Reaching Out

As any person coming out of a long-term relationship will tell you one of the hardest things to deal with, after the initial trauma, is getting back into the more social aspects of life as a single person. The world suddenly becomes much larger and you are a bit more fearful of it. Suddenly it’s just you and you alone. And that can be a daunting prospect.

For me this was slightly more magnified as when my then wife was pregnant we had decided to move closer to where her family lived for some much-needed support. This meant a move quite far away from my family and friends. It was her stomping ground. The place where she was born and raised. Where she felt safe and secure. But it was completely foreign to me and I knew no-one. Then that didn’t matter to me as I had all I needed at that time. That was then.

Over the years I, like so many other first time parents and couples, lost touch with the friends I had as they, like me, had moved elsewhere, moving on with their lives also. Any new friends I had made were her friends. People she had known for years or other people who had also begun raising a family. Of course when we split up they would keep their distance. So for quite a while it was just me and my boy.

In those initial months the only visitors we had were my mother and father who travelled the almost 3 hour drive to see us. Visiting anyone else was also out of the question as my boy was extremely reluctant to want to visit anyone, even his granny and granddad on her side who were only a mile up the road. Sadly that is still the case. Truth be told I was in no hurry to visit anyone either as seeing anyone only made me feel the shame and embarrassment of having failed in my marriage, and failed in keeping our little family together.

As time passed and I embarked on this journey of being a better me I knew this couldn’t continue. I needed to get out there again to be a bit more social if even just to try and regain a bit of balance in my life. Thing is I was always fearful of going out, always a bit anxious, mostly since I had the unexpected experience of getting a bottle smashed across my nose when I was 19, and partly because I would be too stoned, which only helped to compound my anxiety.

I knew I wouldn’t grow as a person, I wouldn’t be better, if I didn’t face my fears and challenge them head on. It did take a while for this to happen as my son wasn’t ready for me to leave him for any length of time. Thankfully as some more time passed he became a bit more comfortable with me being away a little.

I still had some people who I was close enough to that I could arrange a night out with. It was two people from work who had been the best of friends for years and who I had clicked with when I started my job in the same company a couple of years earlier. They had asked me out a few times before but I had always bailed at the last moment. This time, I determined, it would not be the case.

So I reached out to them. They were keenly aware of my situation and how I was trying to move onwards and upwards with my life and thankfully they thought it was a good idea and were more than up for it.

The following Saturday we all headed out to a pub in a seaside town up north a bit. I was so nervous I felt sick and the old me was demanding attention once again. But this time I was determined not to fall back into old ways of thinking so I forced myself on past my insecurities and doubts, past the normal anxiety. And it was the best thing I could have done.

It was definitely what I needed. A much-needed get away. Some me time. (Although I still couldn’t resist the odd text to my boy and him to me). It was the first time I had been out as a single man in over 14 years and we had some drinks and fun.

There was one drawback however. Seeing all those other women there, some in couples, some in groups of other women, made me realise that I am a very far way from wanting to be in a relationship again. I couldn’t even muster the courage, drunk as I was (The first time in years I might add), to even approach another woman. Truthfully I had no real inclination to. It just felt so alien and in some way wrong. Yes, my wife has moved on and we are together only in the legal sense (Until she gets her divorce). But my mind, my heart, is having a hard time accepting that fact, which I know I have no choice but to. I too must move on.

Regardless of my current hang ups I am glad that I reached out and I will continue to build upon that small foundation. Even this blog is a way of reaching out to other people, and from others blogs I have read, there are a lot of interesting people out there worth reaching out to. Other lives to learn from, be inspired by. Hope to be found.

So to anyone else out there struggling to deal with the loss of a partner or even their own sense of loneliness. Or anyone who is just finding it hard to get over their anxieties and get out there. I say to you, and to myself. Face those fears. Use them to help you grow. Rise to your own challenge. Take this life, your life, make it your own… And reach out with me.

 

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Change

 

I used to believe that people couldn’t change. You are who you are. You have good and bad aspects to your personality, good and bad habits, featured steadily on some sort of moral scale, and depending on how happy or sad you felt presented to the world around you accordingly.

That’s what I used to believe. No doubt there are many out there who would still argue that that is the case. I was even told as much by the woman I once loved enough to get married to, have a child with. The woman who would walk out the door, leaving both myself and our son. The same woman whose actions I now completely understand and hold no blame against. For her actions became the catalyst, the awakening call that rose me from my slumber, the inspiration I needed, that made me realise that personal change is possible.

