An announcement

I’ll end the AUGUST2020CHALLENGE with an announcement. One of the reasons behind the challenge was to increase the number of good news and positive entries into this blog which has served me well in times of adversity.

In February 2021 we’ll be welcoming a new brother or sister for Tom and Lucas. After going through a miscarriage in September last year this is a most excellent turn of events and we’re all very excited to welcome the next addition to our family.

We are very much looking forward to welcoming the newest addition to our family.

Say hello to the as yet unnamed baby Smith.

Why do you blog?

Why am I here? Why have I written six hundred (half are private) different entries onto this site? Because I find writing my thoughts down to be therapeutic. Putting in to words the thoughts in my head and then being able to read them back to myself gives me a clarity which thought alone does not.

Being able to look back at previous events in my life enables me to understand the here and now far better than memory alone does. This blog has served me well. When I forgot about good times this reminds me. When the reasons for decisions is lost, a read of these pages causes them to be found.

I wrote, briefly, about my reasons for blogging here: Why I blog | Blog Boards.

You see, the one thing I have always found about having a blog is the cathartic effects of writing. Sometimes the thoughts in my head need an outlet. They need to be allowed out for a walk. Sometimes they dance across the keyboard and words appear. Writing is therapy.

And it’s helped. It really has. When the thoughts in your head get too much for you to sort out, putting those thoughts down as words on a page or a screen is really helpful; even if those words don’t get published. They can sit in drafts for days or weeks or months. They can be written in private and then deleted. It’s entirely up to the writer.

There is something pure and clean about putting words on a page. Its not easy to explain, but have you ever struggled to understand why you feel some way, why you behave some way? This helps me to understand both feelings and behaviour. Often sitting with a blank page and just letting my fingers relay thought into words has helped me to overcome terrible feelings of loss and anger. Its a release to get it out in the open rather than keeping it bottled up.

I’ve never wanted fame or notoriety. I do not expect to be a ‘famous’ blogger. Its never been in my life plans to write for my dinner. This is a hobby and an excuse to see my thoughts ‘in the flesh’ as it were.

My efforts to populate these pages have been intermittent. When I read back its interesting to see that in the past I have turned to blogging when I’m struggling with life and relationships. The purpose of this challenge is to get back into writing about the good times. Tomorrow’s post will be a HUGE good times announcement. I know I’ll still write about the bad and the ugly, but I want to be able to showcase the good also.

I also want to link in with other bloggers. Not those who write for a living but those who write for their life. I want to read your good times and your bad times, to see the struggle and successes of ordinary people going about their ordinary business. That, to me, should be the purpose of blogging. It’s a journal, a story, a timeline of life.

I’ll finish with a little plug. If you are a blogger or want to make a start on becoming one, check out Blog Boards. It’s a small community for bloggers to get help, encouragement and support with their blogs. Check it out below:

 

Current relationship status

When you see someone and get a tight feeling in your chest, that’s not a heart attack, it’s love. When I see Fran I get that feeling. Not all the time, but often enough to know what I love her, through and through.

We’ve been together for almost three years. That doesn’t seem too long when I write it down but we have been through a lot in that time. Bought a house, had a baby, decided to start a life together. It’s not been easy but then nothing worth having is easy. And loving someone is loving their flaws and imperfections as well as the good.

She tolerates me when many others wouldn’t. She puts up with my moods and my sulking. She puts up with me being a grumpy old man. I put up with her insecurities and occasional bad moods. I couldn’t imagine my life without her and sometimes I have to pinch myself to be sure I’m not dreaming and that she chose me.

My current relationship can only be described as ‘happy’ and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

On this day

As part of the August 2020 blog-a-day challenge I’m going to look back at something I wrote four years ago about ‘family’.

The little man on the left is my nephew. Four years ago he came to visit and I was moved by how kind and loving he was for someone so young and having the issues he has. Jackson was born with cerebral palsy.

He is the cause of the rift between my brother and I. I have written much about the problem I have with the decision my brother made.

[My] brother, the wonderful man who rejected this lovely little boy in favour of an evil woman, and then fell out with his brother (me) because I won’t reject my principles when it comes to family and fatherhood. He’s perhaps the very essence of anti-family.

Four years on and those wounds have yet to heal. Its quite possible that they never will. All I ask is that a man stand up and be a man. A father be a father. But that simple task is quite beyond him. It has caused a great deal of angst within the family.

Fran says I should speak to him, impress upon him how wrong he is in the decision he made. I considered it but he isn’t stupid. He knows. He knows it was wrong to reject a child. He knows it has impacted our parents greatly. He knows they’re upset with him. My Mum tries her best to keep the peach and maintain a relationship with him despite how much she detests his actions. I cannot comprehend his reasons for the rejection of his first born son.

