Breakfast in bed

Saturday.  My son brings me a cup of tea in bed and a slice of toast with butter and passion fruit curd.  He snuggles in beside me (and the dog) and we have the following exchange:

A: I licked the butter knife.

ME: Did you rinse it before putting it in the curd?

A (with a raised eyebrow): Come on, it’s a mother and son thing…can you taste my saliva?

We then proceeded to have an America/North Korea discussion.

Sunday.  Spoiled with breakfast in bed again.  This time with both son and daughter.  I can hear A being the foreman, directing the proceedings.  My daughter H comes upstairs to announce the first slice of toast is burnt but she ate it as that’s how she likes it (who knew?) then the tea and toast come up again and the two of them (plus dog) get in to snuggle up and remark on the dog licking his ‘willard’.  Not the peaceful breakfast in bed I’ve longed for for so long but do you know what?  Near bloody perfect in my mind.

anniversary

I would have been married 11 years ago today.  And whilst I have been separated for nearly 4 years this date tends to creep up on me; ambush me and leaves me so emotional and teary that I have to sit with a tissue at my desk at work and dab my eyes frequently so I’m not left with mascara tracks down my face and I can have some semblance of professionalism.  I think about how it would have been had we still been together these last 4 years.  If, instead of leaving me, he left his mistress and really focused on our flaws.  Attending counselling as I’d suggested and working on our marriage.  I wonder if there would be a third baby by now or whether we would have decided against it, counting ourselves lucky and focusing all our energies into bringing up the two precious amazing kids we have already.

And then I think would I have thrown in the towel a year or two down the line?  Would I have broken the habit of being a doormat – keeping the peace for somebody who clearly had zero respect for me and still to this day thinks he can walk all over me and I will just take it.

He has been so all over the place lately that it makes me think I should have just arranged alternative childcare for the summer holidays.  Texting me saying he’s going to the gym when I’m about to drop the kids down or bringing them back late when he’s been texting me all day asking when I’m picking them up.  I mean the holidays are always chaotic, routine gets thrown out of the window but this year, with his new son, it seems to be worse and I feel sorry for our two.  I’m sure they feel that they’re not welcome anywhere which is hardly fair on them.

In other news I started dating again and the guy I’m seeing is lovely! I was reluctant to write this as it has only been a fortnight but I guess I see this as a record of my life so if things go wrong and it’s not as amazing and romantic as I believe it to be now well this is how I felt at the time and it’s good to record things – good and bad.

First off he has been so open and honest.  He has nothing to hide and although his past relationships have been rocky he will not let the past define his outlook for the future and how he embarks on new relationships.  His attitude is so refreshing and positive for somebody that has been through so much.  He showed me his driving licence to prove his age (5 years older than me).  I didn’t ask for it but he knows I won’t tolerate lies and deceit and is willing to open up to me in order to put me at ease.

Anyway, it’s early days.  I’m trying not to get carried away.  Date 4/5 (they merged into one weekend) went really well.  Date 6 last night was lovely (although he’s a bit poorly at the moment but he muddled through).  Date 7 won’t be until next week as this weekend is all about me and the kids…oh and a 3 hours life drawing class that a dear friend bought me for my birthday.  Can’t wait!

Counselling is so different this time round.  It seems to be more about affirming that my ex did behave appallingly and that I’m right to still feel hurt and still be working through things.  It’s about managing my feelings so that I can remain neutral and almost detached for the kids in terms of how I feel about their new little brother.  We have started working on building my self-esteem and my need to be more assertive in all aspects of my life and she has set me some homework this week.  She believes if I learn how to say no and train myself not to apologise for things that aren’t my fault that I will feel better.  I will have more energy, more head space for me and anxiety levels will reduce.  Here’s hoping.

Thud

I’ve had an amazing family holiday in Center Parcs and an absolutely fantastic early 40th birthday party in my home village with friends and family and now I’m back to work feeling sorry for myself.  Since I changed my name in work I’ve been unable to get work emails on my phone which, although annoying, turned out to be an absolute blessing when I was on leave.  I could completely switch off and enjoy time with the kids, my parents and my brother without worrying over emails that always seem urgent but in reality can absolutely wait until you’re back at your desk.

