“New year New you” ? No – New year? Be you!

Happy new year! At the moment there are loads of posts about the new year and resolutions and making changes to your life.

I am having none of this.

Not that I am closing out the possibility of improving myself and my lot in life, but right now, I need to gather some strength and wits and resolve and that means focussing on me being me, both the good and bad, making the best of the former and accepting the latter.

I started 2017 in a woeful situation. I was alone, isolated and distant from my family, facing debt and an apparently scarily uncaring state intervention in the care of my kids. None of those issues are fully resolved, but all have improved during the last year. I have often felt blue and low at the sheer immensity of losing my family and some of my friends, shouldering the debt and being catapulted out of the family home following police and court intervention in my life. You do start to question how you carry on and survive. But survive I did and I adapted to the new situation and found that I can carry on and cope with the many awful things that my ex threw at me, mostly through their actions over the children, but also in their actions and attitude to me in person and via their solicitor.

I was initially hurt and angry and mad at myself for letting myself get into such a situation. How could I end up is such a rotten state? I was reeling from the actions of my wife and having to move from my home. I thought this was my fault and I had ruined the family. Oh woe. Oh woe.

A fair bit of self-recrimination later, I got to the point where I realised that yes, I was responsible for having my head in the sand over the state of my marriage. It is difficult but I had to be honest with myself and accept that whilst I had not been the best partner, my wife had also chosen to prioritise her parents and friends over her marriage to me and there was nothing I could do about that. It was not something I could change. In fact it wouldn’t have mattered if I had, because then I would have ended up trying to be something that I am not.

It is hard to admit that being me was not something that worked for my wife, but I also realised that my wife is who she is and sadly that is not the person I want to be with. It takes two to tango, so whilst in the early years we grew together, we then grew apart. No longer doing the tango together.

I came to accept my faults but also realised that I do have some redeeming features too. I got back in contact with friends that I had shut out for too long, and bless them they were kind, supportive and listened. But they were also honest and supportive and that is what real friends are. I felt buoyed up by the fact that my mates rallied round. Plus, work mates were thoughtful and kind and covered to help with my newly found single parent issues, once I made it through the court case to regain access to my children.

All this was possible because I was just being me. I had been brow beaten and shaken to the core. There was no latitude to change myself. What I did do differently was to stop any pretence and concentrate on me, being me: Resourceful. Thoughtful. Determined. Kind. Happy? More than I thought I could be under the circumstances.

So perhaps rather than try and change things too much, focus on amplifying your better qualities and accepting but minimising your faults. Straplines may read ‘New Year New You’ but I prefer New Year, Be True (to yourself!).

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how to survive Christmas as the absent Dad…..

Last year I missed Christmas with my kids as their mother had gone to court ex parte and gained some orders that essentially meant I had to move out of my home and could only see my children at a contact centre.

There is no way to describe how absolutely awful it was.

But I survived and lived to fight another day. Which I did, subsequently, in court, where I changed the time with my children from “contact” (an awful word which cannot adequately describe time with your children under such lousy conditions) to them staying with me at weekends and holidays and looking after them a few evenings each week.

I know you are enthused by numerous self-help websites and many other blogs to “thrive” not just “survive”. But at this point surviving is the best I can do. Last year, Christmas day came and went and it did not feel good or great. That gnawing heartache due to missing my children, and my total exasperation and lack of understanding of the spiteful actions of my ex was really hard to cope with. Goodwill to all men? I don’t think. My ex appeared to wish to spite the kids’ Dad and punish him emotionally, financially and psychologically. And you know what ? At the time she succeeded. I was miserable, lonely, depressed and skint.

But….

I found a decent flat.

I moved out earlier than I was supposed to as required by the judge in order to “allow” the kids to move back in to the family home. 

I kept my job going,

and yes, I did survive.

I made the very limited time I did have with the kids count.

I gave them the biggest hugs.

I kept smiling.

I played games with the kids and then I told them I would see them soon.

This was incredibly tough and emotionally punishing. Some moments were so awful I started to wonder how I would survive, let alone thrive…..

So, what did I do?

I went for some runs in the wintry air.

I took my bike off to explore the new local area. (I had moved to be close to work, which then meant that I was 100 miles drive or six trains away from my kids).

I felt appreciated when some friends contacted me to ask how I was (even though most of my ‘friends’ appeared to disown me, as they were mostly the husbands of my ex’s friends).

I cooked some half decent meals. These were mostly for myself, but I also tupperwared them to death and shared them with my children and my parents when I went to see them.

I did not ….

 

….. give up.

 

I am a determined chap, so I set myself the objective of surviving the winter, the court battle and the emotional and financial wreck my situation appeared to have become. 

I have survived so far. One day I might be in the business of thriving, but for now, just keeping going is the best option.

 

 

Indiana Jones and the ticket barrier of doom

hi7Last week I was 100-miles-a-day-Dad, on the train. This is a risky choice as it takes 3 trains to get from my place to the kids (who live with their mom in my old place), however a bit of risk is healthy I think. I have made this journey many times over the last year since I moved away, and it has (almost) become routine.

