I know I dodged a soul-destroying bullet when he left. I didn’t dodge it entirely because for a bit there I felt destroyed, but not what more time with him and his messed-upness (and my acceptance of the messed-upness) would have cost me. Many times I said I would not give him another thought or any more of me, and yet as time has gone on my appreciation for him leaving has grown and grown (especially when I know he is still doing the same shit to the next person) and I want to thank him for shoving my (at the time) lame (and scared) ass on the world’s biggest catapult to more than I could have ever imagined.
And one year ago I would not have understood exactly how grateful I would be. And so I’m writing this for all the me-one-year-ago’s. You know who you are. I’m writing this for you because I promise it can be OK and every time someone tells you it will be you don’t have to hate them. You don’t have to. You can bury your head and cry some more and hate and hurt and dream of revenge and turn yourself inside out and starve and suffer and get bitter and twisted and close your heart to any possibility. Or not.
And I would say NOT. DON’T. Don’t give that person another speck of your soul. And whatever needs to happen for you to breath for yourself again DO THAT. I’m not saying it won’t take time. I’m not saying that during that time some of those other things won’t happen. But you need to grab all the future possibilities with both hands and make them happen, because there isn’t any of the future to be had in the whys and the why nots. Or the what could have beens.
What did I learn? That sometimes someone is everything to you you thought they were, but the way it gets delivered is not in that way you planned. Or hoped. Or dreamed. He gave me freedom. He gave me such a shake up that I found a solid foundation. He gave me at least 2 years of my life that I would have kept putting up with how it was (and worse how it wasn’t) before I would have finally stepped clear of him and walked away. TWO YEARS. I reckon I would have done it for TWO MORE YEARS because I believed in love, and family and truth and the inherent good in people. And most people are inherently good. But not him, not for me.
So my soul didn’t get destroyed. Not even a little bit. It got set free. And I did that. I chose freedom to be what it would mean and in that I saved myself. And was catapulted to this place that is almost unrecognisable. And just over a year ago I wrote about epic possibilities. Even a year ago I knew.
So don’t wait a year or two to start. Do whatever you need to do to save yourself. To pull yourself clear of everything it isn’t and see everything it is. Take as long as you need but don’t take too long. The world is waiting for you.
There were three brown haired girls. They came into our life at the park, by default I guess of the fact that their Dad and I had been spending lots of time talking on the phone and he brought them to my town to meet me.
I knew about them all since they were born because my mum knew his mum and many years before he or I got married (to other people) our mum’s knew we were friends. We were friends for a few years, and then life took us in other directions and we didn’t really talk anymore. But every time he and his wife had a daughter my mum would tell me and I would feel happy because daughters are beautiful and I too was having daughters.
Our marriages didn’t work out the way we might have dreamed and after all that it seemed OK to be friends again, and part of me was thankful that we hadn’t been friends for that whole time, because when our friendship turned into something more I was glad there was no reason to suspect we hadn’t honoured our marriages. Or more, that I hadn’t. I can not speak for him and since EVERYTHING (the thing of the every that blew up any version of our friendship and our relationship and love and what I believed it was about) I am not sure about my version of the story of us. But this one part I am sure of.
I do not want to go over the how’s and the whys and the what fors. Just that one day in the park near my house he came with his 3 brown-haired daughters and they were 4 and 6 and 8 and then after that for four years I knew them. Less time at first, and then more time, until he moved in and they came every second week for 3 nights and half the school holidays and I was sure I had 7 daughters – 4 with golden hair and 3 with brown hair. Not that they belonged to me. Not that I was their mum (they have their own beautiful brown-haired mum). Just that my heart found space to fit 3 more children in, and I imagined that my life would be this unfolding of (far too many) daughters (amongst other things).
There are so many logistics for lots of children, and beds and bedrooms, and what they like to eat and not eat, which clothes they’ll wear, the need to label all the underwear because there is so much and so many similar sizes, bedtime routines, sports they enjoy, having enough bikes, boogie boards, towels and making time for everyone, having enough avocado (every child who has come through this house seems to love avocado!) and shoes. Where to put all the shoes.
But outside of all the logistics, and living in different towns, and shared care arrangement’s and not having a car they could all fit in there was just this sense that I had of family and the way they all (those kids) were with each other. The sisterhood. Of not actual sisters but knowing exactly how to care for each other. They would play these massive games of hospitals, and wrap the littlest one up and make her the injured baby, and someone else would be a pregnant mother, and they would be doctors and nurses and ambulance drivers. Sometimes they would draw or paint for hours, and the never-endingness of craft activities and games and snack platters. Sometimes they would fight, or have to have some enforced quiet time and we couldn’t always agree over what to do or what to watch on TV. And life changes, because kids grow up and imaginative games aren’t the go, and certain TV shows or movies aren’t so popular anymore. But sometimes it was just so full and busy it hardly seemed to matter. And sometimes it was so full and busy you forgot who you were outside of all these children. And sometimes it felt like family and sometimes it didn’t.