After the initial shock of our separation had subsided and I endured the feelings of worthlessness and introspection, depression and despondency, something changed within me. I decided to change or at the very least improve upon who I was. Of course I still had my self doubts if this was even possible, you are who you are after all. Or so I thought at the time. I really wasn’t expecting much and suppose at that time was doing it as more of a distraction from myself than anything else. I felt I wasn’t good enough, whatever that was, and needed to do something different from what I was doing.

The discovery of a simple premise about mindsets (See The Magic Ingredient) was a revelation I needed and it came just at the right time. It made me realise something important. I could change as much as I liked. It was just about having the right frame of mind.

That message, the decision between having a fixed or growth mindset, set me free and continues to do so. The remarkable thing about it is that now, not only do I believe that change is possible, but I wonder how I could have been so wrong, and wonder why others still are.

I wonder how I could have been so blind because now everywhere I look I see change. The world is in constant motion. The earth revolves around the sun. The universe is expanding.  Everything is moving, changing, all the time. Your circumstances, the people around you. Even yourself. Cells in your body die and are replaced after days, weeks, years. The average body makes about 2 to 3 million red blood cells every second. Change is a fact of life. Nothing is immutable or set in stone. The only end, which spiritualists will even debate, is death.

So I say to you. If you are not happy with the way things are and feel that something in your life needs changing. Then do it. The only thing stopping you is yourself.

Admittedly I was forced into my position and often wonder how different things would have been for myself, my son, even my soon-to-be ex-wife, if I had made my changes long ago. Don’t be me. Don’t be the person that change is forced upon. Be the person that makes the changes to your life that you need. That you want. The world is forever changing and we all are changing with it. If you want to change there is no one to be held accountable other than yourself. It’s all up to you! The possibilities are endless.

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The Power Of A Dream

I awoke today in a foul mood. A mood I found difficult to shift no matter how much I tried. It was there when my previous partner arrived to look after our son while I went to my self-defence class. It was there whenever I went into town in the afternoon with my recycling and to pick up a few bits and pieces. It is even still lingering around now, at 7:30pm. And it was all because of something that wasn’t even real! It was because of a dream I had last night.

I have mentioned before in a previous post about how I have kicked a long-term daily habit of smoking marijuana. I have also mentioned how easy that actually was. And it has been. From the moment I decided to stop there have only been a few occasions where the impulse has crossed my mind to have a smoke. As quickly as it arrives, it passes. I simply remind myself why that is no longer an option.

But there has been one drawback. Strangely that drawback has been my dreams. As any long-term smoker will tell you one thing you notice is a distinct lack of dreams when you are smoking regularly. Maybe they are there but you don’t remember them at least so effectively they are non-existent. But when you quit. They come back with a vengeance.

In the beginning this wasn’t an issue. In fact, I was revelling in them. They were so vivid and so realistic. Some were just like an ordinary slice of life. Others like a living surrealist masterpiece like the one I had where people were turning into inanimate objects and vice versa. All good fun really. Even some of the scary ones weren’t so bad as when I awoke I was happy they were just a dream and therefore nothing to fear or worry about.

There was one that had set me off on the wrong foot previously (See a previous post called: When Emotion Takes Over) and that day had turned into a bit of a disaster. Today was something similar. Only it wasn’t as fraught with anger or resentment. It just left me feeling downright sad. A low I found difficult to shift and which I am still carrying a little bit in the back of my mind.

The real kicker. It was such a happy dream.

In that dream my soon-to-be ex-wife and I were still together. We weren’t doing anything special. It was just her and our son and I enjoying a day out at a beach. Playing around on the sand while the sun shone on the three of us. It was filled with giggles and good times. At one point she was lying in my arms telling me she loved me as we watched our son frolicking in the water’s edge.

Just as my mind was swirling with a sense of love and contentedness, I awoke. Then after a few milliseconds that feeling was gone and my reality came flooding back. It was like having to relive all that pain all over again. Of course the months that have passed since our split have helped me come to terms with what has happened, but in that moment it was just as fresh, and heartbreaking, as it once was.

I looked at my son lying sleeping beside me remembering a tough evening we had this week where he told me that he is not happy to be alone with his mummy for any real length of time because, as he had later admitted, she had hurt him. (Emotionally not physically. He was talking about the hurt he has felt since she left). A hurt he doesn’t think she can ever make up for and which makes him feel uneasy in her presence.

That dream and the false happiness it had filled me with effected me all day. It made me think about the things I have no reason to think about any more. What is she now doing with her life? What men are approaching her now she is free and single? Is she truly happy with her decision?

