7 things 2017 taught me

2018 I have been so looking forward to you. Mainly because it means the epic flaming shitshow that was 2017 is finally over. Don’t get me wrong, there were many moments of grace, of wonder and a beauty. Watching Nibs grow has been every bit as wonderful and knackering as I imagined it would be. But I don’t think I’m alone in being glad to close the chapter on this year and move into another one.

Long-term readers around this parts may remember that I like to write a year in review summing up the major events and lessons of the year. You can find previous yearly review posts here: 201520142013, 2012, 2011. (With the exception of 2016 because sleep deprivation destroyed my brain.)

I am doing something different this time. Because if I have to look back at pictures of the last year I think I may curl into a ball and just cry and cry and cry. Some years are about thriving and some years are just about surviving. Finding a way despite the odds to grit it through. So instead of writing about what happened, I am going to talk about what I learned: what served me in 2017 and what I will be happy to leave behind.

7 things 2017 taught me

Perfectionism doesn’t make me better, it makes me weaker

Ah perfectionism my slightly shitty old friend. One of my longstanding myths is without perfectionism driving me, I would achieve nothing and be left worthless and unloved. At first when Lauren’s accident happened I was able to let myself off the hook and recognise that I was doing my best in an almost unbearable situation. But as the crisis passed I began to slip back into my old perfectionist ways. I often felt I was failing as a sister, as a daughter, mother, partner and friend. Trying to do everything right hurt me as I got increasingly drained, depressed and ill. But it also harmed my relationships most notably with Nibs and HWSNBN (He Who Shall Not Be Named). I was often exhausted and short-tempered with Nibs – a hollow shell of my former self. And when it came to being a loving and present partner to HWSNBN there was nothing left. By trying to be everything to everyone I ended up being failing on every count and tearing myself to pieces in the process.

I wish I had been kinder to myself. I wish I could have offered myself the same love and support I tried to offer others. I wish I had put some boundaries in place before I began to drown. I wish it hadn’t taken almost collapsing with exhaustion to realise I needed to start taking care of myself. This year was never going to be easy but it would have been easier if I was less hard on myself. At the time ‘Only Human’ By Rag’n’Bone man was a big hit and I couldn’t get that song out of my head. As the year draws to a close I am happy to say that I am being a lot gentler on myself. One of the big lessons of this year has been that even though I would love to be perfect and untouchable, no matter what life threw at me – I am only human, after all.

Self-caring like my life depended on it (which it kinda did).

This year I finally mastered self-care. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit but at 35 years old I still struggled with the basics like making sure I was getting enough sleep, let alone making time for myself.

Because so much of what was happening this year was completely out of my control, it inspired me to finally put my attention where it mattered: on the little things I could do to make myself feel slightly better. 

I am going to start with the biggest thing I did. Immediately after Lauren’s accident the hospital offered the family individual therapy with the Major Trauma team. In the past I would have hesitated but I said yes immediately. Having a space where I could go weekly and talk about everything that was happening was essential amidst the chaos. I will be forever grateful for Kara my therapist. I am also very proud of myself because week after week I put the work in.

When I found myself overwhelmed in the middle of this year and I realised how much my need to do it all was harming Nibs, we enrolled him at nursery two days a week. It caused so much guilt and anguish at the time (especially as the first nursery was not right for him so we had to repeat the process all over again). But he loves it at his second nursery. He’s developed and grown in confidence so much. And it’s given me some essential time to think, to mourn and to sleep! The time we have together is richer and I have so much more to give now I’m not with him 24/7.

The time freed up meant in the latter half of this year I finally worked my way through a long list of nagging personal care tasks like seeing the hygienist or blood test. Self care isn’t a cure all. Booking a dentist’s appointment didn’t help me heal my broken heart. But it did mean I wasn’t distracted by a cavity and could focus on the things that mattered.

Watching Nibs grow has helped a lot. As a strong-willed toddler I know that I need to make sure he’s fed, well rested, entertained but not overstimulated… I am slowly getting used to asking myself the same questions: am I fed, rested, what do I need?

How I numb out

To get through this year (relatively) intact I’ve been numbing out. A lot. I’ve become very aware of how often I tap out of difficult moments. And why in my family that was such an essential skill to develop growing up. This year I’ve bought all the things, I’ve scrolled endlessly through social media, and immersed myself in many fictional worlds. (I have not one iota of guilt about the last one). Thank god I’ve always had an inbuilt off switch when it comes to drinking and I’m too much of a control freak to enjoy drugs. Food, the least rock and roll of all addictions, is my weapon of choice. I eat when I’m sad, angry, frightened, bored and hurting. I eat to comfort or punish myself, to numb and to distract. And this year has been replete with all the feels.

