Alone

alone

My husband moved out of our house last weekend. And when he did, I felt so…alone. His books, clothes, and toiletries are gone. The only trace of him are the photos of us together, smiling into the camera, taken 11 years ago when we were so in love. I put the photos in a box and closed it tightly.

The first 48 hours were the worst. I cried every time I came home to an empty house, and not just because I am now responsible for all the rent and bills. The emptiness of the house reflected the emptiness inside me. He was gone, both literally and figuratively.

But then, on the third day, I arranged the house the way I wanted it. I burned some lavender in the aroma burner. I opened the windows for half a day to let the fresh air in. The house looks nice. I feel better. I haven’t cried since.

We still have to get divorced, but I feel that the first step, and probably the hardest, is over. Him moving out was symbolic of the end of the relationship. The rest is just paperwork.

I’m beginning to get a sense of the freedom of living alone and being single. I can do anything, whenever I want, and with whoever I want. Whenever my thoughts slide into the past, I bring them back to the present, sometimes easily, sometimes forcefully.

I am alone. But I am also free.

Advertisements

Follow Yourself

followyourself

“Get up early”.

“Have a morning routine.”

“Meditate.”

“Be mindful.”

“Take up yoga.”

“Give up sugar.”

“Drink water, not coffee.”

“Write every day, even when you don’t feel like it.”

“Blog daily.”

It seems that everywhere we look, we are given advice that will dramatically improve our lives, and make us happier, and richer. More grounded, more rounded, more successful. I’ve bought the books, read the articles and blogs. Tried to implement the advice in an effort to enhance my life.

I tried getting up early for three months. I used my extra hour to exercise (part of the morning routine) and then write. This left me depleted of energy by 1:00pm, and in need of a nap, just around the time I had to be dealing with clients. It also meant that I had to go to bed at 9:30pm, because I need at least eight hours sleep to function. I finish working at 8:00pm most nights, so there went my social life. I also put on weight because I was eating so close to bedtime.

I run my own writing business, and never know when work is going to come in. At busy times, I can be working on three jobs at once, and in quiet times, nothing. When work comes in, I have to take it. This means I can’t write (fiction) every day, even if I feel like it. I have to earn money to pay the rent to enable me to keep writing fiction.

Work is so stressful with tight deadlines, that sometimes I need to continue working, even when my creativity and energy is waning. This usually happens around 3:00pm, and the only things that keeps me going and enables me to the meet the deadline are coffee and chocolate. Water just doesn’t do it for me.

I gave up following the advice I found in self-help books and online, and started to follow myself. I know the best time for me to get up and start the day. I have learnt to fit exercise into work breaks during the day. I know what I need to eat and drink to maintain my working levels. I feel I have found a routine that works for me. That I think, is key. What works for you? Just because some lifestyle guru says her way will change your life, doesn’t mean you should follow her advice. It might not work for you.

The best thing you can do is find a routine and lifestyle that feels comfortable for you, and find ways to fit in exercise, writing, family time, or whatever, around your schedule and your physiological and psychological needs. Follow yourself, not some doctrine prescribed by someone whose lifestyle and indeed, whole life, is different from yours.

 

Who can you trust?

whocanyoutrust

So I’m getting divorced. Who has the right to tell people about that? My soon-to-be ex-husband and I. No one else. Which is why I find it so disappointing to hear a friend has been going around and telling everybody.  The time to tell my friends is mine for the choosing. Not his. Why would he think it was his right to tell anyone?

What makes it worse is that he is my best friend, and has been for 19 years. I thought I could trust him. Now I feel utterly betrayed. Of course people gossip. It’s human nature. But people are also capable of sensitivity and knowing when to stay quiet, especially when it concerns the people they care about.

My friend and I trust each other with our closest secrets. Now I wonder, how many of those has he told others? Can I trust him again? I don’t know. Will I trust him again? Probably not. If you can’t trust your closest friends, who can you trust?

 

 

Meet him online?

meet him online

My friend, who is also in her early forties and recently found herself single, took the plunge into online dating. Within a week, she had met “the most amazing man” and is now getting ready for their second date. We were chatting yesterday. She’s wondering, where is the catch? You don’t just sign up to a dating app, go out with the first person you find on it, and land yourself a boyfriend. Do you?

We have been out of the dating game for so long, things have moved on. When I left the dating scene, smartphones hadn’t been invented, there was no such thing as an i-Pad, and people around me had met their partners in pubs, through friends, or at work. Sure, there was online dating, but this was early days. It wasn’t mainstream like it is now.

Anyway, my friend is trying to get me into online dating. This will probably make me sound so old, but my first concern was, what about my privacy? I have to upload pictures? And information about myself? Then, cynically, I thought, do I want someone who has spent his time trawling dating sites looking for hookups?