We spent five days or so cycling, swimming, eating, drinking, laughing, spotting squirrels and rabbits and ducks and ducklings and generally switching off from everyday life.  Me and my mum spent a few blissful hours in the spa where I actually nodded off in the Forest Meditation room and woke myself up with a snort!  I then had an awesome party in the local cricket club.  The fizz was flowing, the DJ was immense and the night was filled with hugs and dancing and catching up with relatives that I really should make more of an effort to keep in touch with.  I have so many bottles of fizz (what does that say about me?) and other amazing gifts.  My parents will load up their car in September and bring these over to me and I can celebrate my 40’s all over again.

Now back to reality with a thud.  It was great picking the dog up from the kennels.  He had made friends with a female pooch, Bubbles, and they were apparently getting on like a house on fire…ahem :).  It gave me faith in my decision to rescue this lovable yet crazy escape artist of a dog.  He is our reason for returning home.  After we had been home for a few hours, Daddy came to see the kids with the new baby in the pram and I wanted to go and look in the pram but I thought that would be strange and awkward and how would I be left feeling?  Yesterday morning when I dropped the kids off he answered the door with the baby smooshed up on his shoulders.  All I could see was his tiny,soft fluffy head and his cute little socks and as I imagined breathing in the scent of freshly washed baby I felt like I was being stabbed in the womb.  The pain was intense.  I quickly walked away blinking back tears.  I guess my next counselling session will be about exploring my thoughts and feelings around this baby.  I met my daughter’s friend’s new wee brother yesterday.  I held him in my arms as the girls got their stuff together for an arts and crafts class that I was dropping them off at.  As I was cradling the baby in my arms I felt nothing but love for this new mum and affection for the wee baby (he’s actually fairly sizeable 9lbs 13 at birth) – no jealousy, no stabbing pain – so what is it about my ex’s baby?

Last night my son got into my bed and restlessly slept by my side.  I was the same.  I felt like I was feverish.  Intense dreams, stomach cramps and I pretty much saw every hour on the clock. I don’t want to feel like this as my two good friends (one heavily pregnant, what is it about this time of year and my life; baby season much?) are taking me out for an early birthday lunch tomorrow and I don’t want to be sick – I need to be on good form.

This morning we were greeted by a different ex/daddy when I dropped the kids off.  No baby on his shoulder and a grumpy looking face to boot.  Sleep deprived?  An argument with the girlfriend?  Is she going through that dreaded fog of postnatal depression? I don’t know what’s going on and surely it’s none of my business but the kids were told to go up to their room immediately, no passing go.  When I got into work I whatsapped my son (he has become a teenager at 10 with a new phone) telling him I loved him and his sister and I would see them later.  He replied ‘cya later’ (yoof speech!).  Couldn’t get much from that.  I just hope they’re okay and the tension isn’t unbearable in their dad’s house.

The break up

I have never delivered quite so cruel a blow to another human being in my life. He turned up on my doorstep last night after two days of messaging me, asking me to reconsider, pleading and begging that we could work through things; surely clear communication is the only way forward?  I held the dog under one arm as I held the door open.  I know it seems bad but I couldn’t invite him in.  This awful, end-of-the-line conversation needed to happen on my doorstep.

I know that I have made the right decision.  Things haven’t been right for some time and I can’t wait until his daughters are at uni/he gets a better job/he wins the lottery/he moves in to my house for our relationship to progress.  Crucially things weren’t great between us now; in the present, and I believe he has unresolved issues that are affecting his ability to be present, loving, communicative and generous with his time.  He hinted at some childhood trauma that he had been on the verge of telling me a couple of times. But it’s all too late now.  I gave him ample opportunities to open up to me, to be more loving and he closed down and pushed me away every time. With everything going on I needed emotional support, I needed to be heard and he just wasn’t willing to be there for me.

