Can We Please Talk About the C Word?

No, not that c word, this is a nice clean blog!

Although I would be lying if I said that one doesn’t slip out of my mouth from time to time. Today I’d like to talk about the other c word: communication.

I have come to the conclusion that almost any argument or misunderstanding can be resolved by using proper communication. The words we choose to say, have the power to foster empathy and warmth. Whereas the ones we don’t say can often leave us feeling cold, sad and shut out. 

c wordAnyone who has read at least three of my previous blogs will know that I am no stranger to having a hard time. To be perfectly frank, the last few years have been a perpetual rollercoaster ride. Or as I said to a friend recently, it’s been a lot like shovelling sh*t up a hill.

Life has been so stressful and so overwhelming for so long, and it’s only been very recently that I’ve felt like I’m operating on a happier level. Which is why I’d like to share this piece today.

I believe that the c word can completely change what we’re receiving back from the people in our lives

I totally get that everyone has their own coping mechanisms, but there comes a point where we have to ask ourselves if we’re making our lives harder than they need to be. I like to be totally transparent about where I’m at, and what I can (or can’t offer) the people I’m closest to. I’ve found this goes a long way for those around me. 

I heard a great phrase many years ago.

“If it’s important you’ll find the time, if it’s not, you’ll find an excuse.”

If your friends mean a lot to you, then even in the midst of life’s obstacle course, I urge you to find it within yourself to communicate this to them. Otherwise it can make them feel like you can’t be bothered with them. The great thing about the c word, is it can lead to potential solutions. A shoulder being offered to cry on, or a helping hand with your children.

If you spend a lot of time with a person one day, and they’re “too busy” to see you for months the next, it hurts. Especially if your kids are heavily invested in them. It can feel like a metaphoric punch in the face, and the complete opposite to having a meaningful relationship. Sometimes changing the rules of the game is necessary for our own self-preservation, but it has to be communicated clearly to the other person.  

Are apps like Tinder dumbing people down and making them shallow?  

I’m so thankful that I met my husband way before online dating became par for the course. I seriously wouldn’t last five minutes on today’s scene.

the c wordThe notion that people can be picked up and put down at our leisure is beyond toxic, and the saddest thing about it is that it’s become normalised. Swipe left folks (or is it right?) until someone catches your eye.

Like a conveyor belt in the supermarket, but it’s not groceries that are moving along, it’s people.

Sad times.

Great friends are like stars

Over the last year, while I’ve been at my lowest, I’ve had a lot of support from friends. Sometimes they’ve done something small, and (to them) fairly insignificant, but it’s meant the world to me. On the flip side, I’ve seen great friends face awful struggles completely by themselves. Although I can see why and how, I’m not going to pretend that it doesn’t make me sad beyond belief that they felt they couldn’t reach out. A problem shared is a problem halved, and all that.  

I went through a rocky patch with one of my best friends last year. It broke my heart, and I couldn’t let it go. If someone means a lot to me, I can’t switch off from them. If I’ve bothered to invest years in a friendship, then I don’t class that person as a friend, they become my family. We’re all good now, and it’s reminded me that any long term relationship will go through ups and downs. Forever is a very long time after all. 

I can go months (sometimes years if they live in other countries) without seeing my besties. It doesn’t mean they aren’t there. They’re waiting in the wings, and when those beautiful little twinkles in the sky align, we’ll see each other again.

I’ve come to the conclusion that a little bit of the c word goes a very long way. What are your thoughts?

The Fairytale of Tinderella and other Dating Apps

the-fairytale-of-tinderella-and-other-dating-appsMy husband recently saw one of our single friends, I asked whether he has a girlfriend these days, to which hubby laughed and said “No. Just Tinder.”

I’m running fast and loose with the term ‘dating apps’ here, but I guess for some it means they get to have the best of all worlds.

Obviously I’m making a sweeping assumption, having never actually used them myself, but from what I can gather, there are definitely benefits to be had. For starters, it must be great to be able to chat online, and properly suss out prospective partners before meeting them in person. I guess the days of picking up randoms in bars are long gone (which is how I met my husband). Also let’s not ignore the fact that not everyone wants to be half of a couple. Some much prefer being single, which is where these apps must come into their own. 

There’s no way for me to have an opinion on this without sounding like a smug married character from a bad rom com, but I’m chucking my two pence in anyway!

Are dating apps destroying our chances of having real and meaningful relationships?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure our friend is very upfront about his expectations, so as to not cause upset down the line. I also have a different friend, who is newly single. She’s absolutely loving dating apps, because she gets to have fun on the weekends that her ex has the kids. Win win right? But are they the exception to the rule?

It’s all very well and good if both parties are just after a bit of fun, but if one is looking for a deeper connection, then surely they’ll end up getting hurt? I’ve heard people say that every single interaction they’ve had via dating apps have been a complete disaster. From married men looking for a quick thrill (how very cliche), to people who are charming online but have zero personality in real life. Others who claim to be looking for a partner, but in fact all they want is string-free sex (why not be honest?) Or the oldest one in the book – posting a very old and flattering photo, when they look nothing like it whatsoever.

