In which I ponder…rising strong


On Thursday evening I went to see Brene Brown speak at the State Theatre. If you’re not familiar with her, she’s a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, who has spent the past thirteen years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. But for most people who’ve heard of her, it’s mainly because she did a TED talk called The Power of Vulnerability, which is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world, with over 25 million viewers.

I first saw that talk soon after leaving my husband, and as the wife of an addict, it hit a nerve. It was the first time I had heard someone articulate what I instinctively had known about my husband and I’ve worked hard since to try to ensure that my life is authentic and brave, and that I surround myself with authentic and brave people – because I’ve learnt that is where the joy is.

So on Thursday night, Brene talked about the ‘Shit First Draft’ – or the way our instinctive emotional responses to triggers lead us to make up stories to try to explain our feelings. To illustrate this, she told a highly amusing and rather familiar story about her reaction to her husband once coming home, looking in the fridge and saying ‘we don’t even have lunch meat in this house’.

Now, I know how that would have played out in my house.

But the point she was making was that the stories we make up are all about us and our frailties, and really nothing at all about the person who has triggered us. So she had made up that her husband was shaming her for being a bad wife and mother and for failing at wife-ing and mothering. And further that he wanted to make sure she knew she was being shit at both – when there was really no need to do that because she already knew. When all he was actually doing was saying there was no lunch meat in the fridge, which was disappointing because he was really hungry and he’d been thinking that eating some lunch meat* would be good.

The reason she reacted in the way she did was that, in common with many of us, she has an internal narrative running that says she is not being a good wife or mother and that essentially she is not enough. And now I say – find me a working mother and/or wife who does not have this story running a loop in their head on an almost permanent basis. Or is that just me and Brene?

Anyway, she told us that the way to try to mitigate this type of reaction was to own it, to recognize it, to name it. So in this situation you would say

‘So the story I’m making up here is that you think I’m a terrible wife and mother, and you think that my failure to purchase lunch meat is evidence of this, and you want me to know this so that I can feel terrible and know that I am terrible’

And the idea is that when you say it out loud, the subject of your ire at least has an idea of what is going on for you, and can reassure you that you’ve got that wrong (assuming you’re not married to an asshole). In addition, saying it out loud will sometimes give you access to the absurdity of what you’re thinking, and you can start to recognize patterns.

I thought this was excellent advice. I’d been to the talk with one of the Julie’s and we talked about it over a couple of glasses of nice sav blanc in the bar afterwards, and I thought I was definitely going to implement this in my own life, because I reckoned that sometimes I did this sort of thing. Not often obviously. Just sometimes.

It was therefore rather regrettable that when I got in the following took place…

I walked in the door at 11pm to be greeted by a slightly grumpy teenager who wanted to know if I had printed her textiles project. I had, but it was still in the car – which in my house is 56 steps up a cliff away. Realising you’ve left something in the car is annoying at the best of times here, but if you’re tired I’m not exaggerating if I say it can be traumatizing.

So neither of us wanted to go up to the car, and it turned out that she had been waiting for me to come home because the textiles project wasn’t finished and she needed the printing to complete it. She hadn’t told me this before, but she did now, and she wasn’t that happy about it.

I was immediately pissed off. Properly pissed off. Angry is probably a fairer description of how I felt. And I said a number of things that I won’t repeat here, but did not exactly cover myself in glory. I may have slammed a couple of doors.

Then I realized what I was doing.

The story I was making up was that Anna thinks I’m a terrible parent, and that I’m letting her down, particularly by staying out late with a friend doing something I enjoy when I should be at home being a good parent, and that she wants me know that. She wants me to know that I am not enough. She wants me to feel bad.

I actually have quite a large body of documentary evidence that would suggest that this is not what my daughter thinks. I have cards, little notes, gifts. She actually thinks I’m the best mum anyone could ever have. I think she’s even used the word inspirational**

Of course the reason I think my daughter is thinking that is because that’s what I think. And I acted angry when actually what I was experiencing was shame.