It’s going to take me a long time to forget the way his face crumpled when I told him I no longer loved him, that I had made my decision and that I needed to be on my own.   It will take me a long time to forget of his please: We can try for another baby, I can move in tomorrow, we can get married as he dropped down onto one knee.  But I stayed strong.  I know I’ve made the right decision.  I’d rather be on my own that feel anxious and uncertain about our partnership, about when and for how long I might see him next. And it’s awful and I feel terrible but I know I’ve done the right thing for both of us.  I wouldn’t have been true to myself had we carried on.  As I told him I need someone who is passionate about me, who shouts my name from the rooftops.  I know it’s cheesy but that’s what I need.  Sometimes I need someone to pick me up and comfort me and be the strong one and make decisions on my behalf.  That someone is out there, I’ve just not found him yet.

Baby

The baby has arrived.  Where do I start? I’ve never felt this way in my whole entire life.  I can’t even make sense of this mix of emotions.  When we were waiting for the baby to arrive I actually felt a strange sense of excitement.  Like I was excited I was going into a new period of how we ‘co-parent’.  That perhaps he wouldn’t be able to see the kids as much – i.e. he would quit turning up on my doorstep Mon-Wed of every week.  The excitement was also very similar to the times I’ve been waiting to hear about a friend giving birth which gave me a false sense of security.  I kind of thought, do you know what, I’m fine with this.  When the baby arrives it’s actually going to be okay.  I’m not going to be insanely jealous.  I’m actually going to be fine.  I won’t have to hide how I feel infront of the kids.  I will be able to just carry on as I am now and sure I might feel sad sometimes but that’s just like now.  How wrong could I be?  How deluded was I about my own feelings?

He phones my daughter and I hear “ask mummy if I can send a photo”.  How can you say no to such a request?  I can’t make the kids feel guilty about how excited and delighted they are.  But now I’m going to have to delete the photo as I can’t stop looking at it.  And then I went into their house last night.  I had come to pick up the kids who were meeting their wee brother for the first time.  The door was wide open.  I knocked and walked in.  I could hear that distinct newborn cry.  And I saw her and I felt nothing.  No sadness, no jealousy; nothing.  I actually felt a bit sorry for her.  I remember that feeling of utter desperation when you bring your first born home and you actually have no idea what you’re doing; you’re in a state of complete bewilderment.  I also wanted to say congratulations to the pair of them.  And not even in a sarcastic fashion.  And again I thought, I’m okay – things are going to be okay.  So it’s like I’ve tripped myself up yet again because this morning when I dropped the kids off to him (‘why do you have to work during the summer mummy why can’t you be a teacher too?) I got back into the car and burst into tears and I actually said out loud ‘I can’t do this.  I can’t handle this’.  I cried in the car all the way to work.  I cried sitting outside work and when I got into work my colleague asked if I was okay and I burst into tears again.  I think it was the intimacy of the situation that got to me.  When I dropped the kids to the door he was speaking in hushed tones.  The midwife was in.  My daughter looked concerned and he explained this was all normal.  It was just a check and the baby wasn’t crying.

I don’t even know if I want another baby (or if I could have another baby) but I’ve made the decision that I actually need to be with somebody who has at least contemplated that having a baby with me is a possibility in the near future.  So I made the decision to part ways with my partner of a year and a half.  It wasn’t just this.  It has been building for quite some time.  So now I’m striding forward on my own into my 40’s which I’m actually feeling quite positive about. Counselling will start tomorrow and again I’m looking forward to meeting this new counsellor and trying to unpick my feelings and my emotions and working out if there are strategies that I can employ to enable me to handle everything that this life throws at me more efficiently.

What Is Your “I’m Not Enough” Telling You?

Powerful stuff x thank you stilllearning2b

Lessons From the End of a Marriage

“Why wasn’t I enough for him?”

I posed this question to my journal soon after discovering that my then-husband had obtained a new wife.

“What does she have that I don’t?”

I asked of the page, not expecting an answer.

“How could he do this to someone he loved?”

The words perforated the page like his actions pierced my heart.

“He threw me away like so much garbage!”

My tears fell on the page, causing the words to bleed down the paper.

I felt worthless, discarded. I wore this self-image like a corset, hidden from public view yet restricting my movements nonetheless.

I rationalized that if I had been a good enough wife, he would not have secured another. I believed that if I had only been a better partner, he would not have left. Even while publicly blaming him, I secretly blamed myself. Convinced that I was not enough.