Its funny how you can adapt. One day I’m a Dad, a Husband and live in a comfortable family home. Next thing you know, the marriage has nose dived, I am effectively single and then I am catapulted out of the family home and become isolated from my kids. How did that happen?

Well I do know, obviously, I was there. But the grinding attrition of a failing marriage takes its toll, and I did my finest ostrich impression in the hope it might improve.

It didn’t and I am where I am. But I have a plan to move and be much closer to my kids. This involves dealing with estate agents. Now that is worthy of an entire blog by itself, but there are more interesting matters to deal with. I have found a decent place. Its bigger than my current abode and its a few miles from the kids, so not too local, as I think there are temptations that should be avoided. Most importantly its affordable, as the city its in, is super expensive.

However last week just as I am about to sign on the line for this place, another property, a house appears on the interweb. I have the opportunity to see it, at least from the outside, after I have dropped the kids off for handover to their mom.

Only problem is, I am on foot as I came by train. The house is a few miles from the station, but I reckon I can get there and back and make the penultimate train. This is a good plan as the last train has lousy onward connections and the usual 90 minute journey takes just over 3 hours instead.

I have a rucksack and two shopping bags of stuff with me so must look a right sight as I stomp off to see the house. I know the address and roughly where the road is, but its in the middle of a sprawling housing estate, all windy paths, snickets and subways. I get to the road and cannot find it. No one has house numbers on their houses. I finally make it to the residence and it is average and underwhelming which is expected at the price, but heavily overlooked and miniscule inside. Worth seeing so I know its not an option.

However, google maps is now telling me that my walk back to the train station will take 40 minutes. This is not good as my penultimate train leaves in 29. Do I bust a gut and try and make it, or mosey on and arrive home in the small hours? Computer says no. But my gut is saying its worth a try. Stuff google maps, I can do it!

I am half running, half jogging with my 3 bags. I don’t have a watch and my hands are full with the swimming gear and all the Tupperware from mine and the kids tea. I am counting the seconds under my breath. I am at the posh flats in town, I have five minutes before he train departs. I know my route, I might just do it but I am absolutely steaming and panting like a chuffer in the cold night air. Across the main road and through the park, 3 minutes to go, this is going to be close. I can see the station car park entrance and its a downhill trot. I am at the car par and its one minute to go. I can see the station and platforms and the train is not there. Has it already gone? Has it been cancelled? I am definitely running now. 30 seconds to go and the train arrives. I am half way through the car park.

I get to the station just as the train comes to a halt. I can see the ticket barriers are open so I should just be able to head onto the platform and get my train. I open the doors to the station building and unbelievably I now see that the shutter is coming down blocking the ticket barriers. Noooo!

I chuck the bags through on to the platform and duck down under the descending shutter, grab the bags and leap through the closing train doors which are beeping insistently. I made it!

Panting, out of breath and sweating like a pig but triumphant, I collapse on to the seats and feel the flood of relief knowing that I should get home before midnight. I catch the other two trains no bother and they get me to my home station. I then cycle for about 20 minutes and jump in the shower. Home (at least for now), safe and sound.

So if google maps tells me the expected journey time, I now know that I can trot to my destination in 3/4 of the time stated, but I am also primed and ready to roll under any shutters that decide to drop too! It seems to me that technology is undoubtedly helpful, but sometimes you just have to go with your gut, and taking (modest) risks is a healthy philosophy and gets you home before midnight !

 

 

Swimming? Or Surfing ?

hi6Tuesday was one of my 100-miles-a-day Dad days and we went swimming after school. I had caught the train(s) this time as I had the day off, and they all worked a treat. I arrived at my destination in time to hike to the leisure centre and drop all the bags of swimming gear and food for tea in a locker, and then hike up to school. It was a week since I saw my two and I cannot tell you how pleased and smiley I was, grinning from ear to ear and enjoying the hugs.

I let them play after school and enjoyed playing tig with my daughter whilst my son played very muddy footie. Pleasantly out of breath we ate the after school fruit I always prepare as they always seem to be starving after school? Even if they have had school dinners.

Now my ex has requested that I pay half the kids school dinners fees. A relatively small amount, but as I am in a very precarious financial situation I cannot afford to pay it on top of my other bills. My ex has gone to the CMS to request child maintenance via them and as I understand it, their calculated figure covers this. So I have politely declined.

However of course in my head I am fuming. “You cheeky tight $%&£” is what I am seething about internally. I already pay my ex maintenance. I am left carrying a hefty amount of marital debt, which they refuse to assist with other than via the divorce proceedings, which will take an age. I paid a fortune in wasted legal fees trying to sort out access to my kids (which I did get but it took many thousands and 6 months). My ex enjoys the family home which has one bedroom more than they need, whilst I am reduced to living as I did more than two decades ago in a flat. And then they demand dinner money???

I love water and swimming. Any landscape is immeasurably improved in my book if it has water in it (although not so much as rain). Streams, lakes rivers or the sea, all fabulous. And the sea of course has the added benefit of having waves, and that means you can surf which is just the best thing, ever. I cannot actually surf as such so I use a boogie board. It is brilliant fun. But it is quite an effort and can be hard work.

