How to be alone

How to be alone

Being alone.

It’s not a natural human condition, us being a tribal species, and often thrust upon us by circumstances rather than by choice and, if we’ve been in a long term relationship that has ended, we are often ill equipped to cope with this new found ‘freedom’. For me I entered a phase of self doubt, self destructive behaviour and introspective self analysis. I was stuck.

Eventually I learned to deal with the constant internal dialogue, the loneliness and the sense of failure that comes from being unable to sustain a relationship that you desperately wanted to remain part of.

This post was inspired by a post on the Seize Positivity blog – 26 Ways To Take Your Life Back When You’re Broken and whilst I don’t entirely disagree with it’s upbeat tone and strategies it’s not a realistic overview of how I found my way back from the dark place I found myself in.

First came the maelstrom of emotions. Anger, oh the fucking anger, fuelled by too much alcohol as you rage around your space late at night smashing things up and then waking up in the morning realising what you’ve done and having to clean up.

At the same time despair. A tangible gut wrenching despair where the walls close in on you and you can’t see any future happiness in your life, so used are you to seeing your existence as part of a couple. You forget to eat or you cook something and think I don’t want this and pour yourself a large drink.

The sadness, You think of all the happy times you had as a couple and project that your ex is reflecting on the same happy times and there’s still hope for reconciliation. That does happen, but I don’t know how successful that might be, and the reality is that in most cases it simply doesn’t. It’s over.

The biggest favour you can do yourself is to break all direct contact with your ex beyond responding unemotionally to things that need sorting out. It’s tough if you’re not the one that wanted to end the relationship but it is vital for your own emotional stability.

What we tend to do (I know I did) is to draft perfectly crafted emails and texts, read your ex’s horoscope constantly to get some insight in to how they’re feeling, looking at old photos and have imaginary conversations with your ex partner. This only serves to delay the process of letting go and it puts all of our power in the hands of another person. Their response if it comes at all will determine how we feel, what questions we probably want to ask next and it goes on and on.

One of the biggest sources of our unhappiness and discontent is not being able to adapt to change; instead, we cling to things we’ve lost or get upset because things don’t unfold as we want them to. What we overlook is that this is a fundamental law of life, the ups and downs, ebbs and flows. Things come and go, nothing stays the same, and we can’t control most of the things we’d like to. Accepting this and learning to adapt and go with the flow brings us one step closer to happiness.

Let go.

Adapt.

You can and will be happy again.

I promise.

Should I stay or should I go

Should I stay or should I go

If I go there could be trouble, if I stay it could be double.

Everyone of us wants to belong, to be part of a tribe, it’s hard wired in to our DNA. I self identify as coming from Yorkshire although, because my Dad was in the Army, I’ve moved around all of my life so lived in many places, but my heart calls Yorkshire home.

This used to annoy my late Mum who used to angrily say ‘you’re not from Yorkshire’ yet she still self identified as being a Londoner even though she hadn’t lived there for decades,

Trouble is I have lived for the last 35 years away from Yorkshire, but now find myself at a potential crossroads in my life. After manfully trying to resurrect my third marriage (at my wife’s invitation in 2012) it became clear over the last couple of years that the relationship was stagnating and not going anywhere and we (apparently) mutually agreed that the marriage was over.

So. Where do I go?

The only things that keep me where I am are:

  • The proximity of my stepdaughter and her beautiful three children all of whom I love very dearly.
  • My allotment.
  • Familiarity I guess.

The things that are tempting me to go back ‘home’ are:

  • My biological children and grandchildren.
  • Hills.
  • Decent beer.
  • Leeds United (my first love).
  • An accent that I quite like (as opposed to one I hate).

Decisions, decisions!

Live fast, die young

Live fast, die young

I’ve struggled all of my life to conform.

I come from the ‘live fast, die young’ rock and roll generation that eschewed all notion of being a responsible grown up and instead embraced a path of hedonistic pleasure, self destructive behaviours and a series of bad life choices.

I’ve smoked, drank and gambled (throw in a little light drug use too) my way through life, fallen in love with the wrong women, failed to find fulfilment in my career and struggled at times with my inner demons. Don’t get me wrong. It hasn’t all been bad; I’ve had many high points and experienced great happiness, but on the flip side too many God awful lows.

Even parenthood didn’t save me, an experience that for many serves as a seminal moment of adult enlightenment. Not me. I was far too busy indulging in an ill advised and tempestuous relationship to take my responsibilities as a father (or a husband) seriously enough.

In the book I’m reading at the moment, Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain, there’s a quote by Norman Mailer who described the desire to be cool as a “decision to encourage the psychopath in oneself, to explore that domain of experience where security is boredom and therefore sickness and one exists in the present, in that enormous present which is without past or future, memory or planned intention.

Maybe that’s what’s wrong with me. Like the eponymous and deeply flawed hero of Californication, Hank Moody, I just wanted to be cool.
‎”Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.” ~Alan Watts

Lives of quiet desperation

Lives of quiet desperation

‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.’ So said the American writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau.

Most of us start our adult lives excited by the infinite possibility that life offers us, the fulfilment we will find in our brilliant careers, our perfect relationships, the respect and admiration of our peers, but all too often the setbacks of a normal life confine us to a life that is anything but fulfilled.

