Tag Archives: relationships

Singleton v Smug Married

There has been a thread on the ME Association’s Facebook page this week about romantic relationships.  As part of M.E. awareness week, a positive story of someone with M.E. who found love despite their health problems was shared and the headline was ‘M.E. is no barrier to love and marriage’.  However, it caused a bit of a backlash because as many sufferers quite rightly pointed out M.E. is a barrier to love and marriage.  For some it’s a surmountable barrier and for others not, but I think we all agree that chronic health conditions have the potential to affect our romantic relationships or to make it difficult to find love should we be single.

I was in a committed relationship when I became ill with M.E.  However my boyfriend was just 24 years old, had high flying career ambitions (he later became an editor at Sky news in London) and he simply couldn’t cope.  He didn’t want to cope and at his age who can blame him.  So when I became severely affected and bedridden I broke up with him.  I couldn’t have lived with myself if I’d ruined his life, and make no mistake about it I would have ruined his life.  He’s gone on to have the career he dreamed of and his now married with triplets, none of which would have happened had he stayed with me.

For my entire thirties I was bedridden with severe M.E.  I couldn’t even get dressed or brush my teeth let alone cope with a romantic relationship.  The loneliness and longing for a partner at times was an actual physical ache but there was simply nothing I could do about it.  Having said all that, I do have friends with severe M.E. who found partners and went on to get married so it’s not impossible, but it isn’t the norm.  The more severely affected you are the less likely it is that existing relationships will last and the harder it becomes to meet someone new.  That’s just the reality of the situation.

On the thread, there were several women whose partners also have M.E. and they met through support groups.  I find this great but odd, as M.E. affects mostly women and all the support groups I’ve ever been to have been 95% female.  Any men who attended were married because the reality is that men’s marriages do tend to survive chronic illness as it’s less likely that women leave men who are sick.  I also think it must be difficult if both of you have M.E. and the disease affects you in different ways.  Many of my friends have day/night reversal, for example, where they sleep til lunchtime and are awake half the night, whereas I’m the total opposite and am awake at 5.30am and half dead by 4pm.

After my improvement and now moderately affected, in my early forties I decided to try and find a partner.  I live in a sparsely populated rural area where sheep outnumber people 10:1 so it wasn’t likely I was going to bump into Mr Right in Tesco, therefore I decided my best bet was online dating.  I did that for 3 years and met the very dregs of society.  I lost count of the number of middle aged men who sent me pictures of their penises despite the fact we’d never even met, the men who ranted non stop about their ex-wives, the commitment phobes, the philanderers, the deluded fools who thought they were Brad Pitt but whose profile picture was Danny Devito, and the rest who wanted to spend their time white water rafting or climbing Helvellyn, neither of which I could do.  The handful of really nice guys I came across lived literally hundreds of miles away and because of my energy limitations I wanted to see someone for a couple of hours a night but they ended up staying the entire weekend because of the distance involved and it was just way too much for me.  Thinking long term, by the time you’re in your forties you both have established lives with families and jobs and friends and homes and it doesn’t matter how understanding someone is there are practicalities involved and the situation often just doesn’t work.  Maybe if I’d lived in a city I would have stood more of a chance of meeting someone locally, or maybe not.  Again, I’ve read about people who have tried online dating and gone on to meet the love of their life so it is do-able, for some people at least.  It just didn’t work for me.

All this aside, the biggest barrier for me personally in finding a partner is the very careful way in which I have to live.  I have 3 severe health conditions which have to be very precisely managed otherwise my life turns to shit.  I have a routine which if veered from for any length of time sees me bedridden.  I have to be able to sleep and I can’t even bare the dog on my bed at night let alone a snoring, duvet stealing man.  I have to eat a very specific diet.  My brain needs peace and quiet for the majority of the day.  I struggle to do any kind of activity outside my home, let alone something on a regular basis.  Car travel is tortuous.  You get the drift.  I’m not sure how I’d cope trying to fit all that around another person and I’m not sure what another person would get out of a relationship with me – even I find my life frustrating and limiting.  Obviously there are some men who can cope, but they are very few and far between and become even fewer by the time you’re in your fifties and like I mentioned earlier have a well established life.

