The princess who fell off her bike

fashion statement… And badly sprained her ankle.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, stop sniggering, it could happen to anyone.

So erm, moving on: Last week, in a daring streak of supermarket psychology brilliance, I worked out that my three latest exes T, Mr Nice and Mr Xmas all fancied themselves as knights in shiny armours, rescuing me from the shackles of single-motherhood-singledom to become universally worshipped fatherly figures. Except that becoming universally-worshipped fatherly figures turned out to be too hard, so off they went…

Fine.

Well, not fine, really, but whatever.

Well perhaps not whatever either, because, as fellow blogger That Precarious Gait accurately pointed out, what was my role in all this?

She’s right, what was I doing?

Name: Lady E

Occupation: Lapsed scientist, lapsed science communication specialist, accidentally turned international relation-ist.

Looks: Short, slight, dark-ish. Currently looking dangerously attractive in a one-legged, strap-on-cast fashion.

Likes: Summer, sitting on a beach, messing son’s hair, mum’s lasagna, having friends around, gardening, cream tea, scribbling dodgy sketches.

Dislikes: Bad weather, supermarket baguettes, coffee, mushrooms, people who decide not to vaccinate their children because, you know, it’s not naaatural.

What made her attractive: Contagious smile, awesome chocolate mousse, kind, stable.

What makes her unattractive: Well, I could go on and on with a list of flaws I see in myself, including being late, moody pre-period, insecure, short-fused and shouty when I’m tired, but don’t know what did it for my exes. None of them had anything to say about me. All they could articulate was about family life being too much.

Baggage: Anxious parents, anxious streak. Childhood-rooted fear of abandonment, compounded by experience in a few significant romantic relationships. Wobbly self-esteem.

Said baggage would explain why I unconsciously tend to doubt my ability to attract anyone permanently, and thus favour men who display rapid signs of commitment (by the way, that’s another spot-on hint from That Precarious Gait). So, that’s the ones who are totally smitten, rapidly want to settle down and have a family. They all give me a sense of security I fail to give myself.

VoilĂ .

So theoretically, all I have to do is find enough security in myself to counter the inevitable uncertainties of relationships, especially the new-ish ones. Piece of cake, right? While some people love the unknown and accompanying butterflies, I just get scared senseless. And it feels like each repetition of the whole abandonment trauma has heightened the fear.

Ow, great then, sounds like I might have to stay single for the next 60 years or so…

Because whilst I am a wiz in the garden, no amount of mulching and composting seems to have had much effect on the self-reassurance / security I have been trying to grow for a few years…

So if you happen to have any green-fingered tips on how to grow your sense of security, and manage your fear of abandonment in relationships, I’d love to hear them!

Right. This song’s had me dancing uncontrollably (yes, on one leg) lately. Oooh yeah ! 🙂

Sugar how you get so fly?

Sugar how you get so fly?

Robin Schulz – Sugar

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The knights who say no – part 1

Over my three week holiday, I have been able to do a lot of sleeping, swimming, and abso-blinkin-lutely nothing. Which was abso-blinkin-lutely marvelous on account of the school year being a sort of gigantic marathon.

Somehow, my mind  also used some of this unusual leisure to mull over…. well things, you know, such as the intriging fact that since 2008 I have been in failed relationships with the three men below, who in many ways can be seen as really nice. I can be seen as really nice too, so whatever happened that things went so not-nice between us?

This is the first of a two-part post, where main characters are introduced.

Name : T

T

  • Occupation: Hospital heartthrob (occasionally doubles as intensive care and anaesthesia specialist)
  • Looks: Tall, dark , sporty, handsome, hence main occupation (handsome salary to boot)
  • Likes: Extreme sports, money, partying, himself
  • Dislikes: Being late, his dad, himself
  • What made him attractive: Scary intelligence, ability to turn on the charm and be irresistible, determination that I was his future wife and mother of his children
  • What makes him unattractive: Selfish, unstable, tight-fisted
  • Baggage: Identical twin brother died aged 5 months, severely depressed mother, adulterous, absent father, parents’ very messy divorce

Name: Mr Nice, aka Mr Big Bastard From Hell

Mr Nice

  • Occupation: High school PE teacher
  • Looks: Tall, fair, sporty, handsome
  • Likes: Salsa, his job, rugby, handball, football, travelling
  • Dislikes: Any limit to his sacro-saint freedom, his dad (or worships him, depends…), responsibilities
  • What made him attractive: Sexy in a skinny way, perceptive, generous
  • What makes him unattractive: Unstable, selfish, not the sharpest tool in the box intelligence-wise
  • Baggage: Severely depressed mother, adulterous, absent father, having to be in charge of his little brothers, parents’ messy divorce

