Life Sweet Life

I wake this morning to the sound of my iPhone.  The alarm is going off, as it does every weekday at 7am.  I press snooze, my head hits the pillow and I get another nine minutes of lovely sleep, before it goes off again, and I tap my phone to silence it.  After the fourth time of snoozing, I decide it’s time to open my eyes properly and attempt to prepare myself for the task of getting up.

As I reach to unplug my phone, flat on the sheet beside my pillow, Bish stirs next to me, and I stroke his head gently.  Morning B, I say, as I hold my thumb on my phone’s thumbprint identification system, and it unlocks without me having to enter any security password.  I check my emails first, scrolling through the fifteen or so that have arrived since I closed my eyes to sleep.  I read only the four job emails, of which there is nothing of interest, and I delete them straight away.  I close down my emails and go straight to the next app of my morning routine, Facebook.  As I look at my news feed, Facebook informs me that I have MEMORIES TO LOOK BACK ON TODAY, and the first memory I see is from 14 June 2014.  It contains a photo of actress Sarah Connelly in the film, Labyrinth, and was a Facebook post in which I shared what turned out to be one of my most popular blog posts: Homeless Sweet Homeless.

I click on the link and read the post nostalgically and with pride, as I do when I read any of my blog posts.  I am reminded that this post was written two years ago, when I had moved out of a flat in Ealing, but hadn’t yet found a suitable place for me and Bish to move to.  I am reminded that during this time I had stayed with friends and in a B&B.  I am reminded that Bish at the time was in a cattery in Edgeware, and my stuff was in storage in Hangar Lane.  I am reminded that I had dejunked 12 bin bags full of crap to the charity shops, and sold almost all of my furniture to people via Gumtree.  I am reminded of the difficulty I was having in finding something within budget and pet-allowing.  I am reminded that I was encouraged, but resisted, to re-home Bish.  I am reminded that I was able to write a blog that included one of my favourite childhood films.  I am reminded that I have not written a blog in many many months.

I have thought about it, occasionally.  There is certainly a lot to update you on.  But the self-doubt part of me has heard my blog voice in my head, and cringed, and any thoughts I have had of writing it again have dissipated.

Having thought about it all day, I just re-read all my blog posts from 2016, and I am surprised to find there are actually five published this year.  It is so long since I blogged that I have forgotten that I published any at all since the new year started.  I am pleased to see that one of the five is a short story, a piece of fiction I wrote on my commute one day.  This reminds me that I am capable of writing fiction, not just blog posts, and that on rare occasions I have even managed to put it out there for people to read, not just to resign it to a notepad or in the notes pages of my phone.  I am encouraged by what I have read, and it sparks something in me, in my desire to write, to put words on paper, even a virtual page.  Two years after a blog about being homeless, and I am determined to make today the day I start blogging again.

So here it is, a post, as yet, untitled.  So what have I been doing when I’ve been not writing?  Well a lot has changed.  Back in September 2015, I made the decision to move back up north.  You’ll know if you have read previous posts that it was something that had been suggested to me by a friend during my time in London, but for reasons that seem beyond me now, I could not face.  I had clung onto the idea that my future was in London for a long time, but I had to face up to the reality that I was treading water in an expensive, lonely city, and not progressing in any way, shape or form.  I spent five months applying for jobs in the north, but not even being shortlisted for anything dampened my spirits.  I had given myself six months to find something and set myself a deadline of the end of March to leave.  As the middle of February approached and I was faced with two lengthy trips back home at the end of February and the middle of March for family birthdays, and two sets of travel and cattery costs, and I decided enough was enough, and after a few day’s thought, handed my resignation in at work and gave notice on my flat.  My dad had kindly offered me my old room back, and it meant that Bish and I could move back to Lincoln while I saved enough money to move onto Sheffield.

After saying goodbye to the few good friends I had made in London, on 13th March, Bish and I moved back to my childhood home in Lincoln.  The relief of being away from the capital was increased at the sight of fields from my bedroom window, and while I knew Lincoln was only a temporary residence, I knew the move back north was the right thing for me and Bish.