So, while it’s heart warming to read that people can maintain existing relationships when chronic illness strikes and that singletons can find love despite their limitations we also do have to recognize that for many people this isn’t the case.  Marriages fall apart and the barriers to finding love when you’re sick and single can be overwhelming.  I gave up trying to find Prince Charming several years ago because I couldn’t cope with the constant disappointment (or the weirdos!) so if it happens for me I’m literally going to have to bump into him in Tescos which, considering I have home delivery, is unlikely 😉

 

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Love is a verb

I often find people bewildering.  Maybe I’m wired wrong or am just naive but I struggle to make sense of a world in which people say one thing then do the complete opposite.  On a purely personal level as a child who lived in the midst of my parents volatile marriage you receive very mixed messages from people who claim to love you yet keep you in an unhealthy situation which fundamentally changes who you are as person, predisposes you to mental health issues, warps your sense of love in the process and affects all your future adult relationships.  Call me daft but that’s not any kind of love that I can get my head around, particularly from the very people who are supposed to protect you.

The last time I spoke to my biological Father was in 1989.  I was getting married and had asked my Step-Dad to give me away, though had invited my biological Dad to the wedding.  My bio-Dad was really angry and said “but you’re MY daughter and I love you” to which I replied “if you love me so much how come you haven’t been to see me since I was 7 years old?  You’ve only met my fiance once and that’s because we came to see you.  You’re not paying for the bloody wedding my Step-Dad is.  He’s the one who came with me to choose dresses and venues and you don’t even know who my bridesmaids are let alone have met them.  Yet you still think you should be top dog on the day?”  He never spoke to me after that, and neither did my entire paternal family.  His version of “love” and my version of “love” were obviously very different.

I’ve had several long term partners over my lifetime.  All of whom either flirted outrageously with other women or were actually unfaithful.  But apparently they “loved” me too.  I would have thought that when you love someone you want them to feel special.  To feel secure.  To feel like they are the most important person in your life.   Not to feel like they’re second best to some bint you just met in the pub or the receptionist at work.

When I was having the talk to my Mum the other week about her drinking she said to me “but I love you”.   To which I replied “I’ve screamed at you and begged you to stop drinking but did you even ring the doctor and ask for help?  Did you try in any way, even though you knew the stress it was putting me under?  No!”.  I’m not sure you can love your child then hurt them so badly through your actions that you make them ill, as she has done to me.

Have you ever watched Jeremy Kyle or Jerry Springer?  Couples come on where one or both have been cheating and after half an hour of hurling hurt and abuse at each other they’re asked why they’re still together and they invariably say “cos I love him/her”.  Or parents who have fucked up their kids so royally they’re on Jeremy sodding Kyle yet still have the cheek to say to them “but you know I love you!”

The L word is currently a bit too trendy.  We say it at the drop of a hat.  I watch ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ and they say it 5 times before they put the phone down and they’re only talking to the housekeeper 😉  But love is a verb.  It’s a doing word.  It requires action, committment, thought and intention.  It is honest, tender, supportive, encouraging, safe and often selfless.  Most importantly you can’t claim to love someone then do something to hurt them.  It’s a contradiction in terms.

 

Moving On

By the time we reach our 50th year we all have emotional baggage.  I have so much it would fill several airport trollies and need a small army of porters to tow it behind me, which would be both expensive and exhausting.  So at various times in my life I’ve made a choice to leave my suitcases behind.  I now travel along my life’s path with a large hold-all filled only with my most vital and treasured possessions.  It turns out all that baggage I thought I needed, and which made me me, was unnecessary.

As regular readers know, I did not have the best childhood in the world.  My parents lacked education, emotional intelligence and made some very poor decisions.  In my twenties I was really angry about that and the way their choices and behaviour had affected me.  But here’s what I learned: they did not know any better.  They had been taught poor coping mechanisms and interpersonal skills by their parents and were simply living what they’d learned.  By the time I was 30 I had to make a choice to forgive them or move away from them.  I chose forgiveness of my Mum and Step-Dad because I love them and they love me, and chose to let go of my biological Dad.

