Not A Dear John Letter

A box of memories
A box of memories

Dear Jon

Where do I even start? This is the letter that has been trapped inside of me for months. The thoughts rattle around in my head and bounce back & forth on a daily basis.

I want you to know that I love you, I love you with all of my heart and that will never change. I no longer know where you are or what you are doing or if I will ever hear from you again. I have tried my best with the resources available to me to find out what has happened to you but each time I have met with a brick wall. You either do not want to be found or something dreadful has happened (we are unable to confirm or deny blah blah blah). I now have to accept this.

If you are safe and well, I wish you love, security and happiness. I want you to find your place in the world and to find a peaceful retreat. I want you to sleep gently and soundly like you once did in my bed, in my arms enveloped in love. I used to love watching you sleep.

I want you to know how grateful I am for the time we had together. I do not know who said these words, but I wish it had been me –

“And even if we never talk again please remember that I am forever changed by who you are and what you meant to me”.

I mostly need to thank you for the way your loved changed me. You made me feel beautiful and adored, cherished and wanted.

I have some specific memories and a small box of cherished items. I’ve opened it today, the box that’s been close to me all the years that I have known and loved you.

~A gold gift card from your first Christmas gift to me. It just says “love Jon xxxxx” we’d only know each other a couple of months, a few weeks really, but five kisses showed a lot of promise!

~A card from La Fenice, the local Italian Restaurant where we first went out as a four, you, me and my two children. It wasn’t easy, but it was a milestone.

~A tiny orange post-it note with my name on. Remember the silly game you thought up for Christmas with my family? It descended into total chaos, but we loved it. They also all loved you.

~A piece of lavender from Spa Fields in Islington. We dropped Emma at dance school and walked for miles looking for a peaceful space, not an easy task in London on a scorching hot day! To this day, the smell of lavender reminds me of the conversation, the very public kiss (the place where the bandidos live) and the feeling of total absorption in one another.

~A tiny photo of the corner table in The Chesil Rectory in Winchester, the oldest building in the city. You embarrassed the waitress remember?

Waitress: Have you decided?

You: Yes I have. I have decided that I love her.

It wasn’t the first time you had told me, but it is the one that sticks in my mind.

WP_000062 (2)~My ring, given to me for “love and commitment” it is beautiful, I’d like to put it back on but I dare not. It would undo these last few months that have got me to this point.

~Two small shells from Barton on Sea. I wanted shells; you sifted through heaps of stones to find me two shells with no cracks or chips. WP_000060You wanted to be near the sea that day, but somewhere quiet. A big ask in August bank holiday weekend on the south coast of England. I took you to where my Dad used to live, I hadn’t been back since his death and I thought it would be hard for me. It wasn’t, it was like introducing the two most important men in my life to each other. It gave me peace and tranquility although I doubt I could go back again. This was the last day that we spent together.

WP_000061

~Lastly, a shiny 1p coin. The first thing you gave me, or rather lent to me. I hate owing money and you lent it to me the first time you had to go away. It was to reassure me that you were coming back. Every time you returned you asked if I still had it. I still have it now and I guess it’s mine by default; you can collect it any time.

These are just small things and big memories and wherever my life leads from this point on I will take a part of you with me.

All my love,

Jane xxxxx

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The Scent of A Man

Morning Noon & Night

“All male pheromones are not equally attractive”

All men are not equally attractive, I’m sure the same can be said of women too. It fascinates me how we are attracted to some people and not others.

Take my ex husband (go on, be my guest) at some point I was attracted to him but these days I cannot see how that was even possible. So apart from the lying and cheating what changed? I am pretty sure that we are genetically programmed to value those people who are just plain nice to us. So when they stop being nice, they stop being attractive. It would be fair to say that I stopped being nice to him when he couldn’t support me in my grief. A man who couldn’t care at that level just stopped being attractive to me. So he went and found someone who would be nice to him (he was a type 4 spouse). Simple.

My friends are nice to me. Some of them I love, some I adore, some I like to spend time with. I don’t want to sleep with them though. What makes that difference?

When I became single after being married for 21 years, dating was terrifying. I had two young children had been through a bit of an ordeal (my father’s death, husband’s infidelity and other stuff not for sharing here), but I absolutely knew that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life alone.

