Lets start in the middle (few ever said)

So here I am middle aged, and I find myself between jobs, between houses and potentially between lives …
Scary, liberating, confusing, exciting, a myriad of emotions and thoughts, and for someone with an overactive and uber creative mind the opportunities are infinite. Well, perhaps slightly curtailed by my energy levels, and my own, others and society’s perceptions of what a 56 year old single women should / should not do. In practice I find my mind is more adventurous in the mornings when I’m likely to consider catching a plane somewhere on a whim, then by the evening putting on my slippers and pjs and simple home comforts are much more appealing.
I was going to say this was never in my life plan, but I rarely plan, I’ve certainly never had a life plan. I am not sure I ever really considered it, I find thinking too far ahead bizarrely scary and as I’ve aged I’ve realized the true futility of planning as life events are bigger than any SMART plan I may have been advised to make or considered writing. Reflecting though there have been decision points in the last year where I could have opted for another less transformational or less extreme choice, but I chose not to. I’ve lived most of the last year driven by the stress ‘flight’ response, occasionally interspersed by a desire to ‘hide’ deep in the duvets on my bed; against this emotional backdrop I was not well placed for moderated or considered responses. And I suppose even before this year I would occasionally mutter under my breath that I needed a bit more adventure or that I would regret it if I stayed in this well-paying and enjoyable (am I crazy) but exceedingly long hours (I couldn’t continue to work 50- 60 hours) job – until I retired.
But I did not make a conscious plan for so much simultaneous change, and I don’t have a plan yet for a way out.
Feeling stymied by choices and indecision I’ve decided to live this part of my life, which I’m calling Chapter 4 (more to follow) along two principles; one is happenstance (as this has governed most of my life so far) and the other is sustainability (again much more to follow).

Is life just one big game of whackamole?

Many years ago, I worked for the Police in a non-uniformed role on a short-term contract. I remember my first day walking into the office and seeing row after row of middle-aged men, in grey suits working at computers. I was horrified it looked so bleak and boring. I may have been tempted to run, but I needed a job, it was near to home, and I was there.

I was part of a small team of 4 men, all 40 plus, one of them was also on a short-term contract and we hit it off quite quickly. His name was Dave, he was in his early 50’s, very clever, quite wise and quite bruised from workplace politics over the years. He was clearly capable of and had come from a better, more responsible job, and was looking for more, but he needed work. He based his working life on game theory and was bemused by my enduring positivity, naivety and bonhomie in the workplace. And even more enthralled by my early dalliances in the post-divorce dating world.

After a few months of friendship, I was flattered to be invited for tea and to meet his wife, who was lovely, and told me that Dave liked few people but somehow, I’d cut the mustard so to speak.

Sadly, we have since lost touch, but I remember a few wise and profound things he told me, I also think he helped me understand more about the male psyche in the workplace, where pride kicks in and (massive gender stereotype warning ahead) how I think redundancy etc seems to affect men more than women.

One of these lasting memoires was his view on the fairness or not of life. In my view its simple – life is not fair, but it’s not something I dwell upon, life is what you make of it. I remember our conversation on this, and I sensed a degree of bitterness in him on this subject, as he talked of those people, he knew who in his words ‘went through life without touching the sides’ i.e., who lived a charmed or easy life. As I get older, I realise that I don’t know anyone who fits this brief, my close friends have suffered losing a son to a brain tumor, bankruptcy, affairs, husband’s suicide, the deep tragedies of mankind.

Yesterday as I was laughing (in a trying not to cry way) about my current challenges and Dave’s phrase ‘without touching the sides’ came to mind. Fortunately, none of my current challenges are the tragedies I’ve listed above, but instead I seem to be moving through a series of minor to mid-level annoyances / stressors, the polar opposite to the easy glide, I seem to be touching and bouncing off multiple sides of life, getting caught on one twig, wriggling free to then get caught up in another.

