Wednesday, 31 December 2014

#196: Forgive myself

It is often said that it is harder to forgive yourself than someone else. I know I'm not perfect (far from it) and can be difficult at times. I've have spent a lot of time this year blaming myself and my foibles for the collapse of my relationship. How could I have been so trusting? How did I not see it coming? Why did I not stop them spending so much time together? Why did I let us drift so far apart? If only I had been nicer, lost weight sooner, wore trendier clothes, was funnier, paid more attention, was less serious, made more friends, laughed at the jokes more, laughed at the jokes harder, worked less, had a more trendy job, had better interests, made more money. If only my family didn't drive people nuts...if only, if only, if only.

I've spent the last year pinpointing my vast short comings and what I did to drive my Ex away. As any reader of this blog can see, I'm quite adept at coming up with lists and in this regard I excelled and surpassed myself with a never ending list of ways I came up short and ruined things. How it was really all my fault. I have an inner, and not very kind, voice in the back of my head that tells me I'm not good enough, pretty enough, nice enough, thin enough, etc for someone to love me, which was silenced (mostly) during the 9 years we were together. Having someone who knew me so well walk away, and with someone else, makes it difficult to believe it's not true; difficult to believe I didn't deserve it and somehow have it coming. That it was my fault. I have spent sleepness nights on the bathroom floor, at the kitchen table, or in bed crying over the myriad of ways I let my love and myself down.

Despite that, I'm learning to forgive myself for my many failings, even as I work hard to make sure I don't repeat my mistakes as I go forward. It takes two to make a relationship work, and a relationship is work sometimes. If only forgiving oneself was as easy as forgiving someone else, I'd be fine. I'm not sure I've entirely cracked this one, but I'm well on my way...

#195: Forgive my Ex

Wow, this is a big one to tick off. A few months ago, I was asked about forgiveness in an interview for the Huffington Post and whether I had forgiven my ex or not. I was not yet ready to forgive at that point, so I said the only thing that came to mind: "Forgiveness...that's tough. The other F word!" No matter how much I wanted to move on, forgive and forget, my heart wasn't ready then. I was still bitter, hurt and angry.
More time has past since then, however, and with time comes more distance and greater understanding. I still see my Ex fairly regularly, mostly to let my Ex see the cats. We are cordial, but reserved. I'll get the low down on what's going on in family and work life and hear the latest stories about my goddaughter, the niece. The new GF is never mentioned. I find it odd and somewhat confusing at times that my ex still ends most of our visits in tears, more than a year later. It was not my choice; this was what you supposedly wanted, I want to say, but I don't. I know in my heart that it is not me the tears are for but for our pets, the house and the life we had together. But not me. I may have helped build and provide that life, but it is not me that is missed. It is a very fine but important distinction.

My Ex was unhappy -- I thought with life. It turns out it was with both life and with me. I was a big part of my Ex's life so in retrospect I can now see how it seemed to make sense to cut me loose and start fresh. It was the one area of life my Ex had complete control over. There had been no premeditated plan to break up with me that morning, but when I unwittingly spoke those fateful, and fatal, words it opened a door for my Ex to walk out and make changes.

I have no doubt that my Ex would not have left me if the new girlfriend had not been lurking around.  Like a bad penny she was always showing up but I loved and trusted. They worked together and bonded over their mutual interest, but after 9 years I loved and trusted that was all there was to it. It was only in retrospect that the words my Ex uttered that morning made sense: "I love you. I'm not unhappy, it's just I think I could be happier with someone else." Looking back, that was why my Ex had no interest in trying to work things out, consciously or unconsciously. I'll never know what really happened between them and when. I had asked at the time if there was someone specific in mind and was told no...and I believed that.
What I do know is that they spent last Christmas, which was only a few weeks after we split, together with my Ex's family, and I was told by friends that they effectively had moved in together by January ... THAT and the lies surrounding it all have been the hardest to forgive. Break ups are not easy, but they happen.

Being left for another woman, however, is a different level of soul (and trust) destroying. Because of that, in some way, I will always probably hurt in some way. But they did what they needed to do. Even if I didn't understand it at the time, I can now appreciate the possibility that they did me a favour and spared me from spending the rest of my life as a safety net or consolation prize.
I am working hard to try to heal those wounds that have left my heart bruised, battered and torn apart. There were times this past year when I missed my friend, my love, my life, but I have had to let go and move on. To do that I had to learn to forgive, find some kind of peace and build a new life. Having The List certainly has helped as well.

I do hope that my Ex finds whatever happiness was missing from life when we were together. While our life was not perfect, I was pretty happy so if there's something even better, that's a pretty exciting prospect which gives me tremendous hope for my life to come.