Given everything that has happened a part of me just wants to surrender and dive head first into a bowl of salted caramel cookies. If it wasn’t for one thing – HWSNBN and I want another baby. As much as I would love to be one of those super-fertile women who decides they want another baby and just gets pregnant; it’s likely for me the journey will not be that simple. To conceive Nibs I had to undergo a complete lifestyle overhaul and lose three and half stone. I couldn’t care less about how I look but I based on previous experience I am pretty certain I would be unable to conceive and carry to term at this weight. Losing weight is one of the key ways to manage my PCOS, help me start ovulating again and put me in a position to conceive.

I’ve been trying for six months to get pregnant and lose weight. I’ve tried the body coach (this worked last time), the slow carb diet and keto with some success. But after a month or so something will happen: Ash will get ill or my sister will go back into hospital or I will self-sabotage. And then I will eat and eat and eat. If I want Nibs to have a sibling, I need to stop eating emotionally and find another healthier way to weather the storms. If anybody has any tips or wants to be a fitness or healthy eating buddy let me know in the comments. This is going to be one of my big challenges in 2018.

Morning pages

Envy. No other feeling makes me feel as monstrous, uncomfortable and wrong. But it has always worked as a beacon signaling me towards something I desperately want. Years ago a chance remark from a colleague that she was training to become a counsellor triggered a wave of envy so intense it nauseated me. I signed up for a beginners counselling course the next day. This summer I bumped into her again and she talked about becoming a writer. Envy felled me again. I love writing but I’ve barely written a thing since having Nibs (oh hai severely neglected blog). Committing to writing another novel feels too much. But I could try the morning pages that she mentioned.

That was six months ago and I’ve been writing my morning pages religiously ever since. It’s simple really. All you do is write three pages of whatever is in on your mind when you wake up. That weird dream you had about the mouse castle, the fact your best friend hasn’t messaged you back, the many ways you are screwing you’re child up… It can be as boring or a deep as you want. (A lot of my early pages where me boring on about how tired I was). All of those repetitive thoughts, moaning and worries of my monkey mind go down on paper and for some reason they don’t seem to bother me anymore.

Its very simple yet ridiculously effective  for me. It works as a foundation practise. If I do this I know I’m likely to workout, to meditate, to tidy, to reach out and connect with somebody. Feeling like I’ve achieved something at 6am means I more likely to tackle hard things. Deliberately not writing my morning pages is often a sign to me that I trying to avoid some uncomfortable emotional revelation. And if I start skipping pages I notice a massive knock on effect on how I felt for the rest of the day. Next year I am definitely going to keep up with my morning pages practice.

Purpose matters

I was due to go back to work in February. It’s December, as I write this, and I am still not working as a counsellor. I cannot absorb any more emotional pain. I am at capacity.

I know I am very lucky that we are in a position where HWSNBN can support me financially (something that would have been impossible a year and half ago when we were really broke). I am lucky I get to spend time with Nibs, time that many of my friends who work full time would kill for. I am lucky to have a job I miss and love; rather than one where I lived for the weekend as I did for many years. But I don’t feel lucky, I feel bereft. I miss having purpose. I miss using my brain and my heart. I miss having a structure to my days. And the way I feel currently I am not sure I will ever be able to go back. I am trying to tell myself that for everything there is a season. That what happened to Lauren is so huge that it will take time to heal. But I feel adrift.

People ask me all the time when I am going back to work. Unwittingly it triggers a shame spiral. Because if I was stronger, better than surely I’d be ready by now. We derive so much of our purpose from work and without it – am I enough?  I know I cannot work as a counsellor now but what am I going to do instead? Now Nibs is settled at nursery, my goal is to figure out what I want to do with my one and precious life.

Sleep is everything

I always find it amusing that when it comes to our children we had bedtimes and set routines to help lull them to sleep. But when it comes to ourselves… anything goes. Nibs’ sleep has always been variable but he went through a really unsettled patch this autumn. I noticed that after spending all day being used as a human trampoline I was staying up later and later trying to desperately eek out some ‘me time’. But I was too tired to do anything except scroll on my phone and try and fail to not fall asleep in front of the TV. I’d sit there knowing I should take out my contact lenses and brush my teeth but felt too exhausted to move. With Nibs still not sleeping through the night the sleep I was getting was fractured. And during the day the tiredness built and built and affected everything my mood, my diet and my relationships. Something has to give.

