Goodbye 2016, or ‘what I’ll do differently in 2017’.

People keep saying that 2016 has been a really shitty year. Mainly as a result of the celebrity deaths we have experienced in the last 365 days. It’s very easy to jump on the bandwagon on death and disaster. The rise of Donald Trump The Anti-Christ, for example, and #BREXIT as a decision made by 50% of the UK population to be isolationist, backwards and to undo decades of progress. It’s very easy to look back at 2016 and think just how terribly awful it has been. And I very nearly got sucked into that pit of despair.

But then I stopped. I thunked for a bit. And remembered. You know what? My bad years have passed. 2014 was brutal. I lost Clare in the most wicked, cruel and evil way. Taken by cancer before turning 40. My world collapsed and I didn’t know how I would get through each day. 2015 wasn’t much better. I fell out with my brother which ultimately lead to our family being splintered and me not being invited to his wedding. Those wounds have yet to heal.

2016 hasn’t been bad to me. I have had my fair share of crazy experiences and dangerous liaisons, I’ve had stresses, I’ve tolerated fools. I’ve fending off stalkers and compulsive liars. I’ve been mis-sold on an idea which didn’t manifest in reality. I’ve been gullible, deceived, shallow and vain. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes in my personal life.

Professionally it’s nothing but positives. There are no complaints.
I’ve maintained friendships with those I’m interested in and cast aside those who bring me down.
I’m closer to my parents despite being estranged from my brother. They see my side of things. We’re allies.
I’ve been to Portugal, I’ve been to Lanzarote. I’ve bought a car. I’ve made improvements to my home. I have more money than I have ever had. I’m far from ‘rich beyond my wildest dreams’ but my bills are paid, there’s money in the bank, and there’s wine in the fridge.
My relationship with the boy’s mum goes from strength to strength. My relationship with the boy evolves as expected with a nine-going-on-nineteen-year-old. He’s stubborn and headstrong. He is his father’s son.

As the clock ticks over to midnight it’s time to consider what I’ll do differently in 2017. One criticism I’ll level at myself from the past year is my tendency to rush in. I’ve been so keen to capture that which I lost before that I have thrown caution to the wind and involved myself in situations too early and too soon. Too deeply. Too personally. I’ve opened myself up to people and given myself to them before I first weighed up their worth. I’ve invested time and emotion in people who did not deserve my time or my emotion. I’ve been stupid. I’ve been kind. I’ve been cruel.

2017 is to be a year of standing still and taking stock – I’ve said that before. I have plans to do interesting things and read a lot of books. I might even move house, but if I don’t or if I can’t I’ll make my current house more of a home. I’m going to go on holiday; maybe twice(!) (maybe thrice!!). I’m going to enjoy life and living it.

But there’s going to be No More Mister Nice Al. It’s time for me to be careful, calculated, cautious. Rather than taking people at face value I need to wait until the big reveal. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. It’s time, 2017 is going to be the time, for Al to no longer be foolish.

I’ll see y’all on the other side of the bells.

2015 – the obligatory new year post

Goodbye, 2014, you absolute rotter. Hello 2015, a year which promises to be significantly better.

I started 2014 with high hopes. I had a woman who I loved completely, a nice home in the countryside, a week in Sharm el Sheikh to look forward to, and a job I’d been wanting to do for several years and was now doing. All was going well. I was happy. H-A-P-P-Y.

But then things changed.

Egypt came and went and I gathered memories which I have sealed inside my heart. We returned to England and because of external forces, internal forces, my own bloody-minded selfishness, Clare and I went our separate ways. I still loved her. I still wanted her. But I made the mistake of putting my pride before this magnificent woman who had sacrificed so much for me. It’s my one huge regret of 2014. My one huge regret of life. I have made mistakes before. We all have. “To err is human”. I have yet to sit and post-mortem that time in my life. I don’t want to. I fear that what I uncover will be too much for me to handle just yet. Better to bury those times deep inside me – in a locked box somewhere – and forget where I put the key.

I left Clare and I moved to my little flat in Darlington – and for the briefest of times I was happy. I met a new lady. She turned out to be batshit insane, but we had fun. Work continued to teach me things about myself and other people I didn’t previously understand.

Then in August 2014 Clare came back into my life like a breath of fresh-air. How mad had I been to allow her to get away from me? How had I not fought with every fibre of my being and every resource available to me to keep her by my side? How did I let her go? I made a commitment to her then – it was unspoken; I never got the chance to tell her before she passed away. But I still read the words from time to time and I know that for the briefest of moments I was true to myself and true to her.

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In September 2014 Clare Sandford died. And she took with her a part of me. I know I’ll never get it back. I know I will never be the same again. When she died a part of me died too. I feel her loss as keenly now as I did then. It’s a terrible, terrible thing. It gets easier. I knew it would. But not a day goes by when I don’t think of her in some way.

