Feeling like I need someone

So my grandmother is ill. She has been for a while. My whole life, she’s had heart issues, diabetes and a whole host of other things that have made her life hard. More recently, she’s suffering from dementia and Alzheimers, and it’s these that people are finding hardest to cope with.

I don’t live in the same city as her, but I try to call and visit when my stupid shift pattern allows. My mum, her eldest daughter, lives closer and so tries to visit and stay for a few days every couple of weeks.

I’ve just gotten off the phone with them. My uncle is shouting at my grandmother for crying in pain. My mother is shouting at him, but also telling me that my grandmother has been crying all day so this isn’t new. I spoke to my grandmother – she’s trying to sound brave but she’s sobbing.

I can’t go up there as I don’t have the time, and I’m not safe to drive at the moment as I’m knackered after night shifts.

I’m so sad for my grandmother, and angry at her children for shouting at her when she needs patience, no matter how trying that is.

I’m pissed off at myself, because all I want to do is phone my ex-boyfriend and tell him all about it, and listen to him help me with solutions.

Although I love where I live, and the life and job that I have, I can very keenly feel the distance between me and my family and friends right now.

Assigning meaning to things

When I was a child, a family member died. My grandfather had died when I was 5, but I think I was too young to take that in fully and appreciate the meaning.

When I was 8 or 9, my grandmother’s brother’s wife’s sister’s husband died. (The Scottish side of my family were all very close). He’d been ill for a while, not that I knew that at the time. My parents and I had visited their house several times, and I can still clearly remember the big picture window they had in their living room that looked over a beautiful part of the North of Scotland.

Because I was a little older, I understood the reality and finality of death a little bit better. Although my parents weren’t religious, I attended a school run by the Church of England which to this day still gives me a complicated relationship with God and religion.

Long story short, I used to pray to a string of dust that hung from the ceiling. It’s ridiculous to type that out, and I’m sure it’s a ridiculous thing to read.

I was scared to go to sleep. I’d have little panic attacks nightly about death. When the lights turned off, the glow of the streetlights outside would catch this string of dust. The string used to move, and as I was a child, I couldn’t conceive of why it would move if God wasn’t the one moving it.

So I’d pray to the string as a conduit for God. I’d ask Him to look after my grandmother’s brother’s wife’s sister’s husband. And, later, when my grandmother’s brother’s wife’s sister, and my grandmother’s brother died, I’d pray that He’d make sure they were happy too.

I’m quite firmly agnostic now, as much as anyone can be ‘firmly’ agnostic. I look back on the string of dust and wonder why I ever cared so much or ascribed so much meaning to it.

I don’t mean to trivialise these thoughts on death and religion, but thinking on this made me think about how I assign a lot of meaning to small actions of others. Even more so within the context of the breakup.

It’s been seven weeks now. We saw each other two weeks ago and I read into every action of his. That means he’s sad about the breakup, this means he misses me. Maybe he said it like that because he knows that will make me miss him more. Maybe he still loves me.

I’m starting to accept the finality. A few people at work asked about whether he and I would get back together. That knowledge and belief from an external person gave me some feeling that it could happen, but I’m starting to see the reality that it probably won’t.

Am I sad? I’m still trying to navigate this. The freedom and the opportunity are still tickling at me.

Is it possible to be friends?

I saw him today. It’s been six weeks since he broke up with me, and I still struggle to call him ‘ex’ but that’s fine. I saw him because it turns out that his passport was in my house following the anniversary trip that we took in April, four months ago. We met for lunch and I gave it back to him.

(Thankfully because I felt like some kind of mafioso withholding it from him even though that was never my intention)

We updated each other on our lives. Not much to tell. His hair is longer, and I struggled not to brush it out of his eyes, or to dust the crumbs off his t shirt. It’s hard not to hold his hand or kiss his cheek, but I feel like that will get easier.

