Yikes! After such a long period of time, I can hardly believe it.
What if people hate it? What if they love it? What if they don’t care? The thoughts scurry through my brain before I come back, for a moment, to a place of inner calm because it’s done now. It’s born. All I can do is tell people about it.
So here’s the summary. The Men I’ve Almost Dated is about my life in my 30s, the men I dated (or almost dated), sex, dubious decision-making, divorce and men behaving badly. It’s not a ‘how-to guide’ on getting it right when it comes to men and dating. However, it may be a ‘how-to guide’ on how to get it atrociously wrong. I’ll let you be the judge.
Over the coming days and weeks I’ll be sharing more about my book on this blog and my social media channels – so keep your eyes peeled. But for now, if you’d like to grab yourself a copy, head over to my webpage for all the details. You can buy the eBook version today and the print version will be available in coming weeks.
Like most people I have my own cache of emotional baggage. By the age of 43, it’s pretty hard to have avoided experiencing emotional knocks, disappointments and other occasionally negative incidents in relationships. And of course, my heart and mind remembers these things as I move forward in my life.
I’ve often talked about trying to check my emotional baggage at the door when entering a new relationship because surely a new connection with someone doesn’t need to be bashed around the head with the disappointments of relationships past. But today I saw a short film on gaia.com that made me rethink this mindset.
I subscribe to Gaia for their daily yoga videos and this morning I found myself clicking on a different link entitled Baggage. During the film, people lined up at an airport check-in desk to check their baggage and leave it behind. Characters were checking their anger, resentment and all the memories and experiences born out of their past relationships.
But one character had returned to claim his baggage. He’d realised that his recent break-up was caused because he never really offered his partner anything in return. His checked baggage left him like a blank page with no experience or depth.
The idea that our baggage could also serve a constructive purpose took by surprise. After all, aren’t we supposed to leave all that stuff behind and simply move on? Isn’t that what wise people tell us?
Perhaps it’s not as simple as we’ve been told.
Everything in our past has shaped and influenced us. Those experiences have helped to create who we are now, right in this minute. They have taught us love, strength and compassion, and helped us define our boundaries (or where they should have been). In my experience, it is the seemingly negative experiences that have taught me more about myself, who I wish to be and what I wish to create than anything else.
I still believe you should be conscious of how your baggage influences your interactions in the present. And, if it is impacting negatively on your current relationships, then you should look at it with a keen eye, see it for what it is, then make different choices to achieve a different outcome this time round.
But this short film has also made me realise that my baggage doesn’t need to be checked because it has also made me a more interesting person. Life experience, positive or negative, is something you should carry forward because it brings with it a plethora of awarenesses about yourself and your interactions on this planet.
My emotional baggage has helped to create me. But it does not define me.
Last weekend, my friend Susan* discovered she had lost some of her friends. Somehow, over the past 12 months, as she became absorbed more and more in her purpose and life in general, her friends began to pull away. Then over the weekend, Susan experienced a ‘friend break-up’.
‘It would be great if you could write a blog about how to deal with that!’ she said. So here it is.
Susan has done a lot over the past year or so. She’s had a baby, established a not-for-profit and organised fundraising events that delivered valuable and much-needed outcomes for those in need. Put simply, she’s been following her heart and purpose to make the world a better place.
Unfortunately, some friends have decided not to support Susan’s journey. For whatever reason, they never ask what she’s up to, they don’t support her fundraising events and they don’t care about the path she has chosen. They don’t get it and now deliberately isolate her at social events. The situation felt like schoolyard bullying and, as she felt hurt by their behaviour, Susan decided to ask them what was going on.
Their reaction wasn’t positive and included statements like ‘All you ever talk about is you’, ‘You’re never free when we want to see you’ and ‘You didn’t come to my party.’
Some of her friends’ complaints stretched back to August last year. But when Susan asked, ‘Why didn’t you say something back then?’ they had no response.
Now, while Susan has been engrossed in various activities and could probably do with more ‘balance ‘in her life generally, she definitely hasn’t been making it all about her. She’s been juggling a baby, work and trying to make the world a better place in the only way she knows how. Susan has been busy but also made an effort to stay in touch with her friends. However, her commitments meant she wasn’t as available as she used to be. Meanwhile, her friends aren’t interested in what she’s doing and want her to be the way she was before.