I found it difficult to not let it change the way I behaved towards my ex when she arrived in the morning, remembering the other time a dream had started me off in a mood. It wasn’t real after all. Only a figment of my imagination. My mind playing tricks. Yes, I was a bit off with her but this time I kept my mouth shut and my thoughts to myself. No use stirring an empty pot.

Even now I can’t really fathom why it has held on so long. I keep telling myself it wasn’t real. It was just a dream, nothing more, nothing less. But for some reason, I as yet do not understand, this dream had a power over me and has held me in its sway. As I write this, and bedtime is swiftly approaching, I feel myself feeling a slight case of anxiety over what tonight’s dream may bring. Anxiety I have no need for and which is totally self-inflicted and perhaps unnecessary. Only time will tell.

 

P.S.

I had just finished this post when my son had called me looking for his supper and because I did not have time to proof read it I had to leave it until this morning.

Again, and perhaps not surprisingly as I had dwelt on it all day, my ex featured heavily in my dream. I awoke again with the same feeling of loss but with one slight difference. The after effects are not laying as heavy on me as they did previously. Probably because this time when I awoke I had more a sense of ‘not again’ and have found it a bit easier to let go of the feelings it left me with. I wonder is this the reason they are happening? To help me truly let go? Maybe this is the real power of the dream.

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Something To Remember

We are all inherently selfish. There is no escaping that fact no matter how altruistic or empathetic we may be. It can’t be helped of course, we process everything through our senses, our minds, before we take action, even if we do nothing, everything is first and foremost about ourselves.

Take this blog for example, it’s about me being better, trying to rise above my failures and inadequacies. Yes, I hope that through that I can let my son see his future can be whatever he determines it to be. And yes, there is the hope that my example might help trigger something in someone who feels they have lost their way or cannot see the hope that maybe just yet lies beyond their sight no matter how difficult their situation may be.

Even these words are expressing my thoughts, the feelings and circumstances I am dealing with, the actions I am taking to try to improve upon my very being.

But there is one important thing in this self-help, self-improvement, quest that you must be aware off. That I must be aware off. And that is everyone else. Your family and friends, the people who mean the most to you.

Take the previous night. I had sat down to finish off a post that had been taking longer than expected due to the normal difficulties any single parent faces. Time constraints. For myself they are slightly more pronounced in my current situation as my son will not go to bed until I do, so late night writing is out of the question. Early rising is also a write off 😉 as whenever I wake, he has to get up also, no matter how early. (We sleep in the same bed at the moment. He moved in the night his mother left, and despite my efforts to cajole him back into his own room he point-blank refuses. Which I can understand. He needs to know where I am and I guess he feels safer that way).

So basically I have a few opportunities to get sitting in front of the computer and if something obstructs those chances there is little I can do about it. I am on a very tight schedule so there is no chance of catching up either. If I miss my window it is gone and I have to wait for the next one. During the week these are usually the times my son is playing online with his friends or at the club he attends once a week.

So the previous night I was just about to go upstairs and get writing when my son and his friends had decided they were done playing online. I don’t like to leave my boy sitting on his own too long, but as I had been ruminating about what I was going to write, I said to him I would be half an hour getting something finished up.

That half hour turned into almost an hour and by the time I got downstairs to him it was almost 9 O’Clock. I had just walked into the room, thinking about what I was going to have for supper, when he immediately asked me to play a game with him. (It’s quite a physically active game involving us beating each other with a soft, squishy poo toy. Which sounds quite awful now that I read it but it’s just one in a long line of silly games he and I have invented over the years).

My reaction. One of protest: “Auch son, I am so tired. “I’m not a machine you know. “I was just about to get my supper”. Thankfully as those last words left my mouth my brain said something different to me. “You fool. “What’s the point of everything you are doing if you don’t even play with your son when he wants you to. “You haven’t had any fun together all day!”. And with that I started carrying on with him, wrestling for control of the poo, and we played together for the next half hour. Leaving us both satisfied.

My point is. Being better isn’t all about me, me, me. Nor should it be for anyone else trying to improve themselves. It’s about taking the time for others when they need you, especially the ones you love, even if it is inconvenient at the time. The world doesn’t revolve around you and your schedules. It just revolves.

Yes, we are all inherently selfish. But we can set that selfishness aside. In fact I think we must set that aside if we want to grow. Step out of your own thoughts and consider the needs of others. You might just find that is exactly what you and those reaching out to you need.

The Magic Ingredient

Roughly 10 months ago my world crumbled and the person I was fell into a despairing abyss of my own creation. It was an almighty chasm years in the making, dug out only by myself and my poor attitude and bad habits.