So I went and had a chat with her. I told her that I feel a constant tension between pursuing the things that help me to have a happy life, and being the sort of 100%, 24/7 available parent that deep down I think I ought to be. And I’ve felt like this ever since I had the children, but even more so since I left their father. Because although I’ve never regretted leaving him, I know that the children have not benefitted from the loss of that nuclear family unit, and I very much wish that I had been able to provide it. If I was to have chosen a life for them, it would have been with a mother and a father who loved each other and a family life where I was mainly at home, not working long hours as I do now, and that there was all the stability that life means. It’s what I would want for them now as my children, and later when they might have children.

But that’s not the way things have turned out and I feel bad – guilty – about it.

The thing is that I could have stayed with their dad. I could have carried on living with him – I’d got used to the way our life was. I was unhappy. Very unhappy. There was a big empty hole where the love should have been. There were the women. And the rest. I was on anti depressants to treat the anxiety that is eventually unavoidable when you never feel confident that you are cared for, or enough for 13 years. But I’d lived with this for 21 years. I probably could have carried on living with his behavior.

The problem was that I couldn’t live with myself if I stayed.

I stayed way longer than I should have done, because I wanted to know I’d done all I could – that I would be able to look my children in the eye knowing they were hurting, and say ‘I honestly did my best. I gave it my best shot’.

I think the time has come to let go of that guilt. I may have been the one who ended the marriage, but it wasn’t my fault, and really my ex had left emotionally many years before I watched him walk up the road with a suitcase. If I could have given the children the family they wanted – that indeed I wanted – I would have done…if I could have done that without sacrificing my sanity, my potential for joy and my self esteem.

In the end I decided that I couldn’t, and I’m going to live with that.***



*what even is ‘lunch meat’?? Wasn’t it Winston Churchill who said that Americans and English people were ‘two nations divided by a common language’?

**this led me to reflect on what an utterly uninspiring life I actually lead. All I’m really hoping is that I might eventually inspire one of my children to remove the collection of damp towels and rotting food from their bedrooms. Then my work will be done.

***which leads me to Brene Brown’s latest book in the title ‘Rising Strong’ and what it means to be brave and brokenhearted.

In which I ponder…being normal


I was recently having a conversation with my ex-husband in which he suggested that the ‘normal’ thing to do in my situation would have been to partner up with someone again by now.

This took place in the context of a discussion about our (as yet undecided) financial settlement, and as a contribution to that discourse especially I think it has little merit. The answer to my concerns about my financial security going forwards is never going to lie in becoming dependent, or even partially dependent, on the income of someone else. I’ve done that once, and to be honest it hasn’t worked out terribly well. If I had one piece of advice for any women embarking on a new romantic partnership, it would be to behave from a financial point of view always as though your loved one might be gone at any time, in the blink of an eye – along with his income, his pension and his superior economic power. No matter how confident you are that it will last, or that even if it didn’t, he would look after your interests financially. I hope that the generation my daughter is growing up in will learn this lesson from their mothers, who are nearly always left financially disadvantaged by having prioritized parenthood over earning and career.

However, I digress…

This talk of ‘normal’ got me thinking. And anyone who knows me, knows that thinking is something I do rather a lot of.

What is ‘normal’ anyway? Being single is becoming more and more common. Does that make it normal? The Australian Bureau of Statistics predicts that the number of single person households in Australia will increase by 4.3m in the next 25 years – an increase of 65% – and that 54% of those households will be single women. Not that abnormal then am I, statistically speaking?

But more than that, I don’t subscribe to the idea that my normality is based upon my relationships with other people, particularly since that can create a veneer of said ‘normality’ which, when you scratch just beneath the surface, reveals something not quite so normal at all. My own marriage was a good example of that.

The thing is that I suspect my ex husband – along with many other people – takes some of his personal validation from the fact that he looks so normal, with an apparently healthy relationship, good job, nice home. Other-esteeming, they call that. Some people are unbalanced by people who refuse to conform to these social norms, or won’t let them define them. To be fair, men haven’t exactly been beating down my door offering to relieve me of my financial burdens, but I’ve not been in any rush to settle down, and these days I wonder if I will. I have a level of freedom that I’ve previously never experienced, and I am defined by no one except myself. I like that. Anyone who joins my life is going to have to deal with that.