I decided to set a ‘go the fuck to sleep alarm’ for 10.30pm each night. But I found it didn’t work. I resented the alarm. I always felt rushed and not ready. And in a weird in between state of exhausted and too wired. I realised I needed more of a run-up to get to sleep. There’s significant evidence that the blue light from devices can affect our melatonin. So installed a blue light blocker on my devices and starting wearing these weird orange glasses when watching TV.  I also realised if I wanted to go to sleep at 10.30pm I needed to get ready for bed at 9.30pm. So I started changing into my pyjamas, brushing my teeth and taking my contacts out as soon as Nibs had gone to sleep. Then at 10pm, I’d switch off all devices (phone and tv) and read before falling asleep at 10.30pm.

At first it made me feel a little like a grandma. I had a bedtime? Seriously? But within a week I was noticing how much better I felt and how getting enough sleep before Asher decided it was time to wake up made everything easier. I could write pages and pages about sleep especially the importance of vitamin D so I might write a separate post about this at some point.

That within me there is an invincible summer

In the books, they call it resilience. I personally labelled it as my ‘Fuck you’ instinct. But I prefer Camus who perfectly expresses what I discovered this year.

In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile. In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm. In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
‘And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.’

This year, it seemed like the world threw everything it could at me and my family. It was, without a doubt, the worst of times. But even drowning in darkness, and friends it was dark, I still found a glimmer of light within me. There was something within me that made me get up, go to therapy, play with my baby, cry with my husband, go to the hospital but also to the beach and keep living. Some ‘fuck you’ part I found within me that wasn’t going to let the bad things win. The key part of those sentences is that I found it within me. Often well meaning friends would try and offer hope or cheer me up because they found it too unbearable. It had the opposite effect of making me aware of how alone I was. I had to find the hope for myself and it often meant sitting in some dark places emotionally and accepting that this was where I needed to be. Only then would the glimmers of light show themselves. I still have to do that. What happened earlier this year is life-changing and the ripples for my sister, my family and me are still being felt and will be for the rest of our lives.

Even bruised and broken there is still within me an invincible summer. A ‘fuck you’ instinct that will not give up.

There’s a moment in Buffy at the end of season 2 which I’ve always loved. She’s fighting Angelus and she’s losing. He knocks her to the floor, her weapon is out of reach. And he stands over his sword raised for a killing blow, taunting her.
‘That’s everything huh? No weapons… no friends… no hope. Take all that away and what’s left?’ She closes her eyes as if anticipating the blow to come. And as he raises the sword to strike, she says ‘Me.’ And begins to fight back.

What’s left after last year took so many things away? Me. And as long as I am I will keep keeping on. And despite 2017 knocking me down again, and again and again – still I rose.

What did 2017 teach you? Let me know what your taking forward into 2018 in the comments

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The middle

The middle

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Credit: Mark Basarab

I have always loved before and after stories. Cinderella transforming into a princess. The ugly duckling becoming a swan. The hungry caterpillar emerging from it’s chrysalis.

And if asked I will talk to you honestly, happily and at length about my own before and after stories; afterwards. I’ll tell you about how I went from desperately trying to earn my place in the world to believing (most of the time) that I was enough. I will talk to you about what grief taught me about love. I will describe my struggle with infertility and how I lost three stone to access IVF and instead fell pregnant naturally.

The key word in that sentence above is afterwards. People tell me that admire my honesty in writing about the situations I have found hard. My reaction is always mixed: part proud but also part feeling like I have just pulled off a con. It’s takes courage to show somebody your scars, it another thing entirely to show somebody your wounds.

I am very good at talking about difficult experiences afterwards. When time has lent some distance and perspective and things are less raw. But sharing that brutiful (half beautiful/half brutal) bit in the middle of something I am struggling with? Ugh.

When I am in the middle of something hard, I cannot find the words to name what is happening to me.

When I am in the middle of something hard, I feel an expectation that I need to go away in private and figure my shit about before I can be in company again.

When I am in the middle of something hard I feel so bruised and skinless that an inadvertent glance could hurt me.

When I am in the middle of something hard I feel stuck. I cannot go back and unknow what I have learnt. But I have no idea how to move forward.

