The Waiting Game

So much unhappiness in the world.  So many unhappy relationships.  It seems like everyone I speak to is unsettled with their boyfriend, girlfriend, wife or husband, partner.  It is all I can do to convince them to leave. For it is my experience, that once someone is unhappy in their relationship, that can never be changed.  

Perhaps the conversation between us becomes a happy one for a while; normal life takes over and they tell me about what they did at the weekend, they skirt round the underlying issues.  But those issues always come back eventually.  And what can I say to them?  Except leave? 

I had no-one to tell me that.  I didn’t discuss my unhappy marriage with a single person.  Well that’s not true; I kind of did once, when I was drunk, but I denied it after that.  The day I left my husband I stood in my mum’s kitchen while she was on the phone for ten whole minutes before she realised why I was stood in her kitchen, on my own, on a weeknight after work, without my husband.  That’s not her fault, of course, just a a result of the fact that my leaving came as a shock to everyone apart from me.

I wish I could believe in the hope that things can get fixed.  But I can’t.  Because I don’t believe that can ever happen.  

I do know people who have stayed together, long after one of them told me they were on the verge of splitting.  This couple are now married with a child.  And I believe their relationship will hold.  But they are very few and far between.  

As I think about how long I’ve been single, and whether I wish I could be in a relationship again, even the wrong one, just to be with someone, and the thought leaves me cold.  Yes, I would rather be alone.  

Being alone is hard.  But at least I can look in the mirror with a clear conscience, and know the person standing in front of me is the one I want to be with.  


You Can Go Your Own Way

In a deviation to The Twelve-Week Challenge blog (Day 37 will follow at its usual time later this evening), I decided it was time to write a ‘normal’ blog.

I arrived in London around lunchtime, having travelled down from Chesterfield on the National Express coach this morning.  I think I might write a blog about that too, but I’ll put that under a separate heading.   It’s far too humorous to include in this blog, in which I need to talk about serious stuff.

Anyway, where was I?  That’s right, I was on the bus, and as we drove down the motorway, the sun was shining.  The further we got from the snow in South Yorkshire, the sunnier it became, and by the time we reached the Nation’s capital it was really sunny with bright blue skies.  As we drove through London towards Victoria, I knew.  I knew this is where I’m meant to be.

Upon arrival at my hotel, I had a bath, which was just the loveliest thing ever.  I live in a house where it takes hours to fill the tub, and when you get in, you are still only sat in about two inches of water, which is normally freezing.  I like baths, especially with candles and a glass of wine.  They relax me no end, and considering how stressed I’ve been the last few years, would have done me the world of good.  Hence why diving straight into the tub upon arriving my hotel was such an important thing for me.

After my bath, I headed for the pool.  I was disappointed that the hotel no longer had a sauna, but 40 laps of the warm pool with the sun streaming through the glass roof did go somewhat towards relaxing me in lieu of the hot, Scandinavian invention.

After my swim, I headed back up to my room and prepared to head out for lunch.  Despite my exercise, before I arrived at the hotel earlier, a girl had been handing out vouchers for McDonald’s, and being a student, figured should go for the cheap option, rather than a more expensive, healthy option.

I had just pressed the button on the lift, feeling quite good about myself, when my mobile rang.  The number was a mobile I didn’t recognise.  Hoping it might be about one of the jobs I have applied for, I answered it.

It wasn’t someone ringing to offer me an interview.  It was the debt collection agency, about that bloody unpaid water bill.

They asked me to make the full payment today; I told them I could not.  I agreed to pay it next week, after the next instalment of my student loan.  They agreed to knock 25% off the price if I arranged a payment for next week today.

I thought back to all the phone calls I’d had years before, demanding when a payment would be made, and I vowed I would not live through that again.

As I sit here in Costa, writing this blog, I don’t feel as upbeat as I did upon arriving in London earlier today.  My mood has been dampened by that phone call.

I know I am on the right path though.  For upon starting this blog, the song that came out of the Costa speakers was ‘Go Your Own Way’ by Fleetwood Mac.  As you’ll know if you’re a regular reader of this blog, that song has become somewhat of an anthem for me, after hearing it played in the Hard Rock Cafe in Venice three years ago, sat on my own, two months after separating from my husband.

That song stands as a reminder that I have done the right thing.  While I have never doubted my decision, the choice to live life alone, outside of that institution of marriage, has been very tough at times.  There have been occasions when I haven’t wanted to continue to follow my dreams; when I have wondered what the hell I am doing whether all the heartache is worth it.