A few weeks ago, I was really struggling on the friendship front. Uber keen to ‘find a friend’ in my new location, someone I could connect with, who seemed to have similar references points and interests. I thought I’d met a couple of such people in the first few months since my move, we’d meet for a walk, arrange the next, then it fell through, then the next fell through again and again. I consider myself a fairly flexible and understanding person and know that things often change, and that it’s easy to overcommit and for things get in the way of plans. But after 3 or 4 last minute bails and on one of these occasions I saw one ‘potential friend’ who’d told me she was ill heading out later that evening. I was hurt, questioning my friend-ability and also annoyed that I’d wasted time when I could have gone out on my own. After some reflection I decided enough is enough and these early forays and hopes for friendship were officially dashed.

About a month ago I met someone who again I thought I could click with, we first met round the campfire of a women’s circle, then the next day bumped into each other at a wild swimming event – clearly, we have similar hobbies. On chatting, chatting and more chatting (all good signs) more similarities appeared. Since then, more swims, texting, sharing jokes its looking good… Then a strange thing happened, two other women stepped forward keen to do things, keen to share secrets… scarily I seem to be making friends .. I’m in danger of feeling fully settled.

But just as one part of my life feels calm and comfortable, the car begins to make strange noises, the plumbing in my house decides it wants to be more than just a set of pipes, it now wants to make music all night long. I’m not sleeping and without sleep I just want to cry….

Then came the rain – the real rain, and after a lovely day out I returned to find a flood in my garage, wood store and back porch, I feel as if I’m lurching between these minor challenges. I think there’s a lesson in here – I just haven’t found it yet. Instead, I can feel myself getting cross, getting indignant as the flooding could potentially have been avoided if my landlord had undertaken essential maintenance. I feel the anger rising I want to hit things, to whack things in true whackamole style. But I know that if I whack something down, something else may well pop back up….

Better still to aim for balance and calm, and put my whacker away…

How’s your life?

The beauty of getting lost

Thursday evening was beautiful. The sun was shining and the heat was building up in the car, I probably should have put the roof down – but I was on the motorway, so it was too late. I was playing some of my favourite music, Rag n Bone man, on repeat. I recently went to one of his concerts and I am proud to say I knew ever lyric – I could have stood in for him if needed …. well apart from the fact I don’t have his amazing voice, and the audience would have been mightily disappointed! I love the soul and power of his voice and his lyrics touch me deep inside.

This week has been a weird and tiring one. My son was due to make his first visit to me this weekend – but he got Covid and so was unable to come, this has really upset me, and I’ve shed a few tears. I have some ongoing admin stuff to work through with my siblings which has also been very draining, and I’ve been toying with lots of things in my head. So, as I started the drive, I was tired and deep in thought.

I knew Thursday’s route reasonably well. With the sun shining, the scenery seemed even stronger than usual, the hills even larger and I was driving mulling over issues, against a backdrop of ‘wow this place’ is so beautiful thoughts running through my head. The traffic was fairly light, it usually is on this stretch, and I drive fairly slowly. I’m not a great lover of speed (in any aspect of my life) and definitely not on a motorway … feeling the pressure of someone driving on my tail really stresses me, I soon get hot, flustered and so I prefer to stay in the inside and slower lanes.

After a while I had this slight nagging thought – where am I ? do I usually drive into this range of incredible hills, what signs am I looking for. It was a slightly scary thought – not as in I’m lost, but more a wow where have I metaphorically been… and I’m driving a car – how can I have such little awareness of my route … but yet at the same time I did.

We talk about auto-pilot, but this was more about being fully absorbed, I was in the ‘flow’ .. I realised that my mind had dropped all my worries and contemplations I was (as Wiki would define it) ‘fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full enjoyment in the process’ and as a result something weird happened to time (again according to Wiki) ‘transformation in one’s sense of time’. I was no longer driving home.. I was absorbing and feeling the beauty of my surroundings, I felt rewarded and ‘filled’ by this. Then a moment of panic, I began to wonder and worry about my driving during this time, had I been safe .. but no one had beeped at me, I was still in the same line, at the same speed – yes, I think I was safe.

A sign appeared on the motorway – I was not where I should be, I had never been this far before on this motorway. As I headed towards the exit I realised that I was not one, but two junctions past mine, and when I checked later this equated to, 20 miles off course. 20 minutes in the complete flow of driving and connecting to the surroundings. I began to doubt myself again – had I drifted off, but no it was the hills I was in those hills.