I have gone back over something I wrote in 2016 and understood the irony of it:

Family, your children, your children’s children, your brothers and sisters. You can’t pick them. They might infuriate you. You might sometimes think you cannot stand the sight of them. But they’re family and, maybe it’s duty or obligation, but you stand by your family. You do not abandon them.

But how am I to fix that which cannot be fixed? What is an Al to do?

 

Biggest regret

I’m a firm believer that everything that happened in your life up until this point was the right thing. Every decision you made was the right decision. There may have been calamity and tragedy but if you are:

  • Still alive
  • Not in prison
  • Healthy
  • Free

Then why would you wish to go back and change any decisions you made? Just one change, one amendment to your history, could have unforeseen and negative consequences. There’s an old adage at play here; if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

There are of course many things which happened in the past which lead to difficulty and which I look back on and wish I hadn’t done – or had done sooner. In many respects the first 35 years of my life was mistake upon mistake. At the time I might have wished I’d done something different but when I sit here now happy and healthy with my family also happy and healthy. When I look back I realise those decisions I made lead me to this point. At the time I regretted buying a house with someone when I was uncertain about the relationship. At the time I regretted ending a relationship with someone I loved. There are regrets in my life but I temper that regret with the knowledge everything worked out in the end.

I have no ‘biggest regret’ in my life. I don’t think of this as ‘fate’ or any other notion that my life is not mine to control, but everything happens for a reason, right?

As the philosopher Eminem once said;

You know, if I had a chance to do it all over again
I wouldn’t change shit

Three Favourite Songs

EVERLONG by FOO FIGHTERS

Two of my favourite Foo Fighters tracks are on the ’97 album The Colour and the Shape. ‘Everlong’ just beats out ‘My Hero’. The latter is more anthemic but ‘Everlong’ tugs at the soul. It’s felt as much as heard. It starts low and builds to a quick paced beat which sits at odds to the slow rhythm of Grohl’s lyrics.

Breathe out
So I can breathe you in
Hold you in

It’s majestic.

KNOCK ME DOWN by RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS

After first hearing Red Hot Chili Peppers late 1991 following the release of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, I went back through their previous releases. Released in 1989, Mother’s Milk is the band’s fourth studio album and ‘Knock Me Down’ stands out on that album as one of my all-time favourite songs. Like most songs I like it’s the lyrics which stick. The Chili’s are not well known for lyrical brilliance and they make up any glaring gaps in quality penmanship with large doses of showmanship. ‘Knock Me Down’ spoke to me:

Don’t be afraid to show your friends that you hurt inside, inside
Pain’s part of life, don’t hide behind your false pride
It’s a lie, your lie

It’s an excellent inclusion on one of the Red Hot Chili Peppers finest albums.

IRIS by GOO GOO DOLLS

Released in 1998 as part of the soundtrack for the film City of Angels, ‘Iris’ was huge and by far and away the most well-known song from the band. I can’t remember when I first heard it but the song featured prominently in my period of self-destruction following the death of Clare. The opening words said what I was feeling far more eloquently than I ever could:

And I’d give up forever to touch you
‘Cause I know that you feel me somehow
You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be
And I don’t want to go home right now

Whenever I hear ‘Iris’ I think of her.

Surround yourself with good people.

For too long I got bogged down in relationships which were inherently negative. I allowed other people’s hang ups, issues and problems to impact upon my own well being and peace of mind. When it’s all you know it’s tough to identify. We are never very good at analysing ourselves and seeing the impact of another’s negativity upon the psyche.

My last two relationships were like that. People who sucked the fun out of Al. People who chipped away at a positive mental attitude and transformed me into mirror images of their negative personalities. People who drained kindness, forgiveness and happiness.

I note this was sometimes through no fault of their own, but frequently as a result of their circumstances, their career (or lack of), their relationship with family (or lack of), their relationship with their own children (or lack of).

To be beset by negatives is to have your own positives crushed. To have someone struggle to see the good in themselves (it was there!) and to highlight their flaws and troubles and problems was to cast into shadow the things you liked about them in the first place. You cannot suffer someone saying they’re fat or ugly or bored (boring) persistently without starting to see them as they see them.

The world is a cruel and ugly place. Many people will call you fat and ugly and boring; don’t join them.

I’ve stepped away from toxic relationships and into the light of a beautiful positive lover. She isn’t an egoist or self-centred. She isn’t arrogant. She might even say she lacks confidence in herself. But when she smiles the world smiles with her, and when she laughs it’s as angels singing and you can’t help but laugh along. She’s understanding, caring, kind, loving and generous with her time and compassion. She sees the world through positive eyes and loves everyone and everything in it. To be with her is to feel love and happiness. To be with her to to have found contentment.