Name: Mr Xmas

Mr Xmas

  • Occupation: Physicist, turned computer modeller
  • Looks: Tall, dark, bulky, sporty
  • Likes: Science, swimming, programming, music, cinema
  • Dislikes: Lies, injustice, aggression
  • What made him attractive: Kind, even-tempered, clever, seriously loved me
  • What makes him unattractive: Unstable because of chronic depression, hasn’t cut the chord
  • Baggage: Chronic depression sufferer, family history of severe depression and anxiety, depressed mother, absent father working too much

So three nice men who all turn out to be unstable, six depressed mums and absent dads. I seem to favour tall, sporty looking guys. What else?

Next in this supermarket psychology series, what these very different relationships may have had in common, and what can I learn from it for the future.

Kiddos

Swimming kiddos

Swimming smurfs

I am swimming Southwards, and as the joyful hum of the beach recedes, the sea’s wet clapping quietness surrounds me.

The water is warm, the sun gently leaning to the West. I feel a timid kind of happiness.

Not the heavy-duty, my-life-is-so-fecking-perfect-I could-die variety, but nevertheless, a thin, fragile, in-spite-of-everything-I-am-still-standing (well, strictly speaking, I tend not to swim standing, but you get my drift) and-right-this-second-life-is-sort-of-close-to-perfect kind. Which all things considered, is pretty good.

I see three main reasons for this:

  1. Yeeeeeesss, hallelujah, at long last, I am on holiday! In fact, I am somewhere around halfway through my 3-week break, and work (what work?) feels mercifully far away.
  2. My antidepressant is good shit.
  3. This morning, a cute guy tried to chat me up at Montpellier’s train station, and I have generally noticed a decent amount of male attention lately. Thought of the day: Skimpy Summer dresses and tanned legs should be available on prescription too.

But there’s an underlying fourth reason, currently digging holes in the sand and splashing in the waves: My kiddos. I keep having moments akin to the revoltingly-soppy-bullshit abundant on Facebook, when I just cannot believe I have such beautiful, kind-hearted, clever, lovely children. They amaze me. There (sick-bags are available in your seat pockets).

This said, rest assured that their ability to be disgusting-brats-I-just-want-to-throw-in-the-bin is also amazing at times.

And for the last few days, they have been joined by the boy they consider a funny kind of sibling: Mr Nice’s son (hence why 3 smurfs in the pool picture).

It’s a long story… Which cut short could be something like (I recommend having an extra cup of coffee before reading, on account of staying alert):

  1. Bear with me, I have a thing going on with numbered lists at the moment.
  2. Our kids (aged 5, 6 and 11) had been kind of brought up together for just under three years, when Mr Nice and I separated at the end of last Summer.
  3. Mr Nice and I both solemnly promised the children that they could still spend time together and count on the two of us.
  4. Mr Nice promptly turned into Mr Big Bastard and decided to do the exact opposite.
  5. Responding to our distraught children, Mr Nice’s son’s mother (are you following?) and I, ensured they could see each other regularly.
  6. Over the last 10 months, Mr Nice’s son’s mother and I have actually become friends.
  7. Mum+son have joined us for a few days holiday in the South.
  8. We’ve all had a fantastic time, and sincerely hope Mr Nice sunburns and catches stomach flu.

End of story.

Once a scientist…

Dusk stretches for an eternity.

Birds circle overhead, the scent of jasmine wafts around the garden.

This is my favourite time of year.

I feel tired, pretty sad, and very hollow at times. But all things considered, I haven’t stopped sleeping and started losing 10% of my body weight (a shame really, because I would look better in my bikini for the Summer ), which is what I normally do post-breakup.

Ok, I am snappy with the kids, have low energy and trouble concentrating at work or feeling optimistic about the future. But somehow, I still kind of function, and hey, I can even smile at times!

Importantly, I don’t feel as much of the physical, ripping pain of heartbreak.

For the first time in my life, I accepted to take a course of lightly-dosed antidepressant to get me through the emotional shock. It tastes revolting, but let me tell you what, it is like getting an epidural when giving birth: Why on earth did I ever do without before?

Anyway, my mind wanders…

If you were to consider the period 2008-2015, and plot my breakup trauma intensity with T, Mr Nice#2, and Mr Xmas as a function of time on a log scale, I guess you’d get something like this:

log scale

First, that’s an average of one major break-up (I’m not placing Mr Nice #1 in that category, let’s just call it a minor rehearsal) every 1.9 years.

Which I guess, may even be a respectable performance, if Major Breakups were an olympic sport.