My sister once said to me

“The thing about you is that you’ve never needed anyone”

I think I’ve mentioned this before here – but I was quite offended at the time. Now I think I understand better what she meant and I realize that to a certain extent it’s true, and not necessarily a bad thing (although I’m pretty certain her intention was not to flatter).

I don’t need anyone. It’s true. But not needing people means that those I have in my life have been chosen – for themselves and not just because they are able to meet a need in me. In doing so, I give them the freedom to choose me, or not. I think that’s healthy. My people are there because I have an authentic, real connection with them, they know who I am without the veneer of ‘normality’ and we chose one another. And we continue to choose one another every day.

If that’s being abnormal, then so be it. Seriously – who cares?



In which I ponder…flying the nest

Flying the Nest.jpg


My son’s entry into the world was not what I had planned for.

Rather than the relaxed, relatively drug free delivery I had been planning, where he would be born accompanied by music and soft lighting, he was dragged into the harsh clinical light of a hospital room surrounded by doctors and nurses, with his chord wrapped twice around his neck and his heart intermittently stopping. Just below his right eye, he still bears a scar from this very first experience of the world.*

Not long afterwards they took him away from my bedside, moved me into a single room so that other mother’s would not be upset by my crying and told us to be prepared for him to die in the next 24 hours. They took Instamatic photos of him so that we would at least have something to remember him by and told us that he had a very serious heart disorder.

When, after a thankfully relatively brief sojourn in neonatal intensive care, they allowed us to bring our son home – with the proviso that if he turned blue we would call an ambulance immediately – I slept fitfully, like a coiled spring, the slightest sound from his crib beside my bed causing me to wake up in a panic. Only I could keep him safe and keep him alive. Or so I felt.

That same boy, some 19 years later, is now about to start studying at Sydney University, news that he received at a hostel in the Czech Republic, as he is currently travelling around Europe, on his own. His heart still doesn’t work properly but seems to have been much less of a problem than was predicted. Fingers crossed.

There is a part of me that thinks – I did it! I got him through life successfully, and now he is flying the nest. Well done me. Well done him. One more to go, and then the world’s my oyster.

But the reality is that I’m terrified.

I had always assumed that this stage of my life would look quite different. I expected to be financially secure, able to fully reap the benefits of having had my children relatively young, and enjoy my late forties and fifties by combining work with the ability to see a bit of the world without the expense and responsibility of young children. I can see other friends reaching this point too. It always felt like this life development was kind of a pay off for a job well done parenting, and the quid pro quo for the sadness that parents naturally feel when the intensive part of their job is over. It would probably be a good distraction too.

In practice though, my financial situation is the least secure it’s been since I was in my early twenties. Having once thought my Ikea days were over, I now find that if I survey my home, I struggle to identify anything much that wasn’t purchased there. Like many other divorced women of a certain age, I am contemplating working until I am 70 in order to service a large mortgage on a small property in a suburb the people I used to know have never heard of, and will probably never visit. I’m not expecting there to be much in the way of spare money for exploring the world, or much time, given that I’ll be working.

And more than that – who will I spend my time with? Children flying the nest might have provided an opportunity to reconnect with your partner and then enjoy adventures together that you couldn’t afford before you had children. But now it is just going to mean an actual empty home.

I’ve thought about all this way too much lately. I think most of it is just fear because my future looks very much more uncertain than I would have expected at this point in my life. But at the same time, I’m conscious of how lucky I am to have ever been in the position where I thought my life would be different to this. I know how privileged I am to have the life I have anyway. And so whilst I feel afraid, I also feel reproachful – which is then rapidly followed by guilt for not being more grateful.

I suppose the trick is to try to stay in the present and appreciate each moment as it happens – without too much reference to what was, or might have been.

And I suppose the lesson is that – if I allow myself to look back for a moment to George’s birth – things rarely go to plan, but they can still turn out beautifully in the end.

So I’ll keep holding out for that happy ending – whatever that is.

*If you think that’s bad, you should see my scars…

In which I ponder…being a grown up



These days – not often but occasionally – I feel like I’ve finally properly become an adult.

In my early thirties I was a wife and a mum and a bit of a career woman, and my ex-husband and I bought a lovely house in the New Forest in the UK. That’s it in the picture up there.

All of those things indicate a certain level of maturity – age, roles, marriage, house buying.