When I am in the middle of something hard I don’t know the story ends. I don’t know whether I will triumph or fail. I don’t know what the meaning of this experience will be until afterwards.

When I am in the middle of something hard, the last thing I want to do is talk about it.

But that’s what I ask my clients to do every day. There is so much I could say about what is happening within me right now. But I am in the middle – so I don’t. Until now that is.

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I read this quote from Glennon Doyle Melton, one of the writers who inspired me and it floored me. Yes, it is important to share our truth but what about sharing our unknowing. Why don’t we talk about the bits of our life that are still in construction. So inspired I am trying something new today. Even though thinking about hitting publish gives me a knot in my chest and that sinking sensation of being emotional naked.

Here are some things I am in the middle of:

Work

I’ve always been ambitious, it’s one of my defining characteristics. But when people ask me ‘when are you going back to work?’ I want to jam my fingers in my ears and sing loudly until they go away.

I don’t want to work again, ever. Despite the fact I love my job and staying home isn’t an option financially. I am desperately frightened that if I go back to work that ‘Push the river’ side of me, that relentless driving force will take over. And there won’t be any space for me or Nibs or anything other than pushing forward at all costs. Until I have figured out how I can work without letting it take over – I don’t want to go back. I expect my motherhood bubble will pop at some point and I may long for another identity other than mother and to exercise my intellectual muscles. But for the moment…

nope

Self-care

Having and mothering a baby has made me realise how abysmal I am at mothering myself. If I were an actual mother and child I would report me to social services for neglect. I have realised recently where this lack of self-care comes from. But I don’t know how to move forward and it makes me feel sad and stuck. Why can take care of other people, but not myself? I am starting to notice how much this is affecting my relationships with my husband, child, family and friends. And it the affect on them that is motivating me to change, not on me. That fact makes me feel even sadder. I am trying to go back to basics and ask myself daily what I need. But it is so hard and humiliating. Shouldn’t I have learnt how to take care of myself already? Is it too late to learn?

Body

I eat emotionally, always have done, and it’s becoming a problem. I eat as a reward, out of comfort, to console myself or just mindlessly. I worry that Nibs will see me and develop some of my habits. The worst thing about this, is that I successfully lost a lot of weight before getting pregnant through revolutionising my eating habits. When I was pregnant I was really careful about what I ate. But the combination of breastfeeding, tiredness, and boredom have meant I have been eating cake like it’s going out of fashion.

The feeling that keeps on popping up that I should be over this by now? I know how to eat healthily. I have done it before. I have all the tools in my toolbox but still I keep self sabotaging. Sadly I think the issue is I can moderate my approach to food when other people are at stake – but not when it’s just about me. Instead I circle around and around this issue never progressing

Marriage

He Who Shall Not Be Named (HWSNBN) and I have been in better places. Don’t get me wrong, we’re OK but we could be better. Lack of sleep and lack of time, as individuals and as a couple, has taken its toll. I find this immensely frustrating because as a couples therapist I knew that having a baby was one of the biggest stressors on a relationship and I had a chance to memorise the classic fight up close:

Stay at home parent: I love the baby so much but sometimes looking after him alone is so hard. I resent so much that your life continues almost unchanged whereas I am tethered to a tiny human being. You get to leave, to speak to other adults, to pee in private. I am never alone but I am so lonely.

Working parent: But you get to see it all: all the tiny ways he changes every day. I miss it. I miss him and you get to see him all the time and you don’t appreciate it. He’s growing so fast and I am not here. Plus work isn’t the holiday you think it is.

Repeat ad nausem

9 months ago I assured myself we wouldn’t be like that. Cue hollow laughter. We, OK being brutally honest, I have not been kind to HWSNBN recently.

It is so entwined with me not taking care of myself that I know that before I can reconnect with HWSNBN I need some time for me. To figure out who I am as a mother and individual after this immense lifechanging experience. If I am set boundaries and ask for my needs to be met; I will be a better partner to him. I am not in panic mode at the moment partly because I don’t feel like I have the headspace to panic. We are trying different things – some of which seem to be helping. We’ll see.

The future

I am very torn on if/when we should try for another baby. It took years, and years last time. And I am hyper aware I may not have years of trying left. I never want to go through that agonising desperation of trying and failing to conceive again.