But Susan isn’t that person anymore and she can’t go back.
‘What do I do?’ she asked with tears in her eyes. ‘I’m doing my best but they’re not interested. They don’t want to know.’
Breaking up with friends is hard but we can’t stay in one place just to make other people comfortable. In life there will be moments when you realise you must leave some people behind. Life is like that. Some people will always be in our lives, others will stay only for a certain period of time before going their own way. Then there are others who will leave and return when the time is right. That’s just how our soul contracts with each other work. We support and learn from each other, then move on when the contract is done (read Sacred Contracts by Caroline Myss if you’d like to know more about this).
Our relationships, platonic, familial and romantic, do require work and commitment. However, sometimes you are simply moving in a different direction and must let go. And that’s okay.
My advice to Susan was to seek out those friends who support her journey; the ones who ‘get’ what she’s trying to do.
‘Seek out the ones who help you feel lightness in your soul and encourage you to live the life your dream of,’ I said. ‘What would that feel like?’ Susan’s smile was all the answer I needed and I felt her spirit lift at the thought.
Some people are only in our lives for a season. Others will remain connected over long periods to teach us lessons or support only certain parts of our lives. And then others will return when we believe the connection is broken, because that too is what’s needed. The challenge is to protect our hearts and know it’s okay to let go when the contract is done.
*Names changed and story published with Susan’s approval.
If you’d like to me to respond to one of your questions, please comment on my blog or email me at email@example.com
Around this time last year I had my heart broken by a man I loved with everything in me. When I say ‘broken’, I mean it. My experience with that man literally broke me apart and I completely lost myself in Grief.
I have grieved relationships and people lost from my life before but this time was different. This time Grief took me over and I fell to the bottom of huge pit of despair where I stayed for what seemed like an interminable period. I cried every day for months and months. I raged at the world and at him. I went to places so dark in my mind that I thought I would never make it out alive. Grief was a bitch that would not let me go.
She was with me every moment and, as I writer, my only recourse was to pour my pain onto a page. I wrote 70,000 words between January and May. Then something unexpected happened; the prose turned to poetry. It felt like Grief cracked open this whole new part of me and poetry fell out. It was strange and also so very relentless. Grief was a demanding client. She demanded I write and write even when tired, emotionally spent and physically exhausted. I had to write. It all had to come out.
The muse was my therapist and my words, catharsis. When I read those words now they often seem like they were written by someone else. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes my words impress me and I ask myself, ‘Did I really write that?’ Those words hold an essence and a depth that wasn’t in me 18 months ago. I can thank Grief for that.
She held me close and I held her closer. She defined me and I let her. Then our relationship took an unexpected twist when, after about six months, Grief left me to find another soul to torment. She had penetrated every part of me and her departure left an emptiness behind; a space to be filled by something or, perhaps, someone else.
I didn’t realise she was leaving until after she’d gone. Grief had been my constant companion and influencer. Her occupation of my life was something I dreaded daily but she was also a dragging weight I’d carried willingly for months. Then suddenly, I was free.
I don’t know if I let go of Grief or she let go of me. Maybe it was a combination of both. It felt weird not to have her around. But I couldn’t hold onto her or the pain anymore. I couldn’t stay in that place of torment. It was time to move on.
Some people say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I don’t know about that. All I can say is, although I never, ever want to be hurt like that again, I know the experience showed me parts of myself I didn’t know existed. Grief was a hard taskmaster (okay, a complete bitch) but she taught me a lot about pain, creativity, what I’m capable of (the wonderful and awful, shameful parts) and my ability to just keep going when I’d rather give up completely.
I don’t wish her to visit again. But I am thankful for the lessons Grief taught me because they helped me to become a wiser person, and a stronger writer.
Over the past ten years I’ve noticed a trend that doesn’t seem to be diminishing and it’s played on my mind. I’ve tried to twist my perspective this way and that and I still haven’t come up with a definitive answer.