But I used to sit at the end of the garden in the summer house looking back at the house and wonder…how on earth did I become a person who owned a house and had children and was trusted with a responsible job – when I’m actually still just a child?

Nearly 17 years later I don’t feel much different – except that I don’t have the buffer of a life partner to protect me from the vagaries of life. I need to learn to be an even more adulty person than I’ve ever been before.

There are landmarks of course. Recently, for example, I bought a car.

I’m 47 years old and this is the first time I’ve ever bought a car on my own.

Since my separation and subsequent divorce I’d been driving around in a bottom of the range, 1.1 litre, manual Nissan Micra. Nothing wrong with that really in the wider scheme of things, and when I lived and worked in the city, rarely actually using a car, it was perfect. Then my office moved 50 mins (on a good run) away, and my days were filled with stopping and starting on possibly the country’s most congested highway, the M5 – which passes through possibly the country’s most congested tunnel. You have to live in Australia to properly understand the true horror of being stuck in a tunnel in the summer.

I spent over a year trying to persuade myself to buy a better car, more suited to the travelling I was doing. But it seemed too risky, just way too scary. I didn’t feel equipped to do such a thing. What if I bought a lemon – a money pit? Then I discovered that I could take out cover for virtually anything that might happen to it, and I felt more confident. I bought a Jeep, having gone out with absolutely no intention of buying anything like that – but it was red and I liked it, and I don’t know anything about cars at all, so this seemed like a good enough reason. I’ve had it for three months and so far so good (except that it consumes significantly more petrol than the Nissan obviously). I feel like a grown up driving it – and my daughter feels like a grown up because she got the Nissan. Everyone’s a winner. Hello Adulthood.

Then I do stuff that reminds me that I am in fact just a teenager hiding in a middle aged woman’s body (oh how I wish it was the other way around…).

My lovely friend Jim came to stay over Christmas. Whilst he was here he commented on how isolated the house is and that I ought to have some candles and a torch ready – as it is the sort of place that would be very scary in a power cut. Great idea – totally agreed.

Today, after a few days of very hot and humid weather there has been a big storm. When I got home there was a lot of debris on my paths and signs that it had been pretty blowy here, but the storm had pretty much passed apart from some wind and drizzle.

So it was a bit of a surprise when at about 10.15pm all my power went off and I was plunged into the sort of darkness you only get when there are no lights anywhere around.

I was reminded of the great idea Jim had – that I had done nothing about. With 2% on my mobile phone I was able to use the flashlight function for long enough to establish that there was a lighter beside a fragrant candle near the tv. This was good for lighting one candle only before giving up the ghost. Finding a bit of paper or similar to use to light two other candles proved challenging but in the end not impossible. My laptop – on which I am writing this post with the help of a mobile dongle – allowed me to take advice  (and comfort) from friends on Facebook.

Oh how I wished I had a torch…then I felt like perhaps I did have a torch. A trip into the depths of the under sink cupboard proved I was right about this. But oh how I wished I had batteries…

When this sort of thing happens to me, I remember that I am not yet really an adult. This sort of stuff would not happen to my parents.

Recently I was watching 24 hours in A & E (which really is a very heartwarming show and a great showcase for the fantastic NHS). For reasons I’m not sure about, when they interviewed a consultant who was probably in his late forties (so the same age as me), they asked him when he knew he was a man*. He became quite upset, and described the moment when he was going somewhere with his now quite elderly father, and his father gave him the car keys and said ‘you drive’. He said he felt that a transaction had taken place in that moment, where his father had resigned his position as driver and somehow as leader and patriarch and said ‘now it’s your turn son’.

When I look at my parents I see that we are not far off that moment – and I’m not sure whether I should enjoy my last few moments before we also make that exchange or start to lift my adult game in preparation…

In which I ponder…legacies and legends



I was recently at a farewell event for a colleague and friend at which a number of very moving speeches were made about the impact this person had had on a number of her staff.

I was struck, not for the first time, by how sad it is that too often we only properly celebrate people when they leave – life, work, country. And there were obvious parallels with my recent experiences…

If only we were as careful to ensure that the people around us really understood their value on a daily basis.