I have no idea why some people hold on to the pain of poor parental relationships.  Why anyone would spend their whole lives blaming their parents for how their own lives have turned out.  Yes our childhoods are determined by our parents, but our adult lives are not.  We can choose to let go, forgive (or not) and to move on.  We can talk through our issues with a trained therapist.  We can learn better ways of showing anger and hurt.  We can read books on how to improve our communication and interpersonal skills.  We can learn to do things differently to the generations who have come before us.  By the time we’re 50 we surely have to take responsibility for our own lives and not keep blaming someone else for how we’ve turned out.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou

I fell out with two of my closest friends in recent years and both were holding on to past pain, which I found frustrating.  One had had an eating disorder since her early teens.  She was adopted and had let this dominate her entire adult life.  She never sought help and when her body started packing up from years of malnutrition to be honest I found it hard to have much sympathy.  Her food issues set a bad example for her three children and I couldn’t understand why she hadn’t even tried to sort her shit out.  She herself adopted a child and it’s plain for everyone to see that she never really bonded with him.  She’s a good parent in that he’s looked after very well, but she keeps her emotional distance and is repeating the distant relationship she had with her adoptive Mum.  The other friend also had a strained relationship with her Mum, poor body image, couldn’t come to terms with her chronic illness and the effect this had had on her life, and basically wallowed in the whole thing.  Her constant ‘poor me’ attitude was really grating especially as, compared to me, she’d had a pretty good life!  Why would you not seek counselling and at least make a stab at sorting your issues out?  Why do some people get to their 40s and keep walking on the same old treadmill of pain and misery, focusing on everything they’ve lost and not on all the things they still have?  I can’t image waking up every day and hating myself or my body – how on earth would I face the days?

It seems to me that people who are still wallowing in past pain by the time they’re middle aged are getting something out of it.  You wouldn’t do it otherwise.  We are animals and we don’t embark on behaviour that isn’t rewarding, even if the reward is negative.  I pointed this out in an email I sent to the second friend mentioned above which she made public on Facebook and I was branded an evil witch and sent to Coventry by half my so-called ‘friends’, but I stand by every single word.  We all have baggage.  We all have relationships which have damaged us in some way.  I’ve had my entire adult life taken away through chronic illness as have many of you, yet I am happy.  I have my emotional shit together.  I do not blame my Dad for being crap, or my Mum for her lack of coping skills.  I realized I’d made a mistake in chosing my abusive Husband so I left the creep – I didn’t stay in the marriage torturing myself like my parents have done for the better part of 40 years.  I do not blame my body for letting me down – bless it, it’s doing the best it can to keep me alive despite everything.  I do not have the life I’d planned, but I do have a life and I have no intention of living it in misery.

Happiness is a choice.  No matter what’s gone on before we can wake each day and choose to not let our past define our future.  We can forgive ourselves, and others, for our mistakes and for not being perfect.  I am not one of these happy clappy people who embraces my disability – who the fuck would embrace a broken body?!  But I accept my broken-ness and try to live the best life I can despite it.  If I focused on everything my illnesses have taken from me (career, partner, kids, money, holidays, hobbies) I’d probably top myself, so I don’t focus on it!  It’s not rocket science.

happiness

Ho bloody ho

I wish I could say I had a lovely Christmas day, but I’d be lying.  All out of the blue I had a total meltdown and spent an hour sobbing in my car parked in a forest.  Today it all seems petty and ridiculous but at the time I just couldn’t help it, so please don’t tell me what I should or shouldn’t have done – none of us know how we’d react living someone else’s life.

For 20 years our Christmas morning was dictated by my step-nan, who lived in Sheltered housing.  My Dad always left us to go round to his Mum’s to open her presents and take her meal, leaving Mum and I on our own waiting….and waiting….and waiting for him to get home so we could open our presents and eat our meal (we couldn’t go with him as my step-nan couldn’t stand the sight of me because I wasn’t her “proper grand-child”).  It was Christmas, however, and on that day more than any other one has to show love and tolerance – after all, my Nan was on her own (although why we always had to do the Christmas thing irked me, when she also had a daughter and 5 grown-up “proper” grand-children who could occasionally have shouldered the burden and given us a year off).

Three years ago, aged 99, my Nan entered Residential Care and I thought things would change.  I was wrong.  And this year, for some reason I can’t work out, it just pissed me off.  A lot of effort had gone into the presents for my Dad this year which involved me crawling around in the loft, I’d only had 3 hours sleep on Christmas Eve due to being awake half the night with awful stomach pain, yet I still got up early to walk Bertie and get to my parents’ for 10am where I was expecting a cuppa and a mince pie before we started opening our gifts.  Only when I got there my Dad was AWOL.  He’d gone to see his Mum, who has dementia and doesn’t even know it’s Christmas.  I lost it.  I have no idea why.  I suppose I expected that, for one day in the year, I would come first and the fact my parents couldn’t even manage that just got to me.  So I told my Mum “if he can’t be arsed to be here, neither can I” and I left, but not after a few choice words with my Mother who was already on the vodka (let’s not even go there).

