Sunday, 30 March 2014

#230: Handle unexpected run-in with Ex with dignity

I was at a film festival with some mutual friends and, much to my surprise, when I showed up to meet them my Ex was sitting at the table. After a quick stop at the bar, I made myself comfortable around the table and had idle chit chat until my movie started. Admittedly it wasn't a completely comfortable experience, but it was bound to happen at some point and I'm happy to report that it was handled like mature adults on both sides.

Photo: Shutterstock / Paul Vasarhelyi

Thursday, 27 March 2014

#73: Clean out closet

There are few things more satisfying than knowing your house/flat is throughly clean, your wardrobe edited and your clothes organised. The hard part is actually finding the time and doing the cleaning out. Post break up this can be a particularly hard task if you stay in the place you shared with your Ex because a half empty closet is one of the starkest reminders that your Ex has literally moved on.
Photo credit: alex Hinds / Shutterstock
I suddenly found myself with more closet space than I could ever imagine as the removal of the Ex's clothes effectively doubled my wardrobe. Worse, I also had to take care of the unclaimed, discarded clothes that were left behind for me to deal with after the Ex formally moved out.

I admire the bold ones who throw their Ex's clothes in a bag and leave outside for them to pick up. Frankly, I always liked the idea of tossing clothes and shoes out a window.

I, however, nicely boxed up my Ex's entire belongings and even labeled the boxes -- because that's the kind of person I am. I'm sure the new GF found my labels very helpful in arranging the lovebirds' new place...but I digress.

Day 8: Clothes on Hangers
Photo credit: alankcrain / flickr
Having cleaned out my Ex's clothes, it was then over to my own. Having lost so much weight, I found I had clothes that were 3-4 sizes too big and even with my Ben & Jerry's addiction I was unlikely to expand into any time soon so out they went. It's strange now opening the cupboards and seeing more empty space than clothes, but I'm sure I'll find a way to fill it up in time. (Another item on my list is to get new clothes/update my wardrobe after all. Now I have room for it...)

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

#228: Let go/move on

I've been spending a lot of time reflecting on my journey since I started blogging a year ago. It's been a time of heartache and adjustment, but it's also been a time of excitement, fun and learning about myself. The fact is I'm a different person than I was a year ago. I've regained my sense of self and am capable of facing the world on my own now. I've found my inner strength again and am able to stand up for myself and for what I realise is right for me, regardless of what others think, in a way I wasn't prepared, aware or able to do until recently.

I won't divulge exactly what I wrote in my message in a bottle, but I did say goodbye to the past and was happy to watch it float away, feeling excited about the life I have ahead of me. I was therefore unprepared for the emotion that hit me a little later on my return journey.

I passed some monks on my hike back up the mountain and they nodded at me, almost knowingly. (I also passed some chickens on my journey, but they just ate fallen mango.) I felt a sudden tightness in my chest as I climbed the steepest incline and, being out of shape, I vowed I'd start exercising more.
I realised though this was not a physical pain but an emotional one. I then got pretty angry -- at myself and the world. "For fuck's sake," I screamed, "I've just thrown my message into the ocean! I'm over this! I'm tired of feeling this way! Will you just let me be?! Can I just let this go?! I want to stop feeling like this!" I was so tired of being struck by such emotion out of nowhere. I just wanted it to stop happening so that I could move on with my life.

Now, I am not a religious person at all, but for some reason I looked up to the sky and at that moment asked God to help me let it go. I had forgiven my Ex but then and there I was still holding onto something. I didn't want to anymore. I started to cry and it started to rain almost at the same time. I stood on top of the mountain by myself crying as rain came down until I couldn't tell what was rain and what were tears. I turned and looked over my shoulder, with a soaking face, only to see a rainbow emerging.
It was such a stunning and calming sight that I stopped crying and appreciated the view, immediately feeling like my prayer had been answered -- snap -- just like that. It was unlike anything I have ever experienced in my life and if I was at all religiously inclined I would have thought that it was some sort of divine intervention. It certainly felt spiritual.

Now, I'm not naive enough to think that I will never again get upset about the loss of my former life, but at that moment I let go of whatever it was I was holding onto that morning. And the thought crossed my mind that I would never again hold on to that pain in the same way again. Whatever had just happened, I had indeed crossed some sort of invisible line in my recovery. And just when I realised that, the rainbow disappeared.

Any unexpected emotions that come, I now acknowledge and then put back in my memory of that mountain, secure in the knowledge that I can choose to wallow, but if I don't want to, I can leave the emotion back on top of the mountain in Thailand.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

#72: Sunday drinks and dinner at a cozy pub on a cold, rainy day.

There's something reassuring and cosy about grabbing a drink with a friend in a local pub, sitting near an open fireplace when it's cold, rainy and windy outside. In London there are sadly not enough open fires in pubs (for obvious reasons), but the further you get in the country the more rare a pub without a fire becomes.
Photo credit: Milka-Kotla / Shutterstock

With spring approaching fast (but not fast enough), I realised I was quickly running out of time to tick this one off the list. Well, here's hoping that spring shows up soon and I don't have to revisit this one until November...

Monday, 24 March 2014

#227: Send a message in a bottle

My message in a bottle

I've read a number of articles/research that suggests writing a letter to your (former) loved one and burning it or tearing it up and throwing it away. Basically the idea is to get any residual things you may like to say to your Ex down on paper and then literally let it go. Having forgiven my Ex, I found that I really don't have too much bottled up anymore so I thought a different twist to the 'professional advice' would be to send a message in a bottle as a figurative 'letting go' ceremony, if you will. So I thought of what I wanted to say, tossed the bottle as far as possible into the retreating current and watched silently as the tide carried it and my message out to sea. While it seems like a really cheesy thing to do, now that I'm writing this down, I have to admit there was something cathartic about it and I did feel like a weight was lifted after having done it.

Some local thai fisherman probably picked the bottle/message up and put it in his trash, but I like to think that the bottle is still bobbing around the Indian ocean on its own quiet journey.

Note: while the environmentalist in me recognised that this was in fact chucking garbage into the ocean, I felt this was extenuating circumstance -- and for the record spent some extra time cleaning up other litter on the beach in recompense. 

Sunday, 23 March 2014

#71: Go to Columbia Road Flower Market.

Hands down, my favourite thing to do on a Sunday is to go to Columbia Road Flower Market, but I haven't been in a long time. There's an amazing Italian restaurant, named Campania, that does a great coffee and equally amazing eggs and prosciutto cooked breakfast.

Then a wander down the small street where there are 60+ flower/plant traders yelling for your custom.


Friday, 21 March 2014

#69: Watch a foreign film

As an American, the fact that I have watched, and enjoyed, subtitled films (not movies) continues to make me laugh somewhat, because when I was growing up, there was no such thing as a non-American/English movie. You mean not only are there people in the world who don't speak English, but they make their own movies? What?!? Why would they want, or need, to do that? Aren't they happy with Harry Potter, Toy Story, Titantic and ET?

As I've gotten older, I've seen some great foreign films and realised that other countries often produce more interesting movies than the Hollywood machine. (If you haven't seen it, check out Downfall, an amazing story of Hitler's final days in his Berlin bunker at the end of WWII). So for my list I thought I would search out more interesting, foreign, movie fare.

So step in, In the House, a French film with Kristen Scott Thomas. Having seen her recently in a play, I thought I'd go double or nothing on the cinema front.

Time Out said: "There’s fun to be had from the pomposity and pretensions of Luchini and Scott-Thomas, yet the surrounding frolics also hint at the hidden agendas behind the stories which fascinate us, and indeed how those stories play up to a distanced, even unhealthy curiosity about the lives of others. Plenty to ponder then, but you can also simply enjoy its gossipy fizz. A witty, naughty, insight-packed provocation which never takes its seriousness too seriously."

Hollywood wishes it could make movies this interesting.

#226: Go for a long walk on the beach / up a mountain

I find oceans really peaceful and long, solitary walks on the beach usually seem to clear my head, improve my mood and give me clarity when I'm emotionally stuck. On this holiday, the beach is a 3km walk down (and back up) a mountain. It's given me a lot of time to think and reflect on my journey this last year.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

#68: Go to a film festival

London is full of cultural events showcasing different areas of the arts, especially film. For years I've heard about how great the BFI's lesbian and gay film festival was and this year a friend got tickets and invited me to go.

The Londonist website writes that this "annual celebration of LGBT cinema from around the world … promises a diverse selection of talent from both well-known directors and emerging voices". A Gay Times blog says: "The programme is stuffed with treats. Divine, David Bowie, Spanish romps, Asian thrillers, Swedish boys sharing baths, black and white re-runs, cutting-edge documentaries, and, of course, the latest from James Franco's on-screen gay tourism endeavours."

Straight or Gay (Lesbian, Queer, Bi, or Trans), last year more than 21,000 people attended the event. It's easy to see why.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

#225: Sunbathe topless

Ha! As if! Well hell must have frozen over and come to Thailand because I found myself at the pool with the other girls on the retreat with my baps out. They were all going topless everyday, walking around without a care in the world. It took me a  few days (and a lot of encouragement from the girls), but knowing this was on the list and thinking when the hell else would I do this, I eventually threw caution -- and my bikini top! -- to the wind. No more white bits for me!

I’m not normally one for public nudity, and frankly have always been rather insecure about my body and looks. I only bought a bikini for the first time about 10 years ago. (Well past my prime bikini years even then!) So there was something quite freeing about going dénudé.

The plus side is that I don't have any tan lines. The downside is that no one but me will be seeing my new tan-line free torso. But, like wearing nice underwear that no one sees, I'll know and feel better for it. But let's just say my neighbours back home don’t have anything to worry about. I’m not planning on making a habit of it. Camden has enough local eccentrics as it is. There's no need for topless sunbathing in the rain after all. :-)

Photo: Victor Torres / Shutterstock

Monday, 17 March 2014

#67: Order the Tasting Menu at a nice restaurant

Order the tasting menu at Asia de Cuba. Very tasty indeed.
Photo: Asia de cuba
It has to be said: I like my food. Anyone who knows me knows I enjoy a nice meal, be it at a friends house, a good local restaurant or, on rare occasion, one of London's most well known foodie places. That said, I've never really ordered a full tasting menu before. I always thought it was something for a special occasion, but I never pulled my finger out and made it happen until now.
So having the tasting menu at Asia de Cuba was a real treat. It felt decadent and extravagant but also made me feel special and that I was worth it.

But that might also have been the company as well...

Sunday, 16 March 2014

#223: Article about my Break Up List in Huffington Post

Ok, I’m cheating a little with this one. I never actually had this on my List exactly. But when I was asked for an interview, I thought why not. This also covers off indirectly a few other items on the list like, Be more spontanteous and When the head says don’t, do it anyway.

I was apprehensive about someone doing a story about me and my List, primarily because it’s something that is so personal and, while this is obviously a public blog, it is also something I’m not sure I’m comfortable talking about publicly. It’s a lot easier to do my list and write about it when I think no one is paying attention. Allison, the author of the article, assured me that she’d do my story justice and that as a divorce mediator she thought that my story could help other people going through a split.

It was under that premise that I agree to be interviewed and the resulting story was the lead story of the Huffington Post’s (US version) Divorce section. So I think it deserves to go on the List.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

#66: Take a day off work, just because.

...Because it had been too long since I've seen my lovely god-daughter:

One of the hardest parts of my break up was not only the loss of my partner, but also the loss of my Ex's family, which I had been an extended part of for so long. It was good to see my former 'sister in law' and my god daughter, who turned one recently. Taking the day off work meant I could enjoy it properly.