But every so often I get a sign, a reminder that I’m on the right track.   The right track, in this case, is ‘Go Your Own Way’.  And I am doing.

The Twelve Week Challenge: Day 44

The eagle-eyed among you will notice that it is now Day 44, and haven’t we already had a Day 44?   Well as I  mentioned briefly yesterday, I’ve decided that since I’m now half-way through The Twelve-Week Challenge, that I would start counting down, towards the end, or rather the beginning, of the next chapter in my life.

The excitement of having my dissertation handed in has left me not really knowing what to do with myself, although tomorrow I won’t really have that problem as long as I make a start on my next assignment.  As I’ve mentioned already, having my handed dissertation in, while being a huge weight off, is an anti-climax when I have another four assignments to do before I can say goodbye student life.

This morning I decided I ought to get back onto the job search side of things, and called a publishing recruitment agency in London.  While the woman on the phone was polite, she told me there really wasn’t anything they could do for me without any publishing experience.  So I should seek out some work experience, then consider coming back.

I’m not sure I expected them to say anything else really, because I know that publishing is a very competitive industry.  One of my worries, over the last two years while at uni, was getting some “relevant work experience” and while I have done some extracurricular activities such as my radio work, I haven’t actually done any publishing experience.  While I have applied for work experience with some of the larger companies, I’ve never heard back from them.

After that, I did a search online for other, less specialised recruitment agencies, and got all over-excited about a PA job in Dubai.  Halfway through re-shaping my CV, I had to ask myself, do I really want a PA’s job?  While I love the idea of working in Dubai (23.5 degrees north of the equator!), when I think back to when I actually was a PA and…well…I hated it.  I realise I am not so good at organising somebody else, I’d much rather have a job where I can manage my own time and my workload.  If there’s one thing I learnt from working in London last time, it was that you shouldn’t do a job you hate.

I’m not talking about the job you do day-in, day-out, like the one I had in the NHS for so many years.  I’m talking about the job that really makes you so terribly unhappy, either because you hate the work, hate the company (or both), or because you know in your heart that actually you’re not so good at the job, and thus feel like a failure.  Having been, in my time, a hotel receptionist, a paralegal, a medical secretary and a customer service assistant (although I was told by the temp agency it was a data entry clerk), I realise that there’s no point in doing a job you don’t like, and I vowed never to do these jobs again.

The last time I worked in London was in 1997-8.  I didn’t even have a mobile phone, let alone the internet.  I remember one of my colleagues at the hotel where I worked was the first to get a phone; I used to ring my parents from the payphone across the street.  I had a nice collection of BT Phonecards at one point.  I worked in the hotel for nine months, before finally securing a job as a Paralegal for one of the big City law firms.  I’d been for endless job interviews, and finally got offered two jobs.  I chose the one working for the company with the big posh offices, although that was pointless since my office ended up being in the old part of the building anyway.  As a paralegal, I used to prepare documents, and take them to banks for signatures.  I don’t mean your average High Street branch, I mean real, investment banks.  I was basically a glorified delivery person.  And I hated it.

While my job was pants, I also rented a room from a woman in Brick Lane.  At first she was chatty but after a while she seemed to take to avoiding me.  It left me feeling really awkward, and I remember going to my room and crying after a horrible day at work and not feeling any happier once I arrived at home.

After spending a year living in London, which was the deadline I had given myself, I held my hands up in defeat, and made plans to come home.  My job was on a three-month probation, so it really wasn’t a problem for me to leave.  I had signed a six-month rental agreement at the flat too, but my landlord had no problem with me moving out after only four months.

I will never forget the conversation I had with the woman from HR.  She was asking me why I was leaving and I, of course, got upset and told her that I hated the job.  She asked me what I liked doing, and I told her that I enjoyed typing.  While in London, I’d gotten my Computer Keyboard Skills qualification from Pitman (the first, and last time, I ever got a distinction) and typing was the one thing I could do well, although as a Paralegal, I didn’t have too much typing to do.  She told me that I should have said, that they could have moved me to the typing pool.  But by that point, I’d made the decision to come home, and didn’t want to disappoint my parents by telling them I wasn’t coming back after all.  So I came home.  I did a few temp jobs before getting a permanent job with the NHS, where I worked for twelve and a half years.  I bought a house, got married, lost the house, got divorced (well, almost).  But I have always regretted leaving London.  I didn’t admit that for a long time, because it was as though I wasn’t grateful for what I’d found since I came back.  But really, I should never have come back.

