9 things I have learned in 2018

Here are 9 things I have learned in 2018.

1. I CAN PERSUADE OTHER PEOPLE TO HAVE SEX WITH ME!
My self esteem has never been that high, and was frankly AWOL this time last year, so this came as something of a surprise.
I started dating at the end of the summer and it turns out I’m actually quite successful in this department.
(I’ve literally quadrupled my lifetime penis exposure in 4 months).
Either I’m more attractive than I thought I was or I’m just giving off some serious desperate middle-aged housewife pheromones…
At this point who cares?

2. I CAN ADULT
No not that kind of adulting – already covered.
I mean I can face my post, pay my bills, do my finances, mend shizzle, and organise single-working-parent life.
Mostly.
Okay, look, stuff is mostly mended with gaffa tape or by looking pathetically at neighbours, I rely on school mums and nursery staff to remind me about important stuff, friends often have to support the post opening and form filling-in, and I have to call my dad before I can look my bank account in the face,
BUT
I’m not quite the 1950s helpless housewife I was.
And you know what? Sometimes asking for help IS adulting.

3. I AM FLAWED
I’ve done a lot of soul searching, and a lot of counselling in 2018. And sometimes when you take a good hard look at yourself, you don’t like what you see.
I’ve learned a lot of hard things about myself.
I don’t like how I handle stress, how I become obsessive or fixated under it, how I batan down the hatches under fire, how much I peace-keep, avoid conflict, and how much I crave approval. I don’t like my need to be liked. I don’t like that I change myself to please others.
I don’t like living with the resulting imposter syndrome and inferiority complex, the continuous self-doubt, and that nagging, un-continuous dialogue – where no matter what our history, with 90% of people I know I still feel like I have to start at square one to prove myself to them, every time I see them.
All of that has seriously damaged my career, my friendships… and my marriage.
And all my worst bits – all of the above – basically stem from one thing. My fear of abandonment.
And recognising that is helping me start to change it.

4. I AM FABULOUS
Sure, I’ve done things wrong. I’m flawed.
But I am not mean.
I am not callous. I have never been cruel.
I’m nice. I’m funny. I’m kind.
The people I’ve had to cut from my life in 2018 are seriously missing out. Because I really am pretty okay, actually.
In fact, no.
I’m GREAT*.

5. I HAVE BOUNDARIES
If you follow this blog you know I struggle with the boundaries. I overshare. Like, a LOT. (See point 1, for instance).
They became confused by an interesting and toxic combination of baby brain, depression, fatigue, isolation and emotional abuse.
My instincts, my social skills, my confidence – were all eroded.
But I can and have set NEW boundaries.
I don’t keep the peace for the sake of it, anymore.
I’m learning what’s picking my battles and what’s losing my voice.
I don’t let people treat me badly, or watch others treat me badly and pretend it’s okay, because otherwise they might have to face some awkward truths. Wah.
I am learning where my borders are, and how to defend them more effectively.

6. MY EMOTIONS ARE NOT A WEAKNESS
I’m not mad. I’m not sensitive. I’m not over-emotional. I’m not unstable. I’m not over-reacting. I’m not intense. I’m not over-thinking. I’m not misinterpreting.
My feelings are valid. They’re telling me something important. They ARE my instincts.
They are my heart, my empathy, my essence – the core of my okay. My GREAT*.
And it’s okay to have them. It’s okay to be sad. Sometimes that’s an appropriate and reasonable response to external stimuli. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to be as happy and as exuberant as I like.
When I listen to my what my emotions are telling me, I make GOOD choices.
I will no longer let my emotions be used against me.
They are my superpower; not my kryptonite.

7. CONNECTION IS EVERYTHING
For me, life is about connections, first and last.
It’s about sharing meaningful, joyful and tragic times.
It’s about family, friends old and new, my village offline and online – all the connections I was starved of because I was lost and hiding.
Each one of them is a lifeline I am grateful for.
Thank you all.

8. I AM STRONG
So I don’t look it (I weight just over 6 stone after the divorce diet), and often I don’t feel it.
But then I remember.
At the end, when things were SO bad, he wouldn’t have behaved to a friend, acquaintance or a goddam stranger the way he behaved towards me.
And when I finally saw on one particular evening that it was having an impact on the on the Big Small, too, I said STOP.
I did that.
I did that for me. For the Smalls. And actually, for him, too.
That’s how bloody strong I am.