I got off the motorway, did a full 360 and got straight back on in the correct direction. I switched off my CD and focused hard for signs – I needed to get home.

As I drove back fully attentive for road signs, I had a huge realisation. I may not be fully settled in my job, I still miss good friends and family, but I realised I could never fully leave this area.

Five months ago, when I moved up I was nervous, unsure and convinced that I would return to Warwickshire. At the time I told myself as much as others, that I would aim to do at least a year and then see how I feel, and at the same time I gave myself permission to not stay if it was not right. Now after 5 months here, I realise that what most people say is so true ‘once you come to the lakes you never leave’.

That evening I realised I can’t let go of the beauty, this ‘living on the edge of opportunity’ feeling, the lakes, the hills, the nature, the fresh air, green algae and all – this is now in my lifeblood.

Would I have realised this if I had not got lost… I don’t know, I don’t need to know. I know that I need to get a base here, I may not always live here, but I need a base so I can choose to stay here or visit here as and when I want.

I’ve signed up with the estate agents…. let’s see what happens now.

Choosing blog foder …

I have a number of half written blogs in my draft folders. At the time of starting they seemed like good ideas, I start well, but then after a paragraph or two I lose all momentum.

Some of you may well be despairing at this – I’m sure best practice is to plan your blog before you start, but that’s not me. This is my process – I’ll get an idea, throw it around in my head a bit, start composing the first lines ( this is usually all taking place whilst on a walk), then I’ll forget about it for a while, this could be for hours, days or sometimes sadly forever,,,,,! At some point I’ll get out the laptop and bring it to life.

With a good idea the content seems to flow, and comes together relatively quickly and easily. I’ll re-read it a few times, often reducing the length slightly, find an image I love and voila. But then other times one paragraph in I’ll stop and begin to question myself, why am I writing this/ where is it going? and do I really buy into everything I’m writing. Its important to me that everything is congruent …

I’m a great lover of walking, and agree with Nietzsche ‘ all truly great thought are conceived by walking’. I use walks to get exercise, to explore the area, on routine walks to the local shops I’ll often take calls and I use my walking time to work through ideas. To many friends and colleagues, the way I present my ideas is very unstructured, rather chaotic and random, to me its connected, creative and fluid 🙂 But I do acknowledge that sometimes I can have too many ideas and that I can feel overwhelmed by choice or detail. And this is when I find that the act of walking seems to act as a natural filtration system whereby the important things to come to the top and others fall to the ground. From a somatic perspective holding my body upright and getting moving also brings more blood and clarity to the brain.

Last week I started a walk with the purpose of thinking about my blog and within minutes I had the ‘aha’ moment on what makes a good and authentic blog (well from my persepctive).

I love a mental challenge, problem solving and most of all being made to think. At work I like a good old healthy debate, and I am quite happy to change my views based on new information provided. In my personal life when I’m grappling with something I will share this with others, keen to get their perspective, keen to hear different views to broaden my thinking, but ultimately I will make up my own mind. I revel in this process of increasingly divergent thinking.

And this is where my blogging fits in. My blog is about this chapter of my life, but it is not designed to be a diary or record of events, I blog about things that make me think, things that in some way stretch me. If something makes sense then I move on quickly, blogging provides another way of getting my head around an unfamiliar concept, it helps me make sense of something I’ve read or has happened to me.

Having written this it seems so blinding obvious but initially it was not…

How and where do you decide what to blog about ?

Which part of you is tired?

Today I saw a blog entitled ‘when your soul is tired’, it grabbed me, not because my soul is tired – quite the contrary, but it made me acknowldge my own physcial tiredness and change my plans for the day accordingly.

Many years ago when I was going through my divorce I started counselling. I remember the counsellor well, and I saw him on and off for 4 or 5 years. I felt very comfortable with him, lets call him Pete, he listened well (I suppose this is pretty fundamental for a counsellor), he regularly asked me, ‘how did that feel?’ and would often gently challenge my response. His common line was ‘I know you, you can rationalize anything- you’re a very rational person’ but what did it feel like, below your head?’