My…

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A work in progress

I’ve been quiet on here of late.  Dealing with emotions and feelings that I couldn’t understand and didn’t feel comfortable expressing.  I lost the plot with D – why was he plodding along?  I didn’t want to plod along. Is this it because frankly you’re wasting my time. I shouted at him ‘If you die tomorrow I would never find out’.  I’m not part of his kids’ lives (they’re teenagers, I’m sure they’re not bothered about being part of my life but still).  I’ve been so busy of late with my own visitors, shuttling through end of term piano recitals, dance shows, sports days etc etc that we had started to see each other once a week.  It came to a head when one Thursday he’d been unsure whether he was seeing his son or not so I made the decision that me and the dog wouldn’t go to see him.  It turned out that he wasn’t seeing his son but I had to keep asking him questions to know he was sitting on his own and I was sitting on my own and that didn’t seem right.  Why did he want to be on his own?  Why didn’t he want to see me?  I came to the conclusion without speaking to him that we were essentially too different to be together.  I started off my tirade with him by saying ‘I can’t do this anymore’.

We talked and talked and he left saying ‘I don’t think I can change enough for you’ but then he had time to think and realised that he wanted to give us a chance – he didn’t want to set himself up for failure; he wanted to try.  And I realised that if I didn’t allow him this chance; if I didn’t try to work through our issues then I was just behaving like my ex – making my mind up that we were over before we’d even given things a chance. So, we’re attempting to work through our issues.  Our different opinions on what makes a meaningful partnership.  My alcohol consumption had crept up so that when we did spend the night together I would wake up groggy and fuzzy headed, not really remembering conversations from the previous evening.  This is something that I have to work on.  In turn he is being more enthusiastic about us, driving to see me more and making an effort to introduce me into his kids’ lives.  And also to not empty the clean cutlery into the cutlery drawer in any old fashion.  And to stir coffee with a spoon – not give it to me not stirred with ‘raw’ coffee granules floating on the surface – all of those little niggles that build up and eventually explode!

I’ve found myself getting so angry and upset every time the kids innocently gave me a titbit of information about their dad, C and the imminent new baby or when I see her out walking; her tiny frame and perfectly neat bump.  I am confused by my feelings – why do I still feel so strongly about them and their relationship?  As a friend said to me it’s really none of my business what he buys for her and anyway we don’t know why he’s buying these gifts.  But still the pain and resentment and hurt lingers on and has started to manifest itself in the way I felt about D.  And sure he’s not perfect but neither am I.  He was plodding along thinking things were okay and I did need to say something; the way we were going wasn’t enough for me.  I want and need more.  More communication, more honesty, more transparency, more affection but I have no doubt that the way I feel about us is tainted by my feelings about them and this is something I need to get to grips with and sort out in my own head.

I’ve signed up for more counselling, I may try CBT this time if appropriate.  The first course of counselling enabled me to navigate through the separation and the awful feelings of betrayal and abandonment.  The 2nd time round I returned to try and cope with the idea that the kids were about to meet the other woman.  In reality they had probably met her before this point but it was at that time that the kids started talking about her to me and that hurt big time, like a kick to the stomach.  I need to have some coping strategies around this anxiety and hopelessness I feel about things.  My constant worrying about my current relationship, how the kids are coping, my elderly dad, my single brother.  As my dear friend told me (who’s idea it was to start this blog and I know still reads – thank you, I love you!) “You can’t beat a bit of impartial listening/advice.  I know having me ready with a blade for anyone who does you wrong is useful, but sometimes a bit of detachment is necessary”.

I need to calm down and enjoy what I have and of course speak up sooner rather than later and try and be as truthful, honest and authentic as I can be too.  I’m a work in progress but I’m working at it.