9. I AM LUCKY
When everything has been razed to the ground, at first it looks like utter devastation. But then there are new tentative shoots, reaching for the sun again.
There is new life, new growth, and new opportunity.
I’m going to be 40 this year, and I’m starting over. And I’m also starting to see how wonderful that is…
How many people get the chance to rebuild themselves, reassess their life, their choices, their values, their direction? How many people get to change the patterns they’ve fallen into? The grooves they’ve worn in their relationships, their work, their own sense of themselves?
That’s what I get in 2019:
I get to change the habits of half a lifetime.
I get to live more than the half-life I was living.

The truth is that I’ve been blinkered and buried and stifled and stumbling. Now I get to look up and see clearly again, with new eyes. Or at least slightly cleaner glasses. Now I get another chance.
Oh, I didn’t want it – I had to be exploded out of the old life, and there were some injuries. Some of them serious.
But there it is.
The last present of Christmas. A new future…

I get to carve out time to write, and paint, and run, and read, and dance, and LEARN again. All the things that make me feel like me. All the things I compromised. All the things I abandoned in survival mode. I get to be the mother I want to be. I get to be silly when I want and sad when I want. I get to have the art I want on the walls, and the cushions on the sofa, and to let the books get out of control again. I get to go to bed when I want. I get to pick up the strings of my career. I get to pursue the friendships I neglected, and the ones I have since forged in grief and relief. I get to have the sort of sex I always wanted but was too tired for – or assumed was just for other people. I get to fall for someone again. I get to have the flipping stomach, and the butterflies, and the giddy HEAVINESS of it.
And in all of that, through all of that, I get to fall for ME again.
I get… POSSIBILITIES.

Now all I have to do is make the most of them.

Happy New Year.

*(Some days).

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Christmas Eve. The second Santa letter.

So I found this. The writing isn’t brilliant so I’ll translate. It’s a second letter from my 7 year old to Santa, saying that what she really wants for Christmas isn’t the glitter Lol doll, bush baby and American Girl doll she originally asked for. It’s to have her family back together.

We talked about it. We’ve talked about it many, many times in the last year and a bit.

We weren’t a happy family. Things weren’t right. She remembers this – she saw more than I knew and understood more than I knew – they always do. We’ve moved forward, slowly. It’s taken her a while.

She knows Daddy is happier and nicer now. She knows Mummy is, too. She knows her two new families are better than the one she had before.

But she still, in her own words, ‘wants to go back in time and for things to be different’.

She’s 7. It’s Christmas, and if there really was any magic – or justice – in the world, that’s what she’d be able to have. That’s what I’d be able to give her.

And I know exactly how she feels, because some days, I have the same raging and scared and overwhelmed and thwarted/hopeful 7 year old inside me.

I know it’s better. I know I’m better. But it’s Christmas Eve. And a little bit of me just wants it all back…

I want to wrap presents with someone, watch a daft Christmas film with someone, get tipsy with someone making Santa footprints, laugh at the cat attacking the tree together, mock-argue over who gets to eat the mince pie, go to bed with someone, share the kids’ joy tomorrow morning. I want the family meals and holidays and games and traditions. I want the Facebook-perfect selfie-life he’s living every other weekend with my kids and the new woman. I want to see my kids every day. I want my Happily Ever After, GOD DAMN YOU.

After everything, after all the counselling to understand fun stuff like emotional abuse and coercive control, after all the tears, all the revelations, after all the awfulness, I want my family. Still.

Stuff that in your sack Santa, and let’s see if it fits down the chimney with everything else, shall we?

Just like the Big Small, I KNOW. I know in my head I never had that. I know it’s not true. He never wrapped. He never joined in on the Santa prints. He never got excited. He never got on the floor and ripped paper and laughed and played with the toys. We were never the Facebook family. We were something… uglier.

The truth is, that probably none of the Facebook families in your feed are real. Because Happily Ever After is a lot bloody harder than it looks in the books.

My head knows this. My head knows I’m better off. But tonight, tonight my heart is in this damn letter, alongside her heart.

Last year Christmas was a farcical charade at his parents’. So this year is our first Christmas, as our new, tight little unit. And I want to make it magic. But there are so many tears inside weighing down the sparks. Still. Still.