She makes me a better person by letting me see the good in this cruel and ugly world. She doesn’t know how truly marvellous she is – and that there is the beauty of her. Unassuming, never selfish. She’s good for my soul. Surrounded by her warmth and generosity I can’t help but feel my mental health flourish.

She fixed me.

Happy Life

I look back over my blog and it’s often filled with angst, worries, troubles, upsets, pain. I was speaking to a wonderful lady recently who I have grown to consider one of the finest people I know. She said she doesn’t hear from me so much recently and I excused myself saying that I didn’t really have anything to say. Everything is fine. Job is good, relationship; amazing, family; great, friends; brilliant, house; getting there, future; Rosie.

And I got to thinking, do we define ourselves by our misery? Do we only tell people things that are bad, upsetting, worrying? Do we only divulge our troubles? Is the only thing we have to speak about sadness?

I am happy. It’s a funny thing. It’s a warmth deep down in your gut. It’s contentment, it’s the ability to be unapologetically you. And right now I am unapologetically me. I met someone who makes me smile. She warms my soul. It’s been a few short months of knowing her but she completes me. It’s like I’ve spent years in the wilderness just wandering and now I’m home. That’s what I said to her last week; she feels like home. We talk about rubbish, we sit and engage in conversations about nothing at all. Days go by and I cannot tell you what we did because to the outside observer it probably looks like nothing happened. But I’m with her and she’s with me and that is all that matters. I feel like, no matter what happens, no matter what the future may hold, as long as we have each other, everything will be fine. Everything will be beautiful.

And I’ve never felt this way before. I’ve never felt so content, so complete. We talk about the future, about living together, about starting a family. We talk about all the places we are going to go and all the things we are going to see. We discuss growing old and where we’re going to live, and what our children will be called. She makes me feel young again. It’s rather quite perfect.

Why not share that? Why not tell the world how happy we are? Is it wrong to be blissfully happy and to feel okay and not at all guilty about that happiness? I don’t think so.

People will judge us. People will say it’s too early or it won’t work because of the age difference. People will say that things never worked with anyone else and to anticipate the same this time. People are detractors, they seek to destroy happiness either out of jealously or spite or a desire for drama. For the first time I’m completely open, totally honest, entirely under her spell. To give yourself to someone is to place the key to your happiness in their hands. In the past I have avoided doing this for fear of getting hurt. By not giving yourself to someone completely you will never achieve the happiness which you seek. It takes guts to say, “I am yours” and place yourself in a position where you can be hurt. But if you don’t you’ll never know what it’s like to love and be loved unequivocally. If you do you’ll unlock the secret to a Happy Life.

The feels

I haven’t written anything in a long time. I’ve been dealing, successfully it seems, with the demise of another relationship. It’s an old story, a familiar story. Meet someone, avoid the feels, freak out when she’s not as successful at avoidance as you, finish it. And repeat ad infinitum ad nauseum. Someone once said it’s the most selfish thing to cause someone to love you with no intention of loving them back; but that it not the case here. I didn’t enter into this relationship with the intention of anything. She loved me, I didn’t love her back. That is not her fault and it was not mine intention. For a long time I believed that I didn’t want to love, or was incapable of loving. That was perhaps my defence mechanism for dealing with the loss of Clare. I was hurt and it was through no fault other than fate. Some things are not meant to be. Sometimes, and it’s an awful, tragic thing, people die. And it doesn’t matter how much you love them. It doesn’t matter how much you want them to live; life, fate, death means that it not going to happen. Such a loss is devastating. It’s life changing in many respects. No-one understands unless they have been through the same situation and even then an individual journey through loss and grief is an individual’s journey and, except in rare circumstances, is not shared. Putting yourself back together after such an experience is a brutal, debilitating affair. It’s an illness. And like any mental illness the scars cannot be seen but they are there.

So the relationship ended. I didn’t love her. She loved me. And, ironically, it was her love that finally pushed me away. I couldn’t cope. I couldn’t accept. I couldn’t go through with being loved by her and not loving her back. That was not fair. Someone who is capable of loving someone should be with someone who is capable of loving them back, not with someone who won’t catch The Feels.

