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.

Light

Light by Lady E

Light by Lady E

I hang up the phone and close my eyes. When I re-open them, I finally see the trees, volley-ball players, families strolling, and clouds shifting across the late afternoon sky.

I am sitting in a park on a busy Saturday afternoon. Mr Nice and I have just been discussing the fineries of our relationship’s funeral : Next week, we’ll tell the children.  We will let them enjoy the afternoon together, before letting them know of our decision to separate. To soften the blow – in as much this is possible when you are robbing someone of much of the stability and safety in their lives, we also decided to make sure they could still spend time together and count on both of us.

How this will work in practice is anyone’s guess.

For the first time in over a month, I have been talking to the Mr Nice I used to know, rather than some spaced out version of him, and this man is lost, desolate, wondering how a relationship which has been giving him happiness and stability for a couple of years could suddenly become something he does not want.

I feel immensely tired.

I get up and start walking towards the light.

The five stages of break-up grief

Picture courtesy of my son who keeps hugging me and saying how much he loves me. No, really, he does. And no, he's not for sale, he would be too expensive to ship anyway.

Denial

I have in fact undeniably felt Mr Nice’s withdrawal from the relationship over the last couple of weeks, as documented in some of my latest posts.

Abandonment is my biggest fear (well, apart from running out of chocolate, let’s be real), so I was unable to truly face the possibility.

Besides, it was a mixture, and Mr Nice was genuinely having hard times unrelated to us.  Things are messy, and complicated in our human minds, so there must have been a bit of everything going on, before the balance finally tipped the wrong way.

Anger

The plumber hasn’t come, we have ran out of milk, I have to fill in my last joint tax declaration with T (oh the special joy of having to mourn for two relationships at once- do you think they could cancel each other out?), arrange the children’s Summer holiday schedule, get the winter tyres swapped (preferably before next Winter), fix the broken kitchen skirting board, dig a trench in the garden, deal with a tense situation at work, and find a speech therapy appointment for my son (they seem to be rarer than polite French taxi drivers, a species itself on the brink of extinction).

What I really need, is to hide in Mr Nice’s arms… And the bastard takes away my number one make-the-world-better remedy? How dare he not have the decency to at least leave his arms behind?!

Bargaining

I like Mr Nice as a person, and among all other things to grieve for, I would find it tragic to see him vanish entirely from my life. I cannot remember who suggested first that we try for friendship, but we are supposed to give it a go after an unspecified cooling off period (ghosh, it almost sounds as though we brainstormed and Gantt charted it all, doesn’t it?).

It is a worn old cliché, and I have no idea how this may function in practice, but there is no denying that part of me hopes he will miss us enough to pine for his boyfriend status. On a less soul-destroying level, I genuinely would rather feel the inevitable pain of being relegated to friends’ zone, than not be able to count him as my friend. Let’s see how this plays out… I reserve the right to reconsider this statement (and poke his eyes out) when he introduces me to his 6ft blond girlfriend in a couple of weeks.

Sadness

This morning, seeing a cheery article about love on the juice carton made me cry. In barely four months, I have not had the time to properly fall in love, but still, I am sooooo disappointed… That despite all the good things he had to say about our relationship, despite the fact that he knows he will miss me, our closeness, our intimacy, things had to end. And I know that as well as his arms, I am going to frightfully miss our daily catch-ups, the way my heart skips a few beats when he smiles, and the million little perks of having someone in your life.

Acceptance

Well, in spite of everything great about him, he obviously wasn’t the man for me. And of course, someone better will eventually come along.

Right, scratch that: For once that I had met a single, lovely, grown-up man I get on with and fancy rotten, how dare he be scared of responsibilities, and thus fall short of my standard for being Mr Perfect? Does he know how hard men like him are to come by, and how long I had been tapping my foot, waiting for him to turn up?

Mneh…, bollocks to acceptance is what I say.

Crash

photo credit: iaanhughes.com

It‘s happened. I was right not to feel secure in my relationship.

Mr Nice was ever so nice, even as he told me it was over.

It didn’t really start out as a breaking-up conversation, but then again, these things rarely do. No, it was more of an I-need-to-tell-you-how-I-feel sort of conversation.

And what Mr Nice feels is very ambiguous, because on the one hand, he feels good when he is with me, and I basically make him happy, on the other hand he doesn’t feel like committing. And this stresses him out because of our children (his and mine), and the responsibility they represent.

One thing surprised, and pleased me in a funny way: He said he was really appreciative that I did not pressure him at all. So even though the end result is no different, it wasn’t because of my insecurity. And it is a relief to at least not feel responsible for my own unhappiness.

Anyway, I felt strangely detached at first, as I watched things play out almost in slow motion: His worried face, “we need to talk”, his tears, the closeness that comes from a good heart-to-heart, followed by an artificial drift opening between us.

There is something absurd, surreal about break-ups. The way one minute you are a couple and the next, you are two exes. You start using the past tense to talk about the two of you, to think about the things you need to return to each other, and practical consequences, but nothing is real yet. You haven’t yet seen their face everywhere, heard the deafening silence of your telephone, or missed their touch, their voice.