Since then there have been other women in my life but none of them come close to Clare. None of them match her. They stopped me feeling so profoundly alone in the world, but her memory eclipses all.

Onto 2015. A new year, a new start? Perhaps not. This is a year when I have to stand still. I have to take stock. I need to reapply a degree of stability to my life. I make no resolutions. I do not promise to eat healthy or exercise. I only want to make it through to 2016 in a better place than I am right now. Financially, emotionally, personally, I want 2015 to be the year when I can look back and say, I’m further forward than I was 365 days ago.

So I guess I will have to wait another 364 days before I can do that. Stand still. Take stock. Make no sudden moves. Think things through. Do only that which matters and is positive. Leave negativity behind.

It’s important to look after myself and look after Tom. It’s important I work hard and be frugal not frivolous. I’ll leave now with a little mantra I gleaned from the twitter: “Don’t let things which don’t matter much matter much”.

Have a safe and successful 2015. I’ll see you on the otherside.

Tough times don’t last….

….tough people do.

I’ve been feeling a little bit lost and a little bit alone recently. Struggling to come to terms with life and all it’s ugly truths. Just over two months ago I was looking forward to a future with a woman who meant the world to me. We had to keep things under wraps and had made plans for a great unveiling. We knew people would not agree with our decision to work things out. We knew they would disapprove. But that didn’t matter. For reasons I am ashamed of our relationship faltered in the early part of this year. We went our separate ways. But I knew that it wasn’t over. I knew that there would be another chapter written. I just didn’t know how painfully short that chapter would be.

In August 2014 Clare and I were in contact and we both realised that we were meant to be. Despite everything that had happened between us, despite five months apart, we made a decision to be together again. Our togetherness lasted for the briefest of times. She was taken from me cruelly in late September. We had a glorious month together. In that month I realised that this was a woman who’s passion for life invigorated my own. She allowed me to shine. She encouraged me to be.

And now she’s gone. Her light has left the world and with it, my own. Each day I wake and I go to work and I feel like it is all for nothing. I feel like I am counting down the days until my own departure from this world. I feel like my life is empty.

It is not. I know that. I know it. But that doesn’t stop the feelings of lonely isolation. I feel alone, so desperately alone, even when I am in company. And the sad thing is I don’t know how to get out of this situation. I don’t even know if there is a way out. Do I just have to keep going?

I do. I have to have faith in myself. Tough times don’t last but tough people do. All it takes is time. I just have to keep reminding myself of that.

Desolation

I feel like an amputee. Like something essential and urgent has been removed from my person. This is no illness from which there is recovery. Instead this is a permanent removal of something vital to my health and well-being. It is something I will never get back. It is something I will never recover from. This is loss. This is desolation.

I spend my days in a stupor. Drifting from one meaningless conversation to the next. You are supposed to be of reduced importance to me but there is little further from the truth. You are my one. You are my everything. And, in so many ways, I feel that in your passing I am granted the freedom to speak freely of us. But even in the granting of that freedom I respect your wishes and I respect the people you surrounded yourself with and I keep my silence. It’s a painful silence. I want to shout of our love. I want to explain to all the world the connection you and I shared. But I cannot. Not yet. Not just now. Maybe in the days to come.

I love you more than life itself. Losing you is brutal. Losing you is pain. I get flashes of all that we were and I loved every minute.

I will tell the world our story. I will tell all the people of you. I will do my best to explain to them how wonderful you were and how much the world is reduced by your loss. I still quite cannot believe you have gone from this place and time. And, for the first time in my existence, I have prayed there is something beyond death. Because losing you is – there are no words. But the vague hope of seeing you again or feeling you next to me is of inestimable comfort. I only hope you know how much I loved you. I only hope you slipped into silent permanent slumber knowing how much you’d be missed.

Good bye my lover, good bye my friend. Until we meet again.

Losing You

I’ve lost you too many times. I don’t know if I can do it again. I don’t know if I can survive losing you once more. We have been through so much together. So many good times, some bad times. Despite everything I always thought that we would be together forever. No matter how or what or why we went our separate ways I always looked at you and knew that you were the one for me.

I always loved you.

I always will.

Nobody can change that; nobody will.

You were the defining influence in my life. You were the one I wanted to be with forever. You were the one I wanted to live with forever. You were the one I needed in my life forever. Losing you again is not something I can comprehend. It’s not something I can rationalise. It’s not something I can handle.

No matter what happened between us I always knew you were there. I always knew that no matter what you existed, and because you existed the world was a more beautiful place. Without you it is ugly. Without you it is meaningless. Without you it is pain.

I love you. I need you. You define me.