Now I’ve got to go and make weepy footprints in bicarbonate of soda, by myself. And I’m going to bloody well indulge the inner 7 year old. I don’t care if I ought to be over it by now. I don’t care if it’s self indulgent. She deserves her fucking tantrum. She deserves to mourn the fairy tale she was mis sold.

Tomorrow I’ll be 39 again. And I’ll try and give both Smalls the things from their list that are actually within my power to give them. And make it as magic as I can possibly muster.

WORMS

All I want for Christmas, and in fact 2019 – and in fact the rest of my entire life – is NEVER TO HAVE WORMS AGAIN.

As ambitions go for the New Year, that’s surely not asking terribly much? Right?

I was aware, as a Young Person, that cats and dogs got worms.
They’re animals.
This was okay.

No one informed me, before the year 2010 and the birth of the Big Small, that children could also get them.

IF I HAD KNOWN THIS I WOULD LITERALLY NEVER HAVE HAD CHILDREN.

Literally. I’m not joking.

I. Would. Not. Have. Had. Them.

(Possibly this extremity of reaction is why no one mentioned it).

I became vaguely conscious, post births and thrown into the world of small disgusting people, that worms was, in fact, a thing. But I was happily able to not think about it and blithely assume it was something that happened to Other People’s children, not mine.

Another episode, apparently, of the recurring issue I have with Parental Self-Delusion…

Now this post is slightly late, mostly because it took me a while to remember to order vermicelli noodles from Tesco (see pic), but largely because it’s taken some time for the trauma to recede to levels where I’m not rocking and singing my happy song (which for those who want to know is the theme tune to Dogtanian. Seriously, try singing this and being miserable. Especially the woof chorus. It’s not possible).

So it was actually a couple of weeks ago now that during a routine bottom wiping, I turned to wave goodbye to a child’s poo as it flushed away down the toilet, AND IT WAVED BACK.

WHY GOD, WHY IS THIS A THING???
FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY, WHY?

(Also, why isn’t there an option ABOVE capitalisation to express even more extreme horror? C’mon, God/typographers/Microsoft, you can do better).

Look, I know. There will be people out there now poo-pooing (NO MORE POO! ENOUGH WITH THE POO!) this post. They will be saying something along the lines of: “It’s one of those things, they’re everywhere, just get the medicine from the pharmacy and get on with it, there’s far worse things, people in other parts of the world have to live with worms all of the time.”

I AM NOT ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE.

I have a thing about germs.

AND ABOUT PARASITES LIVING INSIDE MY CHILDREN.

Call me funny…

Then the really really blase-type people give you the nit thing. LIKE THIS IS SUPPOSED TO MAKE IT BETTER. “Children get nits all the time, you know, it’s just the same.”

NO, BLASE PEOPLE.

It is in NO WAY the bloody same.

Let me lay it out for you – like worm eggs.

Nits are ON the body. WORMS ARE INSIDE THE BODY!!!!!

They come out at night for an exploratory dangle out of your anus, laying their wormy eggs to perpetuate their species and try and take over the world. They are living inside you, and very possibly controlling you like a zombie and making you do stuff you don’t realise you’re doing because they want you to keep hosting them.

YES THIS IS A REAL THING I’M NOT FRICKING MAKING IT UP.
(Seriously, look up ‘mind suckers’ or ‘zombie parasites’ on the National Geographic website. You won’t be disappointed. Scared witless, but not disappointed).

ALSO – if you needed a arse-wriggling ‘also’ – nits just involves a bit of shampoo and some laborious combing.

Worms involve bleaching, disinfecting or quarantining for 6 weeks anything your bloody children have touched EVER. The bedding. The mountain of stuffed toys that aren’t actually washable. Clothing. Clothing that might have touched other clothing. Towels. Toothbrushes. THE TWATTING PLAYDOH. (Note to followers: don’t try and disinfect playdoh. It’s not pretty. Apparently).

If you happen to have a mini naturist on your hands, as I do, they’ve also been butt naked on the bloody sofa, your pillow, the table, the kitchen sides, the carpets, and probably the poor damn cat.

Plus, by the way, during all of this YOU HAVE TO PRETEND TO THE CHILDREN THIS IS ALL FINE AND NATURAL AND JOLLY LARKS DARLING! SO THEY DON’T TURN OUT TO BE AS COMPLETELY EFFED-UP ABOUT THIS SORT OF BOBBINS AS YOU ARE.
(This was possibly the most traumatising bit).