But wouldn’t that  be what I was doing? Trawling sites, looking for hookups? I want to stay single, but not celibate. So long-term romance is off the table. I’m done. (At least for the moment.) So maybe online dating is a good place to start. It’s just so different from what I’m used to. I met my soon-to-be ex-husband through mutual friends, and boyfriends before that at work, in bars or through friends. I guess online dating is the equivalent of the old “meet in a bar” scenario. There used to be people, both male and female (myself included) looking for a hookup in bars and clubs. I guess things have just moved online. Only then, you didn’t need to give any information out about yourself, or upload your pictures to the net and publicise the fact that you were looking. You could remain anonymous. “Just some girl in a bar”. That suited my fine. I was also much more carefree then. I didn’t have my own business and a list of clients with whom I want to maintain an aura of professionalism.

I guess I should follow my friend’s advice and take the plunge. If that’s how things work these days, I have to go along with it. I think I’ll wait till I’m actually divorced first though.

Single for Life

singleforlife

I’m beginning to warm to the idea. Since separating from my husband last November, I’ve had time to do a lot of thinking. I felt lost and disoriented at first. We were together for ten years. When we got married, I assumed we’d be together till death. As the years went by, we both found marriage to be convenient and secure, but a struggle. We are both very independent people. I’d say now that neither of us are cut out for marriage. We value freedom too much.

Friends and family often say to me “don’t worry, you’ll find Mr. Right one of these days”, as if I am incomplete without “Mr. Right”. I know they are only trying to make me feel better. The thing is, I have no interest in finding “Mr. Right”. (And this, from a romance author who writes HEA endings!)

The more time goes on, the more I warm to the idea of being single for life. That’s not to say I want to be celibate and chaste. Far from it. I want to date again, fall in love, feel the magic of a new relationship again. But it kind of stops there. I don’t want to commit myself to anyone, to compromise, to tie myself down. This might sound childish and selfish, but over the past few months, I’ve been asking myself, “What do I value most of all in life?” And the answer is always the same. “Freedom.” I value freedom.

Does this mean I’ll be single for life? Probably. I can’t see myself every getting married again. Been there, done that, and realised it’s not for me. I have never wanted kids, and at my age (41) I know they are not in my future plans. So there is no clock ticking, no rush to “settle down”. I’ve been settled, and didn’t enjoy it. Why would I do it again? People could say that my husband was not “the right one”. But in many ways he was. We shared common values, rarely argued (our last argument was around six years ago) and gave each other space to pursue our own interests. We respected each other as individuals, as well as members of a couple. And still it didn’t work.

Marriage isn’t for everyone. I’m beginning to realise that it’s not for me. And you know what? I’m completely fine with that. It’s time to live according to my core values. What could make me happier?

[Book Review] The Kiss Thief by LJ Shen

bookreview

I haven’t read many arranged marriage novels. I prefer my heroines and heroes to fall in love and come together through mutual attraction and desire, not because of the dealings of a parent or their position in power. However, I enjoyed this book.

Francesca is forced to marry Senator Wolfe Keaton, who happens to be an absolute a**hole. I hated him at first. I detested his cruelty, the way he treated Francesca and women in general. I wanted Francesca to find a way to escape and marry her childhood sweetheart Angelo.

It soon becomes clear that there is no going back. She cannot return to her previous life, due to her father’s misdeeds, and so accepts her fate, although she rebels in her own way. This book takes you through a range of emotions, some good, some almost unbearably bad, and through some unexpected twists and turns.

Through his marriage to Francesca, Wolfe changes, and learns what it really means to love a woman. Francesca seems too young and inexperienced to know in the early days of the relationship how she should be, and deserves to be, treated, but blossoms into a mature young woman, who is forgiving  – more than I would be.

I enjoyed this book for the emotional journey it took me on. I was also intrigued as to how the main characters would ever achieve happiness given their initial hatred of each other. It was a romance with a difference – very well written, with stories woven together expertly. It definitely takes you on a journey!

40? Just getting started

40justgettingstarted

When I was younger, 40 seemed so far away, it seemed so…old. I would never be 40. It would never happen to me. And then it did. It crept up on me silently, until one day I blinked, and I was 40. Now I’m 41.

How are we supposed to feel when we hit 40? Happy? Content? Washed out? Over the hill? On the verge of a mid-life crisis? When I hit 40, I felt like I was 20. I felt, and still feel, like I am just getting started.

I think the key to this is that I am constantly trying something new. I did a Master’s degree in my mid thirties, and started fiction writing in my late thirties. Embarking on something new and challenging gives us a sense of excitement, of expectation. We have something to aim for, and this invigorates us, and gives us another taste of youth.

My impending divorce has also renewed this sense of beginning. True, dating in one’s 40s is harder than dating in one’s 20s, but I’m excited to think I get to experience the magic of meeting someone new, of getting to know them, and enjoying the thrill of a new relationship. I don’t intend to marry again, so who knows? I might get to experience this more than once. Or I might get to experience a deep, meaningful relationship with someone who loves me for who I am.

I wondered if I felt like this because so much of my life is changing, but I have friends the same age, who are married and well into careers they will still be in at 60, who say exactly the same thing. “I feel like I’m just getting started.” They are also challenging themselves, be it professionally or personally.

I must admit, I surprised myself when I hit 40 and didn’t have a feeling of dread. I felt better mentally than I did in my late 30s. I think that was when I went through an existential crisis of some sort, waiting for 40 to happen. And then it happened. And all was well again.