Photo credits: Feng Yu, solominviktor, Marianne D : Shutterstock

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

#194: Stay employed

In this day and age, while it's difficult to get a job, it can be even more difficult at times to stay employed. I've been very lucky (and I have also worked very hard) throughout my life but these days that doesn't mean much when the bean counters want to make changes.

I work in a cut throat industry that is undergoing a lot of change and, while the company I work for is great, it's no exception. So not only has my personal life been in turmoil this year, my work life has been too.

While I was fortunate to be promoted in June, my company announced yet another restructure in September (the 3rd time in 18 months). My job is under threat yet again, but I've managed to last the year still employed.
I'm not sure how, as I have been admittedly focused on and distracted by my personal life. Some days I hated going to work and frankly am not sure how I made it through certain days in any functional way. But there were many other days that I was grateful for the distraction and for having something that kept me busy and gave me some means of support and pride.

I could have easily wasted the year cowering under my duvet feeling even more sorry for myself. While this has been a tough year, there are many people out there who aren't as fortunate. I know I am lucky and I am grateful to still be gainfully employed. Fingers crossed the new year doesn't end up with my head on the chopping block. But if it does, maybe I'd do something more with that book proposal.

Monday, 29 December 2014

#193: Write a book proposal

I had this on my list because I've often wondered if I could write a book. You know what they say, "Everyone has a book in them". When I started this year, I didn't really have any idea what this hypothetical fictional book would be about or if I even had a story in me that people would want to read. I worry that even if I do have a book in me, that that's where it should stay: within me.

Since I started writing this blog, however, I've had some amazing and humbling feedback including many suggestions that I turn it into a book or screenplay. I'm not sure it deserves that or even if I'd want to use something so personal as the basis for a story, if not the story, but it has given me some food for thought. My gut says I should just let sleeping dogs be, writing a book proposal is different from publishing a book.

Let me know if you think this is a good idea or not. Personally I'm on the fence...

Photo credit: bogdanhoda : Shutterstock

Sunday, 28 December 2014

#192: Go Ice Skating

Being born in Minnesota, I was on skates pretty much as soon as I could walk. I figure skated and played ice hockey and so spent a lot of time (months of the year!) in and around ice rinks growing up. I absolutely loved skating when I was younger.
There's always been something special about ice skating: the smell of a rink, the brisk coldness of the air and that special feel when your skate hits the ice for the first time. And also of course the Zamboni! Of all the words in the English language, I laugh almost every time I say the word Zamboni. It's just such a funny word to say, I love it. (For those of you who don't know what a Zamboni is, it's the machine that cleans and makes new ice).
A Zamboni. Photo credit: jessicakirsh /
Like many things on The List, I have not skated in years. Every winter, I would see the festive rinks open and think, 'I must go skating this year' but another year would pass without doing it. Despite it being something I once loved to do, I just didn't make time for it. Luckily in London I had a few different options for checking this off The List: The Natural History Museum, Tower of London, Winter Wonderland and of course the winner, picturesque Somerset House.

I was a bit worried that after so long I'd have forgotten how to balance and that in any attempt to try to regain the skills I once had would have me face down on the ice with a subsequent trip to A&E for broken wrist. So I didn't try any advanced moves and kept to the basics but I was beaming from ear to ear. I enjoyed it so much. Hopefully it won't be another 20 years before I'm back on the ice...

Saturday, 27 December 2014

#191: Go to a strip club

I'm not sure why this is on my list. In fact if I thought about the negative social and ethical aspects around supporting this activity I definitely would not do this. I think it was on my list because I've long been curious what happens in these places and what it's really like and so when I put my list together I thought this was one of the things I doubted I'd ever be brave or bold enough to do.

When I lived in New York it was not uncommon for girls to join their male friends going to Scores or some other higher-end 'gentleman's club', but I was too much of a wimp and always made my way home instead. But that was before the days of Miley Cyrus twerking in prime time. Rightly or wrongly, sexy dancing/stripping has become main stream and so I thought that it was time to see what all the fuss is about.

I have to say that, while I had a fun evening, that was down to the company of the friends that joined me, not because I actually enjoyed the experience itself.

Anyway, it was certainly an experience.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

#189: Visit my parents for Christmas

Last year I spent Christmas at my place for the first time in my life. I was alone for most of the time, for obvious reasons. London was too far away for my ageing parents/family to travel to at short notice, which worked out because I couldn't have handled having guests anyway. As much as I love my family, it would have been too much. But nor could I go home, by myself, to the house I grew up in. I would have felt like even more of a failure than I already did to be showing up, by myself, like I did when I was 20 years old.  I imagined everyone thinking, "Oh look at her, single at Christmas time, and at her age. How sad."