It took a day off work to deal with the cleaning aftermath, several pairs of marigolds, some fast-talking about the whereabouts of favourite toys, being talked away from the edge of a cliff by a good friend, and 4 trips to the damn launderette – the only time I’ve ever been to a launderette in my entire life, because clearly I’m embarrassingly middle class. (Although now I’m going to take my bedding there all the time because they have superior folding skills and the sheets come back nice and fresh and don’t look like a crumpled mess before you’ve even slept in them!)

The only OTHER good thing about the whole situation was the fleeting satisfaction of informing the ex he and his 28 year old would also have to get a worm pill and blitz his abode – which as he’d never even mopped a floor before he left (I’m not even kidding) – would at the very least be EDUCATIONAL.

Worm win?

Mumonthenetheredge
Xx

Ps:
WASH YOUR HANDS, PEOPLE. GO AND DO IT NOW!!!!!!

WITH SOAP.

The expectation of magic

There is so much pressure this time of year, to create magic for our children.

To keep Santa alive.
To make wishes come true.
To deliver family and fun and sparkles.

To move the puff-wombling Elf every knob-jockeying night. #Elfregrets

There is perhaps more pressure if you’re on your own, and it’s two-fold: To compensate for the family your kids don’t have any more, and to create your new, smaller family unit.

To make up, and make new – and make it all MAGIC.

The trouble with magic is that it takes a lot of energy. Digging into your soul for inspiration and motivation, into the past for your memories, into the future for the traditions you want them to remember. And engineering it all – making it happen – whilst most of the time taking no damn credit for it. #FOffSanta

All, of course, at a time of year when you’re basically running on empty. (Well, chocolate and mince pies and empty, anyway).

It can also take money. Which you don’t have. And which you sort of know is distracting you from what you’re really trying to achieve anyway… because it’s not actually about presents and volume and more stuff and bigger and better.

You know what it’s about. You know the shape of magic, it’s silhouette. But not it’s substance…

Because real magic – not the false trimmings and trappings and top hats and rabbits type – is elusive. And the harder you try to manufacture it, the more it slips through your fingers.

Here’s what I think. I think real magic doesn’t just take energy, it IS energy.

And it doesn’t come from the external, outside stuff.
It comes from inside.
Or at least it used to…

I KNOW I used to have magic. I remember it.

It was in the bubble of laughter that was always just under my surface. It was in the joy I had in other people. It was in the lightness of touch that let me empathise and soothe and smooth and schmooze and bring harmony and humour. It was in the exuberance of my movements, words, and pictures. It was in my focus. And it was in how all of those things came together to draw people in and conduct them in MY dance.

That was my magic. I felt powerful when I wielded it.
And it’s been dimmed to missing for a really, really long time.

I’m seeing glimpses of it now. Intermittently. When I don’t try to hard. When I don’t trip myself up by overthinking, overplanning, worrying, or feeling guilty. When I forget that I’m rubbish and lazy and failing and weak and embarrassing and mad and intense – and all the other Bad Words that were used to describe my magic back to me, for a while. When I forget that I’ve got bills to pay, and deadlines to meet, and post to open, and bags to pack, and pending court cases, and a crumbling house I can’t afford, and two small children to get up and out of the house by 7.30am.

It sneaks back in the tickle fights, the discos (currently mostly featuring the classic ‘lila lila hotgun’ by George Ezra), the guessing and action games, the bedtime stories, the re-telling of family memories, the made-up lyrics, in the voices of hand puppets Mister Lion and Mister Froggy (French and Cockney respectively), in the deep chuckle of a 3 year old and the sparkly eyes of a 7 year old, in their jubilation that is an exact mirror image of my own, when I’m on form. When I remember my magic.

It sneaks back in the rekindled friendships that were also dimmed for a time, in the office, through my work, through my writing, and in a new and particular friendship that’s still too fragile to talk about here…

And like all real and authentic magic, to make it stick, to make it come true, I JUST HAVE TO BELIEVE IT.

Look down, and you’ll fall.
Stop believing, and you won’t get any presents.
Clap your hands, or fairies will die…

Magic and belief are symbiotic. You can’t have one without the other – especially at Christmas time.

So if you’re also looking to make magic for your children this year, try looking for it inside yourself. Believe it. And then give THAT to your children.