All this is yet to come.

Only the next morning did I actually start crying, and listening to this song on a loop: Eiffel – Place de mon coeur (place of my heart). You have to click on the link, which will open a new window and click on the play icon down the page. A bit of an effort, but well worth it if you want to hear some of the best stuff French rock has to offer.

Year 1: The end

For a solid ten days around Christmas, grief ruled my life.

I dragged myself through the days, my little girl’s absence cutting a whole into my heart, hating her father with useless ferocity, angry with everything and everyone.

It must have been one long ordeal a joy for those around me, my colleagues, a few friends unfortunate enough to still be around, and my rather stoical parents.

I was caught in a perfect storm of anniversary time, being deprived of my daughter for our first broken family Christmas, and having the New Ms T rubbed like salt in my wounds every night when I spoke to my baby on Skype.

The energy I expounded on fuming, imaging clever put-downs and revengeful scenarios could probably power the whole of France’s Christmas lights for weeks.

Then my daughter came back, and with her an almost tangible relief. I was finally able to relax, and spent a few days on holiday near the Mediterranean enjoying both children and watching the spectacular winter sunsets spray life with gold.

I kicked off the new year by going skiing with my son and friends on a beautiful sunny day, and everything still is an odd mixture of relief at not being a year ago, and sadness for all that has happened. But all in all, welcome to 2012, and a great new year to you all!

My son’s favourite of the moment, have a little dance!

Lucenzo – Emigrante del mundo

The long way home

English: Icy road The lorries pack down the sn...

Image via Wikipedia

Exactly a year ago, we were on a long-awaited family ski holiday. I hoped the clear mountain air, and children’s laughter would dissipate the cloud T had been living under for weeks, give him a chance to relax and discuss whatever aspects of “us” were making him so unhappy.

One evening, as he was still miserable, as my attempts to make him laugh, relax and to cuddle him seemed to bring more pain than comfort, I confronted him. Given his revelation the previous week that he believed “we” had a problem, this took some courage, and the desperation of someone who can no longer bear helplessness in the face of their partner’s misery.

The result was a freefall into terror as the full extent of his disengagement came to light. First, he no longer thought he loved or trusted me, leaving my baffled mind trying to understand what may have killed his love and trust for me. I understood things were seriously wrong for him, I could sense the extent of his despair and rallied all my strength to fight for us, to understand what caused us to run aground so spectacularly.  This is when he said that he didn’t think he had the strength to carry on, and fight.

At this stage, I remember feeling like I had entered a nightmare, where the unthinkable suddenly looked me in the eye: I was the one to utter the word separation. My panicked mind attempted to process the information, thinking out loud about consequences. How were we ever going to manage financially? Given that I had left my job in the UK, I may have to move back. How could we manage full stop? What were we going to do about the children? But the only real question underneath my frantic rambling was how could this be possible?…

We had just spent the last 18 months struggling through moving in together, becoming a family, the demands of his job, settling my son and me into a new environment, our daughter’s first year, trying to find a new balance… But by then, things were finally looking up as our daughter got older, his job would become less stressful, and everything became more settled. This resolutely felt like an absurd time to give up.

He went home, saying he needed to sleep, be alone and think things through before we talked. I remember telling him to do whatever he needed, that we could talk when he felt ready. I stopped eating or sleeping, yet put all my energy into staying alive. I remember going skiing every afternoon with my son, changing my daughter’s nappies, trying to keep functioning. I was lucky that my brother and sister held things together, cooked and kept the children entertained, listened to my endless shocked litany.

I clung to the conviction that the man I loved, my daughter’s father and son’s step-father would not just leave me without giving us a chance. There is an extremely high probability that meanwhile, he spent new year’s eve with the New Ms T (but I would not realise that for another six months).

On the first of January, I called to see how he was doing. He said he was fine, but wanted a separation, because he needed to live alone and find himself.

On the following day, I loaded to car up in a daze of sleeplessness and pain, slipped on ice carrying my daughter, and fractured my tailbone. Then I drove home for three hours to face T and realise that his mind was made and there would be no talking.

Birthday

Sunday marked the first day of my 39th year, which brings me scarily closer to 40,  how did that ever happen when in my head I am still 27-ish?

Anyway, I got smothered in sticky kisses from my babies first thing in the morning, my daddy squeezed me lots of oranges, and the house, wrapped in fog, felt adrift on a cloud of unexpected joy.

The day before, I spent a steamy afternoon at the hammam with two great friends, and a lovely evening partying at home with cheese, wine and more friends. The phone kept ringing throughout the day and the city even switched on the Christmas lighting in my honour (what else?).

But still, I had to make a conscious effort not to look forward or back, because either sides of now still hurt too much.

And while I am timidly hoping for change, I still feel very much like a paper boat in a dangerous sea.

We had a good dance to Little Boots’s Remedy thanks to the talents of DJ JB