Comparisonitis

dontcompare

Do you suffer from comparisonitis? I do, which is why I have to keep telling myself “don’t compare”. My comparisonitis gets bad when I look at other writers who are younger or the same age as me, but are a lot more successful. I think, “she ‘made it’ while she was still in her 20s,” or “she sold a million books by the time she was 40, why haven’t I?”

Whenever I catch myself falling into this negative way of thinking (because it is negative), I try to remind myself that everyone’s situation is different. The woman who sold a million books by the time she was 40 has probably written a hell of a lot more than I have. She’s probably spent most of her waking hours on writing and refining her craft. The woman who ‘made it’ in her 20s could have been laying the groundwork for success from the age of ten, who knows.

I have to remind myself that I have done other things, had other careers, followed a different path, had a different childhood, different upbringing, and have developed a different set of values. Thinking about it, comparing yourself to someone else is a ridiculous thing to do. They have lived their life and experiences, and you have lived yours. It’s only natural that there will be some deviation.

That’s not to say you can’t be inspired or motivated by someone else’s success, and learn from them and try to emulate what they have done. That’s a positive reaction to someone else’s success. Wistfully reading about their successes as you calculate how much younger they are than you, and wondering why they have achieved what they have and you haven’t, creates a vortex of negativity, which can suck you down and make you feel worthless.

Don’t compare. Get motivated. If they can do it, so can you.

[Book Review] Sparks Fly by Lucy Kevin

bookreview

Sparks Fly by Lucy Kevin

Lucy Kevin is a name used by the hugely successful Bella Andre for “sweet” romances – those without the steamy scenes.

The main character, Angelina, is a Feng Shui expert. I thought this was an interesting and novel career for a main character as it gives her the chance to poke around people’s houses and get to know them intimately. What’s wrong with their lives? What do they want, or need? How do they go about getting that? It’s a great way for Angelina to get to know her clients, and one in particular.

Will is the CEO of a huge company and is extremely wealthy. His ex-wife hires Angelina to sort his life out, in the hope that Feng Shui will help her to win him back. Unfortunately, in Angelina, she picks the most beautiful and charming Feng Shui expert in town (maybe the only Feng Shui expert in town, I don’t know).

Will and Angelina are attracted to each other from the start. Will, however, is married to his company and his phone, and they have more of his attention than the attractive Feng Shui lady left waiting on his doorstep. Even so, he can’t get her out of his head, and the attraction between them is there from the start.

Angelina has a friend called Krista. I liked Krista. I thought she was more fleshed out than either of the main characters, and her personality really shone through. I could see bits of myself in her, which might explain why I identified with her more than I did with Angelina. She is flirty and fun, and on the lookout for a good time.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so I’ll just say that Will’s ex-wife’s plan fails miserably, and something happens aboard Will’s private jet that gives Angelina a lot to think about.

I would have liked Angelina to have been a bit more fleshed out. There were times when I wondered why she thought the way she did about certain things. (As a writer, this made me wonder if I’m fleshing my characters out enough…aarrgh!) But overall, it was a well-written quick read.

Know when to say no

knowwhentosayno

I used to have a problem with saying no, especially when I was working full-time. If my boss asked me to change shifts, or work overtime, I would always say yes. I felt like I had to, and that it made me seem more cooperative. I thought it would make me more likeable. Of course, everyone wants to be liked, but how much of that stems from insecurity? From the fear of being disliked, or concern about what people think about you?

Looking back to the time when I couldn’t say no, I realise that it came from just that – a fear of being seen in a bad light. In that sense, I guess I let people take advantage of me. I would end up doing more than anyone else, because everyone else had the good sense to say no, and probably more self-confidence.

Being cooperative to the point of burning myself out got me promotions. But I wasn’t happy. I wanted to work for myself, so one day I gave my company the ultimate no and left.

In the first five or six years of working for myself, I said yes to everything. I was too scared to say no. What if I said no to a client, and they never came back? What if I said no to a job and then no more jobs came in all month? How would I eat? How would I pay the rent? I originally started working for myself because I wanted freedom. I ended up working twice as much as I did when I was employed out of fear. This time, it wasn’t the desire to be liked that stopped me saying no, it was fear about my financial prospects. I got to the point where I hated what I did. I didn’t want to work for myself anymore, and I didn’t want to work for someone else. But I had to work.

It was then that I realised the problem. I just needed to take a risk and say no. To refuse jobs that stressed me out, or made me unhappy. To risk not being liked. So one day, I did. And what happened? Work still came in. I didn’t starve. My income didn’t change that much. That gave me confidence to say no again. I started saying no to anything I didn’t want to do.

But I’m feeling scared again. Now I’m single, and dependent on myself for my income and my livelihood. Can I afford to say no to things which are going to stress me out, or things which bring in the money, but are not cost-effective? More importantly, can I say no to work in order to spend that time writing?

To write, I need to say no to other things. I need to turn down work. Is it worth the risk? Will it pay off? There’s only one way to find out. Will I have the courage to do it?