As I deal with the fallout from the relationship, as I watch from the sidelines as someone attempts to rationalise something which I struggle to rationalise – even though it is happening in my head. As I read that they would ‘rather catch ebola than catch feelings again’, as I see them struggle to come to terms with a decision they had no part in making and decide that they should always and forever be alone; I reach the conclusion that I don’t want that. I don’t want ebola, I want feels. I don’t want to be alone, I want to be with someone. I don’t want to protect my heart, I want to risk everything for love. I don’t want to hide away, I want to expose myself to the risk of heartbreak, to the risk of rejection. Because it’s only when you risk your life you are truly alive. And only by putting your heart on the line will you ever find love.

I want that.

They told my Son I’m a Bad Dad.

I should be going to sleep as I have work early in the morning but I have to get this out. I have to cleanse. It’s like a poison, like when you have eaten something bad and your body needs to reject it. You have to vomit. You know it is going to be unpleasant but it is for the good of you. This is for the good of me. Writing is Therapy, remember?

Tom told me today that his Grandma and Grandad on his Mum’s side doesn’t like me. Firstly, this doesn’t come as a surprise, it doesn’t come as a shock, I already knew. It’s clear they never have. Even when we were together they didn’t agree with my life choices. I refused to marry their daughter. I refused to adhere to their demands to join their family. Then I split with their daughter and ruined this perfect image they try and project. Perfect catholic parents with perfect catholic kids and perfect catholic grandkids living their perfect catholic lives.

But not me. That didn’t work for me.

So I’m not shocked at all that they don’t like me. To be honest the feeling’s mutual. First I reserve a contempt for most who believe in invisible sky fairies, second they stood by – or worse, supported – her when she stopped me from seeing Tom. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is unforgivable. They stood by and supported her when she stopped my parents from seeing their grandchild. That is more than unforgivable, it’s evil. Ironic really, these catholic dogooders acting so terribly, with a four year old child at the heart of their machinations.

That single act by her did more to ruin the relationship I had with my son than anything I could imagine doing. He went from spending two nights a week with me to spending a couple of hours at a time. We never recovered from that. We still may, as he grows older, but the damage it irreversible. And it was caused by that family.

So today Tom tells me that, according to his Grandad I’m not a good father, I am not a good role-model, and this is because I didn’t have my father around when I was younger to teach me how to be a good father. Note: There is no book on How To Be a Dad. Being a Good Dad comes down to heart and instinct. At first I thought maybe he was making it up. He is prone to exaggeration from time-to-time. But that phrase, ‘not a good role-model’ from a ten year old? That sounds too awful to not be true.

It’s okay that they don’t like me. It’s okay that they think I’m not a good dad and that I’m not a good role model. That’s fine. I am okay with that. Their opinion of me matters not. However, when you tell that to my ten year old boy it’s an entirely different matter. To put it simply; how fucking dare they?

Tom remains unaware that his mother stopped me from seeing him because I would never want him to think any less of her. The day before she stopped contact we had a fight and she shouted a now forgotten insult at me in front of Tom. He said, “If she says bad things about you, Daddy, I’m going to say bad things about her.” I told him he wouldn’t because he was not to be rude to his mother. She would not let me see my son for almost two months. I had to seek legal advice to get access back. The first thing he said to me when I saw him after this was, “I’ve missed you so much, Daddy.” and it damned near broke my heart.

Her parents, her holier-than-thou catholic parents, sat back and supported her in doing this to Tom. Not to me, to Tom. I’m a big boy, I can look after myself, but Tom was four years old when they, as a collective, ripped him from his father against his will. Disgusting behaviour by any standards, yet I am the Bad Dad, the bad role-model. It infuriates me, it frustrates me, and I’m not going to do a single thing about it.

After Tom told me this I told him that nobody else’s opinion mattered and as long as he liked me (and he said he does!) it’s all okay. I told him that what they thought didn’t make any difference to us as long as we had each other. He said that when they said these things to him he told them to stop and that he didn’t like them talking about his Dad like that. I question whether he would do this, but the thought was there and that’s good enough.

The only answer I can have to this is an answer for Tom, not for them, because they mean less than shit to me now, but to Tom I need to be the absolute best possible. I have to be the one he relies on, the one he goes to when he’s in trouble or when he needs help. The person who teaches him life’s lessons and accompanies him on life’s journeys. I have to be, for his sake, all the things that they say I am not. A Good Dad and a good role-model. Someone who didn’t have his Dad around when he was younger but is better and stronger for it. A guide, a mentor, a bank and a taxi. All these things I need to be and more.

And I will be all those things because I can be. I’m far from perfect, and my copy of How To Be a Dad was lost so I made it up as I went along with heart and instinct. I continue to do so and I know I make mistakes. But I learn from them and I apologise when I get it wrong. I forgive those who wronged me because it’s the right thing to do. I continue to be that person and allow them to think ill of me and speak ill of me.

The only person I have to prove anything to is Tom.