For me, believing in myself is still very, very hard. But I’ve come to see my presence – my true magic – as the best present I have to give to the girls this year. They deserve the magic that happens when I let the best of me out to play. They deserve to learn that they’ve got magic inside them, too, and that it works best when it touches other people’s and AMPLIFIES.

I don’t know whether all this puts more pressure or less pressure on Christmas, or on me. I do know it’s helped me to think differently about what the magic I want for my kids really looks like. And where it comes from.

Anyhoo. I hope you and your Smalls have a happy (and magical) Christmas.

Mumonthenetheredge
xx

Sometimes I shout

Sometimes I shout.
And I don’t like the voice, bursting forth, without choice
and lashing the people I love most.
The monster I host, just under my skin, whose sting is saved for those I would protect from all else…
But myself.
Because sometimes I shout.

I shout because I am afraid.
A bone deep fear that rears its head at danger – a stranger I have known only since you
who whispers you’ll be hurt, or lost, that I will pay a cost for loving you so much.
That love is lead, and rings in my head, and pushes out rage – assuaged only when you’re in my arms, safe.
But love will chafe if it holds too tight, and I know it’s right but sometimes, it spills out,
and sometimes I shout.

I shout because I am overwhelmed.
There is so much to do, and achieve, and the list adds up, and weaves an impossible maze.
And I have to get through it, these days, of getting you up and dressed and washed
and brushed and rushed and fed and ready and keep you steady,
breaking up fights, battling over tights, all against the clock,
tick tock, eating my time with you, and please FIND YOUR SOCKS,
it’s time to go, you’re going so slow, we’ve got to get out –
and sometimes I shout.

I shout because I am lost.
I don’t have all the answers, or any, and there are so many things to decide, and I’ve tried,
and I’ve cried, inside, but I can’t show that to you.
You need me strong.
But when it leaks from my lips lost comes out wrong, longer and louder, defeat becomes heated –
because I don’t know what I’m doing or what comes next or what’s for the best and my chest it tight with doubt.
So sometimes I shout.

Sometimes I shout.
But whatever I say is just in the way of what I mean, a scream hiding ‘I love you’ like a secret,
above you, beyond what you can see.
But one day, you will know.
You’ll be me.
With children who won’t put on shoes, or choose, or whine or a billion other tiny crimes
that get in the way of the day that needs to be lived and done with everyone still alive at the end.
And love will be a cry trapped in your heart, your heart in your throat, floating at the tip of your tongue,
hung in the air –
and sometimes, sometimes you’ll despair, you’ll fail, you’ll turn tail, you’ll burnout.
And sometimes –
sometimes you’ll shout.

 

12 hard things

Being on your own is hard. And it’s hard in lots of different ways. Here’s 12 of them.

1. SPIDERS
You can’t scream, in case you instill your own fear of bugs into the Small People, and you can’t batter them into oblivion, because of trying to teach the Smalls about the sanctity of life, etc blah.

So you must now be the solo Grown Up, pretend calm, and humanely capture. This is awful. Even with one of those arm-length stick-picky-up things.

2. DIY
I can barely change a lightbulb. Things continue to drop off my crumbling poo-pile of a house – and they stay dropped off. I’m learning to live with a lot of stuff that’s gaffa-taped up. Maybe one day I’ll learn to use a screwdriver, too.

3. NIPPING OUT
You can’t nip out to get a more milk for the morning, because it’s about to run out. You can’t look out the window, decide it’s going to snow, and pop the car down the bottom of the hill, just in case.

This means you have to be ORGANISED. And DECISIVE. Neither of these are my natural inclination or forte.

4. COOKING
Cooking for one is rubbish. It’s also time consuming, and that’s something I just don’t have. So I eat with the kids. Who are fussy. I therefore live off things like fishfingers and plain boiled vegetables – which is as absolutely freaking MISERABLE as it sounds, and probably explains my 3 stone ‘divorce diet’ weight loss.

5. BACK-UP
When you’ve got to get an early train, there’s no one to do the school run. When the train home is cancelled, there’s no one to call to pick the kids up. Your options are limited, and the pressure – isn’t.

6. ILLNESS
When you’re ill, there’s no one to look after you. To say, “stay in bed, I’ll sort the kids.” To bring you a cup of tea. To care that you feel awful.