Then after an exceptionally hot Sydney day, my daughter and I were in the car heading to the beach for a walk and a refreshing swim when I interrupted our conversation to turn the radio up and hear the first news reports about the death of David Bowie.

I was brought up in a household in which classical music ruled – with an exception made for The Beatles and Bread*.

This meant that my discovery of David Bowie in my late teens was entirely my own, particularly the albums that would have been made when I was a small child. I think I was first intrigued by some of the scandal surrounding his music videos, which were banned from Top of the Pops as they were too explicit. I still haven’t see the video for China Girl – although I might google it when I’ve finished this – largely because we did not have a television. However, this led to an interest in his older stuff, and his music has continued to be high on my play list throughout my life. Young Americans is in my top 5 tracks of all time.

In September I went down to Melbourne for a girls weekend with a friend and to see the Bowie exhibition that had started out at the V&A and then travelled the world. At the exhibit I was fascinated to see the extent to which he had been influenced by other musicians, composers, writers, artists, designers, fashion and the theatre – and the extent to which he had in turn impacted on them himself over his long career. The design of the exhibit made it possible to see these links in a very tangible way.**

The place was packed – booked tickets only and a sell out.

So famous people these days are in the rather unique situation of knowing just how highly they are regarded without having to die first – although even David Bowie might still have been surprised by the extent to which his passing is currently occupying my Facebook feed. The downside of this I suppose is that they also have access to a level of animosity that before the advent of social media I’m sure was not experienced by the famous nor the infamous, if not only because it would have been too labour intensive. But these days, it must be very easy to spew your vitriol anonymously into the Twittersphere – and many people do***

However, all this makes me wonder. Am I doing enough to ensure that the people who matter to me really know? I tell my children frequently – sometimes many times a day – that I love them. But there are so many people who are important in my life. Do they know?

There might be the start of a New Year commitment there…so if I start making you feel awkward by waxing lyrical about how great you are, you’ll know why.

*I actually really like The Beatles. Obviously. I feel a bit awkward about revealing that I have a soft spot for Bread too, as this is not so obvious. Don’t judge. We all have dodgy musical pasts. Don’t we?

**It struck me while I was there that although the focus in our household on classical music was wonderful and was the basis of my love for music, it may have been part of me missing out on some really interesting social and cultural developments – and was probably compounded by not having a television. I think my parents automatically devalued the work of people like David Bowie – just assuming that they had little to offer. But the exhibition reminded me of some of the best lectures from my English degree, which helped us to see the direct links between literature, art, music, politics and so many other parts of culture. If it’s still touring you should go and see it. Also David Bowie is (was) tiny. Like Kylie Minogue sort of size. Most of his costumes I could only fit one leg in. Seriously.

*** check out famous people reading mean tweets on YouTube. Hilarious. People are vile…

In which I ponder…adaptation


I haven’t much felt like blogging lately.

I’ve felt that the sort of things I usually blog about have been too trite and too unimportant, and I don’t know how to write about what has actually been going on. Or whether I’ve wanted to.

But as always I’ve been out there learning stuff. Whether I’ve wanted to or not – which is the way of the world. Someone once said to me that you win or you learn. I’ve never forgotten it. The same person told me that if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail, which I’ve also found useful but less easy to live by. Although it’s been proven to be true on a number of occasions.

What I’ve learnt – not for the first time in recent years – is that I am stronger and more resilient than I think. But what I’m also gradually learning is that this has drawbacks.

Imagine this. What if the thing you had been looking for all these years turned out to be right under your nose all the time?

But then imagine that you then start questioning whether the thing you thought you were looking for was actually the thing you want. Or perhaps you got so caught up in the search that you didn’t notice that you didn’t really need that thing anymore.

The thing about being alone, and being good at adapting to new situations, is that you can adapt too well. Much to my surprise I find myself wondering whether my life is really missing the elements I thought it was.

When you draw an object through water, the line you create immediately fills up behind you. Over the last few weeks I’ve wondered whether in fact life is like that – and whether without even realizing it, the gaps I thought were there have been quietly filling up in my wake.

And then I had a bit of an epiphany.

I am beyond the point of need.

Which means I am at the point of choice. Needs versus wants.

That’s got to be healthier right?