This week I am sad about the brown-haired girls because the youngest one has been messaging me. We are Instagram friends and it has meant through this whole year of not being able to see each other once in person, they have been able to see how we are, and me them. I love that she messages me, but in that it reminds me that they are no longer here and as an ex-stepparent you have don’t always have a place or a space to miss those children. But I have missed them, and sometimes I still do. I do not miss him anymore, not even a little bit, but I do miss them and I’m not sure if there’s anything I should do with that. Or if there is anything I can do with that.
I guess I could start by forgiving him for the way he did it. I knew they were leaving before they did. I knew he was leaving us, but he hadn’t told them yet. The last time we were altogether it was the Australia Day long weekend last year and there was so much to do as a family.
We spent hours at the beach. We rode out bikes. We watched the fireworks and I cried in the dark while everyone else stared at the sky. I tried my best to make food and be cheerful and happy and join in, but sometimes I had to hide in my room and calm a panic attack. On the last night my girls went back to their Dad’s house, so it was just me and him and his three. We watched something on TV, probably “Modern Family” because we all liked that, it made us laugh. I do not know exactly why, but that night the youngest brown-haired two lay either side of me on the mattress in front the TV and hugged me and held my hands, and I tried to believe it would all be OK and we would somehow find a way to still be family. The next morning he took them back to their Mum and all three hugged me goodbye and said “see you in two weeks” and I smiled and waved and hurt inside. He told them after they had left that they wouldn’t be coming back. I do not know how it was, except I do know they cried. And I have not seen them since.
I thought I could forgive him for everything, and about me I have been able to. About me and him, and the stuff about us.
But how he was to my children and his ability to walk away from them without a backwards glance seems unforgivable. How he presumed somehow that it would be the same for me with his children, and that I would not notice the absence of them, that seems harder to let go of. That he asked me once not to contact them too much because it made them feel uncomfortable, when I was only responding to them contacting me. These things I have been unsure if I can make OK, and when you cannot find peace with the way things were then they steal your peace and leave you in pieces. So perhaps if I can accept that, like with everything, he wanted to make it the least painful and less confronting to him and his choices. And perhaps to us. I actually cannot imagine the goodbye where they knew they would not see us again. I cannot imagine how I would have been able to see them in the first 6 months and not be a complete wreck. I could see them now and be completely able to be OK, but how would we not speak of him, their Daddy and everything that is no longer? And to be honest I don’t really want to speak about him, and I cannot separate them from being his children, nor would I want to. So I just let them know that they have a special place in my heart, not by default of anything, and I think it’s OK not to have change that. Some people get to stay in your heart when everything changes, and some people need to get out. I think for a long time I thought I would feel better if I got them out. But now I feel better that a part of me will always love them and have space and time if they need me or even if they want to miss us and love us.
So nothing changes and everything changes, and one day in the unfolding of EVERYTHING ELSE (all the else of every that hasn’t unfolded yet) all will just be as it should be. And the sisterhood will always exist, just by default of the fact that however it came to be and what happened next we are all women, connected by threads that do not ever end.
So in the context of gap year ending I may have considered, hypothetically, how I’d like that to go. Perhaps once or twice (the hypothetical considerations, not the ending).
I had been writing a post about waiting for the hypothetical guy, but in honest truth wasn’t really waiting for anyone, so it seemed a bit pointless to put out my desire for hair and good dental hygiene to the world (OK, so there were other considerations, but those two were the physical ones which I thought were useful and not entirely shallow).
So then as February approached I did have a good hard (mind the pun) think about the actual reality of the end of gap year (versus the concept of a year of the man ban which wasn’t particularly hard as I was totally committed to doing other stuff and was not fighting off men or urges for men to distract me from all the other stuff I was committed to doing) and here’s what I came up with…..
I’d like to end gap year with someone who found me attractive, but knew enough of my story to know that the whole thing was a bit scary but also how much I also didn’t want it to be a big deal. I didn’t want to pick someone up at a pub and have some gap-year ending fling thing, purely for the purposes of saying it was done. Hypothetically I would like a guy who was interesting, smart, fun and funny, had his shit together, would be up for the fact that my friends would post stuff like the picture below on the back of the toilet door at parties for amusement and could be a good sport about the seemingly ridiculous amount of interest from my ever curious and loving (nosey, naughty, funny, fabulous) friends about the gap year grand finale.
Hypothetically, some kind of perfect ending would go a bit like this….
Fronting up to a party where all my ever curious and loving (nosey, naughty, funny, fabulous) friends are to pick me up. Hanging out for a bit with us all even though I am sure one of them is going to high five me on the way out and yell out “GAP YEAR” or something really loud.