I needed to be in the comfort of my own home, alone with my cats. (And get used to how I would likely spend the rest of my life: alone with the cats.) The house may have been a bit empty and lonely at times but it was a safe and comfortable place for me to cry and be sad, which was exactly what I needed at the time. Truth be told it was a very enjoyable Christmas for me all things considered. Simple, straight-forward with no entanglements, stressful travel or difficult relations to deal with. Nor did I have to explain myself or lack of partner to distant relatives or parental friends. I felt bad letting my parents down but I didn't need to make life any harder for myself than it already was.

However, I knew I shouldn't do that again and when I put my list together I hoped I'd be able to handle Christmas with family this year. So I braved the roads and airport, (even stealing a cheeky photo booth kiss in the process) and am happy to say that I have made it back to my childhood home this year for Christmas. And while I may have arrived on my own, I'm totally ok with that because I know there are people out there who care about, and even love, me.

Merry Christmas indeed.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

#188: Kiss in a photo booth

Childish I know. I’m a middle-aged woman for goodness sake. Still, there’s a naughty little teenager lurking underneath my respectable exterior.

Who says teenagers are the only ones who get to enjoy some cheeky fun anyway? (Of course I made sure that the curtains to the photo booth were both long and closed.)

It made saying goodbye at the airport much more enjoyable.

Photo: Tyler McKay, conrado / Shutterstock

Sunday, 21 December 2014

#187: Go to a Wine Tasting

Tis the season for celebrations so knowing I had this on my list, I decided to forgo my usual tipple and try the tasting/drinking menu. I had a tasting of 3 sparkling wines: A Champagne (French Sparkling), a Cava (Spanish Sparkling) and an English Sparkling (why hasn’t the British wine industry hasn’t come up with it’s own name, like prosecco, I don’t know.)

 I may not have made it down to an English vineyard this year (another item on my list), but I have to say the English sparkling was a lot better than I expected. Surprisingly, I preferred it to the cava.

English Wine: While Britain, particularly the southeastern parts of Sussex and Kent, has similar soil to that in Champagne region, Britain's cold and rainy weather has historically made it difficult to make good wine. Luckily, the warm weather of recent years has changed that. English Sparkling wine is leading the way and there was recently an English Sparkling that made it into the top 10 Sparkling wines in the world. I have to say I really enjoyed mine.

Friday, 19 December 2014

#186: Get 10,000 Twitter followers

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd achieve this. I was lucky to be functioning enough to get out of bed in the morning, let alone actually write a blog/journal about what I was doing; a blog that was really only meant for me, to enable me to look back and see how far I'd come. I never really intended to reach that many people or for it to have much of an audience. But it seems like there are quite a few people out there who have liked what I've been doing. I've had some great feedback about the blog; it seems to have struck a cord and inspired a few people to start Lists of their own. I am humbled and grateful for the support.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

#185: Sell old stuff on ebay

Earlier this year I did a big clean out of both my and my ex's belongings. Some things I gave to charity, others I threw out, and still others I kept as I thought I might want/need in the future. Having a year's distance on my old life, however I've come to realise that there were a few things I was still literally holding onto that I needed to get rid of as they were clogging up not only my living room, but also my life. So bye bye old chair and sofa. So long the dress my ex liked but I thought was hideous. Adios fancy-brand notepad that serves no real purpose. I've decluttered further and earned a few bob at the same time.

Monday, 15 December 2014

#184: Go to Borough Market

Borough market is one of London's oldest food markets and while it is open to the trade 6 days a week, it is only open to the public Thursday-Saturday. It is a charming Victorian market that sells an eclectic mix of local staples and exotic food from Europe and beyond. It's a foodies paradise, though not somewhere to come with a thin wallet. The food is great, but it does come at a price. This is not your average weekly shop, so come hungry and you'll find a choice of food adventures to chose from.

Photo: Jermey Keith

Friday, 12 December 2014

#183: Go to a Christmas Carol Concert

This past weekend I went to see a celebrity reading of Dickens A Christmas Carol at Southbank Centre. When I originally booked this I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone, namely go to a book reading AND go to a Christmas concert. On reflection though I thought that was kind of cheating so I found a different book reading to go to. It had been a few years since I had heard the story of Scrooge and Marley, and I was pleasantly surprised that the tale of Tiny Tim's survival was just as heart warming as I remembered it being when I was a kid. I'll see your Bah Humbug and raise you a very 'Merry Christmas to us all; God bless us, every one!'

