Toes revisited

TA NA!

Pink and sparkly, as promised. I wish I could tell regular followers that this is a sign that I’ve Turned A Corner, that I’m Over It, or that I’m Moving On.

Unfortunately it is only a sign of a weird April heat wave and a work thing that required nice shoes…

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Thank you, Village.

I lost my village for a while.

Okay, I didn’t lose it – I hid from it.

I hid because I didn’t want to confront them, or rather them to confront me.

I had my metaphorical fingers in my ears and was singling “La La La” over how awful things were. I didn’t want to go out and see anyone, or call, or text, or visit, because I couldn’t talk about my life out loud – even to myself.

Instead I went to bed early. And tried to regroup. And to get up the next day with more energy to plough into my family, and to try harder to make everyone happy.

Perhaps the most hurtful thing that has been said during my break-up, is that he saw me do that. He saw me grab hold of the new day and determine to give it my everything. To make it work.

It was not enough.

His last straw, apparently, was three years ago. That’s a long, long time to watch somebody try.

Anyway, since then I have finally taken my fingers out of my ears, unburied my head from the sand, and looked around. And to my surprise, my village had not packed up and resettled elsewhere.

They were waiting at the borders, for me to reopen the gates.

And I literally can’t describe how grateful I am for that.

So this is a thank you. To the village. The friends, family, and perfect strangers who have been there.

Thank you to the friends who have listened.

Thank you to the friends who have checked me when I have needed it.

Thank you to the friends who have told me the things I don’t want to hear.

Thank you to the friends who have held me while I’ve howled. It has not been pretty.

Thank you to the friends who’ve forgiven me when I’ve erred.

Thank you to the friend who lent me her home office when I had no broadband.

Thank you to the family who lent me money when I had no credit card.

(Thank you also for replacing the broken washer and dryer so I can do less loads and set timers and try and keep on top of the house).

Thank you to the friend who helped me get a permanent job, when I really, really, really needed it.

Thank you to the colleagues bearing with me.

Thank you to the work-mate for the inconsequential chatter that helped me keep it together after something landed during a work conference.

Thank you to the friend who sorted out my tech. (Ongoing).

Thank you to the friends feeding me because I sometimes can’t face cooking for one.

Thank you to the friend who helped me get to grip with my personal finances, because I was that stupid woman who had never involved herself in them before.

Thank you to the family who paid my council tax in a hurry – because I didn’t know they don’t send you a bill until I got the angry letters (yes, I’m that clueless, and yes, this is apparently a Thing they happens to lots of folks on separation).

Thank you also for lending me money for things like solicitors fees and car insurance, until I got my arse in gear and got to my savings.

Thank you to the friend who fixed my inexplicably online heating (why is this a thing??), and my music streaming systems. (I had no idea how much music meant to us until it wasn’t there any more! #Firstworldproblems. #ImissCDs).

Thank you to the friend who gave me a lift to the Small Small’s hospital appointment in the worst of the snow.

Thank you to the friend walking the Big Small into school through the snow when the Small Small was too sick to be out in the cold.

Thank you to the friend who gave me her old bras, for putting my weight-loss saggy boobs back in approximately the right location (or at least up from around my waist).

Thank you to the friend who invited me on their mini-break, because the kids haven’t had a holiday for forever, and to her lovely husband, who drove to fetch me when I had a meltdown about the journey. It’s literally the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me. (And they didn’t let me pay for a thing).

Thank you to the friends sharing their weekend and holiday time with me.

Thank you to the family who sourced and financed Catonthenetheredge – she has brightened our lives already.

Thank you to the friend who came to help me clean when it really was just all too much – and for de-furring my hoover. (Please come again soon).

Thank you the friends who have kept me company when I have struggled to be alone in the house.

Thank you to the friends being friends to my kids – they need all the support and love they can get.

Thank you to the friends who keep checking in, stick with me when I’m slow to respond, and bear with me when I go back over old ground, again. I am moving forwards, slowly. Honest. It’s just hard.

Thank you to the friend keeping me in comfort-fudge.

Thank you to the various people at various services/organisations who have helped me get to grips with Stuff. (There is so much damn Stuff to sort, while trying to keep it together and keep everything going).

Thank you to the strangers on here who have made me feel less alone. I started the blog because I was so lonely in motherhood – and it’s never been more of a lifeline.

There are a million thank yous I have missed. But I am grateful for each and every kindness – in fact I’m teary thinking about them, which is largely why I have to stop here.

I still find kindness kind of surprising. And that’s sad in itself, isn’t it?

Anyway. Thank you village. I’m not sure I deserve you. I’ll try to.

And when the brown stuff hits another fan, I promise I will step up to be someone else’s village back.

Because that’s how villages work.