So today I thought I’d write about it and see if you had thoughts to share on the matter.
As a divorced woman in my 40s I’ve watched the relationships of numerous friends and acquaintances break-up. And it’s what has happened next that has me most perplexed.
Invariably the men move on to other relationships quickly while the women generally spend more time in recovery before even dipping their toe in the water again. Most men seem to barely draw breath before launching into something new. They can be emerging from a 10-year relationship or an intense affair and just a few weeks later they’re out there again, ready to repeat the experience. And they do. Within a very short space of time (often weeks or months) they’ll be ensconced in another relationship.
Most women on the other hand seem to take time for more self-reflection. They allow themselves the space to heal and are, often, not the least bit interested in trying on someone new until they’ve sorted through the mess of the old.
When I see this happening time and time again, I find it a little disconcerting.
Is it that men simply don’t need to process what went wrong? Do they truly have the capacity to just compartmentalise their past, stick it in a box and get on with it? Or are women just more inclined to navel-gaze and mull things over for extended periods of time?
As a woman, I can’t claim to know what goes on inside a man’s head when it comes to these things. However I can’t help but think it’s not a healthy pattern to simply go from one relationship into the next without giving yourself the space to think about what went wrong. I also wonder why many men appear to find this type of self-contemplation so hard to do.
Is it that men can’t be alone? Or are they conditioned through our culture and societal expectations that they must have a partner to be considered successful? And so their first thought is they must find someone new and simply forget what came before – they just have to ‘get on with it’ because there are ‘plenty more fish in the sea’.
Now, I’m not advocating that humans are meant to live without companionship. As a wise man once told me, ‘No one really wants to be alone and if they say otherwise they are lying.’ Relationships with other human beings with the accompaniments of companionship, acceptance and physical touch are a vital part of our existence. And like all human beings, I desire that for myself too.
But surely there is more room for the self-awareness that comes from being alone, outside a relationship. And why do most women seem more willing to have that experience and to grant themselves the space to do so?
Are women more adaptable? Can they more easily fill their own inner well? Have many men not been taught how to do this and instead look to have it filled by women?
One of my male friends would tell me it’s all about the male ‘lizard brain’ that is purely motivated by sex and not much else. But I know many women who also value sex highly as a vital way to connect with their partners, so it can’t all be about that.
Like I said at the start of this post, I don’t have an answer to all this. But I do question the behaviour when I see it time and time again. I also know that those emotions that have been shoveled under the carpet will eventually re-surface in a not-so-healthy way in a later relationship and the new partner will have to deal with the male’s unresolved issues from the past.
And, as a woman who’s been on the receiving end of that experience, I have to tell you it’s no fun.
A good friend is going through a tough time and when I asked her if she kept a journal she said, ‘No.’
‘Start,’ I said. ‘It will always help.’
I’ve found journaling to be my lifesaver in times of pain and turmoil. It helps me clear my mind, focus and get to truth of things. It’s so easy to lie to ourselves when we turn things over in our minds for days, weeks and months on end. We can argue with ourselves and our ego tells us all kinds of things sometimes to delude us and sometimes to annihilate us.
But when you sit down to write, and you don’t allow yourself to edit your words, the truth always comes out. Often I will surprise myself with what I write.
Journaling and writing in general is my clearing house for the soul. As a writer it helps me process my life and who I am.
It is also good to help me release things that are taking up residence within my body and will eventually cause illness if I don’t let them out. I believe pain and anger can do exactly that – our bodies carry not just our organs but also our beliefs and emotions and these can harm us if not managed properly. In the past, my inability to release those emotions has led to depression and physical ailments.
The past six months have been challenging for me. I’ve lost a beloved pet, supported a close family member through the removal of cancer (and coped with my own fears around that), and been devastated by the inexplicable abandonment of someone I love. There have been good things too but the sometimes the tough things drag you down into the mire.
So I continue writing in my journal and have also started a new book to help me process the most recent happenings in my life. I don’t know if it will ever see the light of day. Perhaps I am just writing this one just for me. But write it I must. And it is through that writing that I will be able to move forward, somehow, to a place where I can have a little more peace.