Seaweed

I’ve just spent the weekend without the kids (their dad’s turn with them).  I had a mixed weekend really.  You’d think three and a half years in I’d be used to being without the kids but I often feel guilty spending time on myself, doing things for myself, making my own breakfast and nobody else’s…well apart from the dog’s I guess.  On Saturday I went to get my hair done (the greys seem to be coming thick and fast as I hurtle towards 40).  It’s an infrequent treat.  Sitting in the hairdressers, book in hand, cup of tea by my side, the hustle and bustle of the salon.   The pleasure in somebody washing your hair can never be underestimated; the scalp massage.  Utter bliss, I was so relaxed almost to the point of snoozing.  Anyway, came out of the salon and saw my kids in the car with my ex so I thought I’ll continue onto my friends cafe, have a flat white and give them a call.  I knew that they were heading to a family do later and I never like to interrupt these occasions with a phone call from me.

And then my world came crashing down and it seems silly about how upset I was now; now I’ve had time to digest things and think rationally.  I phoned my ex’s mobile and my son answered.  Had he had a busy morning?  They were out buying treats for C as she was having a baby shower today.  A pamper voucher for now and a coffee machine for after the baby arrives.  I felt winded.  I was speechless and ended the conversation quickly with silent tears spilling onto my cheeks’ trying to cry discreetly in the busy cafe.  Since when did he get so bloody generous?  And where is this money coming from?  Has he been saving up the £50 a month he doesn’t give me for the kids to purchase her gifts?  Has she asked for them?  Demanded them?  Is he buying out of guilt, fear or remorse?  I remember towards the end he used to buy me gifts.  I hadn’t asked for them, they didn’t have much thought to them and I remember saying I’d rather have his time and affection rather than things.  I’ve since sold most of these things (watches, shoes etc) on ebay; I’d rather not have things he has bought for me in my space, around the house.  And then I felt bad because again it made me compare this relationship, this spirit of generosity (if that’s simply what it is) with my current relationship.  I know my partner is under financial pressure with his kids and he supports me with so many other things that have a monetary value.  Things around the house which I would have no clue about and would probably buy in (we are embarking on a painting project this summer!).  I need to bare this in mind.  A sign of a good relationship is not showering each other with gifts, with things – it’s about being supportive, mutual respect, open communication.  And its all tied up with the baby too of course and how I feel about this.

I tried to speak to my partner about it.  Tried to convey why I was so upset, jealous even but I think it was so connected to us, or that’s how I felt at the time, that I really struggled.

On Saturday evening I went out with the local girls for pizza.  I ranted at them and got nothing but support – do you really want a seaweed bath, there’s living things in that seaweed that could crawl into your you-know-what!  And those coffee machines are shit anyway and real life will soon kick in when the baby arrives etc etc and I did feel better.  I also felt a bit foolish for being so materialistic.  I’ve always said I would never rely on another person to buy me things and make me happy (I must have been in a total Beyonce frame of mind when I made this resolution) and now here I was crying with jealousy.   I met one of his sisters and her husband in the pizza restaurant and again nothing but support (without me prompting it I have to add, I wasn’t ranting about my woes to everybody, honest).  I did note that they had drunk a bottle of wine each right enough but they bolstered me, told me how well I was doing, keeping things as normal as possible for the kids.  Not bringing them up with bitterness or hatred.  I started to think about how his sister feels too about this impending baby.  Especially comparing this baby to her little niece who has just arrived.  You can’t play favourites with children but it would be very easy to do so in this situation.  She reminded me of her father’s words to me at her mum’s funeral “we love you, we will always love you”.

Ultimately, it’s really none of my business what he buys for her.  Their relationship is none of my business and if it weren’t for the open innocence of the kids I wouldn’t hear about half of this stuff.  I would be oblivious and that’s perhaps a better place to be at the moment.

We need to talk about Diane Abbott. Now. (EXPLICIT CONTENT)

JACK MONROE

This is not a recipe. I wrote this as a series of tweets today and readers asked for it as a blog post, so here it is. Our politics may differ, so feel free to skip straight back to the recipes if that’s what you’re here for.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT DIANE ABBOTT.

Right one of us political writer people needs to do this and it looks like it’s me. Grab a seat. I wanna talk about Diane.
Diane was first elected as an MP in 1987, the year before I was born. She has been dedicated to serving the British public for longer than I have even been alive. Hold that thought. Understand it.
Diane was the first black woman to have a seat in the House of Commons. She MADE HISTORY. Her father was welder, her mother a nurse. How many working class kids do we have…

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