After leaving my job in London, I had intended to find temp work here, but because I was only planning on being here 1-3 months before moving on again, I was told there was very little in the way of short-term temporary work.  However, the agency offered me the opportunity to go back to my old department in the NHS, at a much lower rate of pay.  Reluctantly, in order to save money to move, I took the job.  While I was gutted at having to take a drop in pay yet again, the work was easy, and more importantly, I was surrounded by friends, people I had known and worked with for many years.  I relished my new commute, one that took 25-30 minutes door to door, half of which I was able to walk or ride a bus alongside beautiful fields, instead of my former 60-90 minute London commute where I’d be in busy train carriages or running across the footbridge at Britain’s busiest train station, Clapham Junction.

Bish has settled into life in the north although it hasn’t been easy for him.  Not long after we moved, he spent a day sleeping under the conifers in my dad’s garden, and a few days later, I returned from a weekend away to find him covered in ticks.  While dad and I removed the ones we could see over the next few days, it soon became clear that it would take a specialist.  We took him to a local vets and it turned out he was riddled with them.  After undergoing a multiple trips to the vets, with two lots of sedation and a hell of a lot of tricky tick removal, he is now clear of the little bastards, but it was a very stressful few weeks for all of us.

I’ve been in Lincoln for just over three months now, and in less than three weeks Bish and I will be moving on again.  In order to tell you about our next move, I need to tell you about the biggest change in my life, which happened at the beginning of this year.  Yes, after all those years of searching, I finally met a kind, caring, supportive and absolutely wonderful man who fills my heart with joy.  Online dating finally paid off, and it was worth putting my hand in my pocket, as I met my guy on e-Harmony.  After endless messages, it soon became clear that we were very well matched, and our mutual love of charity shops, board games, books and 80s films, created a foundation for our two creative souls to build a relationship.  Six months later and I am happier than I have ever been, and I know that he was worth waiting for.  So, mine and Bish’s next move is to Derby, where my boyfriend lives, and I can’t wait.  It’s been great staying with my dad, but I’m looking forward to having my independence back, to live with my boyfriend, in a decent size house, not a room, a place where Bish can enjoy the run of, and where he has his own cat flap, out into the garden where he can relax on a summer’s day (and not a conifer in sight!).

Finding love hasn’t made all my problems go away, but having someone by my side who understands depression, and is supportive and there for me at the times when I do fall apart, has made the transitional period so much easier.

So in just over two weeks I’ll make another move, to another new place in which for me to re-invent myself.  I think back to two years ago, when I had no fixed abode, and no idea what the future held.  I still don’t know what the future holds, but I know it contains a loving relationship with someone who thinks the world of me and Bish, and for whom the feeling is mutual (from me and my cat).  And if being homeless taught me nothing else, it showed me that I can cope with what life throws at me, and I can live to tell the tale.

I think it’s true to say you don’t know what is round the corner, and you never know when your life will change.  Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, but always for a reason.  And even the bad things can give you inspiration, when you look back upon them and can say: I survived that.

 

Come Rain Come Shine

Standing in the pouring rain under my umbrella the other day, waiting for my train to come, I contemplated the weather.  Saturday was boiling hot, but most of this week the rain has poured.  Today it looks like it is going to be sunny (and my iPhone confirms no rain forecast, which is good because my already-broken umbrella can’t take much more). 

My mood, like the weather, has been up and down lately.  The week before last, it was down, down, down. Trouble at work saw me in tears (at work) almost every day, and of course at home.  Last week was much better.  Some tears, but none at work.  

Why the sudden turnaround?  Well, the same reason it has always been. Last week I spent my evenings talking to a guy, having spent most of the Sunday chatting on the phone and via video Skype after meeting online.  

Last week the work issues that had been so predominant became less so, and my good mood was eased by having someone to look forward to chatting to in the evenings.  

We made tentative plans to meet Sunday, but of course I didn’t hear from him after Friday lunchtime.  Friday night and Saturday I had my own plans, so I didn’t think about it too much, knowing that we would finally be meeting on the Sunday.  The beautiful hot weather on Saturday lifted my mood even higher.    

But Sunday everything came crashing down.  Tentative plans are not good for me.  If I am supposed to have plans but they don’t materialise (with anyone, not just men) then I will find it hard to think about doing anything else.  As I woke up Sunday and checked my phone, I was disappointed not to see a message from him.  Determined not to be the one doing the chasing, I refrained from messaging him.  

But as the rain poured down outside, so did my mood, and I spent almost the whole day in bed.  Not that I have much choice in this matter anyway; my studio flat has one main room which has a double bed in it and not much else.  