First I have to get togged up in a wetsuit, I am no good if I get chilled. Even that ‘simple’ task takes me a while as I cannot bend due to a back operation so I am knackered just getting into the neoprene. Then we trot through the dunes to the beach (at least that warms me up). Then we splash into the (currently) icy waves. Blimey, that first rush of sea water down your back is a bit harsh, but I soon warm up again as I swim out against or through the breaking waves. Then we wait for the right break… There may be one along immediately or may be I have to wait. But then I see the waves building up and feel the draw of the wave pull me out away from the beach. Its heading right for me and its big. A blue green wall of water and froth and wind and salt rises up in front of me, I jump forward towards the beach and kick like crazy and try and catch the wave….

Alas I miss-time the leap, and end up wiping out in a spectacular fashion; it feels like I am being thrown around in a colossal washing machine. Being thrown this way and that, upside down, back to front and inside out in a roaring world of water and light and air. Then I come up for air and manage to stagger upright and laugh and commiserate with the kids if they too wiped out, or commend them on a “great ride” if they managed to catch it all the way in to the beach.

Of course then I have to swim back out to the break again, through the waves and await the next wave. This time however the big one approaches and I can feel the water moving to break, I can smell the ozone as the wave builds and then the wave lifts me up…. and then there is that whoosh moment when you shoot forward in a whirl of sea and froth and roar and …. I ride the wave right into the shallows, probably laughing and shouting with joy.

So, when I get “wiped out” by my ex’s latest attempt to cause trouble, or request more money, or their seemingly unending desire to limit the kids’ access to their Dad, I remember my favourite beach and surfing into the shore. It seems that much of life is like swimming, it takes effort and hard work and you might drown if you give up. Occasionally though, if you are prepared to keep trying, keep going, and persevere, you can swim out and catch the best wave that will give you the ride of your life. Swimming is fun, but surfing is better!

 

 

 

 

Long division

hi52016 was a year of division. Lots of folk got divorced that year. Highest profile by miles, were Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt amidst bitter allegations of bad behaviour, similarly Amber Heard and Johnny Depp. Both cases are still rattling on with the men being accused of abusive behaviour. Taylor Swift split twice, first from Calvin Harris and then Tom Hiddleston. Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow finally uncoupled, as did Anne Marie Duff and James McAvoy, and Kate Beckinsale and Len Wiseman. The biggest divide though has to be BrExit in terms of shock to the nation.

(credit: tracyfarr.net)

Oh, me and my soon to be ex also decided to divorce.

We had been going downhill for several years, since I realised that there were quite a few other parties in our marriage, and I was not high in the pecking order. A change in family finances was the final nail in the coffin. Initially it was merely ill tempered and unfriendly. As the year progressed though it became worse and worse. Against my better judgement I participated in mediation. However, mediation requires give and take. It became clear that unless I agreed entirely with my ex, it seemed there was no way forward. It became awful, culminating in the police being called to the family home by both parties.

My ex went to the Courts and a horrific process began that resulted in me being advised to leave the family home, and having allegations of abuse being thrown at me. I was in a complete tailspin this time last year, and moved 50 miles away to be close to work. It was absolutely horrendous.

12 months later ? I had to fight a court battle but I do now see the kids. The distance between me and them is an issue, and reduced my opportunity to care for them as much as I would like. I have had to put up with spiralling debt and further spurious allegations from my ex, only this time I had the chance to put my side of the story. This meant that unlike last year I was not subjected to draconian legal measures, however the situation still remains problematic due to the attitude of my ex. If it wasn’t for the kids I would happily never deal with my ex ever again.

Division does require 2 parties. And despite my ex apparently considering that this situation is entirely down to me, I am slowly learning to not be the common denominator, and be brought down by the actions of the other party, but to remain a whole person. There are times however when the divisions happening around me do break me down and I have had some really dark, lonely and isolated times this last year.

But whilst I am not part of a relationship anymore, I am wholly remaining a Dad, even when the kids are with their mom. Adapting is hard, but I am slowly managing to positively change in all sorts of ways so that the kids and I can flourish. I tend to persevere with things, and so could always manage long division back in school. That perseverance is paying off.

hello !?

hi3   Hello ?

I thought I would venture out in to the internet and tell my story as a 100 mile-a-day-Dad, who is still proud and pleased to be a father, even though I don’t get to live with my two brilliant children, as I am separated from their mom.

Our family is fractured. And we are still in a healing process, that has not been simple, easy or without incident. The kids have coped. Understandably, sometimes better than others. I miss them, and they miss me. But, even though there are a lot of hills in between us, I am still their Dad and I am determined that however we end up, I will be there for them both, if they need me.

For the last 12 months I have been living 50 miles away from my kids. Previously, I was a real “hands-on” Dad, and I have really struggled with this situation, and so have the kids.

It has taken a court battle to get any quality time with them at all. I do now get a modest amount of Dad-time with the kids, and I love it, even though it takes a 100 mile round trip to see them. They are completely worth it.

Publishing any of my thoughts and experiences feels a bit like heading into the woods – it could be a pleasant walk out or it could be a nightmare. However, I like the woods and I believe that this will be good…..

Lets see.