Going to the supermarket to shop for ingredients. Being a bit drunk and having that weird feeling when you are somewhere where it’s really inappropriate to have had a couple too many drinks (like school pick-up, supermarkets, job interviews) and you are there anyway.
Dinner, cooked by him at his house while we hung out. Even better if he cooked the best thing he knows how to cook (whilst acknowledging there are only 2 things he cooks well) and plated it up, and it was really delicious.
Hanging out and talking and laughing, sometimes almost too much. Getting the feeling that perhaps I am really funny. Getting the feeling that he is interesting, smart, fun and funny, has his shit together, hair and good dental hygiene.
Going for a ride at night, in the rain on his really nasty, fast, black motorbike, Almost a helicopter. Wearing his clothes and shoes because the party dress isn’t appropriate, and feeling a bit like a bogan. Getting ridiculously wet. From the rain. From the rain. FROM THE RAIN!!!!
Him making me Milo and hanging out, even though I am a bit melted from too many parties and a big dinner, and not enough sleep and banging on about the end of gap year (to everyone else, not him) whilst simultaneously not wanting it to be a big deal.
Going to bed. Laughing so much before anything that I do that old grandpa-weeze laugh, and momentarily wondering if we would laugh so much we wouldn’t be able to end gap year.
Ending gap year. No you DO NOT GET THE DETAILS. This is the details. Everything else. Some things are sacred, even when you tell the world everything.
Lying in the dark and saying “Hey can you high five/fist bump me?” – OK I actually forget which one it was – and him just doing it. BAM. And me saying “Thank you, I can not imagine anything preferable to ending gap year with you”.
Conspiring to tell all my ever curious and loving (nosey, naughty, funny, fabulous) friends that it didn’t happen. And then later, when they are suitably shocked and disappointed, telling them it did.
Dropping me home.
How good would that be? Hypothetically?
And then we’d never have to speak of gap year again.
So I did it. Went on a hot date with one of my lady loves and saw the movie. On the mega screen.
I have read the books. All three. I enjoyed them. I’m not going to get all deep and meaningful about literary merit or how they were one book made into three so you’d have to buy them all or how annoying Ana is or unrealistic Christian is or any of that. I may have even devoured them, like a bad cliché.
I liked the movie. Once again not for the amazing characters, cinematography or whatever else you are supposed to review movies for. I liked that he took her in a kickass helicopter for their first date to check out the red room of pain. I am into helicopters. Maybe into the red room of pain. Please stop reading now if you are in some way related to me.
The bit that found terribly hard to cope with about the movie was that IN CASE YOU HAVE BEEN IN A CAVE, I HAVE BEEN ON GAP YEAR FOR AROUND 378 DAYS. Or something. My lady love did the math because I’m not focussing on the math, but in the context of soft (lady friendly) porn it was kinda hard not to consider the math. Which is a fairly large number. More than 3 centuries.
Some one asked me a few weeks ago about how I coped with gap year, and I took it as a very deep question about the emotional side of gap year, which is all about giving yourself time and space to figure out what you need before adding any kind of relationship or flirtation to the equation. I coped with that fine. But seeing as the person who asked me that question was a guy and in general guys tend to be fairly literal, I’m wondering if it was actually about how I coped without no physical intimacy during that time? Honestly I coped with that fine too, but I don’t intend to cope with that forever and the unfortunate thing about ending gap year and then going to see soft porn is that you remember the math. Or possibly men’s naked chests, lip biting, forceful lust and GAHHHHHHH, I can not continue.
So this is what I experienced during the year of the gap.
At first, when you are used to sharing your bed with someone, the bed feels very big and empty. I found going to bed possibly the hardest and most lonely thing to do. So I downloaded some annoying meditations to lull me to sleep and brought kickass new bed linen (I have a THING with bed linen) and rearranged my bedroom and wrote and in general found ways to not feel like bed was lonely.
After a while, bed feels like a haven. I slept better than I had for a really long time, and I have totally girly bed linen, and read more and enjoy the time in there on my own. I guess because I know it’s not forever, and that sometimes a little time and space makes room for magic.
At first, when you are used to touching someone and kissing someone and having regular, pretty great sex with someone you do notice that it is gone. It can be even more confronting when you know they are already doing that with someone else. But, when you are really hurt and heartbroken I will honestly say that I don’t think finding someone new to scratch the physical itch works because although you might find satisfaction on a physical level, underneath that you are still hurt. I don’t know for sure because I didn’t try it, but I was pretty sure that humouring the guy on the plane would not have made me feel better. Not even just a tiny bit. Sorry to disappoint.