At around 5:30pm, I finally sent a quick hi, which of course was ignored.  

Today I feel embarrassed and humiliated, for believing that a few conversations could have been the start of something.  But in my five years’ experience of Internet dating, this should be nothing new. 

I think the biggest realisation for me, was that no matter what I do to lift myself up, I will always let men drag me down further.  Last Friday I was so happy to have written a new blog post.  But the joy I felt was not as great as the low I suffered after a man I spent less than a week talking to decided he no longer wanted to chat.   

I know I have issues with both men and self-esteem, the two having been linked for most of my life.  I know that I need to put more effort into making my life what it should be, so that I can be happy alone, or at least get to a point where I don’t suffer as much at any kind of rejection from a guy. 

Today I was at risk of a really bad mood bringing me down.  Thoughts of another man who rejected me earlier this year still too raw, when I should be over it by now.  The bright sunshine has, ironically, watered down my bad mood and I feel calm stood on the platform with my coffee (it’s payday) at Clapham Junction’s Platform 6.  I have my broken brolly with me, a mirror of my broken heart, and a weapon to fight the bad weather.  I’ll buy a new one in the next few days.  An umbrella, that is.  My broken heart can’t be replaced the way my umbrella can, but perhaps I can take some inspiration from the fact that you can fight the rain with a broken umbrella, and you can fight future heartbreak with a broken heart. 

The Power of 15,000 Views

Today I hit a milestone with my blog: 15,000 views. I have published, since January 2012, 234 blog posts (this one, assuming it makes it into the “published posts section” will be 235). I know that I haven’t written anything for a while. I’m not going to make excuses for myself, other than the fact there’s been a lot going on; mostly in my head, which has resulted in more sleepless nights than I care to admit.

235 blog posts and I still feel lost in life. I feel the frustration of having spent four years at university only to end up doing the same job as I did for 12 years before that. Except now I’m not making sure cancer patients get their diagnostic tests and treatments on time. Now I make sure the relatively wealthy get their Michael Kors handbag or their Jimmy Choos without too much of a delay. Maybe this is the reason I can’t take my job too seriously.

But it’s not all bad. Last Friday I attended a free journalism workshop, a taster session for a journalism Diploma I’m considering doing in the new year.

I feel the sadness at spending another Christmas alone, or rather, without that special person in my life. Christmas adverts, like the latest offering from department store John Lewis, make it clear that love is the ultimate goal at Christmas time. Like Frankie Goes to Hollywood sang in December 1984 and earning its place on all good future Christmas compilation albums, “love is the light scaring darkness away”. I have to admit I could do with some light in my life right now.

But it’s not all bad. This year, I won’t be physically alone. I’m making sure I spend Christmas Day with people who care about me.

I feel the pressure of being overweight, of having a balloon-sized stomach caused by food intolerances, of having bad acne at the age of 36, of stress causing my scalp to flake and scab.

But it’s not all bad. My skin is clearing up, albeit slowly, and I had a hair cut at the weekend which saw three inches of my beloved locks on the salon floor. But I look in the mirror and I see a new me, and I see at least a physical change where I struggle to make those mental ones.

2014 has been a tough year. I’m still struggling to find my place in this city, in this life. Right now I have so many physical afflictions that I can barely look at myself in the mirror. But it’s not all bad. Because tonight I wrote another blog post, and as long as I can write, I know that I’m on the right path. I may not have had much inspiration lately, but tonight I was motivated by the 15,000 views on my blog, because it means that people are out there reading what I have to say. I could lie and tell you I write for myself, which is partly true, but like most bloggers, I write because I want people to read it. I want to inspire, to amuse, to entertain, to sadden. I want people to know they are not alone in what they may be going through. The Thirty-Something Crisis, or The Mid-Life Crisis, or The Quarter-Life Crisis, at whatever age it occurs, is not kind. It treats everyone differently, and knows no mercy. This is my journey through it, and I thank you for keeping me company during these dark nights and not-so-bright days.

The Power of Love – Frankie Goes to Hollywood (1984)

John Lewis Christmas Advert (2014)

Them Clothes Are Staying On!

You know when you hear a song and when you see the singer for the first time they completely surprise you? That happened to me today with Jermaine Stewart.

We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off to have a good time, uh-huh, it seems was sung by a man, as evidenced by his Movember contribution in the music video.