Does porn play a part in all this?

I don’t think that the accessibility and normslisiation of porn is helping either. Porn isn’t new by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s changed a lot since the Red Hot Chili Peppers sung about in their cult hit Californication back in 1999. I used to be open to the suggestion of watching porn back then, but the thought repulses me now.

Perhaps that’s just me being uptight? Or maybe that now I’m a mum, all I can think is that it’s someone’s son/daughter, and how would I feel if one of my children went into the industry? I found this article detailing how one man gave up porn and started a website to help others do the same absolutely fascinating.

A different era

I did my growing up in the nineties and early noughties, when people had parties and spoke to each other all night without checking their phones. I find it hard to get my head around how much times have changed, and how far so many are coming away from proper human interaction. I have no doubt in my mind that I’d be eaten alive if I were to launch myself into today’s dating scene.

The idea of making a split second decision, and swiping left (or is it right?) until I see someone I fancy, makes me feel uncomfortable. Are we being sold the dream, when in reality dating apps are just making us shallow? 

There’s a brilliant quote about technology and reading books to children: “there is no app that can replace your lap.” I can’t help but feel that this is exactly the same.

Let’s Not Beat Around the Bush. Relationships are Damn Hard work!

Let's Not Beat Around the Bush. Relationships are Damn Hard work!To mark our seventh wedding anniversary in February, I wrote my husband this letter, where I jokingly asked if we would survive the so-called seven year itch.

We got married after being in a relationship for five years, and I was twenty weeks pregnant with our eldest daughter Polly.

We had led huge fulfilling lives before settling down. We’d travelled both independently and as a couple, and had made plenty of memories from our amazing experiences. We used to laugh until our bellies ached, eat in top restaurants, and partied many a night away. We had both sorted out our ‘shit’ (well my shit mostly). By the time we got married I had worked out who I was and what I wanted out of life. I’d been through mental breakdown, rock bottom and back, and was well on track to becoming the sort of person I once could only dream of being. I was, for the first time in my thirty years, stable, secure and happy.

By the time we tied the knot we had weathered many storms, and thought we had it all sussed out

Ultimately we were both ready for marriage and babies. Neither of us felt that we had a bucket list not being worked on, or that we’d be missing out on life by having kids. We thought that every aspect of our lives would be enriched and enhanced by them. We envisaged a healthy, unimpenetrable union, that got stronger as time went by.

Call it naivety, or wishful thinking, but never did I once consider that we would go seven years without having a full night’s sleep, and sometimes be so exhausted that I wouldn’t be able to muster the energy to even smile. Or that we’d at points go months without having sex, because when you’re averaging four broken hours per night, the only thing you want to do when you get the chance is go to sleep. Or that rather than come together as a team, we’d allow the stress from the children to get the better of us and drive a wedge between us.

I turned thirty seven in July, so perhaps it’s an inevitable age thing, but in the last few years I’ve watched as friends’ relationships have broken down and some have ended. I’ve seen couples grow apart, and a few end because of affairs. Or worse. Deception that goes far deeper than drunk indiscretions.

It feels like the once laughable, cliched midlife crisis is playing out before my very eyes

People change, we know that. When you’re in a long term relationship there will be a lot ‘sucking it up’ that has to be done, and sacrifices that have to be made for the greater good of the future. There will be times when your needs are understandably at the bottom of the pile, because other members of the family have bigger and more urgent needs that have to be met first.

BUT

Consistently putting our own needs at the bottom of the pile will do no-one any good, because that will more than likely lead to breaking point. Where you feel like screaming and want to walk out of the house and never return.

I’ve come to the conclusion that relationships are bloody hard work!

We are constantly told that the way to survive, and not end up a statistic, is by communicating with each other, so as to not allow ourselves to drift apart. We must also not allow ourselves to be tempted by other delights that might be lurking around the corner. The grass not being greener is a well documented fact after all.

The thing is, I don’t have the same naivety on my side that I once had. I know how tough things get. I learnt long ago that the answers are never found at the bottom of a bottle, yet I’ve still drunk a monumental amount of gin this summer. I know all the things I should be doing, but sometimes I can’t help myself. When sleep is in such short supply, good sense has a habit of going out the window.

Our twelve and a half year relationship is small fry in comparison to my husband’s grandparents, who celebrated their diamond anniversary a few months before his granddad passed away. It’s still a long time by today’s standards though, and is certainly worth celebrating.

Pipe dreams come and go. When the chips are down it’s worth remembering why you decided to build a life with that other person in the first place.

On that note, I’d like to leave you with this video. Seems pretty apt!  

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

That which does not kill us, makes us strongerIt’ll be obvious to anyone who follows this blog, that I’m a huge believer in the adage ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. I’d like to share one of my many stories today, just in case someone out there needs reminding of this.

Lets step back in time, to almost twenty years ago…

My first job after leaving home was working as a waitress in a market cafe (caff not café) for £2 an hour. I’m still rather baffled how I got from this to working in the City at a big corporate firm less than four years later. Lets just say I had a very lucky break, and that the background checks weren’t what they are today. I’ll be forever grateful for that first City job, as I learned so much and it paved the way for me to have a decent career. I also met some amazing people, two of whom are still very close friends. This may not seem relevant, but bear with me.

