So what’s the story? It’s the UK Blog Awards live voting time and I’m stressed! Last year I won the travel blog of the year, but I don’t think I’m going to be going anywhere that I can write about anytime soon on account of a vague attempt to remind my youngest son daily that he has his GCSE’s to do in a few months time. Not sure why I think my presence will make a difference, but certainly, my disappearance won’t help. I keep thinking of new ways to try and instil some sort of urgency into his consciousness. Wondering if talking to him whilst he’s asleep might be worth a try. Nothing else has seemed to work so far.
SO I rather foolishly decided to also enter the Storytelling category, which is more than a little worrying because that category is sponsored by Odeon no less and now I feel massively under pressure to tell a story – could I get away with:-
There was a little old woman who lived in a shoe,
She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do;
She gave them some broth without any bread;
Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.
That sounds like a really good plan, but not terribly PC these days.
Maybe I should go for a slightly more modern version:-
There was a middle aged woman who lived in a house,
She had three children, but as a single parent it often felt like she had far more than three so didn’t no what to do;
and quite frankly with no figure of authority to whip them into shape the children very often took the piss and invited 100 of their closest friends to have parties nearly every other night.
This caused her much anxiety and she gave them hot dogs with bread,
but not as much anxiety as she would have suffered if she hadn’t lived with her children even though she couldn’t get them to go to bed, so they found a way to make it work
and all lived happily ever after in a chaotic mess.
What about that then? Will that do?
So I need to give a very brief summary of where we all are in life because whilst this blog has chronicled the ups and downs since 2007 so it’s very nearly 9 years old in over 3,000 separate posts, it’s not easy to appreciate the bigger picture if you haven’t been following since the beginning. I have a lot to thank this little old blog for. It helped guide me through some very dark days in the early stages of my marriage breakdown. Instead of writing in a traditional diary, I wrote it anonymously online as a form of counselling and managed to get a lot of really useful advice and support and even found new friends along the way. Then it got discovered by Disney and I was invited out to Florida on the first ever UK blog press trip. Then I started getting invited on other press trips and the blog had to grow up, stop being so honest and move to a different phase. I don’t make money out of my blog directly but I got a very good job out of it in the travel industry and it has consequently changed my life immeasurably.
This is how it all happened:-
I blame my parents for most things in life (not being allowed black patent shoes, to watch Charlie’s Angels or eat Nutella to name a few), but especially for not providing me a script to work from for when my marriage catastrophically broke down after 15 years. They were very happy together for a very, very long time and made marriage look not only fun, but easy. We didn’t find it that easy – especially when we had three young children to look after. We were in the rush hour of life and didn’t have any time to assess the situation. It is easy to become enslaved in the rituals of motherhood and fatherhood and things can change without you having time to properly look at what is going on. I was a stay at home mum and he was a go out to work dad. We lost our way. Feelings became hidden deep within all the familiar things that surrounded us. Hidden behind the sanctity of marriage and motherhood. I loved being at home with the children and of having the luxury of spending quality time with them, but I also pined for the big wide world. I suspect that for my husband, whilst he loved the big wide world he would have loved to have spent more time at home and we should have addressed this.
I don’t need to go into the logistics of what exactly happened to make it fall apart. Suffice to say it is easy to drift apart in a marriage – especially when you have children. To lose sight of each other and yourself. You begin to ooze milk and motherhood instead of sex appeal and it saps your energy and changes your outlook on life. I am quite sure that the story of the breakdown of my marriage is depressingly familiar and I no doubt behaved in a relatively stereotypical way. It is enough to say that having been thrown an unexpected hand grenade, my world came crashing down. The foundations of my very existence, the structure that we had so carefully nurtured and built up around us turned from solid concrete to something more fluid – the sort of substance that made me feel as if I was drowning. I struggled to even breath initially. All that was safe and secure melted around me. I felt naked, exposed, raw on the outside and terrified, desperate on the inside. Even my house became simply four lonely walls. I felt displaced, as if I had blinked suddenly and found myself in a different life. Everything had changed and nothing had changed. My long imprinted image of all that was familiar became blurred and I could no longer see clearly.
I went through the textbook range of emotions: denial, panic, fear, hurt, confusion, jealousy, anger, rage, disgust and I started to write it all down on the blog as a cheap form of counselling. Time became suspended and yet it rushed passed me at an alarming pace. The hours dragged by, but the months and then even years disappeared without me even noticing. When it all fell apart I panicked. Being on my own was not an option. I wouldn’t be able to cope. My children wouldn’t be able to cope. We attempted to work it all out and tried everything. Counselling. Endless drinks and dinners together to talk on neutral territory, away from the children. Weekends away. I tried desperately to make sense of it all, to understand, to accept that we are only human and mistakes can be made. I chronicled everything.