But I am not ready. I am not even close to ready for signing on for the intensity of a newborn. Some days I look at Nibs and he’s so wondrous I can’t imagine not trying to give him his sibling. Some days he seems so big to me and miss him being a tiny baby in my arms with an ache in my womb. Then I have a dark day where I feel like the shittest mum alive and think I am never having any more children. 

So, this is where I am at right in the middle with all the mess and none of the glory. Watch this space.

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11 years of us

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In what has become an annual tradition around these parts, here is my anniversary letter to my other half He Who Shall Not Be Named. Because what is a blog for if not to be horrendously self indulgent?

Dear HWSNBN,

11 years ago today I was pre-drinking blue Wkds at my flat in Seven Dials with my friends unaware that in less than five hours my life would change and that I was heading out to meet my future husband.

Now, 11 years down the line I still can’t quite believe that I get to be with you. I am so lucky to have met you. (I think I used up all my luck in that one moment and I have never regretted it since.) You are still the first person I want to talk to when I wake up and the last person I wish to see before I fall asleep.

Words fail to express how much you mean to me, yet every year inadequately I try.

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When I was little I was obsessed with Morticia and Gomez Addams. They loved each other so intensely, not in spite of their strangeness but because of it. And I worried would anybody every love me as odd as I was? You do.

I know I can drive you crazy for all the wrong reasons. And that you have a way of infuriating me like few other people could master.

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This year has been full of ups and downs and infertility has a way of shattering the strongest couples. But it feels like the tough times have only tempered our relationship making it stronger. Thank you for always being there for me.

I’ve always believed that loving somebody is the millions of small choices you make each and every moment. Thank you for choosing me and I chose you, then, now, forever.

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Love now and forever,

Me xxx

What I learnt about marriage, two years in

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Two years ago, I married HWSNBN. In front of friends of family I vowed to:

‘love you til the seas run dry, until the sun grows cold and the stars grow old. And if there is another life beyond this, I will love you there too. With these words, and all the words of my heart, I marry you and bind my life to yours.’

One of the oddest things about being married is how natural it feels. I never dreamt I’d be this conventional. Growing up I wanted a loving partner eventually, but a husband never seemed part of my story. As HWSNBN delights in telling people in the early days of our relationship I vehemently announced I didn’t believe in marriage. But I love being married, and here’s the important bit, to him. Here is what I learnt about my marriage two years in.

It feels odd talking about our marriage even to a compulsive oversharer like me. It’s just not done. Other people’s marriages are another country, with their own secret languages and minefields. I am insatiably curious about what goes on there. (Seriously people, tell me more about what goes on in your relationship.)

In the first two years of a relationship you talk endlessly to your friends about ‘what’s going on.’ Why do the conversations about relationships stop? Is it because I don’t want to see the look of fear in their eyes when I tell them that sometimes when he has a cold he coughs in such an intensely irritating way I want to jab an icepick in his ear. Is it because if I have to hear about how my friends boyfriend prowess in bed or lack thereof and then sit opposite him in the pub, I might jab an icepick in my ear. Or is it because it gets bit boring.

People talk a lot about the wedding but not about the marriage. That ratio feels wrong. A wedding is day and if you’re lucky and I was it’s a really fucking good day. But marriage is what happens when the confetti has blown away, when the champagne is long drunk and live begins again. I really want to ask people questions like: how do you fight? How do you listen to somebody tell the same boring story about their day again? How do you stay together even when tragedy drops the sky?

Marriage is half luck, half work. As is said in our wedding reading. ‘Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.’ The fortunate accident is that in this big world we found each other because I cannot imagine doing this with anybody else. And yes, Tim I get the odds. But I still feel so lucky to have met you HWSNBN. As in I must have saved children from a burning building in a previous life lucky.

I try to not be complacent about marriage. I went into it knowing that half of marriages end in divorce. Statistically we have a fifty/fifty chance at best. I wouldn’t bet on anything else with those odds but I bet on us. And that’s not including the odds of us being separated by something outside of our control: death. So we try hard to be there for each other. To carve out little oasises of time for us. There are some things I just tell him. And vice versa. And whenever we can we dance by the light of the moon. It’s work but it doesn’t feel hard not yet anyway…

I love this quote from Tim Dowling: ‘A little paranoia is a good thing in marriage; complacency is the more dangerous enemy. You should never feel so secure that you are unable to imagine the whole thing falling apart over a long weekend. I can’t give you an exact figure for how many sleepless nights per year you should spend worrying that you’re going to die alone and unhappy if you don’t get your shit together spouse-wise, but it’s somewhere between five and eight.’