The older we get, the more we excuse this by writing ourselves off as not creative or talented enough, that we’ve missed our chance to shine and apathetically accept our fate, too scared or too lazy to do anything about it.

Fear holds us back, so conditioned do we become in not risking the life we know for one that the fatalist in us might fear be worse. We sit around not daring to try anything new, believing we don’t have the power to change things. It’s true, we don’t have control over all aspects of our lives, but we do have some.

I’m reading Mastery at the moment, a book by Robert Greene. The central philosophy of the book is people face the same problem – that we are born as individuals but are forced to conform to the rules of society if we want to succeed. To see our uniqueness expressed in our achievements, we must first learn the rules – and then how to change them completely.

I’ll let you know how that goes!

This coming year, 2013, I’m going to spend time thinking about the things I can change — and work to change them. My list, in no particular order includes:

  • Let go
  • Meditate
  • Yoga
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Write daily
  • Reduce/eliminate debt
  • Read more

I’ve sat around for long enough waiting for good things to happen to me without any effort on my part. Time to be happy again.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau

La Dolce Vita

La Dolce Vita

I’m writing this sitting in my rented apartment in Florence. It’s beautiful and handily placed to walk to all of the attractions and usefully has a roof terrace with views across the city, just the place for a glass of chianti and a smoke.

Central Food Market, Firenze

Central Food Market, Firenze

I seem to go for city breaks, I’m not sure why, surrounded as you are by throngs of tourists sweatily jostling you as they swarm from one attraction to the next. I’m not a big one for queues either which explains why I’ve never been to the Louvre in Paris to see the Mona Lisa, despite having visited there several times. In fact I don’t really get art. The only painting I’ve ever really wanted to see is Picasso’s Guernica in Madrid, but the planned visit on the last day of a short stay was thwarted by the Museum being closed.

I did queue for an hour today though, at the Accedemia Galleria, to see the iconic Michaelangelo statue of David. Now that is something! How anyone can bring to life a cold slab of marble like that is quite simply breathtaking.

Duomo

Duomo Cathedral, Firenze

I don’t get churches/cathedrals either. Sure they can be beautiful, as the Duomo undoubtedly is, but I can’t ever get over enamoured of them and in some cases, like the Sistine chapel in Rome, they actually make me feel a little queasy, so opulent are they.

Ever so slightly at odds with the essential message from the son of a carpenter from Nazareth I would say.

I guess what I do like about city breaks is being surrounded by different sights and smells, the food, the cuisine, the sense of anonymity from being in a strange city, and, of course, the people watching, I need to watch that though as my daughter pointed out whilst we were having dinner at a little trattoria, Il Contaldino (highly recommended), that it’s more like agressive staring at times!

I’ve even managed to engage with a few locals with my smattering of bad Italian although I did manage to say Buono Sera (Good Evening) to a shop assistant this morning.

There’s a lot of beautiful and elegant women here (my daughter says the same for the men), but I feel their beauty like a bereavement (borrowed that phrase), as I’m as far removed from a meaningful relationship than when I was a spotty, hormone fuelled teenager. I have tried over the last 18 months or so to try and develop relationships, but with very, very indifferent results.

Oh well. at least the wine’s cheap here!

Ciao, ciao!

Freeing the child within

Freeing the child within

Although through force of circumstance I am very much a peripheral figure in their lives I’m fascinated by my two grandchildren, Charlie who is 3½ and Jack who is 1½. They love to play and have fun and Charlie is a proper boy, boisterous and fearless, Jack has yet to find his feet, but is certainly beginning to find his voice.

Walking with Charlie, I am struck that, whilst I am always conscious of the dangers that might befall him, for him it’s an endless parade of fascinating sights and sounds, friendly strangers, police cars, tractors and buses. And play, play is a series of inventive scenarios, often without any physical props, just the product of his vivid imagination which he expects you to wholeheartedly embrace. To him the world is fun!

At some point we become jaded and world weary and lose our sense of childish fun. Admittedly, as adults, childish behaviour is not going to be appropriate in most situations, but there are some useful lessons we can learn from observing children at play.

1. Live life in the here and now.

Probably the most important lesson we can learn from children is to enjoy the here and now. They are really good at it and are rarely thinking about anything but, so absorbed they are with all that’s happening now. How many of us can claim the same? Enjoy the present. The past is gone and can’t be changed, the future, you can’t predict it and it hasn’t happened yet.

2. Free your creative side

Children love to paint, make cupcakes, make play dough, build Lego. Creativity is not only fulfilling, it’s fun!

3. Lift your head

Most adults go through the day consumed by their own thoughts, rarely noticing or appreciating their surroundings in much detail. If you’ve ever observed a child examine a leaf, an insect, a frog you can see that their fascination with the world around them is endless. Lift your head and enjoy the world around you.

4. Take risks

Children have no barriers when they’re growing up, very little fear of failure, they will explore new things, take risks and are rarely self conscious. What’s stopping you learning something new, taking a few risks too?

5. Be Silly!

Children are the past masters of silly! A simple word can be repeated time and time again to fits of giggles, trucks smashed endlessly together – just for fun. Let your silly side out now and then, be unpredictable once in a while, break a few ‘rules’!