Photo: Southbank Centre

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

#182: Go to a Christmas Market

Another thing I like about living in a big city during the holidays is the choice of stores to go Christmas shopping in, from big brand name stores to mom and pop local shops. Top of my Christmas shopping to do list is to visit at least one Christmas Market.

I love these festive and crafty temporary stores which are geared to separating as many people as possible from their dosh in exchange for sometimes-questionable Christmas tat. For me nothing screams 'Christmas shopping' like people bundled up in winter coats and scarves, walking en mass as slowly as my (long dead) grandmother, craning to see whether the goods in the next stall are worth fighting against the stream of people, like a salmon swimming upstream, or whether to continue to follow the slow moving herd. Throw in some cold weather, mulled wine and under cooked bratwursts and you forget that in addition to presents for your loved ones you're pretty much guaranteed to bring a winter cold home as well.

Despite it all, I find Christmas Markets charming and a vital part of the season.

Photo: Southbank Centre

Monday, 8 December 2014

#181: Spend a morning lazily reading the Sunday papers

This was another one of my 'get out of jail free' cards when I originally made my list. Being somewhat lazy and intellectual by nature, I would regularly while away hours (days?) reading the papers on the sofa in my previous life. I put this on the list to give me an out and not feel guilty about doing something simple that I enjoy.
For me there is something soothing about reading an actual paper (as opposed to internet version). Flipping through the crisp new pages and throwing a now-crumpled section on the floor after reading it cover to cover.

Fast forward a year, however, and I actually have made very little time for such simple pleasures as I've been out and about doing more 'exciting' things. So this is one I’m happy to have made time for again.
Photo: Alistair Scott, Lightwavemedia: Shutterstock

Sunday, 7 December 2014

#180: Go to Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall is a grand Victorian concert hall that borders Hyde Park in the posh London borough of South Kensington. Known for hosting the annual summer Proms, a classical concert series that runs for 8 weeks every summer, The Albert Hall was built in 1851 as part of The Great Exhibition, and has continued to be a popular music and event venue ever since. The building's architecture is stunning and whether it's The Proms, Tennis, Cirque du Soleil, Choral performance or Rock concert, visitors are guaranteed a charming and unique setting.
On this occasion, I went to see an ATP Champions Tennis match, but one year I would like to make it to a Proms concert.

Top Photo: Christapper / Shutterstock

Saturday, 6 December 2014

#179: Go to a Museum in London

Like my item go to a Museum in Paris, this is on my list as an item I feel like I should do rather than one I particularly wanted to do. One of the reasons I like living in a city like London (or New York) is the culture I can/could be exposed to. But like anything, being surrounded by great art and museums that I can go to at anytime means that I rarely actually go.

With the year getting short I was running out of time to tick this one off my list so when friends suggested we meet up for a drink at Late at the Tate it was the perfect meeting of going out with friends for the evening, with a bit of culture. Some art was seen on this occasion, though admittedly we saw more 'modern' art when we decamped to a bar in Soho.
Modern art: Barbie dolls on the ceiling at a bar in Soho
But a fun evening was had by all.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

#178: Go to an Ice Bar

One of the things some Europeans do at Christmas time is to go to Santa's Village in Lapland, visit Santa and his real reindeer, see the Northern Lights, go dog sledding and stay at the Ice Hotel, a hotel made entirely of ice, including the beds. Now I'm not a particular fan of being cold, so while that all sounds really romantic and cool (literally), in practice I'm not sure I'd actually like any of it.

But I do like my beverages cold so the idea of visiting an IceBar is something that I felt like I should try at least once in my life. I can report that my Amaretto did not need to be put on the rocks, as it was already -5C. And while I'm glad I tried this, I can say that I'm much more comfortable in heated surroundings with ice in my glass rather than ice FOR my glass.
Top Photo: Franco Caruzzo / Flickr

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

#177: Go to Winter Wonderland

Since 2005, a large area of Hyde Park off of Park Lane has been transformed into a whimsical Winter Wonderland, offering Christmas market stalls, food and drink stands, a circus, vast array of amusement park rides for young and old including a 53-metre tall Ferris wheel which dominates the winter skyline. I've been meaning to go to Winter Wonderland since it opened, but never quite got around to it and so was determined that I would venture into the park this year.

There's a real German Christmas market feel to the place which is helped by the Bavarian Village, Oktoberfest hall, live music and vendors selling bratwurst, pretzels beer and mulled wine. It was a great way to kick off the Christmas season.

Photo: David Burrows /