In recent months I seriously haven’t had my shit together spouse-wise. I work full-time and also am out most evenings counselling. When I’m not doing those things I am mostly staring at the wall and rocking. Connecting with my husband has moved further down the list as I struggle to find time to do the most basic things to keep myself functioning. I asked him if he felt abandoned expecting anger or hurt. But he simply said: ‘I miss you but I understand. This is not forever and it’s for us.’ I am so much harder on myself than he could ever be. Reader I loved him even more. For example: tonight instead of doing anything elaborate or romantic we’re spending it at home as I am bedridden with a cold. That is love.

People ask me what’s changed. Nothing has. Everything has. The most concrete difference is we fight differently. Before for me, at least, when we fought things felt unstable. There was always the nuclear options of running out the door. Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold. Now when we argue it feels like we are both in the same ship bailing out from the tide. Sometimes we bicker fiercely over the tiller. But we still have the same goal, to keep the boat afloat. That helps. Knowing the way I know which way north is that we are in this together.

It’s nice to have somebody on on my side. So on my side he’ll call me on my bullshit.

There is a sweet spot between connection and distance. He’s my crack. If I could spent every moment together I would because I like the way he makes me feel safe as if nothing bad can touch me. Even if I know that’s not true. But it’s not good for me to always be together. It’s not for us. It’s not for our friends and family who want to spend time for us as people not as a couple. Spend too much time together and I begin to take him for granted. Being alone feels great the first night. I get shit done. I indulge in secret single behaviour (you know eating salted caramel sauce from a saucepan. With your finger. Just me eh?). But my day two I feel hollow as if some part of me has been amputated. I hate it. But I need time apart like a drink of fresh water to remind me of who I am without him. To remind me of how much I love and miss him.

Sometimes I spy him from a distance and I fall in love him all over again. His posture. That vulnerable spot at the nape of his neck. The way he throws his head back exposing his molars when he laughs.

We are stronger together. Without him, I would be a social recluse happier with books than people. Without me, he would be a bear in a china shop unaware of the undercurrents of polite behaviour.

We’ve been together ten years now. I’m not the same girl I was when I met him. My hair is shorter, my waistbands bigger. He’s changed too. But at moments I get glimmers of the boy he was when I first met him faintly like seeing something through water. His fluffy hair, the interest he takes in everything, the way he holds my hand. Softly as if I am precious.

Marriage is a choice we both make daily. I chose him when he’s popping to the supermarket and I chase after him kissing him ‘goodbye’ as if we’re starring in brief encounters. In case something awful happens I want him to know how much I love him. He hasn’t lived a life in the shadow of uncertainty like I have but he choses me when we kisses me back even though he thinks it’s silly. It’s on such small compromises that a marriage is made.

I chose him when I want to gnaw apart our relationship like an animal in a trap because I cannot stand another repetitive fight about who left crumbs on the bathroom floor but I stay. He chooses me when I woke from my frequent nightmares and he holds me close, strokes my hair and tells me I’ll be OK. He never seems to get bored or frustrated with telling me things are OK.

Over the last year we’ve been struggling with some tough things. But it’s only made us stronger. I chose him when I collapse in pieces on the bathroom floor knowing that he will catch me, always. He chooses me when he picks me up and patiently pieces me back together. He chooses me when he says he is sad knowing that I will hold him until it fades. Even if it takes days.

There are only two pieces of relationship advice I have. The first is figure out: what are you really fighting about? HWSNBN and have two main fights we’ve perfected through long and tedious repetition. The first fight is he loves order and cleanliness and although I like tidiness, I want a flat I can live in more. It was when we were conducting this fight like old pro’s for the 50 millionth time that I realised what we were really fighting about. He was really saying: I want you to respect my need to feel in control of my environment. And I was really saying: I need a space in our flat and to feel like I matter in this relationship. Once we discovered that we could talk about what we were actually fighting about.

My second relationship lesson? Be kind. This less a relationship lesson than a life lesson. You will never regret being kind.

OK, so talk to me in the comments about your relationships past and present. What have you learnt, what have you unlearnt?

Ten years of us

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Dear HWSNBN,

Ten years ago today I was sat next to you in the Funky Fish as this song played:

Praying you’d kiss me. Some wild god must have heard because you finally did and I realised that I never wanted to stop kissing you.