A couple of strange moments: he sat next to me rather than opposite me while we ate. He asked me to send him pictures of the holiday I’m taking next week with friends. I think we’re both finding it tricky to traverse these new boundaries and find out where this tentative friendship is going to sit.

So can we be friends in the future? I feel like we can, but I don’t know if that’s just because right now we miss each other and there’s comfort and history there. I’ve been told by four different friends that it’s not possible, but I think I’m willing to try.

It’s been four weeks

It’s been four weeks since he dumped me, and as strange as that is, I know it’s going to be okay.

He came over today. He gave me some clothes that have been at his house for years. I gave him a mug and a sex toy, which I feel accurately sums us up. It was meant to be a flying visit, maybe a quick cup of tea. He stayed for three hours and we ate lunch.

It’s still hard to traverse the new boundaries that we have. We hugged a few times. He held out his hand to hold mine when we went into the garden briefly. I squeezed a spot on his face (which was a normal thing we did – this isn’t a new post break up thing). There were differences in it – we sat further apart, we called each other ‘mate’. It was familiar but different.

He had wanted to give me photos of me that he had. We spent some time looking through them, including the ones from our five-year anniversary trip which was only four months ago. Four months ago we were happy in Denmark, and now we’re a bit sad in England.

It as good to see that he was sad too. I’d been searching for validation in new people on dating sites, but I think that the best validation was in knowing that he finds this hard too.

So we looked at photos.

We dated from the age of 21 to 26, so some of the old ones stored on my phone feel very old. We look younger (and thinner) and different, and it was important to see the happy memories and think on days neither of use had thought about for a long time.

I sent him a lot of photos of him that I had taken. He wanted some of the two of us – the cheesy couples selfies I’ve curated over the years. Again, it felt good to know that he wanted to see these and keep them.

Maybe he’ll delete them one day when this isn’t all so new and we’ve found other people to take new coupley pictures with. But it’s good to know that we are important to each other.

I went to a wedding

It’s been nearly four weeks. Where did that go? How has it been four weeks since he loved me?

How melodramatic.

It doesn’t feel like that much time has passed. I remember in the early days of our relationship, I used to count every day and week. Our anniversary was April 19th, so on the 19th of every month for at least two years, I was so excited that we’d reached another milestone. Now I’m counting that time in a different direction.

It does feel easier. I don’t often have that same pit of dread when I think of him, and I can make jokes more easily about our relationship and the natural imperfections that we had (that everyone has).

I can’t contemplate the reality of dating somebody. It would be nice to jump straight back to when he loved me and to enjoy the things we enjoyed, but I can’t think of anybody else touching me or kissing me. Or even talking to me – but let’s ignore my little piece of introversion.

I’ve deleted the latest dating app that I has downloaded. It started to feel so pointless, and I did start to feel like I was leading people on with my online presence and my unwillingness to reply. These are people who want to be with somebody, and all I could focus on were the minute grammar errors to use as proof that they weren’t worthy of my time. So it also started to feel like I was being a dick.

I went to a wedding yesterday. My friend of 8 years was marrying his partner of 6 years (fiancé of 2 years). I went along with my friend of 5 years to replace the boyfriend of 5 years who decided he didn’t love me anymore.

(I can’t stop saying that phrase, is that a problem? Do I have an issue?)

It was a lovely day. The ceremony was lovely and I cried. The speeches were lovely and I laughed. The music was shit, which it always is with any random DJ that someone hires for the best day of their life. I felt happy for my friend – never jealous (which I was relieved about, because that would’ve been another dickish thing about me this week).

So, this shit DJ. He played a lot of breakup music. Weird thing to do at a wedding anyway, but in that golden alcohol haze after a bit too much gin, it felt like every song was directed at me.

The sad breakup songs became poignant. The triumphant breakup songs were too much. The songs about loving yourself after a breakup were annoying, because I don’t right now.

