4

Seizing January by the Horns

January is a beast of a month, and it has often bested me. Given that December was a disaster, and my usual method of dousing the whole month in alcohol and downing it along with a kilogram of chocolate, wasn’t helping, I decided on a different approach.

I stopped drinking on the 27th December. I spent Christmas Day with my estranged (ish) husband and my daughter, and drank a bottle of Amaretto. I regretted the bottle of Amaretto so much that I decided to stop drinking immediately (well, as soon as I had finished the rest of the wine in the fridge).

Far from being the nightmare of craving and boredom it is advertised as, being teetotal turned out to be much easier than I thought it would be. A holiday from hangovers, with the benefit of better skin.

‘With everything that’s been going on in your life, I’m surprised you haven’t gone under,’ said my lovely, if lugubrious, neighbour at work, as we tapped away at our keyboards. I have to admit, this was a difficult month in which a bullying issue at my daughter’s school escalated to the point that she is no longer going in to school and only the fact that I live with my long-suffering, retired parents has saved me from losing my job.

Which is why I went one better than mere teetotalitarianism (which sounds more like evil dictatorship than abstinence, but my daughter will vouch that I couldn’t dictate a full stop at the end of a sentence…) I decided that if I could not control what was going on around me I would control how I felt about myself – and what quicker and more drastic way to do that than to join a gym and get a personal trainer?

I have spent this month lifting weights instead of drinking wine. I am a little bit thinner – not very much so – but I feel stronger than I can ever remember feeling. It’s amazing how the physical strength somehow transfers to my brain, so that problems seem less overwhelming. As my brain slowly rehydrates from the shrivelled up nut that was left from 2014’s daily bottle of wine, the days seemed to pass much more quickly and painlessly – yet still contain enough time to do everything that needed to be done.

For the first time in my life, I questioned the theory that drinking was fun. I also questioned the logic that women shouldn’t lift heavy weights in case they got ‘too muscley’. I wondered, in what other areas of my life had I been holding back, trying not to become stronger, trying not to grow – in case I got ‘too muscley’, too strong.

Are all women afraid of their own strength, I wondered?

For possibly the first time in my life, I reached unashamedly and wholeheartedly for the strength I needed, built it from within – and wrestled that beast of a January by the horns.

0

Still rubbish at organising things

About ten months ago, I wrote a post on ‘how to organise a meeting‘. Having reread this, I realise how far I have come in the world of admin work since then. I used to make a mess of very simple meeting arrangements; now I make a mess of complicated ones.

I have progressed from the mere booking of dates and rooms to the booking of buffets, timeslots, and even teleconferencing.

I always thought of myself as a ‘people person’, even though when I thought about it I realised that I found most people annoying and often wished I could fast forward their conversations to the interesting part, in the same way that I skim over the boring bits of books. Despite not being a sociable person , I was often identified as such due to my smiley, interested face, which people automatically (and very mistakenly) trusted.

Surely someone who nods and smiles that much will take a personal interest in ensuring that I get a vegetarian option, they might think. She looks like a vegetarian herself.

But they would be wrong. Behind the smile and trustworthy exterior is a woman with a memory like a sieve and no organisational skills whatsoever, who eats chickens without remorse. The first time I organised a meeting at which lunch was to be served, I completely omitted to order any food. While I sat in the meeting room explaining that a buffet would be arriving soon, my colleagues in the office ran around organising one.

Tension built in the meeting room as a group of hungry people clearly had no intention of starting the meeting without lunch. Conversation was a little tense. The group were beginning to realise how very unreliable I was.

‘I notice that you called me Dr in the last minutes, but actually I am a Mister,’ said one.

‘The last meeting Coordinator used to include a check-list with the meeting papers but I noticed that since you took over we don’t get that any more,’ said another, bitterly.

‘Will there be mince pies with the lunch? We were expecting mince pies,’ said another (it was December).

‘Excuse me a moment.’

I rang my colleague with an emergency request for mince pies. A tense hour later and a team of my fellow office workers arrived holding aloft plates of sandwiches. This mollified them more than my smiles and apologies. I was forgiven.

A month later, I had organised the next Committee meeting. There was a venue. There was lunch. There were…only half of the invitees?

There was the wrong address on the Agenda and invitations to the meeting.

Next month: I try my hand at a job to which I am better suited. Possibly knife juggling….

0

Rose Red is Not Dead!

Rose Red is my alter ego, my fairy tale self. She wears rose-tinted glasses, sees the funny side of everything, and never swears. She lives with the Prince she married, because that is what fairy tale characters do.

This was the story I was telling. Unfortunately the Prince did not know his part. If he had a Beastly side, he was supposed to have lost it through his love for me, Rose Red. He wasn’t supposed to become more Beastly. He certainly wasn’t supposed to pour a can of beer over my head and order me to leave ‘his’ house*. Maybe I had not been Beautiful enough. As any sane person would do when faced with a solid 6-foot-5 of enraged, drunken husband, I beat a tactical retreat. To my mother’s house. It was not an action befitting a fairy tale, in which the solution to this would have been to love him all the more until he turned back into a Prince.