I always thought it was a female who sung it, which leads me to a very interesting conclusion. That there are men out there who do not want to get you naked on the first date.

While a quick Google search shows me that I would not have been Jermaine’s type, mainly due to the lack of a certain body part, it is still refreshing to hear any kind of man insisting that there is no need for clothing removal in order to have fun.

As I’ve mentioned in this blog before, I’ve jumped into bed far too quickly too often, which usually kills any chance there may be of a relationship blossoming. Next time I meet someone, I’ll bring Jermaine’s song out as Exhibit A, and if they don’t like it, We Don’t Have to Care, to Move On.

We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off – Jermaine Stewart (1986)

Spring Forward, Fall Back

I just looked at the last post I wrote which was Friends Without Benefits, on the 15th October. Eleven days ago. I’m sure you’re all wondering what has been happening in those eleven days, so I’ll do my best to fill you in. As you’ll remember, I blocked my male friend on Facebook and What’s App, which was hard but a necessary enforced separation for me.

Spring forward.

It took him almost a week, but once he realised what I’d done and he read that last blog, he sent me a very heartfelt email. He understood the reasons why but still felt hurt that I hadn’t explained to him before cutting him out of my life completely. That is one of the downsides of this blog; while I may have posted a blog about what is happening in my life, how I feel, what has happened, sometimes I forget that not everyone reads my blogs, or just because I’ve written a blog it doesn’t mean that is the end of the conversation.

His email ended with the offer of friendship, should I really need it, and the hope that we would one day become friends again. He also said that he would respect my wish for distance, and after the email would not contact me again.

I suppose I should have expected him to react rather than just go along with it. Unfortunately for me, the arrival of his email coincided with the monthly work pub quiz. I read it during my first pint, but two pints and two large glasses of red wine later meant that I did what comes naturally to me when sober. I called him. Two drunken voicemails later, he called me back, a conversation which somehow lasted 55 minutes.

Mostly it was me crying and him talking, I don’t even really remember everything that was said. I do know however that one conversation opened up the floodgates again.

Fall back.

The few days after that all I wanted to do was call him, to talk to him again. Not to let him go. Not to go back to that horrible separation that left me feeling so alone. I did call once but it went to his voicemail. He tried to call back but by then I had started to regret the call, so I didn’t return it.

Every so often I get a pang of longing for our friendship, especially when I get stressed, which happens a lot lately. But I know that there is no other way it can be. The distance is helping. Although today is the one day of the year that you can turn back time (at least in the UK), there is no turning back time for this relationship. The foundations are crumbling because we tried to build them using different materials; he used friendship, I used friendship mixed with hope and that hope is what brought about the deterioration of those foundations. Perhaps in the future once all the hope is gone I can bring something that will solidify those foundations for good. Until then, I will do what I can to live my life without him.

Spring forward, fall back. Hurt is a necessary cog in the clockwork of life. The hurt may push you back, but in it you find a way to move forward again. Like the clocks that go back and forth twice a year, the action of one completes the other.

Friends Without Benefits

I have written before about how Billy Crystal was right about men and women not being able to be friends, and how he was right. Well, in case you wondered, he is still right.

Recently I parted ways with a male friend after I finally decided I couldn’t deal with just being friends. It started out with a sort of agreeing to not talk or meet up. We still stayed Facebook friends, and he would like statuses or pictures I shared, and every time his name popped up on my notifications my heart skipped a beat, knowing he was still there. It became though that I would open up Facebook to look for likes from him.

On Saturday, I was making lunch when I had this sudden urge to unfriend him on Facebook. I get these feelings sometimes, you could call it a kind of sixth sense, an intuition which is trying to tell me something, and in fact has happened with him on more than one occasion. It also happened with the last guy I was really into; I dreamt that he left his wife and was seeing someone else just a week before I approached him to find out where I stood with him. Of course, he had left his wife and was seeing somebody else, and wondered why this crazy girl was sat in his office asking whether anything was ever going to happen between them, when “nothing had happened”. He was right, of course, nothing had. But he had given me a tiny bit of hope some two years before, and believing that he was my soulmate, the one I was supposed to be with since I was 12, I had gripped that hope so hard for so long my knuckles were white. I couldn’t let go until I was far away, in a place that didn’t remind me of him. A place where I could move on. But I didn’t move on, not really. Because a few months before I had that conversation with him, the first face-to-face conversation we’d ever had, I had met the man I truly believed was “the one”. And that guy was my male friend.

