When it’s been a while since my last blog I never quite know how to start. Just start writing, and ignore that it’s been months, and hope no one notices; or if they do perhaps they are far too polite to say so? Or say up front straight and honest I haven’t written a blog in ages? The latter of course means I feel obliged to say why.
There’s two reasons I haven’t written much. One is because I have been struggling on and off with feminist fatigue. It got to the point when I couldn’t even finish reading any news article, let avoid the comments. I started a few blogs and abandoned them because I couldn’t get my thoughts in order. The world seemed to be going mad. Sexism everywhere. Xenophobia, racism, austerity. Politics in the UK appeared to be on fire and burning down, but everyone was acting as normal. At one point, I left England to go to Sicily for a few days, and when I left we had a male prime minister and when I came back we had a female one. Only the second female prime minister in our history. And I kept having to say “no relation”. It got to the point that I just had too many ideas to write at all. The longer I don’t write the more things want to be written until they all become a massive shouty blur of ideas and I can’t pick out a single one to get out on a page. In short, the longer I go without writing, the harder it is to start writing again.
My reason for going to Sicily for a few days is also reason number two for not writing very frequently. I went on holiday – on a whim – with a rather wonderful man.
I wasn’t expecting to meet a wonderful man this year, or at all. After writing about my new found singleness a few years ago I did indeed do a lot of reflection on what I wanted out of life, what made me happy, what fulfilled me, what made me tick. I was single, sober and with higher self-esteem than I’d ever had in my life and I had some fun. In that time I realised that I like being single. Not only that, but am good at being single. In fact, I am better at being single than I am at being in a relationship.
Well, I didn’t exactly “realise” that. It was more of a process of confirmation of what I’ve come to realise over many of my previous relationships. I am just not very good at being in relationships, and really not very good at being in love. A lifetime of relationships has to mean something; if you don’t learn from them, you’re doomed to forever repeat the same destructive patterns in subsequent relationships.
So what have I learned? Well, that I am argumentative, and get so frustrated with communication breakdowns that sometimes I just cry for no reason other than the other person has misunderstood me. I am terrible at negotiation, being rather selfish despite my natural kind-heartedness. I am so, so very forgetful. Half the time I think about having a conversation with someone and then think I’ve actually had it, which is very confusing for the other person. I forget dates, times, events, conversations that have happened a few minutes before. I am terrible at making firm plans, but get upset when plans change. I need a lot of physical and emotional space of my own which can make the other person feel rejected. And I often think I am right. I am so sure that I am right that I refuse to entertain the idea that I am wrong, which makes it so much harder to admit (on the obviously very rare occasions) when I am actually wrong.
I also came to realise, the older I got, that pretty much all the dating advice I ever read in magazines as a teenager is complete and utter rubbish. One piece of advice that stuck with me through far too many relationships was that you should pretend you have an interest in the hobbies of the object of your crush, and oh my, I internalised this advice so hard. For almost every relationship I’ve been in I dropped my own interests and hobbies, one by one, in favour of theirs. Trust me, this is a horrible idea. Do not do this. Do not pretend you like football if you don’t. Do not pretend you’ve read books you haven’t. Do not say you like jigsaws if you actually find them less fun than a migraine. (Seriously. Don’t.) If the other person likes you, they won’t care whether you like football or not, or if you’ve read their favourite books, or if you’d rather gouge your eyes out with an ice cream scoop than do a jigsaw. The most fulfilling relationships I have had have been where I’ve kept my interests, they’ve kept theirs and neither of us has pushed them onto the other. This ends up with something much more joyful – it gives your crush the opportunity to introduce yourself to something they love, and vice versa. Before, on hearing someone make a reference to an author or a band I didn’t know, I would nod and pretend I knew what they were saying. Now, I will just say “I haven’t read it” or “I don’t know that band”. It seems so simple, doesn’t it? And it means I have a pile of new books to read and bands to listen to.
If I could rip up one piece of advice and burn it forever so that it never gets given to anyone else ever, it would be that.
Do not pretend you like what they like, or know about what they know about. Do not pretend you’re feeling things you aren’t feeling. Do not pretend you are not feeling things you are feeling.
Most of all I struggle with handing over emotional control of those feelings. I have spent many years working on learning how to regulate my emotions, as someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder and depression, and tend to try to keep a tight grip on my emotional highs and lows. When I start falling for someone, it means someone else has the power to make me feel things over which I have no control. It means that I worry that when someone else makes me happy, that means they also have the power to make me sad. This is really hard for me – and for the person who falls in love with me. It can mean that I suddenly start to slam up emotional walls when I feel myself getting too upset or too happy, shutting them out. If I don’t do this I can have a bit of an emotional meltdown; essentially I either appear completely uncaring and cold, or a raging torrent of emotion.
If I could give one single piece of dating advice to someone else, based on my experiences thus far, it would be this:
Be honest about who you are, what you like, what you want out of life. I think in this relationship it’s the first time I’ve been truly open and honest and totally myself right from the start. Perhaps it’s being older, perhaps it’s just me finally putting everything I’ve learned into practice. It’s early days, sure, but it felt right when he said “come to Sicily with me” to say “yes”. Well actually, the conversation went more like “I was thinking and you can say no if you want and it’s probably too soon but I would be lovely if maybe you’d like to, you know if you can afford it, maybe you would like to come to Sicily with me?” and my reply was more like “it feels like it ought to be too soon but it doesn’t actually feel too soon and I have some money I was going to spend on something else, not very much, but I probably can just about afford it if we spend most of our time swimming and doing cheap things and yes I really would love to come to Sicily with you.” which is what being honest looks like.
Being honest is lot harder than it looks. But being yourself right at the beginning of the relationship means that when you fall in love, you’re falling in love with each other as you really are – mood swings, selfishness, weird snoring noises, bad smelling IBS farts, strange hobbies and all.
What has this got to do with me not writing very often? Well, I’ve been spending time with him. We’ve been having a wonderful time, and when you’re having a wonderful time it’s very hard to sit down and think about something to write about, especially when what you usually write about is whatever has made you angry the week before.
In the spirit of being honest, I am not going to say I am going to be writing every week from now on without fail. I am not very good at being reliable. Although I am definitely going to try to write more, if only to get some of the blasted ideas out of my head. In the meantime, I am going to try to enjoy just being happy. I am not very good at that either, but I am learning. And it’s rather wonderful.