How to get through a break-up (with your sanity relatively intact)

1) GRIEVE…
Even if it was a horrible relationship, even if you hated him by the end and you’re quietly relieved he’s gone, even if he used to chew his toenails in front of your parents*, take some time to acknowledge your sadness that it’s all over. There might only be a pea-sized smidge of sadness, but it will be there and it must be acknowledged; you’ll have gone into the relationship with at least some hopes and expectations and it hurts to let go of them.

2) …BUT NOT TOO MUCH
It’s fine to wallow in grief for a while, but never to drown in it. You may have a job that needs your attention. Kids that need feeding. A goldfish that needs whatever goldfish need. Hell, you also need to look after yourself and remember to shower daily. If your grief becomes all-consuming and stops you functioning for an extended period of time, do ask for help (perhaps from friends or a counsellor).

3) APPROPRIATE REVENGE
Take the form of revenge that best suits your situation. I’ve always believed that ‘living well is the best revenge’, so I just get on with forgiving my exes and living a good and happy life. But that’s just me. I’m a tiresomely Pollyannaish hippy. Your situation is different, and your situation may dictate that you fill your cheating-scumbag-ex’s sock drawer with anchovies while he’s on holiday with his new girlfriend. Who am I to judge? (Seriously though, if you’re going to have to continue to see your ex—perhaps you have kids together—I highly recommend taking the moral high ground rather than a tin opener to a can of anchovies.)

4) DON’T FIXATE ON THE MONEY
Many people think they can ‘win’ a break-up by keeping the most money. But the stress of getting there is horrendous, and money isn’t happiness. Try and divide everything up between yourselves; getting a solicitor involved generally means you’ll be splitting the pot with them as well.

5) REMEMBER THAT THEY’RE PROBABLY NOT AN EVIL MONSTER. PROBABLY.
You loved him once. You even loved him enough to kiss his reprehensibly lying mouth. Yes, he may repel you now, but you loved him once. Try and remember there is something good about this person; don’t demonise him. (Especially if you have children together. I cannot stress this enough.)

6) PREPARE FOR A MATE CLEAROUT
Some friends will stick with you. Some friends will ask what they can do, and then never call you again. Some friends won’t ask what they can do, and will simply never phone you again, because they are busy hanging out with your ex and renting caravans together. This is all fine.

7) NO, NO, I’M SERIOUS, YOU HAVE TO LET GO OF YOUR EXPECTATIONS OF OTHER PEOPLE’S BEHAVIOUR
Perhaps you thought your friends would grab their blazing pitchforks and drive the bastard out of town? Instead you’re mildly perturbed to find that one friend has invited him to join their darts league, another friend has formed a covers band with him, and yet another friend has actually gone ahead and married the cheating swine. It hurts, yes, it hurts like salted sunburn, but what your ex does is none of your business, and perhaps these people were never really your friends.

But more than anything else, just because you don’t like your ex, doesn’t mean other people have to hate him too.

8) DO WHATEVER THE HELL YOU WANT
The future is now yours to do whatever you please with. No more compromising for you! Couldn’t get a cat because he was allergic? Get yourself all the cats. Want to eat pork for every meal for three months, because you were sick of keeping kosher? I can heartily recommend this from personal experience. (I only stopped when I realised that I was permanently, unpleasantly, dehydrated.) Go for it, buttercup.

*Yes, I used to date someone who did this, and I’ll post about him another time.

On Being a Grown-Up

I’m not cut out for this, I’m really not. Being an adult is much harder than it looked in the brochure. When I was small, I couldn’t wait to grow up, fondly imagining the time when I’d have all the answers, gliding gracefully between the days, busy only with the sheer enjoyment of living. I’m glad I had no idea how wrong I was.

Life is much more complicated than I ever gave it credit. There are bills to be paid, lines to be drawn, principles to be defended. And laundry to be done. So much laundry. Don’t get me started on the bloody laundry.