All too often work gets in the way of what really matters...

Friday, 14 March 2014

#222: Do an herbal steam

An herbal steam room is much like a normal steam room except that an assortment of aromatic herbs are placed in the steam ducts to infuse the watery air. There are many benefits of an herbal steam from removing toxins, promoting weight loss, reliving respiratory ailments, relieving muscle tension and stress and improving blood circulation. It is a refreshing change from a traditional steam and feels both medicinal and relaxing.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

#221: Take a yoga stretching class

I’m trying to find an exercise that I both like, relaxes me and doesn’t soak up every single last ounce of energy I have. I know everyone says that running or going to the gym releases endorphins, but I don’t feel like that after a workout. I just feel drained and exhausted. There is no ‘high’. If exercise is suppose to release endorphins, mine have gone AWOL and are on the lam living under an assumed name. I don’t have enough energy to go find them. So I do what I do best after a work out and take a nap instead. Even if I’m at work. My body will just shut down regardless of where I am. This generally rules out morning and afternoon weekday work outs…or work outs in general.

I know I need to exercise more but dosing off at my desk is probably not the way to make a good first impression when I start my new job so I need to find something that is both good for me and leaves me with something left in the tank. So I decided to try a different type of yoga, one that specifically focuses on stretching. I have to say it worked for me. It’s a good combination of meditative and just active enough to give my body a workout. I'll definitely try again.

Monday, 10 March 2014

#220: Have a Thai message

Unlike traditional messages that use oils on bare skin, Thai message is more about pressing, stretching and manipulating your muscles, and is usually done fully clothed on a mat on the floor. Influenced by Indian Aryurvedic, Chinese traditional medicine and yoga, deep static and rhythmic pressures form the core of the massage. It is not necessarily relaxing and at times can be incredibly painful. But after your body has been beaten and stretched to its limits you feel increased movement and agility. It also releases toxins in your muscles. It may hurt during the message but a day later and my muscles are much more relaxed.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

#219: Go on a detox holiday

I kicked started my weight loss program in mid-2012 by doing a 5-day juice detox program and I got a lot out of it. It certainly helped change my eating habits and got me on the path to losing a significant amount of weight since then. However, it didn’t compare to the experiences some friends have had when they went away (by themselves) on a detox holiday. I knew at some point I wanted to try that as it would push me on a few fronts: travelling alone to a foreign country, improving my health, losing weight and ultimately cleaning up my mind, body and spirit.

I’ve realised recently that despite how it may look on the outside, I still have some healing to do on the inside, both literally and figuratively speaking. These types of programs are both physically and mentally draining. Last year I couldn’t have handled putting myself through the strain of a comprehensive detox program when I was so emotionally raw. But I’m now ready for it…or so I thought!

On recommendation of a friend, I’ve gone to Thailand for my ‘retreat’. It’s thorough and it’s tough. There’s a regular schedule everyday and with all the running up and down mountains, water drinking, supplements, shakes and flushes, I’m kept very busy.

I hope to leave here refreshed and carrying less weight, emotionally and physically. It’s not an easy or necessarily relaxing holiday, but I know I’m going to feel so much better at the end of it…and that is what it’s all about.

Photo: Pixelbliss/Shutterstock

Friday, 7 March 2014

#62: Change my hair

There is something cathartic about the post-heartbreak hair change. With the hue shift, dramatic crop, or straightening, a post-breakup new haircut/do is almost a cliche. After a bad ending, people get the urge to change their look and there's something symbolic and cathartic about it: out with the old (dead ends, deadweight), in with the new flirty, ballsy freedom. After becoming single one can revamp their image and attitude with a new look for a fresh start and new identity. It's a powerful way of marking a major change in life. Though it's drastic, it is most definitely not permanent.
Photo credit: yln0002 / flickr
Jennifer and the world's most famous hair.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

#215: Resign from job / Change jobs

While one of the big items on my list was to change jobs (meaning employer), it hasn't been something that I've been actively pursuing. On the contrary, after my break up my first priority was in fact to make sure that I kept my job and didn't get fired! Having been through three restructures in the last 16 months, the fact that my role changed last year and I was promoted (#127) was enough to satisfy any potential career restlessness I might have harboured. 

