In which I ponder….Lemonade


So…it’s finally properly and completely over.

Although we’ve been separated over 5 years and divorced for almost exactly 1 year, I have only just today received our court stamped financial settlement.

I’m neither happy nor sad about it really. It’s good to know that I will no longer be lining the pockets of lawyers, and that I at last know what the future is likely to look like financially. I’m never going to be rich but I’m not going to be poor either, and that’s fine. I won’t have the sort of life I would have had if I had remained in the marriage, but for every material thing I’ll no longer have, I’ll have a ton of happiness to which I previously would not have had access.

There was no fighting about the settlement – I took what I was offered, and I didn’t ask for more. But I was careful to seek legal advice throughout the process so my decisions – although often against the advice of my lawyers – were well informed. The most important thing for me was to maintain my integrity and find a path through what was equitable and fair, and what was enough. In the end I went for enough, because what I was offered was enough. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life feeling that I was lucky that my ex husband was so successful. I want to spend the rest of my life knowing that I’ve worked hard and that with hard work comes rewards.

It would have been easy in some respects to fight – and certainly that was what my lawyers were hoping for, since it would have lined their pockets. But if you should ever find yourself in a similar position, make sure you consider whether the psychological and emotional toll of the process would be worth the potential financial gains. I was constantly aware of the incongruency of feeling envious about the fact that my ex appears to live in such comparative splendor given that I have spent my entire career working to improve the lives of the disadvantaged. Why should I be entitled to anything better than the actually very nice life I already have?

But envy is an insidious thing. It creeps up on you as you scroll through your social media feeds, watching your friends living the life you expected to have post childrearing – exotic travel, holiday property purchases, renovations, rediscovering romance with your loved one. It mixes up with anger and takes you back to a place you thought you had left. Then I realized that my envy was really just a disguise for the grief I was experiencing for the life I had lost, both present and future, that I thought was going to be mine and ended up being one of the casualties of divorce. And I was reminded, again, that nothing is guaranteed, nothing can be promised, and that you have to make your own luck.

Even without fighting though, I found the process draining and demeaning. In addition to my inner turmoil about the above, the system seems to consider that the material assets built up over the course of a 21 year relationship belong to your husband, who may, out of the goodness of his heart, decide to give you some. Then you are supposed to be grateful and consider yourself lucky.

I refuse to be grateful.

I am grateful for my beautiful children, and I am grateful that I have the means to support myself going forwards – but everything I have taken from my marriage is part of what I helped to build up and as such I have taken my share. I am not lucky that my ex husband is successful – we (he and I) are lucky that over the course of our relationship we jointly built up a life and careers from which we will both continue to benefit.

Now I can start the work of really planning how I will protect my financial interest going forwards – something that I should have been doing all along.

I already know that leaving my husband is the best thing I ever did for myself. I’ve never regretted it, although I’ve found it hard to process. But I will no longer torture myself over what was done, or not done, or could have been done. I will not wish for the life I would have had, or mourn the one I’d left. I will race forwards in life, reaching out for all the opportunities I would have missed, all the adventures I would not have had, all the lovers I would not have kissed.

And should I ever find myself in a similar position again – God forbid – I will simply channel Beyoncé…

“This is your final warning…

  You know I give you life

  If you try this shit again

  Gonna lose your wife”



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…dating again

comfort zone

I hadn’t been doing any dating really lately, since the demise of the last boyfriend.

He’s been making valiant efforts (largely ignored) to be friends, despite having been deleted from Facebook – which these days is the relationship equivalent of being sent to a Siberian gulag.

There was a chap I went for a drink with, and rather liked – but subsequently we happened upon one another in the street, me showerless after the gym and in the process of depositing a dog shit into one of those little poo-bags. I suspected that I would probably not be seeing him again after this, and I saw him early this morning actually, walking down the road holding hands with an attractive brunette, both of them with that particular spring in their step that is only really seen in people who have recently had sex with someone with whom they haven’t been having sex for the previous 20 years. Predictably, I was in gym clothes and I hadn’t had a shower. Didn’t have a steaming poo bag though. Yay for me.

Honorable mention goes to the very nice man who took me out for lobster and with whom I had drinks on one other occasion, but then disappeared off the face of the earth.

It’s hard not to wonder if you are utterly dreadful. Especially when your husband preferred virtually everyone – your friends, the wives of his friends, colleagues, on one occasion (or more accurately, on one occasion I know about) the sister of a colleague, plus various randoms – to you. But then when I consider this, I always end up in the same place – I am probably not utterly dreadful, and the level of dreadful I probably am, will eventually be beloved of someone, and if it’s not, then that’s ok too.

And then I met a man.

He got in touch with me through an online dating site, and he seemed nice. He’d done the Camino de Santiago, which is on my wish list. He was a teacher, and had used that to be able to teach history around the world – Argentina, Mexico, the Bahamas, Monaco, Sydney. Now he was doing his Masters in Archaeology and teaching part time. We were both going to be in Paddington around the same time, so we agreed to catch up for a glass of wine in a local pub.

It was a roaring success – we get on extremely well. And we’ve seen rather a lot of each other (and I don’t mean that in the biblical sense) in the weeks since.

He seems to be a proper man. Even a proper grown up man. Which is rare, in my experience. He does what he says he is going to do. He calls me darling and sweetheart in a way that doesn’t make me want to slap him. And most importantly,  he is not afraid that if he phones, makes plans more than 2 or 3 minutes in advance, or introduces me to people I will misinterpret his current enthusiasm for a proposal of marriage which will inevitably end in me stealing his house and his money. (I kid you not – anyone who is dating in my age group will be familiar with this scenario).

Which is all really, really good. Obviously.

But what is this small voice, quiet but persistent in the background, that is telling me that it’s too good to be true? That prevents me from responding to his endearments with my own?

I’ve tried very hard not to see men through the lens of my previous experiences. At the same time though, I’ve also tried very hard to reconnect with my gut instincts – which were largely destroyed by my marriage. When you’ve been in a relationship where, too often, something was telling you that something wasn’t right or didn’t add up, but your concerns were always attributed to you being mentally unstable, eventually you will both believe that you are indeed mentally unstable and that you cannot trust your instincts.

And now I don’t know if that small voice is my gut instinct, or fear.

I suspect it is fear. But then, on top of everything else, I’m afraid that it’s not. The reality is, though, that this really is a fear that I’m going to have to be prepared to face. What’s the alternative?

So here I am, dating again…