After a while, when you have put sex aside, you don’t physically crave it the same. It doesn’t mean you couldn’t or you wouldn’t if the perfect hypothetical guy turned up to help you with that. Funnily enough I wrote a blog about the hypothetical guy (I got the term from the TV show Offspring where Nina and Billie coined the phrase ‘hypothetical guy’ for the hypothetical opportunity that could arise by which Nina would consider a one night stand after the death of her husband and having her first child. She had a list of traits for such a guy, including that he would just be passing through town, not know anyone she knew, disappear into mist afterwards all that realistic stuff). I didn’t post it because I wasn’t actually hoping he’d come along. Which he didn’t. Of course. Once again, I digress.
So here’s the thing about Fifty Shades of Grey.
Go see it when you have someone you can talk to about that. I have had the funniest conversation with some of my other lady loves over the last few weeks, based on their reviews of the movie. I kinda know who’s up for what, who’s pushing the boundaries on their own comfort zone, and in general that many women that I know would be suitably impressed by a helicopter ride and riding Christian Grey. Oops, did I say that? It is not the woman that you know that I know, just some other one.
And if watching that or talking about it opens up some possibility for you and you’re all down with it, and into exploring it, go for it. Intimacy is actually about having conversations with the person you love about stuff that matters to you, so you can share yourself and get to know them. Even if you’ve been together for 10 years. Especially if you’ve been together for 10 years. And if it means talking about sex, rough sex, bondage and all things red room of pain, why not? It doesn’t mean you are straight up saying you want the flogger.
Just be open and honest and true, even if it means you have to tell the world that maybe, just maybe, after 378 days and some soft porn it might be time to close off the year of the gap. Literally.
GAHHHHHH (that’s me gagging after saying that out loud!)
There’s a half told story about a girl who went to University to become a Marine Biologist.
Not for very scientific reasons (she’s now prepared to admit) but because it sounded like an adventure. And it was. She moved from her home to the furthest point on the continent on which she lived to study coral reef ecology and fisheries science and chemistry and to drink beer that cost $1 per pot (middy) and to meet other totally amazing people on adventures (some even for scientific or educational purposes). This story is not the rest of that story, although one day it would be worth telling. This story is about what happened at the end.
In October, at the almost end of 4 years of study, she decided that after University she would go on a great travel adventure to do aid work in a community in South East Asia (exactly where is sketchy for reasons that may become obvious). It was organised through the University, and she collected and filled out all the paperwork, but had yet to hand it in. At the end of her third year of study she had done a “practical” component of her degree, and through the University had ended up spending 5 weeks in Kakadu National Park doing vegetation surveys and flying around the most beautiful place she had ever seen in helicopters and on air-boats over the floodplains, and she imagined that it could be possible another such adventure awaited her overseas. Handing in the paperwork would mean she would be committed to go and would have to leave her handsome dark-haired boyfriend (who still had some study to go) which she didn’t like the idea of, and it would mean moving on from the only other place in the world (apart form her farm) that felt like home. And so she dawdled. And one day, she went to the doctor (and this story has been told before) and found out that she was having a baby (who by chance was a baby girl who would arrive in her world 2 weeks after she would graduate) and she went home and chucked the paperwork in the bin. And started a completely different adventure.
Today, that baby who is almost 19 years old now, left home to go travelling in South East Asia. She’s starting in Vietnam. It would be cool if her Mum could say she had been going to Vietnam, but it would just be to tell a good story. In truth her mum can’t remember, which probably indicates that in her heart she knew she wasn’t going. Not that year anyway.
When she told her daughter the story, her daughter said “Thank you for having me Mum”. And this is what her Mum would have said.
No, thank you for having me!
Thank you for being the best adventure and teaching me more than University and being more fun than flying in helicopters and as good at drinking beer as me when I was 18. Thank you for showing me that even in the crappest parenting moments, it gets to be OK because you can’t take all the credit and you can’t take all the crap. Thank you for looking after me when I was shaky and for letting me look after you when you were. Thank you for reminding me what its like to be young and letting me borrow your clothes and hang with the wild youth and have playlists in Spotify I don’t have to make up myself. Thank you for helping me learn the art of letting go (oh sooooo many times) and how to trust you to be responsible for yourself. Thanks for all the baking you used to do and for painting me pictures and writing me love notes.
I am so frickin totally goddam proud of you I could burst. And I think you are brave and crazy for travelling overseas, by yourself, with plans that (to me) I could only describe as sketchy and for that I think you are one of the most special and amazing human beings that I have ever gotten to know. I am not sure I could be brave enough to do what you are doing, and now I will never know because the adventure I chose was one with you in it, and you helped make me braver and cooler than I thought I could ever be on my own.
This is my bon voyage letter. I wanted to stick it in your travel journal, but when I opened it I found this photo of us tucked inside, and I could not write.
LOOK AT YOU. There are no more words. Bon voyage baby.
Sometimes it is just time for it to be the end of something. When it’s the end of something, it also means it’s time for the start of something new, but at the point of just before the end it can be hard to imagine the new thing or appreciate how much better it will be than the previous thing.