He had a good point.. I can explain, make sense of, logically forgive, understand, rationalize and talk my way through most things,, but the feeling side, well they’re so well packed away down there (not neatly, but securely) and ‘beaten’ into submission by my logic that they may not emerge for years and years…

Pete also used to regularly referred to the four perspectives of life, and how these need to be fulfilled and in balance to achieve a sense of wellbeing. These being the spiritual dimension, our physicality, mental perspective and emotions.

The year of 2021 was a tough one for me. I had to move out of my family house due to a nothing less than a nightmare neighbor. He would shout, and he was a big man, he would swear and occasionally he would bang. This could go on for literally 12 hours a day… during the autumn 2020 lockdown, he shouted on and off for 6 weeks solid. I felt trapped and was literally at breaking point… I screamed back, I shouted back, I stopped, I cried, I sobbed, the only thing I didn’t do was sleep – and I am someone who needs sleep. I was a wreck ….

All the agencies knew about him, people tried to help, but there was so much bureaucracy as he owned the house, and he presented as a vulnerable old man, and he said he couldn’t help it. I won’t continue as I feel my old anxiety coming back.

At the same time there was a huge change at work and I didn’t like the direction of travel, so I opted to leave. At the time it was a huge shock and it wasn’t what I really wanted to do, but I knew it was the right thing ( and I don’t regret it) but it was painful. I was going through such a lot on every front. I was exhausted physically and emotionally. Mentally I think I was ok (others may disagree) I knew that if I didn’t leave my house my mental health would be in danger, but I think at that point it was fine. As for my spirituality, I had, as I always do faith.

I had faith (my own personal faith) that it would all be ok. Against the backdrop of the pains above, I had this little calling (I still don’t know to what exactly) saying that although that life was good it wasn’t fulfilling my spiritual needs. So the events of 2021 were perhaps an exceedingly painful way to present me with an opportunity to redress this.

So I left my house and job and am now I’m working in the lakes -(it wasn’t quite as easy as that but you get the gist…)

And now I feel that my spiritual needs are being better met – the lakes, the water, the mountains – all speak to my soul. I get excited by the thought that there’s an adventure around every corner, I feel the hills calling me, I feel at home as I climb them. My soul has been awakened. I’m not convinced this is where I will settle long term, but its great to feel this alive and relatively free again. Physically though I’m tired and this is what I knew today …. I’ve been living like I’m still 20 – swimming, climbing, walking, cycling and I need to slow down a bit, rest a bit not for long but for a few days… The blog today reminded me of this and I’m now reminding myself that the water will wait and still be there in a few days .

Which part of you is tired… ?

My summer of swims

Swimming into the sunset

I moved to the lakes a few months ago. There were many reasons for this; firstly and largely happenstance – which is conveniently one of my life themes.. but the enticement of the environment certainly played its part.

I love nature, open skies, great views, hills to climb, fresh air, and as I’m increasingly realising I love to swim. I always knew I liked it, but I’d never really had the opportunity to fully explore this part of me. I’d always had a hankering to live by the coast; this was a secret part of me which I might mention in passing in a flippant way – not really taking it seriously even in myself.

I remember discussing it once with my brother. He seemed to relate to it, he has a dream of buying a second home in Cornwall, he’s clear it has to be Cornwall, but we talked about the realities and challenges of finding somewhere on the UK coast that’s a) not too pricey, b) is not too remote and c) is ok in the winter, many of our coastal towns have become very run down and quite rough ( I hate using that word as its laden with judgment) but I suppose places I may not always feel comfortable in. Having said that Covid has changed things, Covid has revitalized remote parts so my perception may very well not be reality.

I moved to the Lakes from Warwickshire, which is a pretty county, but flat and one of the UK’s most inland areas; not a glimpse of a lake or coast line. However not too far from me was a huge reservoir which was my happy place. That reservoir knew a lot about me,,,, I walked it on my own, with friends, with family. I walked it when I was happy and often when I was sad. That reservoir knew and felt my grief at the loss of my parents, it knew the too-ings and fro-ings of my relationships, it knew the stress of my job. It listened like a close friend, it never judged, it just provided that safe space to think, to feel, to breathe and cry.

