you.  Don’t take a heart and walk all over it – if things don’t work out that’s OK, but be nice about it and speak to us.  We deserve to know what you are thinking if you are thinking things are wrong.  Don’t give us hope of a better future to just throw it back in our faces.

All I can do now is lick my wounds, pick myself up and start living life again.  I don’t need to rely on anyone else for my happiness but me.  One day I would like to find my true Mr Right, but please next time let it really be the right one and not some pretender who just isn’t ready for something real.  And if having been widowed has taught me anything, it’s that I am capable of looking after myself and I am stronger than I think.  Moving on has all kinds of pitfalls, but I still believe in love.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Earning a Living

A mere three weeks after arriving in Bournemouth I had to return to my job at UCL.  They had said under the circumstances I could maybe get away with not going back, but I thought it made sense to work my three months notice and earn a little bit of money to get me going with my new life.  I planned to set up freelance from my new home eventually, but I felt a certain obligation to see out my time at UCL.

It was tough.  Driving up to Mum and Dad’s every Sunday so they could watch Sophie Monday and Tuesday while I went into work, then we would drive home Wednesday (with Mum sometimes in the early days), I would work from home Thursday and that was my reduced week.  Not ideal, but this was my penalty for moving away from London.  I did this for three months then was ill for another month after!

During this time, Sophie learnt to walk, turned one and also developed sleeping problems.  I still don’t know if the problems were due to the living in two places thing and all the traveling, or because I was away from her more now, but she would wake up most nights and scream for two to three hours until she wore herself out.  I suppose this is normal for mums returning to work, but the lack of sleep and emotional strain was boardering on hellish.  I even missed the bottom step one night as I stomped downstairs after an hour or two of trying to stop Sophie crying and turning to calpol to help settle her.  She was in my arms as I crumpled to the floor.  Mum and Dad were there and came rushing out to see if we were OK.  We were.  I was just emotionally crushed.

The one chap I had met now in Southbourne – a friend of friends – just happened to have a good friend whose wife was a child minder.  So that was Thursday’s cover sorted.  In fact Sophie went to Tina’s right up until she started school, even alongside nursery when that started at two years.  I’m not sure if in retrospect I should have spent more time just being a mum, but I felt like I should at least attempt to make a living and provide for us both.  I didn’t just want to live off the state, though I have to say that I have had to rely on Tax Credits after my savings dwindled down to not a lot.  After all, unmarried ‘widows’ don’t get any other benefit – but I wont get started on that right now.

It was quite sad to leave UCL after nearly ten years, but a relief to finally really begin my new life in Bournemouth.  I realized by now that it was really where I wanted to be.  Every week driving up to London felt traumatic and stressful, but returning to Bournemouth felt like the sun coming out after a storm – it felt like coming home.

After getting bugs and other technical things sorted I finally began working for myself properly in the January of 2007, though I had registered the company in December 2006.  My first job was a poster for Dad’s church – and I did get some work through old contacts for a while.  What I hadn’t realized was how difficult I would find it promoting myself, and my services.  I just didn’t have the confidence to be pushy and salesman-like.  I had had this vision of people falling over themselves to give me maps to draw for them – but the reality was that the work was few and far between.

Working from home wasn’t quite as easy as I had thought it would be either.  In my perfect imagined version of events I would be highly productive and ready for collecting Sophie at the end of the day with all tasks complete.  The reality was things took a lot longer than I thought – not the work so much, but everything else.  Doing household chores around the work meant focus on the work was diminished and ideas I had hoped to put into production just never happened.  I don’t think I was really that cut out for working from home.  Or maybe it’s just that it was all too soon and my head was too full of everything else.  It’s not that I wanted more time alone to reflect and be sad, but I probably needed it anyway.  There was something else too – I had begun to question myself, and my abilities as a sole trading entity.  It’s different when you work for someone else.   They provide work, you do the work and you get paid at the end of the month.  This was so different.  I was having to find the work, do the work (which was a bit like baring my soul to the world as it was straight from me, no back up and no one to bounce ideas off), then invoice the person asking for money.  I don’t think my work was bad, but I just kept thinking that everyone else was better – why would people pick me to do their map?

Those thoughts still appear sometimes – but I’m changing what I do.  I’ve added new skills and I don’t just draw maps anymore.  I paint them now too!   I also teach crochet and knitting which provides light relief from the business world and pocket money.  I am still searching for the more specific thing I should be doing – and for a regular source of decent income.  It’s still very much hand to mouth in that I don’t earn enough to save much up, but I am in a much better place mentally now and feel ready to explore different ways of making myself a living.  I haven’t exactly found my niche, but feel I’m moving closer to it.  I do feel a slight envy and awe for people who know exactly what they want to do and just get on and do it.  That’s quite a skill to have.  I tend to over-think things and I have so many interests that choosing one path to follow is not easy.  But I will get there – one day soon I hope.