I couldn’t do it. We were no longer a team.
I suspect that our shiny happy life became coated in the same antiseptic spray that our house was covered in whilst the children were growing up. We became sanitised. We respected and loved each other but forgot what it meant to really live – having children – “kills all known germs…..including passion and fun”. We became functional, grown up and overly burdened with responsibility. We were 2000 years old.
After several years of trying to stick plasters on an amputation we got divorced. More time went by during this period – we sold our family house and I moved into a small rented house with our three children. The day after my Decree Absolute came through I met a man (Builder Bloke) who had also recently divorced with three children and we rushed headlong into a much needed shot in the arm relationship, full of passion, laughter and madness. He rebuilt my self esteem and confidence, brick by brick, from the ground up and I will always love him for that. He became my bridge over troubled water. It was a much needed rollercoaster ride after the merry-go-round I’d been on for too long, but I wasn’t over my trauma and behaving as if I had arrested development was never going to last.
Then after 18 happy months, another turn of events. Again, no need to go into details here, suffice to say that the very short version is that Builder Bloke’s ex wife met and then married my ex husband and once again I found my life in chaos and turmoil. A wife swap. My children had already had to deal with several house moves and a divorce and I did not want them having to go through any more drama and suddenly all six children that we had spent time with were step children. Builder Bloke was so traumatised by the turn of events that he became part of my troubled waters and it all turned into one big swirling mass of mess. So I made the decision to step back in order to try and find a quiet place in which to learn how to enjoy my own company (not easy) and hold steady in all the surrounding chaos. I chose to extract myself from the tangled web as four different sides to every story was too much to bear. This was not a magnanimous gesture, but a basic survival instinct as a mother. My relationship with Builder Bloke suffered hugely and we spent the next few years trying and failing to live with and without each other.
Then my father died and I was very low. My Grandmother also died. I stopped teaching Pilates and deep stretching and started a new job. Stepped back out in the world. I focused on the children and their exams and then my firstborn child went to university. Then another one left for university. Then the youngest one got into difficulty at school and we moved him. Last year was not a good one and I had a lot of additional heartache which I don’t want to go into, but there was no longer a big enough space left for Builder Bloke. He always knew I would put my children before him and that is what finally happened. He now has a new girlfriend and I have three incredibly brilliant children who have to invite me everywhere because I’m a liability when left on my own at home. This is of course, not ideal.
So this year? Who knows what is in store, but finally I am learning how to embrace and even enjoy the chaos, because imperfect as it is, I am finally living my life the way I want it to be. “To thine own self be true” is the truest of all cliches. My story shows that there are no right or wrongs within relationships. It is what you are prepared to put up with. How you work it out. I know that this story is just my version of the truth. My truth. In happiness and in health. I am the only one left on my own, but that was my choice, so on my head be it.
Everything about my life has changed now and we are all still sailing on a voyage of discovery in uncharted waters and whilst my old life is fading into a grey line on the horizon, there is still further to go. For much of my journey I wasn’t even on board the battered old fishing boat. I was in the cold, choppy waters, without a life jacket – clinging on to the side for dear life – half wanting to clamber on, half wanting to let go and sink. Now I seem to be sailing my boat alone, with my children, probably in circles, with no clue where we are going, but it feels OK right now. I wish my father was still around to help guide the boat, but he’s not, so I have to imagine what he would say and do – which frankly is just about all we can ultimately give our children – a legacy of a moral code from which to base all decisions on. At the moment I feel calm but I am waiting for the next chapter whatever that may be and I have learnt to be careful with my heart. Perhaps too careful these days.
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all”
So I continue to write about daily life in my new landscape on the blog, about issues with teenage children, about stuff that is relevant, both big and small. I no longer write about a lot of personal issues, about how my heart is coping, about many of my concerns about life because it is no longer appropriate to do so and often I don’t feel brave enough. So I don’t get the huge amount of comments any more, but I have more readers than I used to. Not sure how I feel about that because I really miss the interaction I used to have, however, it had to grow up and mature, just as I have had to and it remains a significant part of my life.
Thanks for reading – I hope it’s helped explain my situation and why I’m entering the storytelling category, so if you wouldn’t mind voting for me here, I would really appreciate it! Thank you. xxx