And in answer to that well known lyric ‘ where do you go to my lovely when you’re alone in your bed?’ …. I often imagine myself walking slowly into the sea. A blue sea with gentle waves, the early morning sun shinning with its rays fanning out across the entire horizon, I walk slowly in, its the perfect temperature, I am surrounded by and feel decidedly at peace in that sea…

From a psychological view my love of the sea and swimming is perhaps slightly surprising as I almost drowned as a toddler. Being the youngest of 4 children, I was always playing ‘catch up’ – I’m sure other youngest ones can relate to this. I was always walking behind, falling behind, running behind and often left behind, those painful words ‘ you’re too young ……’ echoing in my ears.

One year, holidaying in Dorset, I followed the older ones down to the sea, my parents resting slightly higher up the beach. It was a long beach and the deep sea was a long way out, so we could play relatively safely in the shallows. One minute I did that, the next I fell and I was suddenly flailing in the shallows as the waves came in, and in and then the 7th wave turned me, washed me and threw me back into the sea. My siblings were oblivious squealing with delight as the waves had become more exciting. My eagle eyed mum was suddenly tearing down the beach and swiftly grabbed me, as I choked, spluttered and started coughing up the salty sea. I was fine, but my mum did admit years later that it could have been serious if she’d not got there in time.

So despite that early experience, from which perhaps the only remnants are a slight aversion to swimming under water, I love swimming. And this summer I have been able to follow this passion… I swim in tarns, lakes, rivers, I swim once or twice a day. I get in I sigh, I smile, I swim, I get out and I often want to get straight back in again…

I have been trying to understand why swimming gives me so much joy. We spend a lot of time in our lives working out how to avoid or to recover from the bad, or painful, I’ know that I personally have not spent enough time understanding why something makes me so happy and then seeing how I can extract and replicate this elsewhere.

I am still in the early stages of exploring the positive emotions swimming delivers and why, but here are my initial musings on the joy of wild swimming:

  • Immersing yourself in water is like receiving a huge hug, every part of you is caressed, held and supported
  • Temperature dependent, the water makes your skin tingle or relax
  • Swimming is such a beautiful rhythmic exercise, one feels almost balletic gliding through the water
  • Watching the water part as you reach forward in breast stroke is like opening up the world
  • Swimming alongside water lillies and under the bough of a tree toward the setting sun, is the perfect way to connect with nature …..
  • And so much more ……

Have you ever really thought about why you love what you love?

So how did I get here?

There’s a song in there somewhere.

Just over 4 months I crammed a small selection of my worldly possessions ( I am never going to be that minimalist poster girl) into my small convertible and headed north… At the time I was houseless and jobless or footloose and fancy free – depending upon what’s important to you.

I joined the M6, one of the many soulless motorways in the UK, sat nav on, CDs playing (yes you did read CD!) and headed north to the lake district. A mix of trepidation, exhaustion, excitement and sheer relief as just an hour earlier I could neither close my boot or put the roof back down, and I had thoughts of hire car flashing through my mind. But somehow it all just fitted, the roof and boot closed and off I went. Most of the journey I was in that zombie driving state where I intersperse routinely checking speed, mirrors, ahead, behind ( back off big lorry why do you have to get so near!) with moments of singing, basic thoughts such as when will I eat/ stop for the loo. It was far from being a wistful moment of reflection.

The journey went pretty well and I began to pick out familiar landmarks around the lakes – which are unbelievably stunning, and then I landed, physically anyway.

I had taken a new job in a charity, on a beautiful lakeside estate with a house to rent included. Sounds idyllic – but I knew no-one…. but I was still feeling very rough after Covid… but the day I arrived it was grey and drizzly and there was no real welcome (maybe I expect too much)….

I opened the door of my new little house, I was literally opening the chapter on my new life. At this stage I was not fearful, I had rationalized any fears with a ‘ if you hate it you just leave’ mantra, and knowing there is always a room for me at my brothers….