It's funny how life works out, however, because just as I was getting back into the swing of things at work (see item #200: Re-engage at work), I was contacted by a recruiter about an exciting new opportunity at a competitor. To make a long story short, I was presented with an offer I just couldn't refuse and so after much deliberation I resigned from my current job last week. After working at the company for 5 years, the idea of a new challenge as well as getting a fresh start on a new life was too appealing a prospect to pass up. 

Quitting my job is something that I could not have done a few months ago, let alone a year ago when I started my list. To uproot my life, habits and work friends for the unknown was not something that I was strong enough to handle. Today, however, I feel different. I feel excited about the change and new possibilities in a way that I haven't for a long time. Starting something new is now exciting, not daunting. 
Grabbing the bull by the horns
I feel incredibly empowered, bold even. I am both scared and sad to leave, but in my heart I know it's the right thing for me to do. The last few years I haven't felt in control of many key aspects of my life: the break up was not my doing and the restructures at work were out of my control as well. Taking active charge of what it is that I need and want is something I too frequently haven't done...and I don't know why. Perhaps it was just laziness, or perhaps it was just middle-aged acquiesce. Regardless, it feels good to grab the bull by the horns again, even if I'm also slightly terrified I've made a terrible mistake. 

I'm nervous about what's to come but also incredibly excited. As an added bonus, I'm going to be spending the next 3 months on what the British call 'gardening leave'. This means that I will be serving out my 3 month notice period 'working' from home (in my garden, hence the term gardening leave)! With everything I've been through I feel incredibly lucky. I hope to use the time to cross off more items on the List and to reflect about what it is I'm looking for as I head into this next new phase of life. 
It is a luxury I've never dreamed of. I almost don't know what I'm going to do with myself. But I know how it's going to start: checking off more things on my List on a long-planned 10-day holiday in Thailand that starts tomorrow 

And so does the rest of my life... 

Photos: alexskopjeScott Maxwell / LuMaxArtPhotoSGH : Shutterstock

#59: Stay in bed all day

Some days you just need to give in to yourself and your needs and not force yourself to get out and face the real world. I'm not saying this is a good thing to do all the time, but I had this on my list as a kind of 'get out of jail free' card, to use when I just couldn't face leaving the comforts of my bed.

I've since realised that there could be other, very good, reasons why staying in bed all day should be on my list.
Photo credit: mast3r / shutterstock

Regardless of how or why I did it, this task is done.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

#58: Visit Harrod's Pet Kingdom.

"PET KINGDOM" in Harrod's
Photo: bestGSD / Flickr

Harrod's Pet Kingdom: Kind of disappointing tbh. Back in the day you supposedly could get exotic animals like tigers and monkeys here. Today, it should really be renamed Dog Kingdom. Good if you're looking for a £110 dog coat but there wasn't much else. Not many things for other pets (like cats)...

#214: Go to a Farmers Market

When I lived in New York, I looked forward to farmer's market days at the World Trade Center, which was across the street from where I worked at the time. (and, yes, I was there that day.) I could grab fresh fruit and veg, along with an Amish Pie -- Point of clarification: these were pie baked by the Pennsylvania Amish who would then sell them in NYC. They were not pies of Amish people! I also loved the (non-alcoholic) Apple Cider and apple cider donuts, and when I was in hard school at NYU I spent many Saturday mornings at the Union Square Farmers Market before and after class.
My normal grocery shop just isn't the same. It's not quite an event like going to a Farmer's Market. I've long been meaning to seek out a local market, but again, haven't really gotten around to it until now. I can attest that it was well worth it, even if all I bought was homemade soup. I'll definitely be back.