*someone was concerned that they might become blog fodder. Looks like they have…


Stop all the clocks…

When I was seven years old, my best friend was a little girl called Jodie. She was more adventurous, outspoken and courageous than me, and I loved her for it. We rode our bikes together across the Lincolnshire countryside – so far from home that later, when we both had children of our own, we were appalled – had sleepovers in the garden, and wrote our names and the date on the wall of a cottage in her dad’s timber yard.*

In 2002, Jodie was diagnosed with breast cancer, but treatment put her into remission, so she and her husband Jim and their two small boys forged forwards in life, embarking on the renovation of a beautiful but virtually uninhabitable Grade II listed property. The return of her cancer and a terminal diagnosis was a devastating blow to everyone who loved her but especially to her young family. Jodie had always been stubborn and tenacious, and she used the same bloody minded approach that had ensured her business success to confront her illness. We used to joke that she was too stubborn to die, but really she was just determined to see both her children start school.

Jodie died in 2005 when her boys were 5 and 6 years old. She had fought a brave, hard fight but in the end the big C got the better of her.


So it was with devastating and heartbreaking irony that today we laid her eldest child to rest, having taken his own life. A beautiful, intelligent boy of just 16 years, much loved, with so much to offer the world.

There are some things for which nothing can be said. There are no words of comfort available, nothing which will make it better, nothing which will make it go away. There are some things which can only be borne, not gotten over.

At Jodie’s funeral we had known what was coming. Jodie had asked me to deliver the eulogy, and my writings had been vetted in advance. She had organized the ceremony with Jim. But it was still hard. It was still heartbreaking. In the church today there was little that I recognized, and I can only think that I got through that day in a blur.

But there is no possible preparation for what we had to do today.

His dad said that George had not been able to see the point of life. But if he had asked me I would have told him that the point was in the hundreds of people in the church today, at his grave, and at his wake. It was in the gatherings of the last two weeks, as his family supported one another to get through all the arrangements necessary after the (always untimely) death of a child. It was in his close group of school friends, as they let off balloons in his memory and put together slideshows of photographs of his life. It was in the eulogies bravely delivered by his devoted father and by his best friend.

Because the point of this life is quite simply love.

Hold your children close tonight – and every night.


*it’s still there

In which I ponder….internet dating


Whenever I mention my intermittent use of the Tinder app, my married and partnered friends get a bit excited.

“Oooooo,’ they pant, ‘ isn’t that the site for – you know – hooking up?!’

Newsflash partnered people. They all are.

RSVP, the virtually Amish eHarmony, bars, restaurants, supermarkets, laundromats. All hook up sites should you wish to treat them as such. I know married people who have picked up other married people at black tie events when at least one spouse was present (but not as present – or should I say mindful – as perhaps they should have been)*. Sex is everywhere if you care to look for it.

Most of my single friends have experimented with most of the internet dating sites that are out there, including Tinder. When you narrow things down geographically, they all have virtually the same people on them anyway. On eHarmony you see guys who give the impression that only violins, candlelight and marriage will do, but on RSVP the same man might say he is looking for something fun but long term, and on Tinder he’ll just upload a picture of himself holding up a very large fish and message you saying ‘DTF?’**.

A good friend of mine recently published a book about his experiences using Tinder. You can buy it on Amazon but I should first warn you that it’s one of the most explicit books I’ve ever come across (and one that is extremely uncomfortable to read if you know the person involved). I should probably also reassure you all (hello Dad) that I’m not featured in the book as a love interest but my thoughts on internet dating are included.

I told Mike about my theory of dating in the 21st century, where technology has disrupted old rules and despite appearing to be more egalitarian than ever in terms of gender, dating is actually working way better for men than for women.

The thing is that 21st century dating is the least judgemental (amongst single people – I’ve talked about the partnered people view of the world and particularly single women before) it’s ever been. People are out there looking for love, but some of them are just looking to get their sexual needs met for the night, and that’s ok too, so long as everyone is honest about it, and playing safely. Yay for the liberation of women and for being liberal***.