My friend said to me today that I need to prepare for going to London this time, that I don’t want to have to come back if it doesn’t work out.  I agree that I need to prepare, but I won’t be coming back.  Except for visiting friends and family.  I don’t belong here, I have never belonged here.  If things don’t work out in London, then I shall head elsewhere (preferably somewhere closer to the Equator), but I won’t be coming back to Lincoln.  That much I know.


The Twelve-Week Challenge: Day 33

I hold my hands up.  I’m rubbish at this getting-blogs-done-on-time crap.  This blog is now over twelve hours late, and I have no excuse.

However, yesterday, I did manage to get a fair bit of dissertation work done.  I knocked out 400 words and structured it a little more.  That took me all morning and most of the afternoon, but after dinner, I just wasn’t in the mood for more work.  I had intended to pick it up again later in the evening, but my mood had been soured, resulting in watching television and doing puzzles.  I decided around 10pm to get an early night, and took my laptop with me, with the intention of writing the blog before I slept.  But while procrastinating over the blog, I fell asleep, and awoke the next morning with the realisation that I had yet again missed another deadline.

When I woke up yesterday, not having written my blog from the night before, I made writing it the first thing I did.  This seemed to work. I got the blog written and posted and then for the rest of the day worked on my dissertation.  But today, I didn’t do that.  I watched my two episodes of Frasier, and then started working on my dissertation.  I’m writing about women writers, their female protagonists, and the links between, marriage, creativity and self.  I guess I’m trying to find some answers myself.  I’m using two well-known stories (in academia, anyway) from the 1890s,  Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper and The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, and comparing them against novels by two contemporary female writers; Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult, and Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs.

Yesterday the 400 words I wrote were on the chapter about The Yellow Wallpaper.  A story about a woman, suffering with post-natal depression (although it wasn’t recognised back then) who goes mad, after being locked in an attic by her physician husband.  I can relate to that (the going mad part at least).

The second book I’m using, The Awakening, is about a married woman who leaves her husband and goes on a sexual and emotional journey; an awakening.  This is a journey I too, I have taken, and in fact, am still taking.

This morning I have been working on my favourite novel of them all, Jodi Picoult’s Harvesting the Heart.  Like a modern-day version of The Yellow Wallpaper, maybe a what-happens-next?, Picoult’s character, Paige, leaves her three-month-old son, Max, and husband, Nicholas, and goes on a pilgrimage to find her mother, who left her when she was five.  Harvesting the Heart is about finding the answers, and the journey you must take to do so.  Perhaps the reason I can relate is because my own journey, these last three, well, six years, if I’m honest, has been about finding the answers.  Why do I feel this way?  Where should I be in life?  What should I be doing?  When will I start to feel happy in my own skin?  As I have mentioned before, this chapter is coming to a close, and perhaps that is why I am panicking.  Because I don’t feel like I have all the answers yet.  I have a huge bundle of memories; of good times and bad, of lessons learnt, some easy to grip and some hard to swallow.  But how I put those memories together into one final picture that makes sense; well that is about these last few weeks.  Recently I feel like I’m working on a jigsaw puzzle where most of it is done, but all that is left is a hundred little bits of blue sky, that all look the same.  Until recently, I couldn’t face finishing the puzzle because I didn’t know where to start.  But now I seem to have managed to find one piece that fits, and this has given me the push I needed to try and fit the rest.  It’s a painstaking job, though, like my dissertation.  I must take the notes and references I’ve collected so far and put them into a piece of work that flows; from the introduction, through all four chapters, to the final conclusion.  This is the story of my life over the last six years, and it’s time to read back over it, and see what I’ve learned.

A Gate at the Stairs, is as the title suggests, about confinement.  But it is also a story about identity and about not making the same mistakes.  Learning, from past mistakes.  Tonight I must get my blog written on time.  If I want to move forward, I need to learn that self-discipline.  I cannot keep making the same mistakes, or how will I ever move on?

The Twelve-Week Blog: Day 26

After the excitement of last night’s concert with my favourite singer, Eric Martin, which you can read about in Day 25,, today kind of took a bit of a nose dive.  Originally I had intended to visit a friend, although due to illness this got postponed, and so I was left with the knowledge that I had a full day to do everything I needed to do to prepare for my trip to visit my cousin in Bristol this weekend, as well as get some work done.  So what did I do?  Absolutely nothing.