Then he played Daft Punk’s Get Lucky. It’s strange and catchy and it was everywhere for one summer five years ago, so it became our song. We had talked about Daft Punk when messaging on Match. We listened to Get Lucky and complained about how it was following us. He learned to play Get Lucky on guitar at a guitar camp he went to that was our first trip away together. It was our song.

I looked around at all of the couples on the dance floor. There were so many happy, comfortable people who just seemed to enjoy each other’s company. I looked at my friend, and despite how much I love her (platonically) and think she’s brilliant, she’ll never be someone who is just for me like he used to be. I started to cry, slowly, silently, privately.

I sat down. Pissed about on social media on my phone for 10 minutes and got up and pretended I was okay. I feel like this might be a theme for a little while.

This all makes me so anxious

In the little under a week since I wrote my last post, I have deleted two dating profiles and set up a third one. I don’t know what this is, it’s like some weird compulsion that I dip out of the second the anxiety gets a little too high.

So I’d downloaded Bumble. It was fine but strange, and although I wouldn’t consider myself a traditionalist in saying a man must message a woman, I am a shy and awkward idiot who finds messaging first difficult. I made conversation with my cheesy lines, but it all felt a little too hollow and vapid. It’s dull to do the introductory conversation several times with different strangers.

I’d signed up to eHarmony, but I hadn’t paid for it. It would cost my liver to sign up for a short period of time. I ended up only being able to trade virtual ‘smiles’ with blurry pictures of strangers I would have to pay to see. It felt a little pointless, so that one was deleted as well (for the second time…)

I’ve joined Match. I met him on Match, so there’s that little bittersweet edge to it. It reminds me of the days when we first spoke, and how it felt to be that 21 year old organising her first ever date.

But it also builds the anxiety. The truth of it is, in a five-year relationship, there is so much comfort and familiarity and love and history. There’s so much that is shared. Even though there’s that cruel part of my brain telling me he never truly loved me in those five years, I know that at the very least he knew me and that we were the closest friend.

There’s the anxiety of knowing that no relationship will be like that one. And I loved that relationship. I loved him. It’s so hard to know that all of the stuff we built up is gone, and I have to try that again.

What if nobody likes me? What if I don’t like anybody? But really, and what I care about most, what if nobody likes me?

I don’t consider myself an anxious person. I’m quite relaxed and I take a lot in my stride. I deal with emergencies at work, and I’m able to do what I need to and not feel too deeply in that moment. But there’s this (sad) ache in my chest when I think about what might happen next from an online conversation, and I can’t quite shake that.

I’ve paid for the Match profile. It was £21 for a month, so I feel like I have to see this through. I’m not wanting for money, and I also don’t see the point in wasting £21 just to prove this weird, sad point I have.

Let’s see what happens.

I bit the bullet

I’ve heard mixed ideas on the best thing to do after being dumped. I googled it (of course) which suggested being sad for four days maximum before never talking about it again because it upsets other people.

I ignored that one.

I’ve spoken to people who say to enjoy being single and to say yes to everything and to become more spontaneous. To use this as the opportunity to do what I never felt I could before.

But I felt I was quite fortunate in the relationship that we could – and did – do so much together.

Then there’s the people who’ve told me to jump straight back on the horse. To start dating again straight away, and maybe look at people I hadn’t before. Casual hookups. Short flings.

Definitely not doing that (right now).

I’ve done my happy medium. I downloaded a dating app and actually decided to apply myself to it. I’ve downloaded Bumble and I’ve reactivated my very short lived profile from eHarmony.

The beauty and the hardship of Bumble is that women have to make the first move. Two people can mutually ‘like’ each other, but only women can start a conversation. I felt that in signing up to dating apps so soon, I wanted some validation from real people that I still hold some appeal after someone I loved left me. The tricky thing when I have to make the first move is that requires impetus.