I had foolishly racked up debt as soon as I was able to, and took on a weekend job in a pub down the road from where I was living to help clear it. Anyone who has ever worked behind the bar will know this makes you instantly desirable to the opposite sex. I’d never been in such hot demand, and could literally take my pick of the bunch. I started dating one of the local lads, lets call him Dave.

Dave seemed like a pretty stand up guy…

He had a good job, earned decent money and his parents had a nice house (things that were important to my foolish, naive, much younger self). He was godfather to several of the babies that had recently been born in the area, which clearly meant he was trusted. Most importantly of all, he treated me like a lady, and was very sweet. There wasn’t much chemistry in the bedroom but I could live with that, because he seemed so nice.

Dave would drink in the pub on a Saturday night, and wait for me to finish up after it closed. Then we’d go out, get hammered, go back to my place, sometimes attempt to shag, sometimes not bother, and wake up on a Sunday with very sore heads. One weekend, after we had been together for about three months, his parents were away, so we went back to his house after going out. We’d had an absolute skinful and I was fit for nothing but sleep. It was around two or three in the morning, and instead of also getting into bed he insisted on going out to walk his dog, claiming it hadn’t been out all day. Afterwards I would realise that he disappeared a lot, but I genuinely never thought anything of it at the time.

I was roused from my sleep by loud crashes and bangs, and remember being really scared thinking someone had broken in. I leapt out of bed to find Dave butt naked with another man, about to have sex a few feet from where I was sleeping. I flew into what can only be described as the fit of a wild beast. Started beating them both with my fists, yelling expletives. The other guy ran for his life and got the hell out of dodge. Dave broke down and told me he had always known he was gay, but his family and friends would disown him if he came out. Lets face it things were a lot different back in the nineties.

I was the perfect alibi – the barmaid girlfriend all his mates wanted to bang

Turns out that Dave had been picking up men in the wee hours for some time, and not being careful. The three months I had to wait for my HIV all clear were agonising. He also told our mutual friends that we had broken up because I was sleeping with one of his mates. I left that town behind a few weeks later and started over (something I was well versed in as I did a lot of moving as a kid). Fortunately for me, having a decent job and good friends meant that instead of completely falling apart, I was able to pick my damaged self up and recover.

In the years that followed I had flings, and too many one night stands, but didn’t have another proper boyfriend until I met my husband. It took me a long time to come to terms with the level of hurt he had caused me, and allow myself to trust again, but I did get over it. Like so many things from my past, this experience now feels like it happened to someone else.

what doesn't kill you makes you strongerI guess the moral of the tale is this…

Have faith that time really does heal all wounds.

No matter how raw and painful they may seem.

And what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!

For more about me, and my life, read my book

 

Can One Decision Really Change Your Life Forever?

The Bus Journey that Changed my LifeIt’s a bold statement to make isn’t it, saying that a small, seemingly innocuous decision changed my entire life, but deciding to take a bus in 2004 very much did.

After six months of travelling, I headed back to Thailand to spend a week with one of my best friends who had come out to celebrate her thirtieth birthday. She brought her new man with her, and along with a pair of honeymooners that I had met on the boat back from Malaysia we all indulged in a week of excessive eating and drinking.

It was great in many respects, but I felt deflated when we parted ways, and was more than ready for a new adventure. The two day trip to Bangkok afterwards was supposed to be for chilling, but didn’t end up being as uneventful as I had planned.

I met up with some different friends from London, who were on their way to the Southern islands. It got rather debauched, and we had a drunken all-nighter. High on sex, Thai whiskey and goodness knows what else, fun was once again being taken to the extreme.

Early the next morning I was faced with an emotional dilemma: stay with them and go to the Southern Thai islands, or stick to my plan and catch my bus to Cambodia. Plan A was certainly a lot riskier than Plan B would have been, but something propelled me to take that bus.

Life changing decisions

So I bid them farewell, headed to the Khao San Road and lined up for my bus. Whilst in the queue I got chatting to a small group of people who seemed to know each other. It turned out they didn’t, but in the handful of minutes it took us to exchange pleasantries and walk to the back seat a bond was formed, and our little posse stuck to one another like glue for several weeks and had a whale of a time. I’m still in touch with three of these five people, twelve years later.

I heard such mixed stories about people travelling Cambodia around the same time and having horrible experiences. It reinforces what I’ve always believed, which is life is all about the people we meet along the way. After spending a fabulous month in Cambodia, I made plans to head out of the country and go to Laos. Life rarely goes to plan in my experience, and on what was supposed to be my last night there I met my husband, and the rest as they say is history (click here to read the full story).

I have often wondered how differently things would have panned out had I gone to the southern Thai islands instead. I know one thing for sure though, if I had my time again, I would definitely still catch that bus.

Do you have a distinct ‘sliding doors’ moment, where life changed forever? I’d love to hear from you if you do 🙂

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