We met on a dating website on Christmas Eve. A few days later, we had a wonderful first date over coffee, and I remember how he kissed me for the first time, and told me how he wasn’t disappointed at all in meeting me. It’s funny how I remember him saying that. Perhaps it’s because internet dating is full of disappointments, and I’ve had so many unsuccessful dates since that I cherish that one date where the guy was so positive about meeting me.

Anyway, less than a month later and it was over, and though we made an agreement to stay friends, we didn’t live nearby so our friendship was mainly limited to the occasional game of Words with Friends. It wasn’t until we both found ourselves living in London that we really spent more time together. Too much time really; a lack of other friends and direction in life for both of us chained us together. I poured my heart out to him about all my problems living in London, over living situations, work stresses, even disastrous dates. He was always there for me, offering advice and a shoulder to cry on. It became more than that for a while, although it was nothing more than friendship and sex. But very amazing sex, certainly the best I had ever had. But that came to a stop when I had to admit that I harboured feelings for him, feelings that he could not return. Once again we still remained friends, and I clinged to the hope that one day he would realise that I was the one he loved, the one that was stood right before him. He was only supposed to be in London for a year before moving back up North. As the end of the year approached, I started to feel panic that he would leave without me, and I would have to face up to the fact that he still didn’t have feelings for me. It started affecting me in a big way. But then his contract got extended by two months and he started talking about staying in London. And panic was once again replaced by hope. And this time the hope was big.

But hope was not enough. Because I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had to face the facts. That he didn’t feel that way about me. Whether he stayed or not, it was becoming time to face reality. Sadly, this realisation coincided with him meeting somebody else. And I realised that I had been so wrong, because he had never felt about me the way he did about her.

Back to Saturday. As I opened Facebook to unfriend him, a photo came up that he had shared. One of those stupid memes like the ones I myself have been sharing lately. And this one made me mad, so I made a snotty comment. He made one back, then I made another. Twelve words later, and I had unfriended him over handbags. And I found myself wondering why I hadn’t listened to my intuition and just unfriended him in the first place, before our already fragile relationship could deteriorate further.

Since then, I have been ok. Mostly. I still think of him though, and worse, I think of him with the girl he has met.

Last night he sent me a message on What’s App, asking how the flat hunting was going. I replied, he wished me luck, and I replied thanks. But today I have found myself checking What’s App, seeing when he was last online, hoping for another message from him. And I realise how hard this separation process is going to be. Because I have to be the one to walk away. Staying friends is not an option. Facebook friends is not an option. What’s App friends is not an option. So with a heavy heart I stop writing this blog to block him on What’s App.

Enforced distance is the only way I can get over this. They say absence makes the heart grow stronger, but I disagree. Absence makes you forget. It numbs the pain. And removes all traces of hope.

I listen to the heavy rain outside, and know the same rain pours in my heart. I have lost a friend because I can’t deal with the pain of feelings unrequited. The friend who always offered me an umbrella when it rained. Now it pours, and it is all I can do to stop myself getting soaked to the bone.

How Am I Supposed to Live Without You – Michael Bolton (1990)

Where There’s Smoke There’s Ire…

Well my PMT has been raging this week. There’s been lots of tears and anger. Most of all I just feel scared about what the future holds for me.

Yesterday I did something I have never done at work. I smoked a cigarette. I have to admit I do smoke the occasional one when drunk on nights out, but to go and stand outside my office building while stone cold sober is a new one on me. While it calmed me down, I hated smelling like a chimney afterwards, and I could still smell the smoke on my fingers two hours later. So thankfully I won’t be taking up smoking any time soon.

I just feel like I am losing control again. Am I ever going to be able to settle in this place, in this life? A constant nomadic life, with heartache after heartache. Last week I stayed with my brother and his fiancee, and got to spend time with my nephew. This weekend I feel the emptiness of my life. I’m 36, I should have my own family to spend time with. Not be sitting in my room, alone, desperately searching for another flatshare before I become homeless again.

I’m sorry if this sounds pitiful, but this is how I feel today.

In between bagging up books for the charity shop, the sadness comes, and the PMT rages. Luckily I don’t have any cigarettes and I won’t buy any when I go out to take my donations. I do have chocolate though. And my blog. They will get me through.

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