There is absolutely no sympathy to be had from Small People. One actually complained when I woke her up a couple of weeks ago with my violent vomiting. I actually apologised.

7. ADULT CONVERSATIONS
Just as they lack sympathy, Small People have very little interest in your life. I miss someone asking how my day was. Some weeks, unless I’ve organised to see friends – which I can’t always motivate myself to do – there are only work conversations, and Small People conversations.

It is lonely.

8. ADULT ADMIN
I suck at adulting. I’m afraid of my post. I panic over bills. I’ve only just signed up to online banking.

There is so much that has to be DONE, and managed, and forms to be filled in, and calendars to update, and more decisions to be made. It is very often overwhelming. And it has been a steep learning curve…

The fact is I turned into a weird 1950s housewife who let him do all the finances, and told myself that cleaning all the loos and floors and doing all the washing was us splitting adult admin fairly.

Suddenly facing all of this on your own is pretty huge. Sometimes I have to employ other more experienced and competent adults to come and help me. They force me to open my post while taking the mickey out of me. These are GOOD friends.

9. ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL
You can’t spend one-on-one time with each kid, or split up to get things done. It’s all of you or none of you. If one needs the toilet half way through the film at the cinema, or on the beach, or in the park, all of you have to get up and go. You have to drag the other one to the parties. You can’t do separate, age-appropriate activities. You can’t do rides where it needs to be one-on-one adult to child.

10. ONE PAIR OF HANDS
When both kids are screaming, and want you, you have to triage. And that’s hard, particularly I think, on the Big Small. I know it’s inevitable. It still makes me feel bad.

Likewise, doing all the stuff that needs doing means I’m not as present as I want to be.

And – GOOD NEWS – now the guilt is all yours, solo, with no one to share in it or mitigate it.

11. THE DAY-TO-DAY KID STUFF
Being on your own means there’s no one to discuss the kid stuff with. To bounce things off. Are you approaching things in the right way? Did you pick the right battle, say the right thing, handle the situation the right way? Should you save the next dose of Calpol until bedtime? Is it time to take them to the Dr? Are they having too much screen time? How to approach homework?

And there is no one to tag-team in when you are tired, at the end of your tether, or when you know you’ve lost perspective.

12. THE CUTE STUFF
One of the very hardest things, I’ve found, is having no one to share the cute stuff with. When one of the Small People has done or said something adorable. When you just want someone to marvel with you over how amazing they are, how clever, how funny, and how lucky you are.

Someone who gets it.
Someone who shares it.
Someone as invested as you are.

The thing is though, however hard it is being alone, it is still better than it was before…

And the truth is, most of the things I’m grieving were never really real, anyway. We were never a partnership. We didn’t tag team. We didn’t support each other. I never did get my hair held back when I was sick, or get told to stay in bed. When I wanted to share the cute stuff, he was always busy.

Even the spider service wasn’t up to much by the end. He had no interest in either indulging or rescuing me by then.

Yes, there is more to do, now.

But there is also no one else there NOT doing it.

There is no resentment. There is no tiredness competition. There is no one-upmanship.

And there is – increasingly – strength.

Being alone, it turns out, can actually be LESS lonely than being with someone…

And while that has been a hard lesson, it has also been one I’m incredibly grateful for.

Something fishy…

Here at Casaonthenetheredge we have embarked upon FISH.

These were a 7th birthday present for the Big Small, and we’ve had them for two weeks.

So far we’ve lost two fish. And by lost I mean KILLED.

This may be some sort of record.

Certainly I can tell you that it involved the sort of existential conversations on the quality and meaning of life before 7.30am on a school day that no sane human being could possibly relish, conducting a fish funeral gatecrashed by Catonthenetheredge to nearly disastrous results, and the delivery of an (if I say so myself) especially moving eulogy, where we each got to say our favourite thing about our finished finned friends Orangey and Tamantha – before ceremoniously placing shells upon their shallow grave (hasilty dug with a dessert spoon).

I then got to get told off by the pet shop people for being a Bad Fish Mum, over-feeding, and creating a dangerous ammonia cycle. Or something.

So it’s going swimmingly.
If of course, we mean swimming belly upside down…

Fortunately we still have Holly, Willow, Tabby, Tinkerbell, and our five zippy minnows, Millie, Tillie, Silly, Willy – and Katie. (My kids rock at naming stuff).