My Dad had had all week to visit his Mum but if he really wanted to go on Christmas Day I simply can’t work out why he couldn’t have waited until 2.30pm which is when I go home. Why did he have to go Christmas morning, when his Mum would either still be in bed or in the middle of being washed and dressed by the Carers and he knew I was expected?  I’ve spent 20 years twiddling my thumbs on Christmas morning waiting for him and I’m not prepared to do it any more, not when there’s absolutely no need.  My energy window is so small I literally have about 5 hours on Christmas day before I conk, and I guess it still hurts that my parents don’t ever vary their routine to fit around that fact.

I drove to one of my favourite places and sat in the car sobbing.  I’d felt ill all week, had had barely any sleep and I was exhausted.  Absolutely and utterly exhausted.  So I had a pity party for one and wallowed in every second of it.  I was then so tired I lay down in my car and napped.

After I came to, and sat with teeth chattering in the cold, I realized I’d have to go back, even though every cell in my body wanted not to.  So I drove back to my parents and apologized for having a hissy fit.  My Dad apologized for being “selfish” (he wasn’t being selfish, he was trying to be nice to his Mum but as usual did it at my expense) and promised he would never do it again – and I know he won’t.  I apologized for the things I said to my Mum (even though, if I’m honest, I wasn’t the slightest bit sorry), who had had a few more vodkas in the hour I’d been away so just laughed the whole thing off.

We started to finally open our presents around 11.30am when there was a knock on the door.  Who the fuck visits people on Christmas morning??!  It was a family friend and, while it was nice to see her, her fiance and their dog, they were still sitting at our dining table at 1pm.  They weren’t having their Christmas dinner til evening, but we were all bloody starving especially my Mum who doesn’t eat breakfast.  I could also feel my limited energy draining away like water down a plug hole and I realized that if I didn’t do something I’d conk before I even got my lunch.  So I eventually piped up “sorry guys, I’m going to chase you as we’re all ready for our dinner” which felt really rude but I was past caring!  We then finished opening our presents and finally got our lunch at 2.15pm (nearly 2 hours after we’d planned).

By 3pm the week of shitty health, pain-riddled insomnia and the emotional upset of the morning made me feel like I’d gone 10 rounds with Muhammad Ali and I could barely put one foot past the other, but I still had to walk Bertie in the howling wind and lashing rain before getting home at 4pm.  I couldn’t wait to get in my pjs, make a couple of hot water bottles for my back and stomach, crawl into bed and shut out the world.  It was the first time I’d been happy all day.

My parents and I are going out for our roast Christmas dinner today and I’m dreading it.  My Dad will be oblivious to the fact I feel like shite, and my Mum will be drunk and forcibly happy (or not drunk, argumentative and miserable).  Yay.  I can’t wait for today to be over, so I can come home and not have to visit my parents til the New Year!

 

Be careful out there

I was going to do my customary weekly roundup post today but I have something more pressing on my mind.  It was a friend’s birthday this month but I didn’t want to send her a gift, although I did.  I didn’t even want to send her a card, the reason being our friendship (if you can call it that) is at the end of the road because I no longer trust her.

I met this person about 16 years ago through an email support group for people with M.E. from which we both suffer.  She was intelligent, sweet and creative, and we were the same age and both single.  We had several online friends in common and soon became buddies, emailing each other and eventually regularly chatting on the phone.  We even met up and went on a short holiday together which I really enjoyed.

However, for some considerable time now there have been alarm bells.  This person knows I’m on Facebook, and that several of our mutual friends are on my friends list, yet she’s never sent me a friend request.  I know she’s on Facebook because some years ago I searched for her email address thinking I’d add her, but although her profile contains her real first name it has a different surname, so I didn’t even tell her I’d found her.

She’s been ill nearly as long as me and been in receipt of sickness benefits from the Government, but several years ago the DWP contacted her to say there had been a problem with her initial application and she actually wasn’t entitled to receive the benefit and had to pay it all back.  So she suddenly had a huge debt to repay and, being too ill to work, was also without her main source of income.  Despite that, she decided to move house.  The property she bought, however, cost over £100,000 more than the property she sold so she had to have a huge mortgage.  How did that work?  What bank lends £130,000 to a person with virtually no income?  She obviously had an income source she wasn’t telling me about, which of course is her prerogative, but she constantly pleaded poverty.  She made a big deal of telling me she bought all her clothes second-hand from Ebay or charity shops and had no cash for a newer car.  Big red warning lights were flashing.