The house was furnished, nothing fancy and way too much grey, but furnished. The the main thing I initially noticed was – oh boy was it cold! Still March, old slate built, no real insulation. I whacked the heating up, I found my chocolate (I’m never far away from some), sat down and breathed long and hard… well this is it! No turning round now, although my mantra is ‘I can go back’, I’d also committed to giving it a year.

I now had a house of my own, I was starting a job in two days… I was rejoining those established social norms distilled into me since a child – I’m not saying they are right but they are definitely there! One thought creeped into my mind – had I actually been brave enough..?

4 months prior when I’d idly typed ‘jobs in Cumbria’ into the Guardian jobs search engine I’d wanted a change, I’d wanted excitement and this ticked many boxes but there was just a whisper in my ear….. ‘had I been brave enough?’

I promised myself I’d write

It’s been an unbelievably long time since I’ve blogged… I’ve thought about it, I’ve had great ideas and catchy titles, I’ve reminded myself how much I enjoy it and also that blogging is a step forward in the right direction – but it still hasn’t happened.

I’ll admit I’m a very undisciplined person, I regularly have chocolate for breakfast, don’t tidy my room, procrastinate and put things off… but even for me this has been extreme. Why do we not find time for things we enjoy? its like not wearing the best dress, not using the new coat (I’m currently doing this). Its almost as if the idea is so special we like to keep it that way, or is it that I’m just an incredibly poor user of time… probably more the latter.

But anyway I’m here now, I’m back and it feels good. And I have so much to say … since I last wrote pre Xmas I’ve moved house twice, I’ve moved areas, I’ve started a new job and actually have quite a significantly different lifestyle…. all to follow… I also had Covid much worse than ever anticipated and it stole my stamina – damn Covid!

And all these big life events have been in line with my guiding principles for Chapter 4 – happenstance and sustainability – more so than I could ever have imagined. Putting this out to the universe as my mantra, whether overtly or subtly, seems to have worked.. and I’ve been riding the wave of happenstance… Maybe I need to try a similar approach to my manhunt ( I use the phrase colloquially rather than in a life threatening way)!

So you may be wondering what bought me back…. in a word superstition. You know when you say to yourself … something like ‘if I choose the correct key from all these for the padlock….. then its good luck for all my life’ , and then when it doesn’t work first time I tend to add on something like, ‘well I’d started to unlock this before I said that’ or I’ve got 3 chances’ or ‘don’t be so stupid’ … but I still do regularly make up such things – curses / spells whatever you want to call it ..

And todays’ superstitious spell / phrase / was as simple as ‘if you don’t do it today you never will!’ and somehow it worked. Humans are such contrary things – or is it just me!

PS the sunset has no real connection to this theme – but I feel in love with it

When someone fulfills a dream

My attention span is currently quite limited, so I’ll have to admit Facebook neatly fits my entertainment requirements. I can dip in and out for 5-10 minutes here and there it requires no effort, the headlines are brief. Whilst doing this today one story caught my attention.

I’ve been divorced now for 11 or maybe 12 years – I think it’s good that I don’t know exactly how long, apart from for the odd financial issue why does it matter what I once was?  

During this time of being the unmarried / divorced me (and overall happy with that) I have had a couple of flings and relationships – I am not sure where the official cut off point is between these two. Probably another way of looking at it is, how many of these potential suitors (what a great word) did I introduce to one or both kids / my family / best friends and the answer is 3.  So, these 3 are definitely significant, then there’s the one that got away (and I still lament over this) and the one that was lust at first sight who will also be worth a mention at some point.

However out of the 3 there is one who stands out, one who whenever I think of or talk about still makes me smile – let’s call him Sam.

I remember my first date with Sam. We’d met on Bumble and after a couple of good phone calls we’d agreed to meet for a drink and possible meal. He was further away than I would have liked and he was not my usual type, for starters he had hair – I actually prefer the follicle(ly) challenged man   (this is incredibly helpful now I’m dating in my 50s)!