To be fair, Tamantha’s demise was entirely a matter of extreme idiocy, having got itself stuck in the window of the psychedelic tank castle purchased for its entertainment. I actually had to stick my hand in and push it out backwards by the face with my finger. Gross. It swam round bleeding slightly and then went increasingly white and manky over the next 12 hours, and turned up dead the next morning.

Orangey, meanwhile, favourted the innovative self-harm method of entangling itself in plastic weeds, and then pulling off its own tail trying to escape.

So in summary, I would like to put forward that I’m not quite the Fish Murderer I may at first appear to be.
And that fish are categorically a) stoopid, and b) NOT the easy pet… (Get a damn cat, people).

In many ways, however, they HAVE already been good and educational for all of us – and not just in learning to deal with death and loss.

Together we’ve been learning about fish transportation (hanging), how to keep a tank (not like we’ve been doing it, apparently), how fish sleep (thank God for Alexa), how they poo (unimaginable amounts), magnets (to clean the tank) and syphons (to change the water).

From a personal perspective, I’ve had to face, head on, my pathological fear of reading instructions, in order to put the tossing tank together in the first place.

During which time the unsupervised children broke out the art equipment and got black paint on the walls – which was a salutary life lesson for them in what happens when Mummy completely and utterly loses her ever-living, she-widdling SHIZZLE.

I’ve also had to learn how to ignore the incessant dripping and whirring of the tank, which for the first week gave me palpitations and paranoia that yet another thing was falling off/apart in my crumbling twonk-pile of a house. Learning to hear the sound of suspicious drips and to just think, ‘sod it’, and turn the telly up is surely, SURELY the true definition of freedom? (It’s the one I’m going to have to go with, anyway).

The children, meanwhile, have also been learning that when I say they have to take responsibility for their new pets, what I really mean is that if they whine enough about it I’ll give up and do it myself. PARENTING 101, PEOPLE! I may write a book.

After all this, my only real and chief fish beef is with Holly (pictured), who’s actually a really, really nice fish. She comes to the front of the tank to say hello, follows your finger round, and is clearly interested in tank-side goings on.

It bothers me to discover that they’re actually sentient and friendly – to the point where I had to go and eat taramasalata in the kitchen the other day, because Holly was looking at me funny. Seriously. I fear vegetarianism beckons…

Now let’s have a moments silence please for Tamantha and Orangey. And a quick prayer that they don’t get dug up and brought back in by Catonthenetheredge.

Amen.

Dating translations – what he says and what that means in REAL life

Being on the dating scene later in life usually means you’ll be meeting people who’ve been around the relationship block a few times. That’s inevitable, and actually GOOD news, because it means people are capable of forming committed relationships. Probably.

On the other hand, it turns out there are A LOT more frogs than princes out there…

WHO KNEW???

One of the red flags for me is how people talk about their previous relationships, break-ups and partners.

So based on a couple of months internet dating, here’s my quick guide to what he says, and what that ACTUALLY means in, you know, real life.

He says: “It had been over for ages”
He means: I was still going through all the motions (including sex) but had an eye on the horizon and was waiting for something better to come along and/or for her to chuck me out.

He says: “There was a lack of intimacy in the relationship”
He means: I didn’t get sex as often as I wanted because she was always knackered from work/childcare/washing/cleaning – most of which I didn’t help with.

He says: “I am/am not the sort of person who does xxx”
He means: I’m exactly the opposite of that sort of person, but hope that by reiterating it constantly either you or I will start to believe it.

He says: “I was staying for the kids”
He means: I was too lazy/cowardly to leave but I think this makes me look like a bit of a noble hero and might get me into your pants.

He says: “She didn’t support my career”
He means: She baulked at yet another golf day/night out with the team/late night at the office/work trip/cancelled arrangement.

He says: “She didn’t understand me”
He means: She disagreed with some of the things I said/did.

He says: “She’s a psycho”
He means: She got upset and called me out when I behaved badly and/or she had basic human emotions – and I found those really uncomfortable and inconvenient to have to deal with.

He says: “She neglected our relationship”
He means: Yeah, not enough sex again. It’s like I wasn’t constantly the centre of her attention.

Look – at this point if you find out he left when a kid was still under, say, 3, RUN FOR THE DAMN HILLS.

In fact, I’m willing to guess no woman over 30 or with her own kids is actually falling for this gubbins.