The place she moved to was hundreds of miles from where she’d been living, which again I thought odd as she didn’t know a soul.  But it turned out she had a brother living there who she’d just never mentioned who apparently has some serious mental health issues.  She’s told me that mental health issues run in her family (yes, I know this should have struck warning bells but we all have weird family members and it’s no reflection on us!).

The new house turned out to have some major structural issues and to cut a long story short she’s just spent tens of thousands of pounds rectifying them.  Apparently she was given the money by family members who I’d been told she didn’t get along with, so it seems fair to say she comes from a well-off family and is closer to her siblings than she’d led me to believe, which is fine but why lie about it?

Not only did the new house have loads of issues, her neighbour (an elderly married committed Christian) was apparently letching and spying on her and she involved the police, telling them he was a peeping Tom.  The situation put her under enormous stress and she installed CCTV cameras to keep an eye on him.  I’ve got to be honest, although I tried to be supportive I wasn’t sure what had actually happened or that I believed her version of events.

She’s recently had a handy man who’s done lots of work in her home steal from her.  Which is horrendous but at the same time all a bit weird.  The police have apparently told her to go and search his outbuildings secretly while he’s not there to see if she can see any of her belongings and if she finds anything she has to let them know and they will interview him.  Hmmmm.  I’m fairly sure no police force would tell a vulnerable, sick single woman to search a suspected thief’s premises (isn’t that actually illegal?!).  She then told me this handyman has guns and that’s how they met – he’d taken her on a 6 week course to learn how to shoot.  Er, why would she need to learn how to shoot?  I thought she was horrendously ill with M.E., at least that’s the reason she’s given me for only ringing me once this year.  And as if all that weren’t weird enough, this handyman is apparently in the support group for ESA (ie sickness benefit) yet she’s employing him to do work for her.  And he’s well enough to shoot vermin on acres and acres of farmland.  And she told me he does handyman jobs for a local Magistrate, who knows he’s claiming ESA but employs him anyway.  Really?!

Even if I could swallow all this drama and half-truths, as I mentioned above she’s only rung me once so far this year.  This is apparently because she’s had so much stress with all the work being done on the house, and then the theft, that she’s just been too ill to be in touch.  However, when I bought my little cottage and found 2″ of sewage water under my lounge floor, and needed a new roof, and found that I had a bulge in the entire side of the building that my surveyor hadn’t even noticed and I had to sue him which took 2 years, I still managed to go on holiday with her.  I still managed to email her when my Mum nearly died from her lung surgery, then her heart attack.  I still managed to keep in touch when I was having several anaphylactic episodes a day, then travelled 600 miles alone three times to get diagnosed with MCAD.  And I’m single too, and have 3 diseases not 1, and on top of all that am looking after my parents and have to cook every single thing I eat from scratch.   So the “I’m ill y’know!” excuse just doesn’t wash with me when I know she goes to various classes, has various friends she does stuff with and goes on several holidays a year.

She texted me on her birthday to thank me for my present, but said she was too ill and exhausted to ring.  Yet she spent her birthday meeting a friend in the morning, then going to a garden party in the afternoon – obviously really poorly then.  We finally spoke yesterday.  She texted me at 11am to say “fancy a chat this morning?  Only I’ve lost my address book and don’t have your landline number, so you’ll have to ring me.”  Modern phones have contacts lists built in them FFS, she must think I’m totally stupid.  However, I texted straight back that I would ring her which I did – but the call went straight to answer phone!!  I did leave a clearly-pissed-off message to say “I thought you’d pick the phone up being as though you’ve just asked me to ring you!”.  She then waited 10 minutes to call me back, even though I’d told her I had to go out at 11.30am.  It was the last fucking straw if I’m honest.

