Seasonal Change

This w end I spent some time preparing a boat for the Winter or in boat language ‘winterizing’ it. Boats are not used to being off the water and need some extra love to prepare them for the long lonely stretch ahead, without their beloved wind, ocean or sails. This is a time for them to repair and rest for the next season.

On the drive home from the boat the leaves were showing off their red, goldy, russet colored magnificence and the deer were scampering around, doing whatever it is they do before Winter sets in. It made me think about how best to winterize myself – what to take a rest from and how to reflect, reinvigorate and prepare for new things.

Whatever your situation, Winter brings opportunities. Some of us are like the boat and will spend Winter alone. Others are scampering around in a frenzy trying to find a filler boyfriend, while others still are already smuggly coupled up. Whichever category you fit into, we can all take a lesson from nature and make the most of this chane of season.

3 good reasons to motivate this season:

  1. Re-calibration: This is the perfect time to check back on your long forgotten New Year’s resolutions and your dormant to-do lists and ask yourself what it is that really matters to you right now. We are easily distracted from personal priorities in the warmer months, choosing friends and fun over the solo time required to dedicate to important goals. Figure out what your priorities are and start investing time in them.
  2. Productive hibernation: Once you have re-set your priorities, it’s a race against the New Year to make as much progress as possible, and what better way to do this than by staying home where it’s warm and buckling down to do some work. I’m really looking forward to less social and outdoor obligations and more time dedicated to the projects that are important to me. For those of you that are smuggly coupled up, you are still at risk of distraction. Make home time your time to be productive and try to schedule relationship time outside of the time required to reach your goals. For single people, be selfish while you can and put your personal goals first, sheduling time for seasonal fun around them.
  3. Seasonal festivities: I tend to have fantasies about all the books I’ll read and TV series I’ll plough through in Winter but this rarely happens because I’m soon distracted by this special season’s unique suite of attractions. In no particular order some of my favourite things to do over Fall and Winter include: Halloween dress up, Apple Cider, Christmas markets, Christmas present selection and giving, ice skating, wearing fluffy coats to the Theatre, sparkly shoes at holiday parties, New Years with friends, fireworks, walking/playing in snow, skiing. Plus, my personal favourite, because I’m a Southern Hempisphere person at heart, the Winter break to an exotic beach location.

I leave you with some seasonal wisdom from the poetry section of the Bible,  Ecclesiastes, (or if you’re a Beatles Fan you may recognize it as Turn Turn Turn…and can hum along as you read): Turn Turn Turn

Happy sewing to all this Winter!

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Smug ‘Together’

Are you two, um, friends? Together? Married? Asks the yoga instructor at 6:15am. She’s seen us arrive together. I can barely open my eyes but I’m thrilled by this question. Yip, we’re together, that hottie’s with me! We love each other soooo much we do couples yoga together. The next 90 minutes dripping in 100 degree heat should be hell but I get to look in the mirror and think, ‘oh yes ladies, step aside that body’s with me!’.

I’ve had the feeling for the past few months that I’m too happy. Too happy in love. Like if I’m not careful I’ll appear smug. Or more concerning, I am actually already smug but too smug to even realize it.

Why am I so happy and in danger of smugness? Well, because I’m with the most incredible man on the planet, obvi! I’m dumbfounded that he has managed to remain single for uncharacteristically long and has now attached himself to me. I’m sure everyone in love feels like they’ve met the best person in the world or the best person for them. But I actually believe that the American is vastly superior to any other man, in an absolute sense.

Supporting facts:

He’s handsome – people sometimes think he is Bradley Cooper

He’s sensitive – he gets an anguished look on his face in movies when there’s a scene depicting emotional hardship

He’s generous – he puts energy into creating surprise experiences for me and the ones I love. He also knows when to pay for things.

He’s competent – he can fix boat engines

He’s funny – he makes me laugh unexpectedly in a raucous unflattering way

So, yes, I get that my list isn’t unique – we are all looking for a handsome sensitive man with a sense of humour. But I think what makes me feel so lucky and borderline smug is that I can see that he really thinks he’s won the lottery. Not just thinks, he acts like it. He really behaves like he respects me and wants the best for me, instead of his first thought being ‘is this going to inconvenience my life?’ or ‘how can I prove that I’m superior to her?’. I think the best illustration of love is in the ways we don’t behave. He is NOT trying to compete with me, NOT overreacting about little things, NOT acting jealous, NOT holding me back, NOT judging. And it’s this behaviour that really stands out as exceptionally rare to me.

So why do I feel intermittently panicked?

Stop being so self-congratulatory, a little voice whispers inside, or you’re going to have that smile wiped off your face.

It feels too good to be true. But there are only two ways to respond to that – freak out and self sabotage or stay calm and be thankful. I’ve decided to let myself get swept away by it all. If it hurts later it will be worth it.

Four things I learnt from my 4 year break up

It will be four years ago this month that I ended a relationship of four years.

Here are the four most important things I learnt:

  1. Rip off the Band-Aid – if you’re thinking of breaking up with someone it’s the right thing to do, so do it, and quickly.