And even though not even a year has passed the person I am now is filled with hope and aspiration. I see the world in a different light and have regained some of the magic which once was lost.

The thing is quite little has really changed in that time. In fact I feel like I have more to deal with, more challenges to face, and with very little outside support.

It certainly hasn’t been easy and no doubt there are many obstacles yet to come but my mind, heart and soul, have gained sufficient belief and feeling that no matter what comes along on this wonderous ride I will face it with my head held high, looking with eyes of love rather than fear or hate.

With that in mind I thought I would give you a brief breakdown of the things that I have found to be most beneficial in my development in the hope that someone out there who maybe feels a bit lost, or resides in a dark place, can see, the person needed to find their way out, or shine a little light into the darkness, is, first and foremost, yourself.

After the initial shock of the collapse of my marriage and the worthlessness I felt subsided something within me just snapped into place. If I stayed in the hole I was in the only direction it could go was further down. My son has always been my world and I could not be the person to add to the suffering he was already feeling, and whilst I was always a good attentive father I needed to become a better person. I did not want him to see the broken man I was. I needed to be better. And I determined to myself the best way forward was through actions, not words which can be so fickle. I needed to be the example he would aspire to.

As I was never very organised the first thing I did was to buy myself a whiteboard and some markers. At the beginning this was just to keep track of the small things. So I drew out a table to cover the days of the week in which I just wrote things like which day was his PE day, what day he took school dinners or I had to make lunch, or any appointments that were coming up. I had a book called ‘Passing Time In The Loo’ which was filled with inspirational quotes so I found myself picking out a quote each day to help me get motivated and I wrote it at the bottom of the board as a constant reminder.

Just reading through those quotes each day got me into the habit of reading again which then led me onto looking at self-help books. One of the first books I got was Carol S Dweck’s ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success’. A simple premise of this book became something that I still employ today. It talked about two opposing mindsets. Growth and Fixed. The fixed basically says you can’t change and this resonated with me as it was something my ex had said to me. But the growth mindset. The growth mindset let me realise that anyone can change. It was just a matter of how you think and you can train yourself to think better. The message being you can change your mindset. This was a revelation I needed at just the right time.

Buoyed by the possibilities this idea presented I then decided that if I was to work on myself mentally, then I had to work on myself physically as well. The two pretty much go hand in hand. So, I decided, it was finally time to put the little pieces of gym equipment in my shed to good use. The convenience of it helped immensely as I was able to dart out to the shed when my son was otherwise busy and it wasn’t an inconvenience. I started small. A few bicep curls, a few bench presses. Nothing much at all. To be honest in the early days I wasn’t even breaking a sweat which is saying something considering how unfit I was. But I was doing something equally as important. I was forming new habits. Something I had also encountered in my reading of the self-help books.

Now throughout this time and having become my son’s primary carer I also had to do the things that kept my house in order. The ordinary things that we all do to stop our household falling into disrepair. The cooking, cleaning, laundry etc. The discovery of Audible (the audio book service) was also beneficial as it meant that whilst doing these things I could also continue to listen to those ever so helpful books on habit formation, human nature, self-analysis. Basically anything I thought could help me improve upon the person I was.

All these things combined soon lifted me above the fog of my self-pitying depression. When the dark thoughts descended I employed all the ideas I had read about or listened to. I thought about if they were helping me to grow or bringing me back down. I learned to see those dark thoughts as the old part of me I wanted gone and forced myself to leave them where they were and look at them in a different light.

Not long after I quit my 20 year habit of smoking marijuana. There was no great build up to it, no big decision. I just stopped and that was that. The ease of which still surprises me. Then I made the decision to get back into the habit of writing and this blog was born.

As I said earlier, very little has actually changed in terms of my circumstances. I struggle more financially as I have had to reduce the hours I can work to be there for my son. I worry about how the break-up will effect him in the future, especially as there have been some tough times for him since. In a way our situation is quite precarious.

The reality is the only thing that has really changed is me and my attitude to life in general. But I feel this has been the most important change of all. It has been the change that will make the real difference to our future.

I also said I have discovered some magic that was once lost and that the person needed to make all the difference is yourself. And that is the truest realisation I have made. You are the magic ingredient in your own life. You and you alone. And as long as you draw breath there will always be hope. You just have to believe.

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For All My Looking…I Didn’t See It

Something quite profound struck me today. It was a thought that came to me when I was having a conversation with a work colleague. We were talking about the exercise we do and how often we do it and in that I had a realisation of just how much I have changed in the last 10 months. But it has been a change that, even though I am almost in a constant state of self-analysis and awareness, I had failed to see.