I have more of an attitude of ‘sod it’ right now. I feel like it would take somebody magical to really make me consider a relationship right now, because I know that most truly I’m not ready. This means that I can write to people in a more careless way, maybe flirt more than I would have done because I’m probably never going to meet them.

I’ve written cheesy things so far. ‘Strong glasses game’ to someone who is wearing glasses in their profile picture. ‘How much do you lift’ to somebody else who’s into Crossfit. ‘You have a genuine smile’ to someone who is… smiling.

It’s a bit like a game. I feel like I’ll probably delete the app soon, so unless anyone has been intoxicated by my stunning pick up lines of ‘your hair is very nice in your picture’, I’m not going to break any hearts when my profile suddenly disappears.

It’s also addictive. It’s very easy to swipe through pictures of people who don’t feel like real people and wait for the sweet little moment when the phone screen turns yellow and tells me somebody has ‘liked’ me too. It’s a little heady, and it’s given me the token of validation and shallow appreciation that I felt like I needed.

It’s nearly two weeks post break up. It definitely already hurts less, although I do still miss having that best friend figure to ask me about my day. I’d been quite caught up in trying to justify why the break up was a good thing for us both, that I’ve forced myself not to focus on the things I will miss about him. In thinking about a potential new relationship, I’d forgotten just what I liked about ours.

It was very much ours. The inside jokes. The way we would cuddle. The acceptance of spending time in the same room doing separate activities. The reliability of knowing he would pick me up from work sometimes. Or that if I lost my keys, he could come and let me in. The way he loved my cats. The relationship he had with my mother.

It’s just shit that he’s left me.

I’m not calling myself single yet

Yesterday after writing my blog post, I joined eHarmony and felt quite light and free about making an account. It felt like a step towards embracing possibility. It felt important and exciting to potentially meet somebody who would be my new somebody.

I chose pictures of myself to upload to my profile. This forced me to look at the pictures that I’ve taken in the year I’ve had this phone. I’ve avoided looking at my pictures because there are so many of us together, and it’s quite painful to look at pictures of us kissing a month ago.

So I looked at the pictures. I noticed that I haven’t taken any pictures of him in months, or of us together for a similar amount of time. I’m not a massive selfie fan, so the only pictures of me are ones that he has taken of me when we would have a day out.

This attached a lot of baggage to the whole profile picture thing. I chose three. One that was a rare selfie of mine. One from visiting Iceland together in February this year. One from visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour last year, also together.

Do I delete the photos? Within this new framework of aiming to be friends, I don’t really feel like I have to delete them and because our split hasn’t been acrimonious. We don’t hate each other, we’re just saying we don’t love each other anymore.

The profile pictures uploaded. I flicked through the potential matches I had and hesitated about actually paying the £30+ to subscribe to eHarmony and view people’s pictures. It suddenly felt more real when I considered the money. It felt more like a decision to pay and start talking to people. I had a little panic and deleted my account.

I realised that I don’t really consider myself single yet. Granted it’s only just about been a week, so it’s okay for this to not yet feel concrete and real. But if I were to say his name in conversation and somebody asked me who he is, I don’t think I could say ‘ex’ when he still feels like ‘boyfriend’.

That’s probably why I panicked at the dating website. It felt a little like cheating.

Well, that and the idea of dating anybody new is terrifying.

Do I want to date again?

I met up with him today. It was a source of anxiety, but at the practical level I needed to get my house keys back. On the emotional level I think I needed to see him to remind myself that we don’t hate each other, we’re still the same people and that maybe we could be friends.

But do I want to be friends? It’s been 8 days (8 days!) since the break up, and I have come to realise that no matter how sad or tearful I sometimes am, it’s not because I want him back. I wrote previously about the reasons that actually I have a sense of freedom and a burgeoning sense of excitement about one day finding somebody new.

Do I want to be friends? Do I miss him as a boyfriend or as a person? Do I just miss that sense of having somebody that was just mine and that knew everything about me?