I have to end something. I’m not particularly good at endings. I’m not sure why not, but it is possibly because I grew up thinking Armageddon was coming and I wasn’t really looking forward to that, even though on the other side of that was meant to be a paradise on earth.
I’ve been known to clutch onto things and people for far too long for my own (and their own) good. I don’t like having to admit that things aren’t working. I can (for the most part) look at my part in the not working, and can certainly see my version of the other part in the not working, but I can’t always find a way to communicate that. I get worried I’ll hurt or offend. That my words will be misinterpreted. That the bit I think is theirs will be obvious in my exit speech and they won’t like to hear it and somehow it will sound like I’m blaming or making excuses. When the simple truth is, time is up on this one.
I’m going to cancel my gym membership today. Funnily enough. This is not about the gym. But then it is. I’ve been paying for the membership for 2 months without going. I even cross the road on my early walk so I don’t walk past the front of my gym and the auto door doesn’t call out to me “where the fuck have you been??” I have been trying to like the gym, but it’s not social enough for me and I cannot find it in me to lift weights alone. When I do it I like it. I feel strong and fit. When I do it works. I get tiny, little muscles and think I look massive and flex them at people at call them “my guns”. When my friend is there with me to train with me I like talking to her more than anything. Which doesn’t help her or me. When I don’t go, and keep paying my money and cross the road on my morning walk I feel a bit cross at the gym for not making me feel good about myself. For challenging me beyond what I’m up for right now. For not being my favourite. So I’m cancelling it. It’s only taken two extra months of clutching weakly to the idea of the gym and not letting it go and telling myself I’m going to start again when….when school goes back….when I find someone to train with…when I’m going to be like the fitness chick I follow on Instagram. Well here is the cold hard truth. I’m not going back. We’re done.
I do need exercise and movement and fitness in my life. I had to find something else that works for me, which I did. It’s part of being able to let go of the idea of the gym, because I found something new. The next best thing. I’m doing SUP yoga every weekend. I want a SUP board. I did SUP cardio the other weekend and got sore muscles and felt like I had guns for two days after that too. It could be a fad. Someone said it’s probably a fad. I like the fad where I get in the ocean, and do relaxation with the back of my hands in the water. I can’t really compete with the other people doing yoga on their boards because that would just be nasty, but sometimes I am glad when other people fall off more than me. No one so far has fallen as dramatically as me last week though, so I could be winning there. In SUP cardio there were a few races. I don’t think it’s nasty to try and win all the races, especially when it’s against your brother (he came to SUP classes because he was here from Melbourne for the weekend, and he just would because he’s cool). So I have moved on. To the next good thing. Which is so great, but I just forgot to finish off the last thing. One phone call. A couple more debits (as gyms don’t let you exit in retrospect or count NOT coming as you giving your months notice). And then it’s done.
So, because this is not actually about the whole gym/SUP yoga breakup, this other ending is a bit more….. I don’t even know the word. It’s an ending where it’s more important. It’s about an ending where people might get hurt or disappointed. And I know what that feels like. And I’m not sure I can stand in the face of that, even though the only way to do it is to stand in the face of that and stay true. It’s stirred me up beyond what I thought was possible. It is possible that it is about a year to the day since the last REALLY MASSIVE ENDING happened and it was NOT my ending, and I got really hurt and disappointed. To be honest I’m not sure, because I didn’t mark the END OF THE WORLD AS I KNEW IT in my diary. That would have been too final. But it’s pretty, totally likely it was about this day, and possibly that ending is compounding with this ending. AND my marriage also ended exactly about this day about 5 years ago too. SO there’s another ending. What the fuck is up with you February?
But here’s what I know to be true. When it is time for something to end, it is time for it to end. No amount of dancing around the outsides will make it any less needing to end. And the sooner and cleaner the end, the less the not-ending steals from you. All those extra steps crossing the road. All the unsaid words. The resources you are investing and resenting.
And then it’s time for the new. Beginnings. A bit like the paradise on earth after Armageddon.
PS In case it resonated, can I just say this is not about breaking up a long-term love relationship. Don’t make that decision based on the fact that SUP yoga is more fun than lifting weights or that it’s hard this week. This is about endings of parts of things, so that the new way it’s going to be gets to be. You can end the shitty part of a relationship and make a choice to have a new one with the same person. But that’s a whole ‘nother story….
Doreen’s been having a few challenges lately. She’s our newest chook, however she’s not that new. She’s probably lived here for 6 months or more now. As a new chook I understood a few of her quirks. She has to find her place. She has to get to know her new home. She has to get to know and trust us and the other girls. Plus she has history.