I seem to’ve met my fair share of women online who are secretive and untruthful.  As regular readers of my blog will know, in 2014 I fell out with a long time friend I’d met online.  In our 16 year friendship we’d never spoken on the phone and I’d never seen a photo of her.  Neither had any of our dozens of mutual friends.  Looking back with the benefit of hindsight she could have been anyone – she might not even have been female.  She wouldn’t send text messages because she said the signal affected her, yet she’d get her husband to text me who was sat right next to her – or did she?  Was it her texting and saying it was her husband?  She moved house without telling me (or anyone else) which was bizarre.  She didn’t get on with her Mum and told me she used to dread her visits, yet when she died this person spent 2 years on Facebook writing posts about how much she missed her “darling Mum” eliciting loads of sympathy from people who didn’t know the real situation.  The same happened with a friend, who she hadn’t spoken to for 4 years, who died and this person was writing posts online about how much she missed her “darling sister-friend” again getting loads of support from people who didn’t know the dead friend had ignored her for years.  And dozens of other little, and not so little, stuff which all added up to secretive, strange behaviour and outright lies.  Yet I was castigated for pointing this stuff out!  This person is so “lovely” and believable that no-one takes a step back and questions her story and when I did I was made out to be the Devil himself and unfriended by the majority of our mutual mates.

Another friend I met through the same online support group I used to talk to every single day.  She was originally from Pakistan and, although she was hard work at times and very demanding, I felt for her being ill in a foreign country where she hadn’t had chance to make friends.  She ended up going into hospital and myself and 2 other friends sent her some flowers, which were returned because there was no-one of that name in the hospital. Turned out she’d given us all a false name which is fine, we all use pseudonyms online to keep us safe, but to go 4 years without telling your closest friend isn’t right.  It also turned out this person came from a very wealthy family in Pakistan and I’m fairly sure she’d fed me an absolute load of bullshit about her family situation and her need to escape an arranged marriage.

There seem to be a lot of fantasists out there, who create personas for themselves online which I honestly think they end up believing themselves.  There are also a lot of people out there with mental health issues, who can appear completely normal and reasonable online but who in real life have some serious problems.  And when you’re a kind, compassionate, open person, who takes people at face value and thinks everyone is as honest as you are, you tend to attract these people like a magnet, then when you find out that someone you have told everything about yourself to has been dishonest about their lives it’s deeply hurtful.

I’m now much more wary of people I meet online, even if they seem “lovely”.  As Doctor Phil so wisely says “people who have nothing to hide, hide nothing”.  I am distrustful of people who have Facebook pages that don’t contain family members or personal information, especially if they’re on my friends list because my Facebook page contains details of my real life.  No offence to all you lovely people out there, but I’m not going to give my personal details out on my blog because I have no idea you are who you say you are and I’ve already had a couple of run-ins with nutters and some with people who are just plain rude.  It’s a sad fact of life that the anonymity of the internet allows people to make up any persona they like, act any way they like and tell any lie they like without consequence – well, apart from hurting nice people like you and me.

 

Misery loves company

I’m sure some of you reading my posts about my Mum must find my attitude towards her a bit harsh.  I get that.  You’re reading snippets of my worst thoughts and feelings about the situation and I’m sure I appear pretty hard-hearted.  However, I’ve lived with my Mother’s “issues” for 48 years now and I admit to having compassion fatigue.  Dealing with her is exhausting and I’m already tired from dealing with my own shit.

At the heart of my disengagement with her situation is my lack of understanding that anyone would waste their life being miserable.  And my Mother has been miserable my entire life.  I’m sure she’s had things to be unhappy about, don’t we all, but at some point you have to let that stuff go.  You have to forgive yourself, and others, for mistakes and poor choices.  You have to come to terms with the fact your life hasn’t turned out as you’d hoped.

Due to my shitty childhood, caused for the most part by my Mother, by the time I was 18 I was clinically depressed.  I would wake up every morning wanting to die and I spent nearly an entire year holed up in the house, sleeping half the day away and not answering the phone.  But despite my overwhelming unhappiness I knew I couldn’t live like that for the rest of my days and I sought help.  Two years of therapy, anti-depressants and doing as much exercise as I could manage later and I was in a much happier place.  But no-one came knocking on my door offering a quick fix – I had to ask for help and then I had to do the work.

There are some things we can do absolutely nothing about.  I can’t change my health no matter how hard I try and I can’t change my financial situation being as though my lottery numbers annoyingly haven’t come up.  There are things I wish were different – I’d love more friends and I’d love a partner, both of which have remained rather elusive.  So I have two choices – I either find a new way to be joyful in this life that has been forced upon me, or I’m miserable for the rest of my days.  And that’s the bit I just can’t get my head round – that anyone would choose misery.  And it is a choice.