Internet dating? It seemed like a reasonable solution but I have to say, what a struggle that was! You look at pictures, rather like a clothing catalogue and decide if you like them, then order them, then try them on for size (metaphorically, of course). I was lonely NOT desperate! How on earth do people think that because you ‘dated’ them that you want sex with them!

I took a different tactic and focused far more on trying to read between the lines of their profiles, decipher what people were trying to say and what they were trying not to say. I found a description that I liked. I didn’t like his photograph though. I decided that I would only date someone who was prepared to invest the time in getting to know me online. Someone with patience. Someone who I could ask lots and lots of questions of, in a way that you couldn’t with a face to face meeting that early on in a relationship/friendship. By the time we decided to meet, some six weeks later, I already knew that I liked him.

When I met him, he smelled good, really, really good. That was probably enough for me. I love this man, I loved him more deeply than any other man I have ever known. He was kind, he was gentle, caring, compassionate & considerate. He was nice to me. All of the time. NO exceptions.

So there are two factors here. He was nice to me and he smelled good.

Fast forward a few years and I find myself in the same situation again. Single, I think. I think? Yes, because I don’t really know for sure. But I do know, sure as hell, I am not going through internet dating again.

So rather than looking for just a man, I am looking for a person who can be present in my life, who is nice to me and who smells good!

You’d think it would be simple. Apparently not!

Autumn

& Everything it Means to Me.

I do not know why, but my mood changes in the Autumn, more so than any other season. I notice the onset of the season and stop and think about many things.

I am sure that part of my thought process relates to the fact that my birthday is in October and it’s a time to reflect on the years that have passed and those ahead. I know most people would tend to do this over New Year but I try & ignore that celebration altogether.

The last time ever spoke to my Dad will be 10 years ago this Autumn and it was my birthday, I have mentioned this before. When things like this happen on normally happy occasions, you can never let the day go by without thinking and reflecting. I adored my Dad and I only wish that my own children could have experienced that with their own father. I felt safe with him, I felt protected and loved even into my adulthood. He always had my back no matter what.

I also met my (missing) partner in October, actually on the anniversary of my Dad’s death. I have pondered this coincidence many, many times! Since starting this blog I have tried many times to openly express how I felt (still feel) about the gift of his love but I do not have the words yet. I hope that one day I do.

If you have been following my journey you will know that I started writing for therapy for myself, to become more open and (re) learn how to let people into my own personal space. It has worked too.

I have learned that although the leaves fall, the new growth will appear. In the last few months I have made more new friends, received so much support and found some like minded people who interact and seem to enjoy what I have to say. I am beginning to find my happiness again I must say I like it when I catch myself smiling.

with kind thanks to @pixodentist for permission to use this beautiful photograph
with kind thanks to @pixodentist for permission to use this beautiful photograph

Friends – I Bet You Think This Blog Post is About You!

Writing this blog and joining Twitter was my way of trying to expand my network of friends or at the very least learn how to reach out to others. As a single mother over the past nine, nearly 10 years I have been responsible for my children 24/7, 365 days a year and opportunities to meet new people are few and far between, I don’t get alternate weekends off like some divorced parents do!

At times of stress and emotional turmoil I withdraw from contact with others and the last 10 years or so have been full of stressful, emotional events. Without a doubt this started with my father’s death. It was sudden, shocking and very unexpected. I withdrew from my then husband and this behaviour was undoubtedly a contributory factor in his affair that followed. This is the part that I take full responsibility for.

From then on my withdrawal was like a snowball effect. The other woman was known to us and one day I even spoke to her and commented that her ‘new man’ must be good for her as she was looking glowing and well. Why is the wife the last to know? My self imposed alienation from my circle of so called friends (so many of them had known of the affair and not told me or even hinted) just grew & grew as I tried to escape the gossip and keep my pain private. I value the people in my life highly, but I value trust and loyalty too.

This isn’t a poor me post though.

There are always friends that you haven’t met just waiting to be found. When this gossip and speculation by the Playground Mafia was rife, one person who I had never spoken to before made the effort to talk to me every single school day and if she didn’t collect her four year old daughter, then her older seventeen year old daughter took her place. They were both friendly faces in a sea of people who I no longer trusted. Ten years later I am still in contact with them both and I remain incredibly grateful that they reached out.