I realise that I have a problem with endings, and finishing things, hence why I have struggled with the final year of my degree.  For some reason, there are things that I just can’t seem to get finished, and I’m not sure why.  It’s like when you watch a box-set of a DVD, and you’ve watched everything but the final episode, because you don’t want to it to end, and you don’t want to go those months until the new season starts with nothing new to watch.  I usually have endless glasses of drink around the house with a tiny bit left in the bottom.  I can never seem to tidy my room; I start it but I can never finish it, and usually it ends up looking worse than I started.

As well as my problem with finishing things, I think I get thrown off-balance when plans change.  Like today, I just couldn’t seem to settle; and rather than using the now free time to my advantage, I wasted it.

My Life Coach, Jon Richelieu-Booth, called me out on this during our coaching call this afternoon.  Due to the change of plans, I wasn’t on my way home like I would have been had I met my friend.  Instead, another friend had got in contact and I’d gone for a coffee in Starbucks.  When Jon rang me, I had completely forgotten our coaching call, and had to ask him to call me back a short while later.  He has been keeping me accountable for these blogs, and I’m surprised not to have heard from him by now (1:45am), although maybe he’s leaving me be after our call this afternoon, where he nicely, but firmly, told me that I had to stop procrastinating and get my uni work finished, or else I was in danger of risking everything I had worked so hard for.

By the end of the call I was quite upset, compared to the start when I was still on a high from speaking to Eric after the gig.  But all this happy event had done was mask the truth; that I am dangerously close to crashing and burning right now.  I have deadlines fast approaching, and I haven’t spent the time I should have doing the work.  This is guaranteed to result in panic setting in at the overwhelming  thought of having to get the work finished in a short space of time, with a risk factor of possibly impacting hugely by my missing the deadline completely.

I don’t know why I can’t get work done.  Maybe I am scared that if I finish my degree, I have to face the big wide world.  I mean, many young students face this all the time.  The end of university means living in the real world; having a job, paying bills, the other shit that life brings.  But I have lived in this world for many years.  I worked full-time for 16 years of my life.  I have lived independently pretty much since I was 19.  And I have worked so hard to give myself the opportunity of a brand new start.  It’s almost time for me to grasp it.  So why am I holding back?

As Marty, and his dad, George McFly, both said in Back to the Future, “What if they don’t like me?  What if they tell me I’m no good?  I don’t think I could take that kind of a rejection.”  I am scared shitless about not being successful in my second chance at life.  I walked away from my marriage, spent four years at university and that same four years on an up-and-down rollercoaster ride of emotions that have taken me to hell and back.  I need something steady in my life now.  There has been too much uncertainty for too long.  But what happens if I don’t get that?

When I left my husband, many people (women) told me how “brave” I was.  It was hard, walking away from a ten-year relationship with the person who, for the most part, had been my best friend.  “Brave” is not a word you usually associate with women, more like knights of the round table.  But as months went by, and those same friends ended their relationships, I realised that what I had done was to inspire other people to break away from that life in which they were no longer happy, in a bid to find freedom and happiness elsewhere.

Right now I have a Decree Nisi, and in just under six weeks I can apply for the Decree Absolute, which means my divorce will be final.  After three years, the decision that took me years to come to in the first place, will finally be officially supported.  It will signal the end of this chapter, alongside the degree that I started, at a time when the dream I chased of a better life was not just mine.  The last chapter is ready to be told, and I have to face up to the fact that there is a brand new volume waiting to be written.  The pages are crisp and new, unlike this book, which is slightly dog-eared and crumpled, covered in fingerprints and dirt, but in which all the blood, sweat and tears (and trust me, there’s been a lot) are contained, those which have come out of the journey of the past few years.  I see myself closing the book, and rubbing my hand across the leather front cover to remove the traces of dust.  I carry it across to the bookcase, and place it on the shelf, the spine facing me, which reads “The Story of Me. Volume One.”

As I sit myself on the sofa and tuck my legs underneath me, I pick my coffee cup up from the table, and hug the warm vessel with both hands.  I gaze out of the window, at the sun shining into the huge, sunlit room, at the waves crashing on the shore, and I sigh with relief.  Time to start again.