Xxx

The Pussy Junction

There comes a time in every girl’s break-up where she has to choose between channelling her thwarted love into random, meaningless sexual encounters – or get a cat.

I call this the Pussy Junction.

I call THIS Catonthenetheredge.

Only I don’t, obvs, as I’d look a right twat yelling that in the back garden.

😻

Life is too short to scrub gussets

Life is too short to scrub gussets
Some advice both useful and sage –
I give it to you with my blessing
To apply it to life’s every stage.

It’s particularly apt when training
Small bottoms to use mini loos –
Because rubbing the poo out of cotton
Can give you the laundry blues.

The very worst bit of the process
Is keeping your cool unconcern
When faced with more toxic hand-washing
From a child taking AGES to learn.

So if you’ve got a toilet-resistor
And you’ve quite reached the end of your rope,
Let go of your scruples and Persil!
And save yourself heartache and soap.

Go buy up some Paw Patrol knickers
In cheap B&M packs of five –
And when the next accident happens
Chuck them out and raid your supplies!

My thanks must go to the woman
Who first passed this secret to me
It’s the key to zen potty training –
Untroubled by stray poos or wee.

The rule works for other odd soilings
(From quickies to menstrual leaks)
So abandon those pants with abandon –
And discard them without blushing cheeks!

Yes, I officially give you permission
To bugger the unseemly waste
Because life is too short to scrub gussets –
A new mantra to wholly embrace.

Contemplating my toes

On nights when I don’t have the kids, I get to have Me Time. I’m very out of practice at Me Time (about 6 years rusty – the age of a Big Small) and basically I suck at it.

Tonight I tried for Self Care 101, and decided to cut my toe nails. This was overdue.

And I realised I am still wearing the nail polish I was wearing the last time I had sex with my husband.

I don’t know whether this is a sign of how fast he moved on, how woefully neglected my grooming regime is, or just how toe-curlingly awful the toe-covering months have been.

Definitely though, it felt like a sign.

I think when I applied it that I thought I was ‘making an effort’. I didn’t know it was already too late.

And so I have spent a long time this evening doing nothing productive, staring at my toes.

And thinking.

I could of course break out the nail polish remover and scrub off every last vestige of chipped red.

I could pick out a new bright and shiny colour to replace it. Hot pink, perhaps. Maybe add a layer of glitter?

But I can’t quite bring myself to do it. And I don’t really know why.

I suppose the truth is that I’m not ready.

I don’t want my feet, or any other bit of me, to look attractive for anyone.

What I want is the reminder.

My new reality is still so painful and the future is so very unknown. I don’t know when or if I’ll ever have sex again. If l’ll ever want to. If anyone will ever want me. Want us. I don’t know where I’m going to live, where the Smalls will live, what school they will go to, what our lives will look like or who will still be in them. I don’t know much.

It’s like I still need an anchor, a connection with the past – which whatever else it lacked was at least consistent.

And it’s there, right at the end of my toes, in a thin smear of old scarlet.

So I’m leaving it. The last half centimetre of my old life. To grow slowly out, to be snipped off bit by bit over the next few weeks, in appropriately grotesque curls (why ARE nails so much more offensive when removed from the body?)

It’s not long left to wallow.

And when it is gone it will be nearly summer and surely everything will look better and sunnier.

And maybe then I will be ready for pink and sparkly.

(Or at the very least be forced by the prospect of sandals into better podiatry maintenance).

Mother’s Day

I thought today was going to be okay. And then I went to the park, and saw all the families there. Mothers – with children – and with fathers.

Teams.

I was jealous.

Because this Mother’s Day I am not the Mum I wanted to be. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t create that family. We were never a team.

And as a result I am not the Mum that is there no matter what, for every crisis big or small, every achievement or every joy.

Sometimes I’m not there at all.

And the reality is that all too soon someone else will be. They will be the team at the park.

I’m told often I need to get over this. I need to move on. But I cannot describe the pain of it. Why couldn’t I have that? What’s wrong with ME?

The only consolation I can find is that in some ways, I’m actually more of the Mum I wanted to be now than I was before.

Because it turns out parenting on egg shells around someone else’s moods completely sucks. It changes you.

There is now no unhappy, brooding presence in the corner, on the phone, judging and criticising and refusing to join in.

I can wind the kids up before bedtime. Dance like a loony. Eat tea on the floor with the Barbies. Stay at the park for hours on end. Not sort the washing. Bugger the washing up. Cover the house in slime. Go to bed when the kids do. Tickle them in restaurants. Sing the three lines of Moana I know on repeat at the top of my voice. Instigate lick fights. Do the Mystery Inc voices in public. Be too intense, too loud, too soft, too rigid, too – whatever I like.

I just have to get beyond too damn sad, and too damn hurt.

And I’m afraid I still don’t quite know how that’s done.