Obviously when anyone goes through a traumatic break up of a long-term relationship you embark on an, sometimes quite bleak and disturbing, analysis of yourself. It’s hard to see any of your positives and more often than not you just dwell on your negatives. The flaws and weaknesses in your character which have caused the person you loved to fall out of love with you. How with a little effort you could have been so much better, how maybe those changes wouldn’t have left you in the position you found yourself in, the list seems endless.

In those early days it only seems to compound your feelings of loss and darken those deep thoughts of depression. As time passes, and if you are so inclined, you might become determined to take those flaws, the bad habits you have accrued, and do something about them. That’s what I did and endeavour to continue doing.

But the revelation, the thing I was blind to, now seems so plainly obvious I am wondering how it took me this long to notice. Especially as it has become so ingrained that I do it (or don’t as you will see) every single day and that massive barrier has somehow just became invisible.

You see one of my major hurdles and the thing that has held me back in the development of myself and hindered me from being on the right path, was my downright laziness. I only ever did enough to get by. Never any more.

When it came to the weekend all I looked forward to was doing nothing. That was what I actually planned to do. Basically as little as possible. Of course I have always fulfilled my fatherly duties and would take my son out to play or enjoyed the things he liked to do with him. But in regards to myself and, ashamedly, my wife, I did very little.

My realisation came during the conversation of our different fitness regimes because in talking about them, and more importantly, about the fact I had decided to take a day off from it, I discovered something new about myself.

I missed it. I missed the feeling I got after doing it and even missed the soreness the following morning. Which now to me feels like a small physical progression.

That set me thinking. What else would I miss if I didn’t do it? When do I actually sit and do nothing these days? For example right now, at 8pm, is the first time I have sat down today (Driving too and from work, picking my son up from school and to get the shopping being the only exception). And even at that I am sitting down to write.

My daily routine today consisted of, getting up at 7am, making breakfast for my son and I, washing the dishes, taking my son to school, going to work (where I stand all day), coming home, picking my boy up from school, going to get the weekly shopping. Then it was making the dinner, washing the dishes, doing the laundry, hoovering and mopping the floors, out to the shed for my exercise, in for a quick shower, then onto the computer for this blog.

I have become so busy and active that I no longer even have the time to watch the television shows I used to love, nor do I even have the inclination. And by the time I do sit on the sofa with my son I have a quick 15/30 minute browse of WordPress and Reddit before setting my phone down and spending the rest of the evening having some quality time with him, be it playing games, either board or on the computer, watching YouTube or whatever he feels like doing at that time.

Long gone are my days of laziness and I feel absolutely joyous in that realisation. Even that day off from my usual exercise routine nagged at me. It was only one day and I know sometimes you have to step back and just relax a bit. But the thing is, doing nothing doesn’t relax me any more. I get a better sense of relaxation when my head hits the pillow at bedtime and I feel physically and mentally tired. Having fulfilled all my duties, both fatherly and for myself.

Now I actually find it harder to relax at the weekends as there is just so much extra time to fill where I want to feel I have gotten something out of it. On a Saturday my son and I still rise at 7am. His mother comes round so I can go to my self-defence class. My friends go to the class as well so afterwards we all go for some refreshments after. (Normally people just refer to this as ‘going for coffee’ but I’m a tea drinker and ‘going for tea’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it).

I come home and after a little while try to figure out what my boy fancies doing that day, be it going into town for a while or going swimming, or doing something a bit out of the normal like going to some event or other.

The difficult part of the day comes when his friends call around and they take off together. While leaving them to their own devices I’ll take to doing a bit more writing or cleaning the parts of the house that usually get missed during the week, the rooms that are barely used, the overall dusting that needs done, any ironing that is still left to do etc.

In fact the hardest part of the day comes after evening dinner. If my boy has had enough gallivanting for the day and just wants to chill then I will spend that time with him. If not however, and I am left to my own devices, I find it a bit of a struggle. I can only sit on my phone for so long before I get antsy. And as I have to be available in case I am needed visiting friends is out of the question.

I suppose this is where my current lack of direction comes in, a need to apply myself to something else productive. Where another interest could come into play. Oh I feel like my laziness is well and truly defeated, and have motivation for days, but another outlet is needed. I guess this is all part of my onward progression.

For now though I feel a small sense of contentness. Happy in the knowledge that that old foe within me is gone and to think I didn’t even notice his goodbye.