I remember my first impression he was a real man, a man of presence and gravitas. The meal went well, but I wasn’t quite sure, then during the after-meal drink, he tried to sneak a kiss on my cheek, I advised him this could be considered sexual assault, but I was beginning to fall for his charm.  We left the evening arm in arm…. The next morning, I woke up to lovely text messages. It was odd I’d never had such overt compliments, within a week I had flowers, the first of many bunches. I initially found it hard to relax into this type of relationship, my over cynical mind at play – what does he want? Why’s he doing all this? As a good friend said – perhaps he just really likes you and is being nice……….

The relationship lasted 8 months followed by a further almost 12 months of re-trying, finishing, stalking, crying, you know the usual end of relationship antics….. . The first 5 months of our proper relationship were simply amazing and included one of the best holidays of my life touring the south of France in the heat of the summer in an MG sports car. As we travelled around Provence we danced, we ate, we swam, we played scrabble, sadly there was not much love making (that was one of the problems) but it was a summer of love.  I was glowing, he said he loved me, and I think this was the first of three times that he asked me to marry him – each time I said no, I’ve never regretted this.

Over time the reality of the real Sam was revealed. Some of the truth he volunteered and some I stumbled across. The apparent confidence was a huge (and very successful) mask – underneath he was shy, lacking in confidence and incredibly lonely and much more (but that’s another story). Bullied terribly as a child, and with parents who did not know how to show emotion. There were parts of him that had never grown up – he was a great dreamer and a huge fan of Disney.  Whilst sometimes endearing and inspiring this love of escapism translated into a childlike lack of responsibility, and a complete inability to accept his part in the many issues which eventually drove us apart.

One of the dreams he shared was to sail across the world. He’d been on one sailing holiday around the Greek Isles years ago which he’d loved and his plan was to buy a boat and sail.  I remember the many hours he sat poised over great shipping manuals. In the earlier days he tried to persuade me to join him. It had never been a dream of mine and I get seasick quite easily, but I loved him, so I seriously considered it.  I tried to work out how it could work, how and when I would see my children. But to be honest I doubted he’d ever do it. He was not actually a qualified skipper, he had no boat, and he had limited money, but he had huge unfaltering dreams.

After the initial 8 months we broke up, and then during our on-off time his obsession became greater, it was all he’d talk about, we watched videos of round the world sailors and this obsession continued until we finally completely and utterly parted, and metaphorically sailed off in opposite directions.

Of course, with Facebook you never completely let go unless you consciously choose the ‘unfriend’ option. I thought about it many times, would seeing less of him help me move on, but as a wise friend said, ‘once you unfriend there’s no going back’. So, we stayed virtually in touch.

Time passed, I realized I really was so much better off without him, Covid struck, both his parents sadly died and clearly with the money he bought a boat.  Not a boat that would be allowed anywhere near to Monaco but a boat still.

And yes, you can see where this post is going… The Facebook post today ‘and we’re off – currently crossing the Channel’.  I’m smiling again as I write this. I never believed he would or could … its amazing that he has… it shows where there’s a dream there’s a way. Bon Voyage Sam x

Covid – not a nice happenstance

Wednesday morning it was raining, the proverbial cat and dogs type, but with a dog that needs walking I had to get dressed for a short walk so he could do ‘his business’ (since when did going to the toilet become ‘doing business?’).  I pulled on my jeans, wellies and a thick coat over my pj top and a new blue woolly hat. We headed out, there was flooding by the kerbs, I was very conscious that the dog’s legs are shorter than mine and looked for suitable crossing places so he wouldn’t get wet legs – does this make me a good dog walker (the dog is not mine but my brothers where I’m staying) or make the dog a pampered pooch?   He quickly did his business and then turned to home, pulling me at such strength I was almost running.  I love walking and had been prepared for a much longer walk but having done in excess of 20000 steps on each of the last couple of days and feeling slightly tired I realized it might be good for me to have an easier day. 