Us the day after. Already I'd decided I didn't want to part from you
Us the day after. Already I’d decided I didn’t want to part from you

It doesn’t feel like ten years has passed. I still feel as if I’m seeing you, discovering my love for you anew and hope I shall never become jaded to what we have.

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Over the last ten years a lot has happened, even in the last year.

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We’ve been to many, many parties.

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We’ve lived in three places, one separately and two together. In 2007 we bought our flat.

I’ve had ten jobs and you’ve had four, you slacker… 🙂

We’ve made some amazing friends and lost some along the way.

New Zealand 2004, Australia 2014, Cuba 2013, Scotland 2010
New Zealand 2004, Australia 2014, Cuba 2013, Scotland 2010

We’ve had so many adventures travelling to the furthest reaches of this small world.

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You asked me to marry you, and I, of course, said YES. After eight years I had to get used to not being your girlfriend anymore (no more girlfriend points) and becoming your wife.

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You supported me as I retrained in my dream job as a counsellor and never complained about the time I spent studying and with my clients but not with you.

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You can still make me laugh…

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like nobody else can.

There’s been so many changes that at times it feels as if the world is spinning vertiginously around me. But you remain my constant, my north star.

Thank you for loving me, for taking care of me and for letting me take care of you.

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I’m no longer the same girl that you met all those years ago and you aren’t the same boy. But like I wished we’ve grown together not apart. At dinner tonight we sat next to a couple who had been together 50 years, only 40 years to go!

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Happy 10th anniversary HWSNBN. Here’s to us.

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love,

your Rowan

 

 

Spring has sprung

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After a long, wet and windy winter, spring has finally sprung and it’s glorious. Happy spring equinox! There’s something about feeling the sunshine on your skin, on seeing the bright yellow yolks of the daffodils, on the impossible blue of the sky that makes me feel alive.

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Today I walked around campus soaking in the beauty of everything budding, flowering and unfurling. Being outside and connecting to the seasons is Prozac for my soul. I’m really excited because my dad and I are getting an allotment. Yes, I’m embracing my incipient decrepitude by wearing mumus, getting into gardening, and listening to Radio 4.

It’s been a really good month so far. Little over a week ago we landed after going on the holiday of a lifetime to Japan and Australia.

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Yes, it spanned continents but sadly not decades (niche Veronica Mars references, FTW!).  We trawled Tokyo, watched some very lovely people get hitched, saw Duffy at Disneyland, snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef, trekked in rainforest, and went on a road trip with our lovely friends down the Great Ocean Road. Even writing about this is giving me pinpricks of joy all over again.

My personal highlight was spending lots of time with my best friend and love of my life HWSNBN. Nine years ago, we travelled around Australia and it was even more magical almost a decade on.

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I’ve started to feel better. It’s no secret that I’ve been finding things tough. But there was something about changing my environment that’s helped me open eyes about some situations I’ve been feeling stuck about and see some solutions I’ve been missing.

Like Persephone I had to spend some time in the darkness before emerging into the light.  I know it will all be OK, even if it takes a while. I will be OK. And that’s worth celebrating.

Dearest HWSNBN

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Dearest HWSNBN,

Happy nine-year anniversary! Just writing those words, I feel so old like an ancient relic. But it doesn’t feel like it’s been nine years. I can remember as if was yesterday being that girl sitting in a dingy club wishing with every fibre of her being that the boy sitting next to her would just kiss her. And when that kiss happened, it was worth the wait. You were worth the wait. Almost a decade on you still give me butterflies.

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I have nightmares sometimes and the most terrifying one even worst than the ferret man (*shudders*) is the ‘what ifs’. What if I hadn’t gone to Sussex? What if I hadn’t lived in Park Village in the house next door to you? What if I hadn’t become friends with Sam? What if I had skipped graduation? What if I hadn’t gone out that fateful night nine years? What if  I had never met you. These thoughts terrify me because you have utterly and inexorably changed my life for the better. I can’t imagine who I would be without you but I know I would be lesser, less happy, less grounded and less me.

My love for you grows everyday until I wonder how my body can contain it. Thank you for loving for me. Thank you for making this year despite all the sadness the best year of my life by marrying me. Nine months ago I vowed  ‘to love you til the seas run dry, until the sun grows cold and the stars grow old. And if there is another life beyond this, I will love you there too.’ I still mean every word and I always will.

Happy anniversary HWSNBN and here’s to another year with you. I can’t wait,

love me xxx

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