And if you are, you’ve now got a working translation to help you avoid the idiots!

Good luck out there daters.

MYSTERY PACKING!

MYSTERY PACKING!

Every other weekend, I am set the challenge of packing clothing for two children to cover miscellaneous, and mysterious, activities.

This week I must include multiple ‘home outfits’, outfits suitable for a play centre, multiple ‘party outfits’ to choose from (indoor? house party? outdoor? alpaca farm? climbing? paint a pot?), and multiple ‘park outfits’ as they are going to go to several undisclosed park locations, apparently.

OR he could just tell me what they’re ACTUALLY doing so I could a) tell the kids, set expectations and get them excited for the weekend and b) actually pack what they’ll need in under 10 outfits each and without having to put an emergency wash on.

BUT WHERE WOULD THE MYSTERY FUN BE IN THAT????

October blues

It’s been a funny old month, October. For a number of reasons.

The light is going. And the twinkly Christmas ones to replace it are still a long way off. Dark days often breed dark thoughts…

It was, of course, mental health awareness day, an issue close to my heart (and head), but that I’ve struggled to write about, because I’m… struggling.

It’s also baby loss awareness month (and day earlier this week) and like so many others I’m remembering, keenly, my miscarriage. Perhaps because my Big baby turns 7 this month, perhaps because my Small baby is losing her squidge, perhaps because of the increasing certainty she is indeed my last baby – perhaps because it’s the birthday month of the baby inbetween, that never was.

But perhaps mostly because I can trace the rot in my marriage back to this loss… Which meant everything to me, maybe too much. And not enough to him.

This is also the month Dadoffthenetherege officially left, a year ago. It has been the very fastest and tortuously slow year of my life. And things are currently more uncertain than ever. I still don’t know where we’ll live, how to make it all work, how to support the kids through it, how I’ll support us going forward, or what to do for the best.

The common theme that draws all of this October stuff together is the loss of a vision for the future.

I didn’t lose a baby, you see. I lost an empty egg sac. But it was real to me – I yearned for it, I invested in it. And when it was gone, I grieved it. The same for my rotten relationship. I lost a future – and a family I wanted so badly that I hung on to the false vision for far too damn long. I still pine for it.

This loss of future vision is the crux of mental ill-health, for me. The source of the very darkest days. As a child, my OCD left me without being able to see a future for myself that didn’t include debilitating rituals – where I could only see the gloom and falling doom of not completing them. Similarly my depression and anxiety are all about interrupted vision – not being able to see clearly through the fog, the wood for the trees – or only being able to see potential disaster, and choking on it daily.

I have never yet reached a stage where my vision for the future is so distorted or obscured that it looks better without me in it. But I can feel and understand how that pathway unfolds. And that is frightening enough.

People are built on their visions for themselves, their families, and their futures. And when something rocks that, blocks that – whether it’s loss or life or something else – that’s when we struggle. That’s when the dark creeps in round the edges, or rushes in all at once.

The thing I’ve learned, I suppose, is that your vision can’t always be trusted. What you see or can’t see, in front of your face or into your future, isn’t always real.

Sometimes it’s idealistic, and just isn’t true or achievable.
Sometimes it’s catastrophic, and that isn’t true either.
Sometimes it’s just blurred, and you need to give your eyes a good rub and your glasses a good clean.
Sometimes it’s a dream, and you need to wake up.
Sometimes it’s a mirage, an hallucination, and you need medical intervention – or at the very least a bit of a lie down.
Sometimes you’re just looking at it from the wrong angle, so you can’t see it properly.
Sometimes everything you can see really IS completely awful and empty and black – but it’s not really everything. There are still some good bits underneath the big bad bits.

The point is, you can’t always believe what you see. And you can’t always see what you believe. Vision changes. And if you can wait it out you will see things differently. There will be a new vision. Always. You just have to live through the loss of the old one. And be brave enough to look again.

Right now, I am between visions. And I’m not going to lie to you, it is a scary place. I daren’t look at anything in too much detail, or look too far around or down – in case I fall.

So I’m going from day to day hoping for the best, refusing to worry about the worst, and trusting it will all work out in the end – or that someone will catch me before I hit the bottom. I’m living for the light days. And there are more of them.

And one day, I know there will be enough light to see a new future, and enough stability to build it.

It just probably won’t be a day in October.