My personal circumstances also resonated with someone who I met at the same time through my work. We spent many evenings chatting online about partners, life, sadness and eventually dating. Without his support and encouragement I would never have had the courage to set up my online dating profile, met my partner and experienced the love we shared. He’s also held firm as a friend despite moving thousands of miles away and has remotely ‘been there’ for me over the last couple of years since my partner went to work in a war zone and has not been seen since.

Then there was a fellow ‘dance mum’, who I had previously passed the time of day with, she was also experiencing divorce. We have shared so many similar life events since (apart from the one where she gets married) and have, I am sure, many yet to share!

What about when I became ill and ended up in hospital, there was the friend and her husband who stepped in, visited me, taxied my Mum to hospital to see me all during the extreme winter of 2010/11? Not only that, they offered me work afterwards enabling me to escape the corporate job that was making me more and more unhappy every single day. Their entire family, although we see less of them now, has been rock solid for me and my children.

So my friendship circle got pruned. But like the overgrown shrubs in my garden that I mercilessly and viciously attacked earlier this year there are new shoots sprouting again in places where you wouldn’t think possible.

It’s very true that strangers are friends that you haven’t met yet.

WP_000061 (2)(taken on ‎21 ‎August ‎2012, ‏the last full day that I spent with my partner)

A stranger reached out to me recently and gave me hope that there are still new friends to be made. I can already feel the difference that this one gesture has bought me, some of the unhappiness has lifted and life looks more positive. It gives me more confidence to make bolder moves towards others that seem to be offering friendship where perhaps I haven’t been very open.

These people change your life and sometimes they don’t have a clue how much.

The girl and the dance cannot be separated.

…Or what dance training has given my daughter (a mother’s point of view).

For my daughter’s 18th Birthday, her friends and I compiled a scrapbook of her life to date. It turns out that it was the best possible therapy I could have ever had. In all their comments and letters and Facebook posts and chats, in their photographs, shared memories and the secret afternoons spent with them, I was given a unique view of her from the perspective of others.

One thing became obvious though…We couldn’t imagine what this girl would be like without dance in her life.

I don’t have a dance background myself; I never went to classes as a child so why did I choose ballet classes for my daughter?

She was clumsy, always falling over, usually splitting her lip and when she did so she would leave a horror scene in her wake! She couldn’t skip either – it was a funny one legged attempt. I thought all girls could skip naturally! I enrolled her in the local ballet class when she was just a tiny three year old! I hope you dance (small)

I was a good dance mum; I made the costumes, supported the shows as a chaperone & matron. I loved watching her dance more than anything. She stood out because she was mine and for no other reason than that. At seven her dance teacher pulled me to one side after her lesson and said “she has something special, a unique quality. I want her to audition for The Royal Ballet School”. YOU WHAT!?

She didn’t get in. It had nothing to do with me sewing her elastic on her ballet shoes and forgetting to take the pins out either! Not getting selected at that audition may have been the best thing that happened to her, ever. She was successful at her next audition and has never looked back since.

I hope you dance (doors)So in the very first instance, dance taught her that rejection is not the end, if you keep at it the right opportunity will arise. There have been other disappointments in her training and in her life outside of dance but she has always referred back to that first rejection, gathered her thoughts and moved forward. It was an important life lesson to have experienced so early on.

She has learned to appreciate all people, from all walks of life and from many parts of the world due entirely to her dance network and experiences. After the Royal Ballet she auditioned for The Urdang Academy in London. It took her (us) into London most weekends and London is very different to where we live. It taught her how to read bus and train timetables more by osmosis than actually reading them because at such a young age she clearly wasn’t travelling by herself!

Her first show, at The Place in London, was just a couple of days after the 7/7 bombings, the bus in Tavistock Square exploded just a street away from the Theatre where she was due to perform. I don’t mean to oversimplify things but this brought into sharp focus that not all humans are kind, that life is for living. These were the kind, simple, gentle explanations that you would give to an eight year old. We looked at the pictures of missing people pinned to the railings outside Euston Station and we talked. This was a sad lesson in man’s inhumanity to man. I could have stopped her going, but doing that would have let down her classmates. The entire cast turned up as always, the show must go on. I think the media coverage after 7/7, rather than the event itself, left her with a fear of the underground for a while, but she also learned to overcome that fear. She has engendered a passionate interest in world events, conflicts and difficulties, determined to change the world someday.I hope you dance (faith)

I separated from her father when she was just about to start secondary school and at this very difficult time in our lives I know that dance gave her escape. Escape from the troubles at home, escape from the arguments, and escape from me trying to hold things together. Her dance teachers at this point were incredibly supportive becoming almost surrogate parents. Without dance I could have had a very troubled teenager on my hands!

