In which I ponder…validation and embarrassment

embarrassment

My previous blog, which had had over 20,000 visitors by the time I stopped posting, was specifically about the experience of emigrating and full of chatty stuff about family life in a new country.

When I started this one, I didn’t have a clear idea of what it would be, except that I wanted to write. It’s simply evolved over time.

I’ve ended up banging on about my marriage and my divorce and indulging in a level of navel gazing that I thought I’d left behind. And although I enjoy writing it and I don’t find it troubling to do so, there is something I’m finding kind of challenging.

It’s a bit awkward really.

Because what I’m struggling with are the comments, particularly those on my Facebook page where I share it.

I’m absolutely fine with the lovely things people have said about the quality of the writing, and how much they enjoy reading it. It’s fabulous to know that people are connecting with it, and – in some cases – looking forward to each instalment. And it’s also great to know that it’s being quite widely read – so far in 31 countries.

However, I do find all the lovely things people say about me personally a bit mortifying. Now, you will have to bear with me on this – because I do tend to over think things a bit. But I’m a bit worried that people might believe that the purpose of the blog is to seek validation about myself and what happened. And it quite emphatically isn’t.

You may or may not know that I did post grad study in psychotherapy, eventually qualifying to practice. As part of my training, I had to take part in group therapy for two years, and through this process I learnt something interesting about myself. Well, actually I learnt a number of interesting (to me anyway!) things about myself, but I’m only going to bore you with one of them.

In group, members had the opportunity to say difficult things to one another in a controlled and safe environment.* And although I didn’t particularly enjoy hearing that sort of thing, I wasn’t massively disturbed by it either. It almost felt comfortable. Conversely, if someone said something really nice to me, I literally wanted the earth to open up and swallow me whole. I never entirely resolved what that was about, but I get the same sort of feelings when I read some of the comments. And today there were so many of them I had to remove the post from my wall.

I know enough to know that this is related to a lack of self worth.

But I’m also a realist.

And the reality is this. I’m really not inspirational or amazing or an especially good single parent, or an especially forgiving person.

In the last few years, there have been days – many of them – when I have definitely won no prizes for my parenting. I am no better at being a single parent than 99.9% of all the rest of them. I do what parents do whether they are single or not – I do the best I can for my children, and some days the best I can do is not that special.

And over this period of rebuilding my life I have been far from inspirational or amazing a great deal of the time. I have said vile things. I have railed against the world. I have been self pitying. I have bored my friends (and myself) with my tale of woe, my ‘why-me’s?’ and my obsessive picking over certain events. I have lost friends and rejected others.

As far as forgiveness is concerned – well that’s a journey I’m still on. I have forgiving moments and they are becoming more and more frequent. But there is still a way to go I think.

I’ve come out the other side of it a more cautious, more independent and more confident person. I’ve gained a level of self knowledge and ability to self reflect that I didn’t have before. And I try hard to understand human behaviour rather than judge it.

But I still don’t really like it when people are nice to me.

I’m a work in progress. I’ll let you know when I’m done…

*in the first week of group, we were invited to say if we thought we were going to have a problem with anyone. One of the members immediately said they thought they were going to have a problem with me – which is funny because I’d also sensed that I would have a problem with her, although, despite having permission to do so, I would never have said. I’m English you see. And here we are 6 years on and she’s one of my closest friends…

In which I ponder…the ties that bind

cut

My ex-husband found out about my blog.

Not a massive surprise really, although I had been blocking key people (our children for example, and his family members) from any posts that I thought were very controversial.

He sent me an email and he was obviously upset and angry. Which I suppose should also not be a surprise. He said I had publicly shamed him.

I felt terrible. I still don’t like upsetting him.

The ties that bind two people who spent 21 years together are very strong, even when things have got seriously messed up.

So I called him – from my new landline, so that he couldn’t ignore my call. He didn’t put the phone down when he knew it was me.

And I told him I was sorry he was upset. That I had not intended to upset or embarrass him, but that I am simply writing about my life. That I own my experiences and that it is not my job to keep his secrets. But that I was sorry I had upset him. And I meant it.

I don’t want to demonise him. He’s just a man who was monumentally bad at being married. He listened to what I said about my writing and at the end when I offered to remove the post that had most bothered him, he said no. I could tell he was upset but it was a good conversation and I think we both felt better about it afterwards.

It’s strange, but when you know someone that well, talking to them is always kind of easy, even though generally we try to avoid it. It’s almost like it all never happened – kind of. There is a weird sort of distance of course, but it’s like everything and nothing has changed at the same time.

The truth is, sometimes people do bad things. And the reasons for them are complex, but rarely evil. My ex husband did many things that hurt me. But he also was a man who cried with laughter with me at a game show called “what’s in the box?“. He was a man who organised a ’30 and 13 days birthday’ party for me – especially allowed by the ‘National Birthday Council’ because my grandmother had died shortly before my actual birthday. The first dance at our wedding was Eric Clapton – Wonderful Tonight. I wouldn’t be surprised it he doesn’t remember that – not because he’s horrible, but because that’s just not the sort of thing he would recall. He used to sit in the cot with our son and read him stories. He always said pizza was ‘a scrotty bit of bread with cheese and tomato on’ and couldn’t understand why they were so expensive. He likes 80s disco music (I hated it) and he properly dances like a dad. He’s a man who can’t stand anyone touching his adam’s apple, which always made me wonder if perhaps he had been hung or strangled in a previous life.

I used to tell him he was the best person I knew. He’s an actual, real person and more than the sum of his actions. I don’t want to spend the rest of our lives hurting one another or picking over past hurts.

It didn’t work out.

C’est la vie…

*he didn’t make me write this

** but I did out of courtesy send it to him before I published

In which I ponder…over sharing

oversharing-social-media

I’ve been feeling a bit uncomfortable about my last post.

I knew I would.

I had been thinking about writing that post ever since I started blogging but just hadn’t had the courage to do it. It’s not just that it’s obviously very personal, but that I actually have no wish to embarrass my ex-husband and for that reason there are things I’ll never write about.

And despite the things he did, he is not a wholly dreadful person, and we were not unhappy for every moment of the 21 years we spent together. I’ve always known that he did not do the things he did to deliberately wound me – even though they did. And like most things the situation was complex at times and I certainly was not perfect.

The reality is however, that this is/was my life.

After publishing that post though, I received a lovely email from my equally lovely father. He said;

‘Wendy

I love reading these writings; but as literature, not as missives from my daughter! They are beautifully written and if they (hopefully) become more varied in content, they will become maybe a collection, like Norah Esson, or Dorothy Parker, or even Virginia Woolf, which people all round the world will read and admire and eulogise about.

But they tear me apart as a Dad’

I love my Dad. He genuinely thinks I am capable of doing anything (even being Dorothy Parker. He’s a big fan of hyperbole). I remember when I was graduating from University, he would tear job adverts out of the paper and post them to me (yes, I am literally that old…). Some of them were way beyond my capabilities at the time, and some of them probably still are, but when I would say this to him, he’d say

‘If you apply you’re only risking the cost of a stamp’

which I suppose was true. It’s a wonderful thing to have a father who is so unrelentingly positive about the possibilities for you and your life. Even at the times when you’re kind of fucking things up and you both know it.

Anyway, my Dad is concerned that my writing about my marriage and divorce might be evidence that I am not moving on.

The thing is though, five years ago, I couldn’t have written that post without it becoming incoherent in a sort of crazy lady way, and I wouldn’t have written about it because I felt kind of ashamed.

Really, when I write about this stuff it’s a way of owning my experience and integrating it into all my other experiences. I enjoy the process of writing from an intellectual point of view regardless of what the content is. So the fact that I’m writing about what happened, and how I felt about it then and now doesn’t mean I’m not moving on. It just means I’m writing about my life – some of which has been imperfect but kind of fascinating.

And I particularly wanted to write about how I feel about his new partner because I know that lots of women have problems with the ‘other woman’ especially where children are involved. It’s a common struggle these days, and until I was in this position I could never understand this tension. And perhaps writing about how I feel about it might be useful for people who have found themselves being the ‘other woman’.

So anyway – what I’m saying is – no one needs to worry. I didn’t feel sad or upset or anything negative really whilst writing that post. I don’t sit sobbing over my laptop, swigging from a bottle of Chardonnay* whilst blogging. I enjoyed writing it – because I enjoy writing. And if I write about my own personal experiences I can’t possibly miss out what happened in my marriage, as I’ve no doubt it is the most transformative experience I’ll ever have.

You’ve got to love my dad though, eh?

*I’d never do that. I don’t drink Chardonnay**

**my dad’s email also said he doesn’t like the footnotes