Doreen belonged to a beautiful little family I know, and lived in their back yard in Sunset Beach with her mate Bruce. One day the family went travelling and Doreen and Bruce were left in the care of some caring neighbours. But then something tragic happened to Bruce (too tragic to even speak of). Doreen was alone. My friend called and asked if we could help Doreen out, so my biggest girl and I ran a rescue mission in the pouring rain. She was really wet, and alone and Bruce was gone to chook heaven (where there are endless sunflower seeds and worms).
We brought her home and put her in with our girls. I think there were about 9 or 10 (a couple have also joined Bruce in chook heaven since then) and she was understandably nervous. She was used to one other chook. She was used to her backyard and her family and in our backyard everything was new. Full credit to my girls, I didn’t see much hen pecking. Given her personality and perhaps the disappearance of Bruce, Doreen was not the type to try and pull rank.
And all was as it should be.
And then one day I did the thing that I like to do with our girls, which is to put them out the front of our house on the lawn to have grass and dust baths and generally shit up the front veranda. Doreen wouldn’t have a bar of it. Gently, every day, I would carry her out and every evening traumatise her further by trapping her in the corner of the yard and catching her and carrying her home. Week by week she got braver. The first time she did the “chicken run” from the back to the front she clucked loudly the whole way. Warning I think. Or doing that excited but fearful noise kids make when they want you push the swing higher but it’s scary and exciting at the same time. That noise. If this was a video blog I’d do you a demo, but right now lets just imagine.
I was so proud of her brave, little, fluffy, black feet. Imagine how fast her tiny, little chicken heart was beating! I still had to chase her and trap her and carry her home for a while, and then one day she started doing that too.
So every morning we have a routine where I go for a walk and then I get home and scoop the dog poop from the driveway and then lock the dogs in the pool yard and then let the chooks out to run like lunatics to the front and then let the dogs out. Every evening I lock the dogs in the pool yard, and open the gates and the chooks run home like lunatics. And Doreen has got the gist of it all.
But for the last week or so Doreen seems to have gone backwards. A few times the dogs have gotten out and fuck up the entire process by foolishly standing around in front of the gates looking surprised when I tell them to bugger off. No matter how loudly Doreen clucks they will not move. A few days ago she ran off towards home and then got waylaid by a wayward dog and ended up running back towards the front yard. I put the dogs away (again) and started to (dog-style but without the stupid face) direct Doreen back home. She just couldn’t get it! It’s like she didn’t know where home was. I thought perhaps she was panicked (you know when you’re panicked you can’t see the way the go) or not trusting that the dogs wouldn’t get out again (you know when you’ve been scared or hurt by someone before and you’re not sure it’s worth the risk to do it again) or just being contrary (you know when you think, oh fuck you I know you’re trying to guide me home but I’m not doing that today). Anyway, she eventually got home safely after a lot of me running around in circles and generally entertaining my kids and then dogs.
But today, this morning, on the way out to the front Doreen was a bit slow and then she missed the gate and walked into the wall! She walked into the wall with her little fluffy head. And I realised!
DOREEN CAN’T SEE.
She’s got the cutest, fluffiest little back head (to go with her brave, fluffy, black feet) and there’s some FLUFF IN HER EYE. So she can’t see the way home or the way out the front. And understandably that’s making her feel a bit nervous.
A bit later I’m going to give her a trim (I have gone hunting her with the scissors already but she’s under the house and I’m not the kind to drag chooks kicking and screaming from under the house. When she’s ready to come out, I’m sorting it). Because that’s what I do.
Sometimes you can’t always see WHY you can’t see. And all the time you can’t see WHAT you can’t see. Sometimes you need someone to help you with that.
Miraculously it appears Gap Year has drawn to a spectacular close.
Not in that kind of way (the kind of way where it ended with me in a sweaty tryst with at least one man), but in the way that it’s done and I won.
To start with, one of the wisest women I know told me I should take a break from relationships to regroup. She suggested a year. In the midst of every-second-crawling-heartbreak a year seemed a REALLY long time, but I was pretty sure (on reflection) that I owed myself some time to regroup. So it seemed worth committing to. I did call it a sabbatical at first, but that sounded boring (like a 40 year old staying home on a Saturday night wearing watermelon pyjamas, drinking detox tea and writing), whereas GAP YEAR sounded…well like someone who’s 18 and travelling the world.
After I said I was committing to this thing I had a bet with an amazing (at times annoying) friend who (had very little faith in me) did not believe that I could not stay away from another relationship for a year and bet me $100 that I couldn’t last (he may have been the kind of friend who early in my relationship with the last guy tried gently to steer me in another direction and I thought he was being an asshole, so he does have some credibility. He’s also on the interview panel for the any new love interests. Of course). I won the $100.
In hindsight I can not believe I only bet a $100, because I’m super competitive and knew I would win and so should have made it more. He was pretty determined to win also, and may have offered someone $50 to distract me, but alas for him – he had to pay up. And 8 days early none the less because he knew he was beaten. I may have danced through his 20th wedding anniversary party waving it around. I may have photographed it in my teeth.
But honestly, I didn’t do it for $100. I didn’t do it for the glory of winning. I didn’t do to prove a point or to show anyone anything. I did it for me. And I did I for them. My four daughters. Because if there’s one thing I can teach them it’s to honour who they are in this life, and because I promise them that I will never again forget what is precious and to keep them safe. When you are lost you can not guide your children and in the end, what they have needed from me all along is a safe place to be home, filled with people who love them and want the best for them and who want them to be the fullness of who they are. And that’s pretty much what I need too.
Gap year wasn’t really about the man ban, or the no sex thing (and no it doesn’t break if you don’t use it!) or having an excuse not to join the mile high club with the animal psychic from Mullimbimby, it was about taking a relationship with another person out of the equation so that I had time and energy to focus on me. And them. And us. And home. And people who love you anyway and especially. And my gift to the world.
And in 357 days I learnt that gap year was the best way ever to plug the holes.
See people with holes attract people with holes. I only ever met the men in the serious relationships in my life until now when I was lost and holey. And somehow in that I hoped they would help me find me. And then I’d feel whole. But then we both got lost, filled our holes with things that only work momentarily, and then drain away. And then you’re standing before someone who says, “You don’t need a gap year to find yourself, you know what you want by now surely?” in a condescending tone and you realise that before that moment all you actually thought you wanted was him, when without him was the only possible way to figure that out. All 357 days of it.
And the irony becomes that the year of the gap filled the holes. And that was worth way more than 100 bucks.
Someone interviewed me last week. Just about the story of my life. I told it, as well as I could in 1.5 hours. Afterwards I felt a bit exhausted. And a bit sad. And then a bit like, I DO NOT want to be that person with the sad love story.
The story isn’t published yet. I think it will be ready soon, and this isn’t about telling the story first. This is the story about the story.
If you heard my story, like the journalist did, the version I told her with all the bits I shared, I think you too would ask like she did “but after all that why do you still believe in love?” And so I answered her. I think I did. I know I still believe in love. It just isn’t the way I thought it would be. It’s inside out.
But it made me think about whether or not I am the person with the sad love story or if I get a chance to have a magnificent story because of what I learnt? Those things (the things I learnt) are not replicable without standing on the inside of the story and feeling everything I felt. And the lessons were not so clear on the inside, feeling what I felt, but from the outside shone like gold. Inside out. Like I said.
Here are 11 things love taught me so far:
1. Never forget who you are. Don’t get so caught up in who the other person is, or who you are together to forget who you are as yourself. Losing someone from your life is hard, but when they are gone and you yourself are lost, that is harder.
2. Do your inner work. It’s an inside job first. Some people don’t have that experience, but it is mine., and the more I work with people and their insides, the more I trust this to be true. Know what you want. Know why and what that’s all about for you and don’t compromise on that. Whole people attract whole people. People with holes attract people with holes.
3. Be kind. Be honest. Be true. Even if it hurts the other person. Listen to them when they tell you they can’t do or be what you deserve. They may not use those words but they may show you everyday. Or they may use the actual words and you may not want to believe it. Listen, with every part of your being to the truth, and then do what you need to do. Kindly, honestly and truly.
4. Give it everything. Even if it scares you. Even if you’re not sure they’ll give everything back. Once you’ve given it everything you know in your heart that it’s not working because you were half-assed about it. Don’t be half-assed about it. What would be the point? There’s only one way to have an amazing, passionate love story. Give amazing, passionate love. Give it everything.
5. Let go. All the time. Of what you expected. Of how you thought it should be. Of how other people’s relationships are. Of past hurts. Of the need to be right. Of thinking it was meant to be perfect. And then just allow it to be what it is. Sometimes it’s not what you thought, but it’s still precious.
6. Children are brave and resilient. Sometimes even more so than the grown-ups. In those moments where you are not cool and brave, your children will know how to be. Not because it’s their job, but just because. If you are clear and open and true with them, they will be OK. Staying in something that is not working for your children is not the answer; it only works if you stay for you and the other person and them. But you first. Even if it doesn’t turn out like you hoped, your children will be OK, as long as they know where home is and how that is with you.
7. Take time to heal if it doesn’t work out. Don’t get distracted with the next good thing before you’ve had a chance to complete all the bits and pieces that needed to be completed to cleanly and finally finish something. Unresolved hurt will come back and bite you. Lessons not learnt will come back and buckle you. Again. Logistical things and paperwork uncompleted with haunt you and make complicated ongoing connections that steal your light. It can be a slow process, but don’t get impatient. Trust that when the healing is done you will forget that it seemed to take a long time. Bring the focus back in to you and step by step gather what you need to show up in the way you want to find the kind of person who is meant to walk beside you.
