Monday, 24 June 2013

Time to be a grown up

I went to see a Financial Advisor today, primarily to set up a pension.  Yes.  You heard me.  A pension.

Well - I am 42.  Some might say I'm 20 years late.  Well, (I might say to them), let me tell you this; I've already got a bit of a pension when I was a real human being before having children.  And now I'm properly back at work - time to pretend to be an adult again.

Three things did I learn from the Oily but rather Lovely Financial Man.  1. I will probably not draw my state pension until I'm 68.  That means I'm not even half way through my working life.  *shudder* 2. His four children go to private school thereby proving that he takes his own advice - and probably knows what he's talking about, and 3. Really, all things considered, I'm not all that badly off.

So with all this new found knowledge, I mailed my ex with yet another financial proposal.  At least this one had the foundation of advice from someone a gazillion times wiser on money matters than me, and - as it turns out - my solicitor.  If he rejects this, I need to take him to court.

I do not want to go to court.  I might as well take all my savings and set fire to them.

So I sit here, with my fingers, legs and eyebrows crossed, hoping that he will see sense, give in, admit defeat.  The unexpected can happen - the lovely Raffa Nadal will tell you that.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

The important things in life

My Dad and stepmother have just been down to visit.  My stepmum - let's call her Ann - has motor neurone disease (MND), diagnosed just last Autumn.  Before she was diagnosed, if someone said 'motor neurone disease' to me I'd have said "Ah yes!  Stephen Hawkin.  Clever bloke, wheelchair, shame he can't move but at least he's got a brain the size of a planet.   Must keep him busy."

But that's the most cruel part, in a way.  You lose your bodily functions and yet you are horribly aware of them fading away, an almost perceptible daily loss of, in Ann's case, her ability to swallow, her ability to walk, climb stairs, and her speech.  Right now, nine months after diagnosis, she is unable to talk at all, she finds it hard to swallow and has just had a 'PEG' operation so that she can feed direct to the gut, and can barely walk.

And it will get worse.  And she knows it.

And the relationship between Ann and my Dad has changed from equal lovers to disabled person and carer.

And they both know that, come two years or so, Ann will die.

So a situation like this pulls you up short.  You start to think that, yes, I've been through tough times but shit. Really.  This is nothing to what they're going through.

Giles Brandreth is doing a talk on happiness at the moment, touring the UK, and my Dad was telling me about it.  Giles thinks that a large part of being able to be happy is down to having family and friends, but also not to be too introspective.  Don't analyse every single thing about yourself, how you think others perceive you, worry about pleasing people or pissing them off.  Just be.  See as many people as you can.  Be good to people if you are able - and they will be good to you.  Think of others - it will be repaid to you in spades.

And this is what my Dad and Ann are doing.  Going out, making the most of what they have left.  Playing bridge while they can.  Keeping in touch.

They bring perspective to my life.

Am I just no good at relationships?

So.  The general feedback to me at the moment from lovely friends is; forget the boyf, don't get another one yet, give yourself some space.

But something fundamental within me wants to fill that space.  I am actually scared of having space.  It makes me feel a bit....rattly.  But why?

Because, tomorrow for example, I will be on my own.  The thought of this terrifies me - which is ridiculous, because I know I will fill it with a 30 mile bike ride and then be so exhausted that I won't want to do a single other thing.  But in the back of my mind, I feel like I need a man.  A man's love?  A man's practical side?  Sex?  All of these, probably.

Which is utterly, boggingly ridiculous!

Am I hard wired like that, or is it something I've learned?  My mum is like that too - when the love of her life left her she started a crusade of dating, trying to find that feeling of love, comfort, safety - whatever it is - again.  She found it - sort of.  But should I be strong with myself and say "come on, being alone for a while is ok, it will help actually, and I will be a better person for it."  Or should I continue to fill the space with chatting up young boys on Flickr, and refuse to face my fears?

Friday, 21 June 2013

You got a friend

It's late - midnight - and I've just come back from a lovely night out with three girlfriends.  They are all very different from each other, yet they all gave me fantastic support during my break-up.

You need friends when you're splitting up from your partner.  If you are lucky, they can all provide particular areas of support, which sort of mesh together to form a soft comfort blanket or bouncy safety net.  My three friends from tonight, for example....

J.  J is a quiet, sensitive soul - an academic.  Her area of expertise is family relationships, so she has been wonderful in giving me advice on how break ups can affect children, how to avoid the pitfalls, what to do to make sure they don't get caught in the cross fire.  Her advice is like molten gold.  I followed it to the tee, and my boys are happier now than they were when my husband and I were together.  They are blossoming.  I love J.

R.  R is a funny, outgoing, Cambridge-educated, articulate woman who is happily married but has previously 'lived a little' (if you know what I mean).  She not only makes me howl with laughter, but also encourages me to be brave in the relationship department, says fabulous things to improve my battered self esteem, drip feeds me with local gossip - and then makes me howl with laughter again.  I love R, too.

S.  S and I are cycling buddies and she has had to listen to me drivel on and on about the state of my relationship for years.  She is a fabulous listener and incredibly supportive.  She too is articulate and is generous beyond belief, offering solace in her lovely home, school runs, even financial support.  She is like a sponge, a soaker-upper of grief, a feeler of other people's pain and has a genuine need to help.  I love S, too.

So there are my three friends.  Do you have some similar friends you can lean on?  Go out with?  Just have fun with, and forget for a while?  Talk to them - they will make you feel human again.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Oh hols with the boyfriend

Just come back from a rollercoaster of a trip to Wales with the boyf.  Yes, the boyf who left me but somehow came back to me last week.

He has a campervan.  It rains a lot in Wales.  These are not ideal conditions if your relationship is hanging by a thread.

In the event, everything went swimmingly until the third day.  It was raining.  The water pump burst.  The oven stopped working.  The shower leaked.  It was still raining.  We decided to go for a walk to a restaurant  that had been recommended.  It was still raining.  When we got there we were wet and cold.  We had forgotten it was Father's Day.  There was no room at the inn.

This was when boyf lost it.  "What?  But there's a table over there!  We're wet and cold and we've walked for miles.  And FOR WHAT?"  [mumbled apologies from the staff.]  Then, leaning over the counter in what could be interpreted as a menacing stance, "What the f**k do you mean, you've got no space?" [mumbled apologies from me to the staff, who by this time are frozen and have their mouths hanging open] . And finally, finally... "F***ING B***ARDS!"

At which point, I walked out, into the driving rain.  And kept walking.

And when I turned round, he wasn't there.  And I realised that he had the key to the camper.  Balls.

So I stooged around the coast a bit, pretending to be fascinated with rock pools.  Getting hungrier and hungrier.  And eventually I thought - f*ck this for a game of soldiers - and walked into the village with the sole purpose of finding something to eat.  Not only did I find a perfectly decent hotel, but it had a lounge with  a log fire and two very lovely high backed leather chairs.  So I ordered a coffee and gradually steam dried in front of the fire.

We made up eventually, but I was shocked by the heat of his temper, by his rudeness, by his unkindness and inability to forgive.  I hate noise, rows, impoliteness, embarrassment.

However, I had none of this in my marriage.  And perhaps that's why I'm sticking with it.  Because a flatlined marriage with no emotion is almost worse than a relationship punctuated with swearing and high emotion and hours of walking in the rain.  It feels like living.

But it's sodding exhausting.