The problem however – in my view – is this. I think men are evolutionarily predisposed to look for multiple sexual partners – so they can spread their seed and keep the place populated – that sort of thing. Women, on the other hand, are evolutionarily predisposed to seek security, safety and protection – despite the fact that the 21st century woman (including myself) generally doesn’t feel they need this. These days, this manifests itself as looking for someone who is willing to make a commitment and not likely to trade you in for the next vaguely attractive looking thing to pass their way.

For men and women in my age range – let’s call that from say…40 to 55 – internet dating, and apps like Tinder, mean that we don’t need to waste precious time hanging out in bars hoping that amongst our co-drinkers there is, miraculously, another single person who, even more miraculously, likes you. We can sit on our sofas browsing available men or women and flirting up a storm, even though we’ve got our pyjamas on and removed our make up and bras many hours ago.

Frankly, this is awesome. At the beginning of the dating journey, hanging out in bars is fun, but it doesn’t last long. The reality is that life is calling – full time work, children, and running a household alone are not compatible with this way of life for any length of time. It doesn’t take long to realize that the main attraction of something like Tinder is its efficiency.

But. And it’s a big but…my experience is that many men – in fact the majority of them, are ill equipped to deal with the sheer variety and apparent availability of women that the internet appears to provide***. There is the constant worry that someone better might be just around the corner. Technology has turned women into commodities, and whereas when they are younger men seem to be prepared to trade variety for family and children, once their marriage is over there is little incentive to do this again. Women, on the other hand, mainly continue to look for that commitment from one special person regardless of where they are in the lifespan.

Once upon a time, the way women wielded power over this tendency in men was to only offer sex after marriage. I’m not suggesting we do this (otherwise there is a good chance I’ll never get jiggy with anyone ever again), but it seems to me that the only way to put this particular Pandora back in the box is to all close our legs once again….

*we shall not say who this was…

**for those who are not familiar (hello again Dad) – “down to fuck?”

***I very much do not mean liberal in the political sense

****I’m talking in generalities here. No need for any of the very lovely men I know to get upset

And now for your viewing pleasure, I have uploaded screenshots of some of my more amusing interactions with men from dating websites/apps:

dating screenshot 1 revised

This one is all me being awesome at internet dating. Literally no idea why I’m single.

Dating screenshot 2 revised a

Gerry is just a tad needy don’t you think?

Dating screenshot 3 revised

Tim isn’t so much into outdoor pursuits. Unless they are of the carnal type I’d imagine.

In which I ponder…#singleproblems

Onion Glasses

I’ve been surprised by how rarely over the last few years I’ve wished I had a partner.

Well – that’s not entirely true – as I often wish I had someone with whom to share life.

What I mean is, I’ve been surprised by how rarely I’ve felt that there were things I had to do that I needed someone else to do for me.

I should distinguish between ‘needing’ and ‘wanting’ here. I’d have to admit to frequently ruminating on the fact that I would (might?) have less to do if there was another adult around. This weekend I’ve done the supermarket shopping, a bit of gardening, walked the dog, bought garden tools in Bunnings, paid a load of bills online, done the laundry, cleaned the house and cooked meals for a house full of teenagers. If there had been someone to relieve me of just one of those tasks it would have been nice, but not actually entirely necessary. Because I’m wonder woman.

However, the things I have needed another person for have taken me completely by surprise.

Picture the scene one day this week for example.

I am alone in the house, having had a long day in the office. I am desperate to get out of my work dress. I get the zip down so far and then…nothing. It’s not stuck, but I just can’t reach it properly to move it down. I try reaching down from my shoulder, and then up my back – but to no avail. I’m getting kind of hot and sweaty. I try pulling the dress vigorously downwards with one hand whilst trying to get a firm grip on the zip. This doesn’t work. I add jumping up and down to the mix – you know, just in case. Also doesn’t work.

I start to wonder if I am going to end up having to sleep in the dress and wear it until the children come home. I consider popping next door and asking for help, but then also consider that this might seem a little…well…forward – given that we’ve barely spoken.

Eventually, through an exhausting combination of wriggling, jumping up and down and expletives, I get the damn dress off.

So – we’ve established that I do, on occasion, need a person around to remove items of clothing for entirely non-sexual reasons.

