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 2

There’s nothing like a bit of people-watching, fluffy magazine reading, or supermarket psychology musing, when you’re idly sitting on a beach… Which is what I did in copious amounts over my recent holiday, leading to the previously dazzling profiles of my exes.

Anyway, huhuhu, next instalment (hold-on to your seats, a psychology Nobel prize might have to be created): I have brilliantly worked out something T, Mr Nice and Mr Xmas all had in common.

They really fancied themselves as knights in shiny armours, rescuing a hapless princess.

How they thought it would be 1

The thing is that T, Mr Nice and Mr Xmas don’t really like themselves, and conversely really liked the idea of being knights in shiny armours, especially family knights, because it would make them feel all saintly, worthy and good.

how they thought it would be 2

Needless to say that I am no hapless princess, but a perfectly capable one thank-you-very-much, even though I admit to some degree of fraying around the edges.How it really was

So family knights they became, which was quite nice, if I’m honest.

how it actually was 2

Until they worked-out that being family knights was not exactly how they had imagined it based on, you know, car and holiday villa adverts…

In fact, being family knights turned out to be quite hard work and boring after a while, because you can’t really go out every night as you please, there may be nappies to change, pesky people wanting your attention even when you’ve had a hard day at work and just want to collapse on the couch to watch game of thrones and eat pizza out of the box. That sort of unbearable disappointment.

Meanwhile, I’d wanted a boyfriend, not a hero, and strongly believed relationships need constant tweaking so that everyone’s needs can be met; so it wasn’t like I had them chained to the stove or banned from having their own lives.

Still, the car-advert promise was shattered, disappointment set in, and they started resenting being family knights, as well as feeling bad about themselves for failing to be heroic.

And because feeling bad about yourself is no fun, they eventually had some kind of brutal a-ha moment when they decided that in fact, our relationship was the source of all evil and must be disposed of rapidly.

Clever clogs.

The end

So there. I seem to attract men who convincingly really, really, really like the stability and security they see in me, as well as the idea of having a family with me, but end up saying “actually, you know what, I don’t think this life fits me, feels a bit too tight, makes me look kind of bloated… Can I send it back to the shop?”, which is when I say something to the effect of “No bloody way. We’ve had a baby together / blended families / moved in together. This is not covered by the manufacturer’s warranty”

VoilĂ .

So what does that teach me for the future? Mmmwell, I’m not quite sure… That I should steer away from men who like the idea of family life? That I should never ever have a baby / blend families / move in with someone who really, really, really likes me ?

Err…, have you got any slightly more convincing lessons to suggest?

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.

Criss-cross

IMG_1595_2 I sit on a train, slicing deep into  the Provence countryside. Orchards, cypress hedges and lavender fields, still in the brutal Summer heat.

Another intense week at work is over, and I am heading South to see my children for the weekend, feeling numb.

Over the last few weeks, work has been manic, and Mr Xmas and I have been criss-crossing the no-man’s land between being exes and being friends.

At first, he came around occasionally to look after the children (as he had said he would). We exchanged minimal parcels of information, minutely wrapped in defiance and fear.

As the days wore on, Mr Xmas kept helping with a few practical things, and things somewhat relaxed into a neutral stance. I even asked Mr Xmas for hugs, which he oblingingly provided after a couple of gruelling days.

Finally, last weekend, I dropped my children off at their holiday destination, before coming back home to work, effectively removing any practical excuses to see each other.

This is when Mr Xmas offered to pick me up from the station… And so we have seen each other a couple of times, chatted about work, the children, the heatwave, carefully skirting around the elephantine mass of bruised feelings and broken hopes in the room.

From the outside, it could almost look like we’re back to our years of easy, open friendship. From the inside, something is missing…

The train has stopped, and Montpellier greets me with its powerful smell of sea breeze, oleander, and heated sewers. At the end of the road, my children, their joy, and the certainty that life is beautiful.

To my son, who loves this song.

Youssoupha ft. Madame Monsieur – Smile

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

Lanzarote

Before I found out I was going to become a pauper last Autumn, Mr Xmas and I had booked a week off in Lanzarote over the New Year.

So after spending a really noisy, hectic, lovely week in Paris with my family for Christmas, I headed for a really quiet (read child-free) week with Mr Xmas in Lanzarote. Lanzarote is a smallish Spanish island off the coast of Southern Morocco, on the same latitude as Florida : It is renowned for its year-round mild climate and freakish volcanic landscapes.

We did a lot of hiking.

Hiking

Classy picnics.

Picnic

High-brow entertainment.

Uno

The only downside being that our studio flat was right next to the hotel’s bar, where staff rehearsed an Abba musical every. Single. Night around the time we cooked dinner.

Abba

Because we’re French, we picked the starter of our New Year’s Eve dinner off the rocks on a beach…

Winkles

Winkles

And speaking of New Year’s Eve, it was probably one of the simplest, yet best in my life.

New year

In a word, I spent a blissful week away from all the pain of the past and uncertainties of the present.

And have since come back with a bump to Winter and errr… Is it just life? My workload is through the roof as I’m on the final stretch of my current job, there have been interviews for new jobs, broken cars, grumpy children, grumpy and sick children, cutting down on all expenses. Yet, none of it has been as bad it it could have been, because you know what ? I am not alone.

Mr Xmas is here. In fact, Mr Xmas has all but moved in with us, and much to my surprise, it feels ok.

Well, better than ok: I actually look forward to seeing him every night, to burying my nose in his smell and debriefing the day.

That is not to say that there aren’t still moments when I doubt, freak-out and question everything (hey, it wouldn’t be me otherwise), but they are getting fewer and further between.

Something odd, tranquil and powerful is seeping through the cracks of my tired heart.

Grand corps malade – 15h du matin

This song is light and silly, a reminder that Spring is around the corner. Makes me smile at the rain and fog.

… I’ll leave you with a few real pics of our holiday

Geometry by Lady E

Geometry by Lady E

The winkles' beach !

The winkles’ beach !

Timanfaya national park

Timanfaya natural park

Volcano top

Hiking in Lanzarote by Lady E

Hiking in Lanzarote by Lady E

Atlantic

Atlantic