Now, if we were to plot a regression line, and hypothesise that I will keep on the same trend, we could basically extrapolate that somewhere between 2021 and 2022, when I experience my n+3rd major breakup, I may perhaps check my nails, before carrying on writing the shopping list… regression curve Hmm

It’s not you, it’s me

Dusk rainbow by Lady E

Dusk rainbow by Lady E

“It’s not you, it’s me” says a tearful Mr Xmas.

No shit, Sherlock.

I, for sure, am not the one currently in the depth of the worst bout of depression yet,  whose clarity of mind probably stands around 0.3% of its normal average, and who decides that, wohey, isn’t this a great time to wreck the most significant relationship of my last few years?

Let’s all pause to give Mr Xmas a round of applause for his truly outstanding judgement.

Mr Xmas is honestly the sweetest, most loyal and supportive companion when he is not depressed. It’s not always easy when he feels down, but he readily admits that overall, our little family is a positive help in his fight against the funky kind of unipolar, bipolar depression that’s been plaguing him for the last 27 years. I love him. The children love him.

But the abysmal bits of the funky unipolar bipolar thingy turn him into someone else, someone tortured, who oscillates between abject self-loathing, guilt, sadness and anger. Someone too scared and hopeless to give medications a real go. Someone who believes that the demands of family life cause, rather than help his depression, and that he is better off without it.

I am out of fight. I sit on the sofa and look out at the moutains, rain clouds shifting in the evening sky. I wish I could be somewhere else, perhaps the other side of the world …

Emily Loizeau – L’autre bout du monde

Worlds collide

Petals by Lady E

Petals by Lady E

A baby I don’t know is sitting in my daughter’s buggy. A red-haired little boy, who dribbles on the straps, looking content. His mother smiles, hands me a few notes, and walks away.

A little piece of my heart tears.

There is something really odd about standing in the sunshine on a perfect Saturday morning, selling chunks of your children’s babyhood for a few euros.

I look at the new mums milling around with newborns strapped to their chests, at the collection of baby-bumps cooing over minuscule onesies and ridiculously cute pyjamas. I remember being one of them, walking around NCT sales, oblivious of the middle-aged mothers selling their wares, absorbed in my own present of moses baskets and muslins.

Today, I have a son in middle school and permanent bags under the eyes. There will be no baby number 3.

As the sale closes, I stay behind with a friend who is expecting her first, and shows me her loot. As she beams and talks animatedly, I lose myself in the rush of pregnancy and newborn memories. The hopes, the worries, the excitment.

A man is walking towards us. I automatically look the other way and carry on smiling, but my pounding heart muffles all other sounds, as recent, painful memories in France collide with the bittersweet flow of UK pregnancies.

A year ago, Mr Nice and I walked down the same road, hacking out the menu for our evening barbecue with friends…

He walks past us, a stranger.

My friend doesn’t even notice.

Neuroscience and the baobab

My baby baobab

My baby baobab

The rain tip-taps on the skylights, soaked leaves dance in the wind.

I have an hour left to churn out three job applications, and zero motivation.

Doubt is seeping through me like a cold drizzle: This is not the life I wanted.

Ha, hang on a second, I can feel a bit of mid-life crisis coming on: Watch this space, as I will probably buy a Hermès bag, and take up wingsuit flying next.

Erm, ok but anyway, what’s that got to do with neuroscience and baobabs ?

Well, for once baobab trees are the symbol of a small Western African country called Senegal, where people are incredibly resourceful and athletic, and baobabs can grow incredibly old and large.

Secondly, I spent what was arguably the best week ever with Mr Nice a year ago in Senegal.

Thirdly, on our last day, I bought a cute baby baobab from a woman who said it would probably struggle to survive in Europe.

A year on, the baobab is flourishing (and will probably outlive us all at this rate), while Mr Nice has turned into someone else, and my anterior cingulate cortex is having a party.

Wow wow wow, hang on a second, your what? Have you also been smoking those baobob leaves?

Hold on, you Heathen, here comes the explanation:

Your anterior cingulate cortex (ACC if you two are close) sits in a part of your brain directly behind your brow – which I can tell is wrinkling up in concentration right now. Good. Bear with me.

Anyway, the ACC is involved in a variety of biological functions such as regulating heart rate and blood pressure, as well as cognitive functions such as consciousness and registering the intensity of physical pain. In fact, its activation is what makes it difficult to do anything when you’re in pain.

And guess what else sends your ACC into a party ? Yup, heartbreak. So there you go, this is why heartbreak feels a bit like simultaneously stubbing your toes, shins and nails on sharp objects. And why my job applications are just not getting done right now.

More on the science of heartbreak :