I think that the very fact of having questions is the useful part of blogging. It’s really handy to write it out in slightly flowery language and try and figure out what I’m feeling.

So we saw each other. We had lunch. We chatted a bit about future plans for ourselves. He’s deferring his degree to focus on mental health, which is a massive and positive decision on his part. I’m waiting to see what is happening with my application to study a Master’s. He’s going to some events for his hobbies. I’m seeing friends on various places and hoping to make the most of this ridiculous British heatwave.

We split the bill in the restaurant. An echo of our first ever date. For the last five years, one or other of us has always paid the bill in full and swapped off for the next time. We got bubble tea which tasted horrible. Space Oddity was playing in the background and I sang along. He said the song would always remind him of me.

We said goodbye. We hugged and then both slightly ducked in for a kiss. We didn’t kiss, but there was a beat of tension when we realised what we had automatically begun to do. I made a joke about it. He laughed.

I pretended to laugh. I walked away and cried in my car.

I’m not a frequent crier, and I’ve forgotten how sometimes it feels like a release. I left the encounter feeling positive and lighter. I never once thought about wanting him back, or wondering if he cared or loved me. These were the things which I’d worried about, so it was nice to realise that although I was sad at the ending, I wasn’t sad that it had ended.

So this brings me to my question. Do I want to date again? As in, date again soon and now?

In seeing him, in a strange way it made me feel loved again. When I was a teenager, I never believed I would be loved, and just after he dumped me, I believed that he had never loved me. Seeing him showed me that although he broke up with me for our differences, there was a lot that he still liked about me.

To date again now would feel like searching for proof that I can be loved. It would feel like I was looking for validation, and there’s a part of me that would like to sign up to a dating website just to chat to strangers and feel that buzz of talking to new people. That might be all the validation I need at the moment.

It’s hard to pretend

He dumped me on Tuesday, and it’s currently the early hours of the morning on Monday. With my night shifts, the days and weeks often blur together, but especially this week, it’s hard to know where I am or quite how I feel or think. I spoke about getting back to work and how it felt positive to be my professional self and not to wallow. But I’m starting to wonder if I need more time just to reflect.

At work, people ask quickly if I’m okay, but they don’t want to hear more. Friends check in, but I’m very conscious that friends will have their own dramas. How long is appropriate to spend on your own feelings? How long is normal to ask for people’s support and genuinely expect them to care? Probably about ten minutes.

My friend came to the house today. He’s getting married in 18 days, and today I helped him write his wedding speech. I’m so happy for him, but it feels bittersweet, as we met our boyfriends at about the same time. He’s getting married, I’ve been dumped.

I don’t want everything to be all about me, that’s never been my personality. I’m introverted and introspective and I don’t often want people’s attentions or questions. But I think maybe this week (this year, this never-ending eternity) I’d quite like some attention.

My friend came to my house expecting to have to pick me up off the floor, and was very relieved that he didn’t have to. There’s a tiny kernel of bitterness in me that feels that neither he or anybody else would actually want to.

I’m hiding behind jokes, and the expansive and positive affirmation that ‘it’s ultimately for the best’. Fuck but it’s easy to divert attention if I say that loudly enough.

We texted today. Me, and the ex. I asked our mutual friend if it might be a good idea. She gave a terse ‘yes’ and hasn’t spoken to me since. Another thing to ponder anxiously in bed at 2am.

I unblocked his number (hello petty self) and messaged to arrange a meet up. We’ll meet on Wednesday, 8 days after the fact. I get a little obsessed with keeping track of the number of days, and I’m looking forward to when that will feel less relevant.

Messaging was horrible. He called me by name. ‘Hi Laura, good to hear from you’! I don’t think I’ve heard him call me Laura for about a year before this last two weeks. It’s always been pet names: ‘sweetheart’ and ‘baby’. The one that always made me feel fuzziest was ‘my love’. But now I’m just Laura.