The sexism of emotions

The most popular post I’ve ever written on this blog was about the #metoo movement.

It turns out people really, really want to talk about low level sexual discrimination, harassment and assault. In fact if you read the comments on the post, it’s very clear how quickly and smoothly those turn into medium level, and then extreme examples.

I cried reading about some of those experiences.

And as I cried, I realised that crying was kind of one of them… a subtle, everyday way women are undercut.

The last few months have been emotional ones for me, in many different ways. And while in theory I know having an emotional reaction to an emotive situation is both rational and consistent – there is a large part of me that believes it is not.

Because I have been conditioned to think that my emotions are untrue, disproportionate, and inconvenient.

I have stopped trusting them. And I have stopped trusting myself. Because if you can’t believe what you’re feeling, what can you believe? You have no foundations to stand on.

But slowly, as I pick myself up, I am beginning to realise that there is an innate sexism attached to emotions, and how they are perceived in society.

If a grown man loses his cool (without resorting to violence, obviously) he is being assertive, sticking to his line, drawing one in the sand, sending a clear message – not being a pushover. He is strong.

If a grown woman does the same she is being hysterical, volatile, erratic, she is over-sensitive and over-emotional. She is easily dismissed. She is weak; and she is wrong.

I imagine a lot of women out there could say, ‘me too’ to this. Because the refrains used to undermine the validity of our emotions are so familiar, and so ingrained. And the most frustrating thing of all is that if we rail against them, we are doomed to PROVE them in the most frustrating of catch 22s.

How many do you recognise?

“You’re overreacting.”
“You’re misinterpreting what I’m saying.”
“Is it that time of the month?”
“You need to bring it down a notch.”
“You’re being really intense.”
“You’re too sensitive.”
“What are you crying for?”
“Psycho.”
“I can’t deal with you when you’re like this. “
“You need to calm down.”
“You’re blowing this out of proportion.”

Our emotions are unreliable.

And we are told so in no uncertain terms from a very young age.

Robert Webb has written of the damage caused to boys by being told not to emote. But there is similar damage caused to girls too, by being told they OVER emote.

Hysteria is the term historically used to dismiss female emotion – their wombs making them less. Less rational, less reasonable, less able to cope. Less everything.

The fact is that as women, to gain respect we are expected to make things easy for everyone – not to make a fuss. It is part and parcel of the same insidious secrecy and silence that is unravelling in the public eye in #metoo and #timesup.

Because our reaction to a situation – no matter what the provocation, mistreatment or injustice – is STILL always somehow greater than the original crime.

It is the woman scratching her keys down her husband’s car who is more frowned upon – the psycho – than the man having the affair.

It is the woman speaking out against assault – and daring to do so with emotion – who is unstable, and untrustworthy. Not the man she is accusing – not unless many hundreds more join her chorus.

The only recourse deemed suitable by society in these situations seems to be silent dignity. Because showing anything else makes women more guilty and more wrong.

But silent dignity is still silenced.

It still denies us a voice.

I have undoubtedly been more emotional since I had children. And I have assumed – and been told – it is a weakness.

What if that’s a lie though?

What if we’ve ALL been lied to?

What if emotion is a strength?

Emotional intelligence is not about NOT showing emotion or pretending not to feel it. It’s not about sucking it up, bottling it up, or denying it.

We certainly should not be at the mercy of our feelings. Not everything you feel should be immediately acted upon – that’s the ultimate key to emotional intelligence.

But it IS about feeling your feelings, recognising them, accepting them, appreciating the purity and truth of those instincts. Letting them pass through you and coming out the other side.

Because by going through them authentically, you will be a truer you, and you will make BETTER decisions.

And maybe that skill – because it is a skill – makes you a better person, a better employee, a better spouse, a better friend, and most certainly a better parent.

Because how will our children ever learn to process their emotions, connect with them, recognise them in others, and ultimately trust themselves, if we don’t show them how to do so?

My feelings, my empathy, my heart, my tears, my sense of justice, my poetry, my LOVE – they are the best bits of me. Not the worst.

And I will no longer be afraid of them.

‘Trauma Trim’ – the desiccated frog diet

EXCITING NEWS!!!! I’m so excited to tell you guys that I’m bringing out a new diet book, all about how to drop up to 20kg in 3 months!

I’m going to call it ‘Trauma Trim’ – and it basically involves having a lump of grief in your throat so big you can’t actually swallow any food!

How has no one thought of this before??? I’m going to be rich, I tell you, RICH!

Move over Lean-in-15 beardy man and Clean-Eating-Alice-the-Camel – this is clearly the next big diet fad!

The Kardashians might even endorse it.

Probably.

As I’ve only just hit on this genius weight loss method, I will admit it’s not quite what I’d hoped for… although I might not include that in the book.