I didn’t believe in fairy tales any more. Love was not the answer to this problem. I thought that Rose Red had died, and along with her was buried all optimism, humour and clean speech. There was nothing left but work and sweary rants on facebook. They kept me sane (ish) and I definitely gained a lot of pleasure from my new spiky heels and power wardrobe, for the few weeks I kept up wearing it, but…well, of course I missed the Prince and the pieces of me that I had cut away.

Another 6 months passed. I met up with him for coffee. He’s neither Beast nor Prince any more; he’s somewhere in between, looking for his better self. I started to look for mine, and realised that Rose Red was not dead. Just because the Prince stopped being a prince, didn’t mean that I had to stop being Rose Red.

I’m here to continue writing my own fairytale, because life is still amusing and it gets more interesting after the happily ever after…

Thank you to Sarah who nominated me back in November for the ‘Sisterhood of World Bloggers’ award. I think it is too late to accept the award, but it put a smile on my face to be nominated although I haven’t posted anything for a while! Here is the link to Sarah’s blog, it’s worth a look.

*Disclaimer: I do not claim to be unbiased or un-selective in my representation of events. If you wish to read the Prince’s version of events, you will need to look at the Prince’s blog.

2

Deja Vu

It is with some caution that I am blogging again. After all, when I started a bouncy, optimistic blog about my upcoming wedding, the wedding got cancelled (and to be honest, I’d run out of bouncy optimistic things to say a couple of months before that happened). When I blogged about my stepfamily through rose tinted glasses, my marriage collapsed (and although I didn’t actually see that coming at the time, with hindsight it was rather inevitable).

So I don’t think that this blog is going to become an upbeat story of life as the single parent of a teenage girl. It is with trepidation that I write anything at all about my relationship with my daughter, which is currently being reconfigured as we get used to living in a ‘small family’ again.

This child of mine does at times give me complete sense of humour failure, and so I’m going to have to leave the humour to Kathy Lette:

‘Teenagers are obviously God’s punishment for having sex in the first place…Living with a teenage daughter is like living with the Taliban. Mothers are not allowed to dance, sing, flirt, laugh loudly or wear short skirts.’

This is so true! These are the ego-shredding things I hear on a daily basis:
‘Please don’t sing, Mum.’

‘You really can’t dance. And what are you listening to?’

‘Er, Mum, are you actually going to go out like that? Will you walk a few paces behind me and my friend?’

Now I spend the majority of my spare time in the company of 12-year-old girls, I hear these things all the time. Yet I don’t actually feel that they are aimed just at mothers. They’re just as horrible to one another (except within their friendship groups; woe betide anyone who insults their bff…). Teenage girls’ egos are put through the mincer daily by just about everything in their environment. There are still a million insulting words for girls, including the word ‘girl’ – and these are the same words used to insult boys.

So, when I hear these things, it is with a sense of deja vu. I remember being a 12 year old girl. I remember how the choice of an outfit could actually be critical, how self conscious they all are, and how slavishly they all listen to the same sounds.

These things are all reinforced by celebrities who seem to remain in an eternal state of adolescence, or reality TV stars or whatever they’re watching now (*disclaimer – if my daughter ever reads this: I am not claiming to know anything at all about life nowadays. This is purely conjecture…)

With these thoughts in mind, I try to gather up my dignity when around these correctly-dressed girls. I tell myself that it’s hard being a teenager and I should be glad that I don’t have to be one any more. I keep telling myself this when I hear them rolling around on the floor, shrieking with laughter, while I am making dinner.

‘They’re having no fun at all,’ I remind myself, as I mop the floor.

I pour myself a glass of wine.

‘Can I have a sip?’ asks Daughter.

‘No!’ I snap ‘Alcohol is the reward you get for being an adult!’

Be the woman you want your daughter to become

I once wrote, and I’ve lived by it ever since.

I never got on with teetotallers, anyway.

10

I Miss my Blog (or, my 100th post turns out to be pretty banal…)

I miss my blog.

What do you do, when your blog is all about your family life and your marriage – and your marriage ends?

This is a personal blog, but it isn’t THAT personal. I couldn’t write about those things – they’re not mine to write about. The marriage was ours – mine and my husbands’ – and I was never in the habit of airing its darker side. It remains between the two of us – all of it, the good and the bad…

So, I’m building much of my life up from Ground Zero – but I am still here, and this blog is still here. I miss writing it and I miss looking at my reader and seeing what other people have written.

Life goes on. My blog goes on. I’m still here, and I’m still observing life, through rose tinted glasses. I can write about the sky, wine, my daughter and chocolate, and watching Arcade Fire play Glastonbury – from the comfort of my own sofa.

Those beguiling rhythms have been keeping me from my bed for at least half an hour, and resulted in considerable over-indulgence on the wine-drinking, chocolate-eating and blog-writing front. If you are reading – hello! I would like to leave you with the following message: you really should listen to Arcade Fire. They’re very good.