Add to this issues with the clasps on jewelry – particularly bracelets – changing the doona* cover, turning the mattress (completely impossible alone, unless you are prepared to risk a hernia – believe me, I’ve tried), retrieving items from the back of high cupboards and folding king size sheets.

On the positive side though, becoming single also involves quite a lot of upskilling. I now know, for example – from bitter experience – that the way to make maintaining your pool easier is not to just leave the filter pump on all summer. The outrage I communicated to the electricity company about the enormous mistake on the bill was soon replaced with embarrassment once we established this was the cause. Lesson learnt.

And I’ve also discovered and developed workarounds for some of the day to day problems of singledom. I am extremely sensitive to onions, to the extent that my eyes stream at the mere whiff of one – making chopping them very challenging and uncomfortable indeed. I used to rely on my ex husband for this, but guess what? You can buy ‘onion glasses’ and they really work (see extremely glamorous photo above).

Some of the things I’ve needed a +1 for have been more sinister though.

Want to buy one of the lux seats at the cinema? Bad luck if you want to go on your own – unless you can recruit a similarly lonesome stranger – as the seats are in cosy pairs. Because obviously if you are Billy No Mates, you wouldn’t want to sit in a super comfortable seat that reclines and has a lovely button which summons an assistant who will bring you food. Oh no – you’d probably prefer to remain at home, weeping and wishing that you had someone to go to the cinema with.

See a great package holiday – perhaps trekking the Great Wall of China, or cruising the South Pacific? Well, expect to be punished financially for the audacity of wanting to travel the world despite being a singleton.

Have a heart world – it’s already hard enough never having anyone available to take your kit off…

*doona = oddly Australian word for duvet cover, for those of you who are not familiar with our language.

In which I ponder…being me



I am in a counselling room with a new therapist. We’re doing that getting to know you thing – the part before you start telling them about your fucked up life.

‘So…tell me a bit about yourself’, he says.

I tell him all about me. I tell him about my job with the NHS, my children, my involvement with the local parent/teacher association. I tell him I am a wife, a mother, a daughter. I feel a little bit proud. I’m not bad really.

When I’m done, he sits in silence for a moment or two, his hands folded in his lap. Then he looks at me and says:

“Ok. You’ve told me quite a lot about what you do. Now tell me about who you are.”

And I realised I did not know. I had become the things I did, the roles I played in relation to everyone else. I didn’t know where I had gone.


A couple of days ago, a private message from a friend in the UK popped up on Facebook. She told me she had been thinking about the title of my blog and how it resonated with her.

My friend met her husband when she was 16. Like so many women, particularly of my generation, she was a daughter, segued seamlessly into being a wife then a mother and soon will be a grandmother.

‘It’s got me thinking’, she typed. ‘What would I be like if I ever got to be me?’

Good question.

And one I could well have been asking myself, if I hadn’t found myself compelled to be me in all its questionable glory.

The thing is though, that being on your own doesn’t necessarily mean you get to find out. You don’t just suddenly start being you – you have to learn how. And it turns out it’s hard. Much to my dismay, the real me wasn’t just hiding beneath the person I had become – the person who was too much of a reflection of other people, and not enough of a reflection of me.

The real me was properly lost, and in order to get to her, I first needed to circumnavigate the temporary version of me that developed post separation.

Unfortunately, this person wasn’t much fun.

This person fluctuated between being angry and determined and being helpless and hopeless. She was difficult to be around some of the time, but for all anyone who had to endure her wished I would just snap out of it, they could not have wished it more than me. I felt out of control and I wanted it to be over. Not life. Just the bit where I was sad and angry and hurt and….well – a bit boring.

When you start boring yourself, you know you are in trouble.

These days, I would say I’m closer to being me than I’ve ever been. And I am grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to find out who that is on my own, even if it hasn’t always been a comfortable journey for me – or the people around me.

So who am I?

Well – I’ve realised that who I am is mainly an issue for me. I need to know who I am, at my core, but I don’t need to describe it for others – so I’m not going to do that here. Other people decide for themselves who you are, because they see you and interpret you through the lens of their own experiences. People take you as they find you. What’s important is that I know who I am and am steadfast in that.

Besides I’m in my writing – you can find me there. And some people will judge me and others won’t.

As a wise man once said:

What other people think of you is none of your business…