But then, there’s the sweet contrast between being a grown-up and growing older. The former promises disappointment and expectations that can’t ever be met. The latter is a balm; the older I get, the more comfortable I am in my own skin. The more secure I become. The more I sense and value the love that surrounds me; the more I appreciate my friends, my family.

The flip side to that: being able to lovingly let go of some relationships and people. Recognising the friendships that used to work, but don’t any more. And finally understanding that what other people think of me is none of my business.

These days, I have a sense of happiness, of peace, of calm, that I’ve never known before. Even amid the chaos of the endless logistics and paperwork. And the sodding laundry.

Being a grown-up royally sucks, but at least growing older is great.

How to Forgive

Maybe you’re already rolling your eyes, but hear me out. Forgiveness is pretty powerful, but it’s much misunderstood.
There’s probably someone in your past—possibly even your present—who troubles you. Who wronged you, who wounded you. Their very existence is the grit in your eye, the stone in your shoe. And that’s why you need to forgive them.
It doesn’t mean that the things that happened to you don’t matter; they do. It doesn’t mean you have to be friends with people who have wounded you; you certainly don’t. It certainly doesn’t mean that you have to face that person and tell them you forgive them; they don’t even have to know that you forgive them, or even that you thought of them at all.

Forgiveness isn’t about them. It’s about releasing the hold that those incidents have over you. It’s about escorting those people out of your head. It’s about reclaiming your life from them.

I spent a lot of my life carrying those ghosts with me: the shadows of conversations, of friends I didn’t see any more, sometimes even of people who weren’t alive any more. Always there in a corner of my mind. Tinting my thoughts grey. Taking me away from the present.
And I wasted energy fighting them: endlessly replaying arguments, raging against how I was treated, confronting people in my head because I couldn’t confront them in real life. Over and over. Exhausting. And it didn’t bring me any peace; instead, I built a prison and trapped myself in my own thoughts. I was waiting for apologies that were never going to come (and in some cases, I later reflected, weren’t even owed to me).
There was only one way to release the hold they had on me, and it was within my power, not theirs. Forgiving them.
Frankly, the thought appalled me at first. I’d been nurturing my resentment over the years: it felt powerful. It even gave me a strange sense of importance; I’d been wronged, which meant that I mattered. But the crushing, all-encompassing rage was tiring, and I wanted to put my burden down. So, I started looking more closely at what I was really angry about.
A number of those injustices evaporated as soon as I prodded them. Take, for example, the friend who hadn’t been there for me when I needed him; I’d felt resentful towards him for years. But, eventually I realised that my upset actually stemmed from my own inflated sense of self-importance, rather than from anything he’d actually done. The fact was that I clearly wasn’t as important to him as he was to me. However, rather than understanding and accepting that, I’d made myself important to him—in my head only—by inventing a situation where he’d deliberately wronged me. My expectations of him had been unreasonable, no apologies were due, and the anger vanished. And the same with many of my grudges: I was surprised how many of them boiled down to nothing worse than a bruised ego.
Of course, that wasn’t the case with every situation, and eventually I was left with the people who’d genuinely wronged me. These situations ranged from the relatively trivial—the ‘friend’ who’d stolen money from me, the anonymous car driver who shouted “FAT BITCH” at me when he didn’t like my driving—to the devastating, the life-changing (I’m not in the mood to give examples today, but you can probably imagine). I didn’t want to carry those memories and those people around with me any more. And so I started forgiving them.
As I’ve said before, this does not mean trivialising the things that have happened to us. They still matter. But releasing the anger was therapeutic. My teenage ‘friend’: everyone makes mistakes. She didn’t even owe me the money any more; her parents paid every penny back at the time. In my head, I hoped that she had grown up to be a more honest person, and I forgave her.
“FAT BITCH” man? I reasoned you had to be a pretty angry, unpleasant person to want to shout something so nasty at a woman. I felt sorry for him, and then I forgave him. These were the easy ones.
The deepest wounds were, of course, the hardest to forgive, but also the most necessary. I looked at those incidents one at a time; with each, I sat with my pain for a while and reflected on it. I reminded myself that none of these people were monsters; they were just people. People with flaws, people who might not be terribly nice, people who I didn’t like; but, ultimately, just people. People that I could forgive.
And I did forgive them. One by one. And, at first, it hurt like hell—saying the words “I forgive him” for the first time made me cry—but I still forgave them. And, with each act of forgiveness, I took another piece of myself back. The heaviness, the shame, the fear gradually lifted within me as I kept forgiving.
Of course, the pain doesn’t just vanish overnight, and some people needed repeatedly forgiving. Actually, some people I forgive everyday. But I remind myself, I’m not doing this for them. I’m doing this for me.
And I forgive them.

So, let’s talk.

I was talking to a darling friend who has depression. We said what a shame it is that some people don’t understand mental illness, or are scared of it. Because it’s hard enough when you’re struggling, let alone when you’re too scared to talk in case you’re judged.

So, let’s talk.

I know a little, just a little, of the bleakness of depression, having staggered through the dark for a year or so after my father died. Life lost its colour. And it wasn’t that I felt bad, it’s more that I didn’t feel anything. And, eventually, I just didn’t want to be alive any more.

Realising that something was desperately wrong, I did try and talk about it, but I chose the wrong person to talk to. This person told me to pull myself together, to get on with it, that I’d been sad enough for long enough.

Unfortunately, telling someone who’s depressed to pull themselves together is as helpful as telling someone with two broken arms to do a press-up. Hearing that I apparently wasn’t depressed—merely “selfish”—was enough to put me off seeking help anywhere else, which is a shame as I’d probably have recovered sooner with support.

But I did get better, for which I am profoundly grateful. As I say, I know a little of depression, so have nothing but deep respect for my friends who live with it as part of their everyday lives.

So. Mental illness. It’s just illness. Let’s be kind to each other, life’s hard enough as it is. Much love. Xxxx

Return to Sender

Anyone else feel genuine fear when posting a letter in a post box?

Every time, as I drop a letter in, my brain goes “OH NO I DROPPED MY HOUSE KEYS IN AS WELL” (they were never in my hand in the first place)

“OH NO MY RING HAS FALLEN OFF MY HAND” (I don’t wear one)

“OH NO I ACCIDENTALLY POSTED MY BOSS A RESIGNATION LETTER” (Where did that come from?)

“OH NO IS THERE A DOBERMAN IN THIS POST BOX?” (no, obvs)

“OH NO I THINK I ACCIDENTALLY POSTED MY WALLET”

“OH NO I THINK MY FINGERS HAVE COME OFF” (etc).

Anyone else? Anyone?

Ring Ring

Speed dialling means I don’t know anyone’s numbers anymore.

If I break my mobile while fleeing the zombie hoards, but manage to get to a phone box, I’ll only be able to phone the following people for help:

1) my mum (same mobile number since 1993) (she’s not always in the country though)

2) My school-friend Michelle’s parents (I dialed their landline a lot in my teenage years, number is seared into my brain)

3) The Saturday Swap Shop number (defunct since the 80s)

I’m screwed. Especially if Michelle’s parents are out.

Creative Challenge

If you fancy a creative challenge tonight, why not grab a nearby person* and draw a lovely tattoo on them? If you do, don’t forget to report back!

Here’s Mr Boyfriend with his tattoo (note that this was before he’d actually seen what I drew for him)

*legal disclaimer: don’t forget to ask their permission, especially if you don’t know them.

 

Hello.

When I was small, I didn’t have any friends. Well, I did, but none of them were real.

I didn’t just have imaginary friends, I had imaginary families and communities; there were so many of them rattling around my brain that I couldn’t keep track of them all.

So, I took my favourite notebook and started scribbling down their stories.

I’ve been writing ever since: everything from radio scripts, to computer training manuals and even the odd book.

But, these have always been pieces that other people asked me to write. And I wanted to tell my own stories: the mistakes, the adventures, the tiny triumphs of everyday.

Hello.