I came back and soon got dragged into helping to bathe the dog expecting splashes and protestations I came ready with phone to film the ‘fun’ but he was surprisingly calm and well behaved. He clearly really likes a bath- I’m going to have to lock the bathroom door from now on or I could have company. I then cleaned the bath, had a bath myself and then it began. Out of nowhere I was shivering, shaking and despite adding layer after layer I could not warm up. I got into bed with two hot water bottles and only warmed up four hours later shortly after I’d put my woolly hat back on. With a very slight cough and being told I looked painfully grey, I did a Covid test – it was negative, but I still decided to stay in my room away from everyone else, as whatever this was it wasn’t nice.   A day later the PCR result politely informed me, I was positive. I wasn’t expecting this result, I’d convinced myself it was some other bug, but I was not feeling well at all.

I’d been relatively ‘lucky’ so far in Covid terms, my sister had been very poorly, and my daughter had struggled but thankfully neither had needed to be hospitalized.  Suddenly, all my plans for the next ten days were thrown up in the air, the appointments I’d made the social dates, my overdue weekend with my daughter cancelled.   I acknowledge these are such a non-issue in the scale of Covid’s impact and as I was feeling so ropey that cancelling these (apart from not seeing my daughter) did not really matter. Illness is one of those incredibly grounding experiences, suddenly life is washed of its thrills and its back to pure survival mode – rest, drink, eat and recover.  

So far, I’ve spent 5 days in the confines of my room, feeling like an inmate as a knock heralds the arrival of food. Having no energy or focus – I got a paper delivered but it’s too much energy to read it, I lie with the lights on or off, blankets on or off drifting between sleep and wakefulness, slightly delirious at times. At night my mind is trying to solve a rubix like puzzle and it keeps on working, twisting, turning, I want it to stop I want peace – this is painful, I tell my dream it’s not important to me – but it continued. I seem to drift in and out of the same stressful dream most of the night, then I’m out of the street trying to find a hotel which is just round the corner, but I can’t quire remember where, I get anxious and panicky why can’t I remember isn’t this an early sign of Alzheimer’s.

I force myself to switch the light on hoping this will break the cycle, with a half open eye I survey my room – it’s such a mess – tablets, packets, empty cups, creams lotions, unread newspaper, different pieces of clothing strewn across the floor. I guess the room smells – you know that’ sick person smell’ but I am too immersed in it to realise. I wonder if the tablets are creating the weird dreams, I don’t take many analgesics, so I think I’m hypersensitive. I must be coming to as I recognise a proper thought for me – do tidy people’s room get messy where they are ill? (I’m going to check this with a few uber tidy friends).

The fine art of doing nothing

Recently I’ve been quite unwell. At the age of 56 I realise I’m truly ‘vincible’.

Covid that unanimously unwanted guest came to visit totally unannounced and with no clear leaving date. Covid made me stop all normal activities and sit with them, sleep, lie and stop. Recovering from Covid feels like being in a Maze. I know eventually I will surface but I have no idea when that will be and I am experiencing many false starts, dead ends and backwards steps on the road to recovery.

But alongside the frustration has come an acceptance and one unexpected benefit has been a slight joy in doing less, or I should be honest here, on many days doing nothing. Doing nothing, planning nothing and I have permission to be like this. After years of living in constant overdrive, feeling I was constantly up against the clock and that every waking hour/ week / day/ month and sometimes whole years were accounted for at last there seems to be some space. Don’t get me wrong I hate having it and I need my energy levels to return, but whilst I have to accept this as my current reality I have discovered the unexpected joy of doing nothing, sweet FA, nada, blank – however you choose to describe it.

My days seem to focus on how little I can do, ensuring if I have to go out I do everything in that one journey and looking forward immensely to returning to base and once more doing nothing. I’m not sure if in purest terms my ‘nothing’ qualifies for meditational or wellbeing nothingness but it is without focus and I do not care if the hand of the clock seems to jump forward without any outcome or output .. I’ve always railed at efficiency and productivity programmes but yet I’ve always achieved this is different, different in a still and empty way.

I wonder if I will allow myself protected nothingness when my body once more enables me to do the physical pursuits I so love. I hope so… you may be thinking ‘you have control – you can make this happen’ and yes I know I absolutely can, but I also know that change can be difficult to embed and the active side of me is more hard wired than the no-nothing version, but I will endeavor to remain an occasional nothingness practitioner from now on.