I always thought losing a few pounds would suddenly make me Cosmo-bikini-svelte. Turns out I’ve still got all the same lumpy wobbly bits in exactly the same ratios, it’s just all smaller than it was before. It’s the same body just 30% less.

In fact if anything, the thin bits are hollowed out and the wobbly bits are protruding even further by comparison, giving me rather the appearance of a desiccated frog.

Only with worse posture.

And saggier tits.

People always say the traditional break-up slim-down is nature’s way of making you attractive for your next partner.

People are pretty freaking stupid, sometimes, aren’t they?

On the other hand, if you know any eligible bachelors who are particularly INTO the desiccated frog look, you now know exactly where to send them.

Only don’t, because it’s drier than the Arizona desert down there and I’m thinking of having the whole thing sewn up for being a damn sight more trouble than it’s worth.

Xxx

To the other woman

I don’t really mind that you’re the other woman – or rather the new woman.

Sure, it hurts.
Okay, it hurts a lot.
I think that’s pretty normal.

But the whole point of this was that we (me and him, not you and me) weren’t happy together. And that’s why we couldn’t be together any more.

So if you make him a happier, better version of himself, then that’s a good thing – in the long run – for everyone.

Yes, it hurt that it was so soon. But what hurt even more is how you both chose to announce it. Publicly. Less than 3 months after he confirmed our 19 year relationship was over. Without any warning to me. Without any thought for the small people.

I don’t mean to put blame in the wrong place. I would address him if I thought he could listen – but I already know he doesn’t have empathy for me and can’t put himself in my shoes. I guess I was hoping that the next person who came along might be able to do so. And that maybe it would help things.

New relationships are heady, and new and euphoric. I get it. But all of that could have been kept to yourselves for just a LITTLE bit longer.

To put it out in front of our shared friends, school parents and others, in the middle of inevitably upsetting divorce negotiations, so very, very soon after our split – I just don’t understand it. I don’t get why either of you would think that was constructive, or necessary, or okay – or calculated to do anything but cause damage?

I know he is angry with me. He has been angry with me for a long, long time. Maybe he has reason. I really don’t know anymore.

I do know that you don’t have any reason – we don’t even know each other.

At the very best, from your perspective, it was a naive thing to do.

And I find your lack of consideration concerning.

It makes me worry that the small girls that are my everything might well be spending time with you – again presumably sooner than I might wish.

I don’t want to be in psycho-ex/younger-upgrade conflict – I’m too damn tired and too damn heart-sick.

I want those beautiful girls to spend time with adults who will love them, and treasure them, and accept them, and put them first because they are just children who have done nothing wrong and did not ask to be in this situation.

I really hope you turn out to be THAT other woman.

Because that other woman I think I can work with.

Finding love in the little things

A year ago, I wrote an alternative love letter to Dad-then-on-the-nether-edge.

In summary, I told him I loved him more than a soiled Bristol loo.

Ok, it did go somewhat deeper that that, and was rather more romantic (I thought) than the loo thing implies! Here it is.

Basically, it was a blog about being with someone for a really long time, and wearing grooves into each other’s souls.

It was a blog about the sheer and unrelenting monotony and exhaustion of life with small children.

It was a blog about the hidden beauty and love in all of that – in knowing someone so well, and in the awful/awesome details of family life.

It was also about not taking all of that for granted.

The verdict from Dad-now-off-the-netheredge was that it was a ‘bit depressing, actually.’

At the time his response hurt, but it did not open my eyes to how differently we viewed things.

In hindsight, I don’t think I wanted to see.

The truth is, where I saw beauty, he just –
didn’t.

He wasn’t looking anymore.

Or maybe he never saw it at all.

Or maybe it was me. Maybe I was blocking or spoiling his view.

It really doesn’t matter, anymore, does it?

I thought I was investing – in small, everyday deposits – into our life together. I was banking those beautiful details like they were precious. He had already checked out of the account.

It is always hard to be the person who falls out of love last. It is always hard to see the other person move on SO swiftly. It is always hard to be the last to know.

This Valentine’s Day, I am on my own. I imagine I will be on my own for a long time.

But I still believe, so strongly, that beauty and love IS in the little things, the ordinary things, even the mundane things.

One of my favourite poets put it better than I ever could – ‘Glory be to God for dappled things.’

Because speckled sunshine through the leaves, a baby’s belly laugh, a family game, the sweep of lashes on a cheek, the mutual comfort of the post-bedtime slump on the sofa – they can add up to something greater than the sum of their parts.

You just have to agree what the little things are – for you and your Valentine and your family.

And then you just have to keep looking for them.

And while that isn’t always easy, even from my new vantage point in spurned ex-wife world – I still believe it is always worth it.

So to old lovers – and new ones – Happy Valentine’s Day.

Xxx