My Mum retired 16 years ago.  She parked her arse on the couch and has spent the intervening years smoking, drinking and watching the telly.  She must be lonely as hell and miserable as sin.  But she’s only been unwell for the past 5 years – before that she had 10 years where she could have done something with her life.   She could have become a volunteer which would have given her a purpose, a sense of achievement and would have meant she got to meet new people and make new friends.  She could have taken up a hobby.  She could have gone to classes for the elderly to learn how to use a computer which would have opened up a whole new world – she worked for 20 years in an office so it’s not like it would have been totally alien to her.  While her sisters were still alive she could have taken them for days out, or to the pictures, or for lunch, or to the theatre – but she never did, she just told us all how much she missed them after they’d died which I find bizarre being as though she didn’t seem to appreciate them a whole lot when they were alive.  She could have taken an interest in her step-grandchildren, who are lovely and visit her regularly, instead of barely ever contacting them or doing anything with them.

It seems to me that some people just like being miserable.  But it’s no way to live.  Despite everything life has chucked at me and, let’s face it I’ve had enough shit chucked at me to last 3 lifetimes, I absolutely refuse to be unhappy.  I will not waste my life – it’s the only one I have and it’s flying by at an alarming rate of knots.

I am not surviving in a war torn country.  I do not live on a rubbish heap.  I do not have to beg for food.  I was not forced to marry at the age of 11.  I am not bare foot.  I am educated.  I drink clean water every day.  I flush the loo and my poop disappears.  I have a beautiful home.  I have freedom of speech.  I am not persecuted simply for being female.  I have so much to be thankful for.

This week there was a funeral in my village.  A 44 year old Mother of two who died of a brain tumour.  My friend in the village, who is 54, is slowly dying from cancer.  And I found out this week a family member, who is 58 years old, has leukaemia.  You can’t think you’ll be happy somewhere down the road – you have to be happy now.  Today.  Because there might not be a tomorrow and you will have wasted your whole life being miserable.

My Mum grew up in poverty – one of 7 children in a house which had one room upstairs, one room downstairs and a loo at the end of the garden.  Yet she ended up owning her own home and travelling the world.  She went to Australia (4 times), Rome, Venice, Scandanavia, Austria, Singapore, Malta, France, Germany….the list goes on.  She has always been surrounded by family – brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews by the truck load.  She has children and grand-children, including a daughter that would do anything for her.  She has a husband of 38 years who everybody, but her, loves.  Yet she appreciates none of it.

I gave up some years ago trying to work out why my Mum’s unhappy and making excuses for her.  She’s been a grown-up for a long time now and if she hasn’t sorted her issues out then I can only assume she doesn’t want to.  She might want company in her misery but she’s not getting it from me and if that sounds harsh I’m OK with it.  I’m OK with my choice not to engage in her negativity.  I’m OK with my choice to care for her but not be dragged down by her.  I’m OK with my choice to be happy.

 

 

Flying Solo

I’m veering off the topic of health in this post because my life isn’t all about being sick.  I deal with all the normal stuff that healthy people do and a quick visit to the hairdresser yesterday to have my new wig trimmed made me think about my love life, or lack thereof.

Not to blow my own trumpet but I was really pretty as a youngster.  I started literally fending men off when I was about 11 and, even though I’m rapidly losing my looks now I’m nearly 50, to an extent I’m still doing it.  I’ve spent the past decade doing up my old cottage and I can honestly say that not a single tradesman has entered my home that hasn’t hit on me – young, old, married, single they’ve all tried their luck.  And to be fair I had a bit of fun with an Aussie plumber who had the sexiest accent in the known universe, but other than that I’ve been single for nearly twenty years (I haven’t been celibate for that long, but that’s another story! 😉 ).

It would be an easy thing to assume that my solo status is down to my illness, but it’s not strictly true.  My hairdresser, who is 2 years younger than me, has also been single for twenty years.  She owns her own home, runs a successful business, has 2 lovely grown-up girls (she’s a divorce) but her love life is a wasteland.

We’re both strong, capable, outgoing women.  Like me, Jo is very practical – she made her own solid oak kitchen units from scratch after doing a woodworking course and also makes many of her own clothes.  I’ve renovated my house single-handedly, despite my health, and can spend hours crocheting.  Jo is slim, fit, attractive and trendy and seriously looks 10 years younger than she is.  I’m not bad looking for an old bird, although I no longer have my own hair and have lost a tooth 😉

It’s true we live in a remote, sparsely populated area but Jo travels quite a lot having friends in Edinburgh, Manchester and Spain whom she visits regularly so, unlike me, she has the chance to meet diverse people.  We both have a lot going for us.  So why are we alone?