I don’t like to think that I regret being in the relationship I was in, but I do know that I thought about breaking up with him after two years and very seriously after three years. So why did it take four? Because I loved him and I wanted it to miraculously work out. I wanted to not want to break up with him. But in the end I was so anxious and annoyed every day that I had to do something. I psyched myself up (literally) by speaking to a clairvoyant tarot card reader. She told me I was standing alongside a gushing river, unsure whether to jump in or stand on the bank and watch it flow by me. So I jumped in. Well, first I dipped my toe in and moved out for a couple of weeks….then I escaped with my family on holiday to think about it some more…then I came back and told him what my decision was and we debriefed our four year relationship over a bottle of whiskey. I wish I hadn’t protracted things for so long. I wish I’d ripped off the band-aid sooner and suffered the pain. The sooner you make the decision, the quicker you’ll know whether it was the right one or not. If it was the wrong decision you’ll end up together again. If it was right, you can both start your quest to alternate happiness.

  1. Find a friend with a sofa bed – while you might be starting your quest to future happiness, you will probably be doing it from a mate’s living room floor.

When I left my ex, I was homeless and displaced. I moved from friend to friend for about 10 weeks, before finding a new home of my own. Splitting a relationship in two brings practical challenges, like cutting financial ties and deciding ownership of shared things. If you’re the one who moved out, this can is a good excuse to revisit the place you lived together. Nobody understands what you are going through quite like the person whose heart you’ve just broke, so it feels good to seek solace in each other. Don’t! Gather your belongings and get out of there. Every trip I made back to our shared home left me an emotional wreck and my friends soon forbade it. I needed this stern advice and living with them after living with a man was also fun. We stayed up talking girl talk and planning our futures, we dressed up, we went out, I practiced flirting. It’s hard to be sad when you’re around people you love so I surrounded myself with them all the time by squatting with a new friend every week for 6 weeks. They fed me and dried my tears. I also cried less than I would’ve liked because, let’s face it, nobody wants to deal with a blubbering mess and  didn’t want to burden them with my emotional needs.  Surrounding myself with normal life was the quickest way back to my own normal.

  1. Fall in love with yourself again – when your relationship ends you will be left with only yourself so you better get to know who that is and what they like.

Once I had found a new home of my own and was starting to reconstruct my existence, I found it hard to know what I wanted to do with my time. Suddenly, I was the only decision maker and I didn’t know what I wanted – what I wanted to eat, whether I wanted to go to the beach for the day or to a movie, whether I wanted to quit my job and travel round the world, whether I wanted to be alone or start date. I was unsure of everything and it was disconcerting because the independent self-assured vision I had of myself didn’t seem to hold true anymore. So I fought against indecision. Every time I found myself deliberating over what to do with my Saturday, I forced myself to just do something and start to gauge how much I enjoyed it. I started dating myself. My favourite date with myself was, and still is, to the cinema. I found the Prince Charles in London and would go there on a Monday, because I could. Then I’d take myself to dim sum at Beijing Dumpling across the road. I also took myself to Highgate Cemetery because I like cemeteries and to the British Library because I like libraries. When I’d conquered such simple outings, I started taking myself cycling in the countryside and then off on holiday to Montenegro. I had the best time. The great thing about being alone is you are never really alone – you always meet new friends along the way but you can arrive and depart whenever you please.

Communing with the dead at Highgate Cemetary

Communing with the dead at Highgate Cemetery

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Private beach at Villa Milocer, Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

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Islet of Sveti Stefan, where Sofia Loren used to holiday.

  1. Allow enough time for a full recovery – the reconstruction process can be slower than you think and you need to protect your heart until its properly healed.

My path to reconstruction was probably more self-destructive than I realized. I thought I was doing all the right things – putting myself ‘back out there’, getting ‘back on the wagon’ and all the other post breakup clichés that are supposed to make you feel better about yourself and excited about the world. But I was in a fragile emotional state and should’ve been more selective about who I let in. The trouble with casual dating is that I’m just not that good at it. If you like someone enough to show them who you are then you will probably be sad when they go away, even if it is ‘casual’ and you are told you shouldn’t expect more. I was hurt by men I didn’t care about for a long time before I realized I needed to auto-protect. I remember leaving a Bikram yoga class one day, and getting soaked in the rain on the way home. Bikram always leaves me feeling exhausted and sometimes emotional if other things are going on and suddenly the raindrops had turned to floods of tears. I felt like nobody loved me and nobody cared about me and never would. The casual relationships I’d attempted had taken my confidence away instead of adding to it. The guys I’d dated didn’t mean any harm but I just didn’t have enough me-reserves at that time to risk losing them to anyone. So I started to guard them more closely. Instead of giving away little pieces of me – personal information, time, energy – I started to hold on to them, until I felt someone had really earned it. I think the full healing process took me two years. This isn’t to say that I was a broken human being for that entire period, but in retrospect I exhibited behaviour that showed I was still in recovery.

I also learnt lots of other things, about myself, the kind of person I want to be and the kind of person I want to be with, but I’m saving that for another list.

What did you learn when you went through a big break up?