8. It’s really perfectly OK to know what you want and to clear about that. In fact, it’s the only thing that works. Not being clear about what you want will get you…well not the thing you want. It might by default feel like you have you what you want, but if you haven’t been clear, how can it be so?
9. If you want to get married you’ll need to be with someone who wants to get married too. Who is into long-term commitment and riding out the storms and what it means to make a promise to love someone even when they fuck up and even when they’re amazing. You cannot convince someone to want to do this if it’s not his or her thing. It will hurt your soul. They are either coming or not. Don’t be scared if they’re not, don’t bury it, face it and find a way to open up to the other possibilities. Like someone who will.
10. Don’t make the reason it didn’t work all about the other person. This steals your power to change how it is for you. They might suck. They might be an asshole. But some part of you loved them, and they may be the other parent to your children, and it wastes too much energy living in blame and anger. It’s OK to be angry sometimes. I do believe it is OK to call them names on occasion in your head or to your dearest trusted friends. But not to them. Ever. Or in front of your children. Ever. It serves no purpose, and to be honest can make you appear bitter and twisted. In truth, the reason it didn’t work out was a multitude of things that piece by piece unravelled something that wasn’t actually what you had it set up to be (the forever love story, the happily married ever after, the growing old together, the family). It’s not that. If it was that, it would be that, but because of the fact that it ended, it came to serve another purpose. What is the other purpose? What did you learn? (And you can’t just say something generic here like “I learnt men are predictable assholes” – you didn’t learn that. You believed that before and got proved correct again. Damn)
11. Notice where love exists in your life. The full range of it. Don’t be fooled into thinking that one person or one source of love could make everything all right. When you are open, there is this connection to all those people who love you, and it takes the pressure of the other person to be the source. I know it’s the lame “love yourself” thing too, but it’s true. Love yourself enough to know that many people love you, and even when you have found something special with someone special, don’t forget the other sources of love. On the outside of an intimate relationship, in the land of the single people, sometimes (most times) we are better at connecting with all those people in our lives who love us. Do that from within the relationship, and you will have more love, an abundance of love. It loops right back to number 1 really. Never forget who you are.
And one day, someone will appear at your door with three paintings of the journey, the day before you write the story about the story. And your faith will bloom just a little bit larger.
These are the kinda sunnies that you buy for $19.99 from the servo when you’re mad.
When you’ve been fighting with Miss 6 since 6.47am.
When you’re late for SUP yoga because you can’t find your spare sunnies because you can’t wear your best sunnies because you might (will) fall in.
When you’re on your way to drop your children off to their Dad and there’s all this stuff that needs saying about how that is.
These are the kinda sunnies that are for glaring at your ex with. When you want things to be different than they are. And they’re not.
These are the kinds sunnies that hide your tears as you drive away from your children, simultaneously relieved of the pressure and guilty for feeling relieved. Especially after being mad after all the fighting at 6.47am.
These are the kinda sunnies you wear to SUP yoga, only to be so simultaneously angry and relieved to be child free that you don’t have a good look down the beach for the crew and decide it’s not on. When it is on. But you missed it because the cheap-ass, angry lady sunnies do not block UV and too much of the UV must’ve got in your eye!
These are the kinda sunnies that take you to your friends’ balcony, to have a quick coffee and a cry about all the of the above, whilst wearing said sunnies (once again) so no-one can see the tears.
These are the kinda sunnies you wear to Bunnings to do all those jobs you’ve been meaning to do for ages (usually involving picture hooks and indoor plants or some additional storage thingy). You can push them right up on your head and SMIRK openly at the people in Bunnings with their kids while you are kid free. (These are the kinda sunnies kid-free people wear to Bunnings). You can especially feel smirky to all the poor parents stuck outside the play area, sitting on the outdoor settings waiting for their children to come while you calmly and coolly wander through the aisles having no fucking idea where anything is. Bunnings is just like that.
These are the kinda sunnies to wave casually at the 18-year olds having a “quiet” pool party at your house all afternoon. They are having fun – drinking beer, looking hot in their bikinis, no responsibilities. They are not quiet, but that was always going to be an oxymoron.
These are the kinda sunnies that if I met a guy my age wearing (and they were this style but not from the servo) I would think he was hot. Just saying.
These are the kinda sunnies that eventually you have to take off, so you can stop glaring and weeping and smirking and being all casual. And just let people see you. All of you. Even the cheap-ass, angry lady bit. And then you don’t feel angry anymore. And you have a massage, and help your friend pack to go away for two months and then eat real pizza at the beach while the sun sets over the ocean, and for that bit, these are the kinda sunnies that just stay in the car, for use in emergencies and SUP yoga only!
These are the kinda sunnies that look cool on a SUP board. And in B&W cheap-ass, angry lady selfies.
These are the kinda sunnies you don’t need to see this sunset….