The truth is neither of us can find a man who can offer us more than he takes.  Women in the last 50 years in particular have evolved in a big way.  We’re financially independent.  We run homes and businesses.  We raise children and care for aging parents.  We have hobbies and passions.  We do volunteer work.  We can cook and do DIY.  Let’s face it, there’s not much we can’t do.  And men just haven’t evolved in the same way.  They still want to marry their Mother.  They still want someone to look after their home, provide them with food and clean clothes, raise their kids, put up with their hobbies and then shag them senseless every night.  I can see what marriage holds for them, I just can’t see what marriage would hold for women like Jo and me (and my 10 other single friends).

Women also tend to keep themselves looking good whatever their age.  Middle aged men, on the other hand, often let themselves go but still think they look like they did in their twenties!  I hardly ever see a man over the age of 35 I’m physically attracted to.  I know you’re all going to now say that relationships aren’t just about physical attraction but they absolutely are.  If they weren’t I’d marry one of my female friends.  You have to have sex with your partner at the end of the day and that’s not easy if you don’t fancy them, trust me I’ve tried it.

I often wonder if the men who hit on me realize that I have been hit on for 40 years.  I have heard the same old pick up lines for decades.  I have met the same man, in different skins, my whole life.  I crave for something different.  I have never once, in 40 years of dating, ever been asked what I need out of a relationship – men assume you want what they want, which isn’t the case.

Of course, my health issues add another dimension.  I haven’t met a man who actively engages in my disabled life.  They all just want me to fit in with their life and constantly push me into doing what they want to do, not what’s best for me.

There’s nothing I would like more than to find a lovely man to share my time with but, even if I were healthy, it’s not easy.  You only have to go on Match.com to see there are a LOT of single women out there looking for Mr Right and not finding him.  Single women are usually accused of being “too picky”.  Bollocks to that.  Men need to step up their game, women don’t need to lower their expectations!

I’m sure many of you have wonderful husbands and partners.  I’m jealous.  I have not found one, despite extensive trying over the years.  I’ve found men I’ve loved as people but weren’t attracted to.  I’ve found men I’m attracted to but don’t like as people.  It’s getting the two together which remains elusive and on the very odd occasion I’ve found them they’re either not interested in me, or live in Abu Dharbi  😉

Not many women are openly honest about why they’re not finding partners.  They feel it makes them sound full of themselves to say that men are all much of a muchness and don’t offer them anything they can’t already get for themselves.  We no longer need someone to provide us with a home or to fiddle with the car engine.  We need emotional intimacy, mental stimulation, wit, tenderness and other ‘girlie’ traits – because, and here’s the shocker, we’re girls!   I don’t need someone to buy me jewellery, I need someone to drive my Dad to his CT scan or to walk Bertie when I feel crap.  We don’t want sex every night because men are shit at it.  That doesn’t make us frigid, it makes us women who have different needs to men.  We like cuddling much more than smelly, sweaty, often unfulfilling rumpy pumpy which doesn’t make us abnormal, it makes us girls.  I wish more people were honest about the fact that, on the whole, men and women’s sexual habits aren’t the same instead of blaming women for not wanting sex more.

100 years ago men and women complimented each other – men went out to work, women looked after the home and kids.  But time has moved on.  Women are now able to say what they want and it’s not what our mothers or grand-mothers wanted.  1 in 5 middle aged women are now childless.  It turns out that, given a choice, many women aren’t that maternal myself included.  So if I don’t need a financial provider and I don’t need a Father for my kids, what do I need from a husband?  I need all the things I can’t give myself: hugs, emotional support, someone to talk things over with, someone to stimulate my mind, someone to make me laugh, someone who cares about my problems, practical help, someone to share my enthusiasm and passion for life with.  And someone who asks me what I want in the bedroom, which has much more to do with a connecting of minds than bodies: “men fall in love with their eyes, women fall in love with their ears”.

I don’t give up hope of finding someone to share my life with, though I’m realistic on my chances of finding Mr Right.  I’ve been in some very unfulfilling relationships over the years and one thing’s for sure……….I’d rather be single than part of an unhappy couple.  I’ve never been as lonely single as I was during my marriage.  Having said all that, if you know any handsome, single, middle aged men who aren’t emotionally frigid, don’t want me to go on skiing holidays, aren’t workaholics but are nevertheless financially secure, want to live in the Lake District and aren’t totally fazed by disability shove ’em in my direction 😉