Dance gave her friends; it gave her friends outside of school. So when friendships got tough in the teenage years there was always dance class later and other friends to be with. I am very sure that some of them will be there for the rest of her life. You cannot measure the value of the gift of friendship.

Ah, what about body confidence? I do remember when she was a baby promising myself that I would do all that I could to make her feel beautiful. I didn’t want her to have any of the emotional attachment to food that I have. This is always a tricky subject in the teenage years, but regular exercise had seen to it that she had a neat, strong little figure, yet also had the ability to eat more than you would think could physically fit inside her torso. She still does and I am jealous! She doesn’t weigh herself and eats only when she is hungry, which is quite often! She loves food.

Fitness and stamina come next. This girl has an innate hatred of running for exercise. If she sees runners or joggers she will spout forth a diatribe of why…why would anyone do that, what’s the point? Completely blinkered to the fact that they could be just as passionate about running as she is about dance! Yet during the school years on Sports Day she was a secret weapon for her team; she was always in the long distance races. This girl who hated running would start at the very back of the pack and just keep going without even breaking into a sweat. She only ever ran once a year. To my knowledge since leaving school she has never run again. Dancing for 5, 6 even 7 hours some days gave her incredible stamina packed into a tiny physique. Little did she know that by the time she would attend University the dance day would often be double that.

Does she sound like she was a perfect teenager? Honestly, she wasn’t! But finding a passion early in her life meant that she always had something to work for, a goal or a target. Young dancers are also used to criticism and corrections, they don’t harden to it and you have to be there for the tears and the breakdowns but they do know how to take it. You cannot answer back to your ballet mistress. Dancers  have tenacity, persistence, perseverance and every other synonym of determination that you can think of. Dance kept her busy with little time for distractions and unnatural stimulants had no part in her life, she preferred instead the endorphins and adrenaline of performing. For this I am incredibly grateful.

She had learned from a young age to plan time for her homework; I always used the threat that if homework wasn’t completed there would be no dance lesson. By the time she was studying for GCSE’s she was so good at time management that I could just trust that she would just get on and do her school work, I never had to check or nag. At ‘A’ Level she was an expert; she already knew that by studying during her free periods whilst physically at college it left evenings free for dancing and now also teaching.

So this brings us to confidence, at just 16 she could command and control a class from ages 3 to 13+, she could confidently liaise and converse with their parents and was well liked and respected by all. She could travel confidently alone to other towns and cities to take a new class of her own and immediately integrate and socialise with her peers.

There have been turning points and defining moments. She has had some wonderful mentors and role models. She has had dance experiences with many less fortunate than herself and they have been life changing. She worked with Epic Arts (Cambodia) one year and communication was almost impossible initially but within a week there was mutual respect, affection and understanding between all the dancers. This was a major lesson in learning to trust.I hope you dance (dance)

Dance has cost me dearly financially, but if it had been a conscious investment I consider that the returns have been priceless.

The girl and the dance cannot be separated.

Lee Ann Womak – I Hope You Dance

My Daughter Wants to Change the World One Day…

Baby Emma - Copy…she doesn’t realise that she already has.

This has to be one of my favorite photographs of her, barely two weeks old, beautiful chubby cheeks, arms in 5th position – very telling!

Four years of infertility treatment was exhausting and soul destroying as anyone who has experienced it will tell you! She was conceived naturally following a decision to have a short break before trying IVF. That alone changed my world.

Her pacifistic tendencies were at work early on in her life. My parents, who divorced some years earlier, decided whilst passing each other in the hospital corridor that they would put their differences aside for the greater good of this beautiful human being. That also changed my world and that of my parents, sister and the rest of our family. DSC_8024  square bleach

She has taught me many things throughout her life so far and the ripple effect just keeps on going. I watch with immense pride as she matures into a beautiful young woman.

“Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.”
Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter