Relationship Status…

I was sitting with my sister the other day eating hot cross buns and talking about our friends and their relationships. Who’s single, who’s dating, new relationships, break ups, marriages and everything else in between, as fishwives often do.

I haven’t given it much thought recently as I’ve been moving house and it’s occupied most of my tiny mind, but when she labelled me as ‘single’ it felt wrong. I guess that, as I’m not in a relationship and I haven’t been for some time now, technically I belong in this box…but I don’t like it here. It implies that I’m ‘available’, and I don’t feel like I am.

Being single usually means that you’re ‘ready to mingle’, but I’m up to my eyeballs in Pinterest and celebs go dating, I don’t have time for mingling. I almost prefer ‘spinster’ as it has a nice weathered edge to it that suits me better at thirty three than the fresh-faced ‘single’ does. But then again I’m not fifty and I don’t have any cats, so that’s not quite right either.

In an effort to find a relationship status I could work with, I tried delving into the term ‘single’ a bit deeper. There are a variety of options that fall under this umbrella, and although not included in the Facebook dropdown, they are well-known and widely accepted. Some possibilities include ‘heartbroken’, where open-mouthed crying, puffiness and weight gain are the order of the day. There’s also ‘rebounding’, which involves a lot of bad decisions with anything that moves. And then there’s good old-fashioned ‘Fury’, where all men are arseholes who can go and f*ck themselves.

It would be a lot more interesting if I could claim that one of these labels fit me better than ‘single’, but sadly none of them do. I’m not divorced, widowed or separated so they came straight off the list, it was ‘complicated’ for a while but it’s not anymore, and I’m way past being heartbroken (thank goodness, as that was just a buzzkill for everyone). So where does that leave me? What do I put on application forms? I’m boxless…

It occurred to me that maybe I quite like being between boxes. I’m loving how the spaces in my life are filled with people who I can love without question. I’m not ready to rock the boat by inviting someone else into the fold just yet because I’m enjoying this phase with no name. I want to package it up and label it so that I can keep it forever because I know that for me it’s significant, and I may never come back here again.

I used to hate being alone. I jumped from relationship to relationship because I needed to pour all of my love into someone else in the hopes that I’d get some back. I used relationships to fill the gaps in my self-esteem and distract me from the emptiness I felt when I didn’t have someone else to focus on. It wasn’t a healthy way to be, and being insecure and needy led me like a lamb to the slaughter.

I never thought I’d be able to change so much for the better. I’ve kept my old romantic heart and I look forward to falling properly in love one day, but for once I’m in no rush. I’m no longer desperately trying to fill the voids in my life, because there’s nothing missing. I have worries and stresses the same as I always have, but I have everything (and everyone) I could ever need to get through whatever comes along. All the counselling, books, videos, conversations, meditations and affirmations have slowly taken hold and I’m becoming one of those women I was always so jealous of. One who isn’t afraid to be alone.

Reaching this point is more meaningful to me than any of the more easily-defined stages of my life, and I felt for a while like it should be recognised with a label of its very own. But I’ve decided that maybe just recognising it for myself is enough. It took a gossip and a hot cross bun for me to notice that without quite meaning to, I seem to have reached my destination.

Relationship status: undefined.

And I’ve never been happier.


I got it from my daughter

It’s been just over two years that I’ve had you with me, yet it’s hard to remember how my heart felt before I became your mum. It’s weird to walk around in the same body I’ve always had, to look almost exactly the same on the outside when I feel so completely and utterly removed from who I used to be.

The love I have for you flows from somewhere no-one else can reach, over-spilling into my eyes, my smile, my laugh, the songs I sing, the decisions I make, the places I go, the dreams I dream. It floods and moves me, motivates and fuels me. An unmistakable, unshakeable, unmatchable, unquestionable love that’s too big for me, so over-sized and overwhelming I have to stop sometimes and take a breath just to keep myself steady.

I am rational, yet I could tear someone limb from limb if they hurt you. I am unconfrontational, yet I will push myself forward to make sure you get your fair share. I am scared, yet I will walk the hardest path to carve out a better life for you. I am tired, yet every day I strive to be the best mum I can possibly be.

Such an outpouring of love might seem over the top, and most parents will need a nap just reading what I’ve written, but this is honestly how I’ve felt since the day you were born, and even more so since it has just been the two of us. Lots of heartache and therapy later, it has become clear that the love that I don’t give to myself, I give to you.

The truth is that for most of my life I’ve been bullied, treated as an after-thought, punished for every mistake I’ve made, called names and been told that nothing I ever do is good enough….and the person responsible for doing this to me, is me. I’ve spent such a long time being hard on myself that there was nothing to stop anyone else from treating me the same way, and I’ve ended up in relationships which have been wrong for me because of it. They say you get what you tolerate, and it never even occurred to me that things could be different. But then you came along, and I wanted them to be different for you.

The way you deserve to be loved was so clear to me, it opened my eyes to the standards I had for myself. Everything I give to you, kindness, compassion, patience, understanding, forgiveness and unconditional love, were missing in the way I treated myself and the expectations I had of those around me. If I forgot to pack a bib for you I would easily have accepted someone calling me an idiot, as in my head I’d have called myself much worse. I’d never even thought about how wrong this is until I considered how I would feel if you were to follow in my footsteps. It’s hard to admit that you don’t want your daughter to end up like you, but it made me realise that I needed to set a better example. I’ve made some difficult decisions and have had to go through a massive inner transformation which is still on-going, but doing so has brought nothing but enlightenment and positivity (yeah man), and I’m so grateful for that.

When I had you I knew my job would be to protect you, guide you and help you to grow, but I had no idea that I’d be right there with you, learning and growing by your side. Now every time someone tries to put me down, I imagine that it’s you and anger sweeps through me like a tidal wave, reminding me that it’s not okay. I can protect myself now because I know how to protect you. I can stand up for myself now because I will always stand up for you. And I can love myself now, because I have felt the depth of my love for you.

I still need to work on doing this for myself without having to think of you to get the right perspective, but I’m proud of how much I have grown so far. I’m now able to push back on things, ask for what I want and tell people how I feel without thinking that I shouldn’t because I don’t deserve to. And because of this, I’m living a life that is more peaceful, more satisfying and more fun. I’m going to keep trying to better myself because I know that you are watching me, and one day I hope you’ll instinctively know how truly precious and valuable you are and how well you deserve to be treated, cos you learned it from yo mama.


Inside love

It’s true that you can’t
ever truly be you,
while you struggle to juggle
what they want from you.
And I know you forget how to know how you feel.
Your thoughts end up an echo
of what they say is real.
You are just not important,
your feelings don’t matter.
They don’t shake, they don’t break, they don’t cry out or shatter.
Or scream at the top of their lungs to please listen,
while you force them all out
till they’re lost in the distance.
Until everything you are is called into question
and there’s only fragments of you that are left.
Just a shell, no opinions,
no wants and no needs.
A machine that’s sole purpose in life is to please.
And no-one has noticed
but inside you bleed,
and you suffer for all the
emotional greed.
And you wonder what happened,
what happened to me?
Why is my life not mine,
and why don’t I feel free
to do and to say what comes naturally
and not what I hope
is the right script to read.
It may be that this life is all that you know,
what you learned growing up
when the seeds were first sown.
That this is the pattern of love that was shown,
and you’ve not had the chance to work out on your own
that maybe you’re worth just as much as the others.
To tell yourself that it is safe to recover
the wants and the needs
you shoved under the covers.
It may seem an obvious lesson to learn,
but those who are taught
that love has to be earned
do whatever it takes
to feel loved in return.
And if you stand still for a moment
you’ll hear
that the choices you’re making
are driven by fear
of not playing the part
as well as they expected,
and risking the heartbreak
of being rejected.
So the show must go on
as it keeps you protected,
while the rest of you hides
in the wings undetected.
I hope that one day
you’ll open your eyes
and let go of the need to be what they define.
By realising you can push fear to one side
and replenish the space
with acceptance and pride,
you can grow a new love
that will glow from inside.


No Regrets

This time last year I was recently single, about to start a new job and trying to find somewhere to live. It was a challenging time, both emotionally and logistically, so it’s with an overwhelming sense of exhaustion that I find myself in the same situation once again.

It’s been three months since I posted my blog ‘Second Chances’. I re-read it today and it made me a bit sad remembering how well-meant it was, and how hopeful I’d been.

It’s hard to be honest about what’s happened because I don’t want to appear to tear someone down for the sake of a story no-one will ever know the real truth of except for us. Ultimately, I was forced to admit that we are too different to ever be happy together. Could I have realised this before we spent another 5 months trying to make it work? Maybe. But I wasn’t ready then. When it ended last year I was fragile, in love and I felt like everything had ‘happened’ to me. It wasn’t what I wanted, and I was left with a deep sense of regret for what might have been. What if I’d understood him better? What if I’d had counselling to help me be a better girlfriend? What if I’d shown more forgiveness, more compassion, more love?

Relationships are tricky little buggers without the added emotional stronghold of having a child together. A couple without a child can end a relationship, shake hands and saunter off in opposite directions without so much as a backward glance. When you have a little person to consider, the world becomes a bit cloudy, and a lot of grey areas start to appear. What may have made you turn on your child-free heel and run (‘He stood me up, therefore he is an arsehole and henceforth he is dumped!’), suddenly isn’t a deal breaker, but something very minor in comparison to having the right beaker, or making sure that their sandals don’t rub. And I’ve found that with a little effort, grey areas can be turned into fog, then into a mild haze, until they almost disappear altogether.

But within the grey areas, there are some very definitive black and white lines. Some hardcore, deeply ingrained values that are part of who we are and what we stand for. Some peoples are out there for the world to see, and there is never any doubt about what they do or don’t find acceptable. For others, they are buried under layers of fog so thick it’s easy to forget about them, but deep down they’re there. I may be a bit foggy, but I know when my black and white lines have been crossed. And so does he.

It feels different this time. Maybe it’s because I feel like I made a choice. Or because I know without a shadow of a doubt that I gave it everything I could. I took all of my ‘What if’s?’ and made it my mission to be better. If I could have held our family together with determination alone I probably would have. Like a typical Taurus, I’ve been stubbornly striving away because I desperately wanted it to work. But I know when I’ve had enough.

It’s all a bit of an anti-climax really. We were meant to ride off into the sunset together after my grand gesture of support on my blog and our lovely family holiday, and now I feel like I should be embarrassed that it didn’t work out that way. But I’m not. I think I needed to know that I didn’t give up without a fight. I follow my heart, which may mean that I end up in these types of pickles from time to time, but it’s what gives me my black and white values of always being compassionate, seeing the best in people and believing in fairytales.

In a world that sometimes feels a bit grey, I’m glad that will never change.


Working mama drama

‘How are you?’ they ask me.

‘I’ve not seen you for a while.

I hope your little girls okay.’

They offer with a smile.

‘Much better thanks, she’s on the mend.’

‘That’s great. I’ll keep it short.

I know you’re catching up

but have you finished that report?’

Yes, everything’s completed,

I worked til half ten last night.

I may have fell asleep once

but I think it should be right.

I captured all the data

between calpols one and two

and I updated the spreadsheet

after tackling a poo.

I dialled into the conference call

while she had an early nap

and took notes on further actions

with her sprawled across my lap.

Apologies for the late replies

I’m usually much quicker.

She wouldn’t take her medicine

without a Peppa sticker.

I updated the forecasts

and calculated cost

once I’d read her favourite story

of a teddy bear that’s lost.

I saw your instant message

and heard the little beep

but I was muzzying her forehead

so that she could go to sleep.

I didn’t mean to put three kisses

in my e-mail to the team.

I’d missed breakfast, lunch and dinner

and been up since five fifteen.

I know your report was urgent

And I’ve done the best I can

but it took a while longer

as she wanted to hold hands.

I’ve prioritised my workload

and as far as I can tell

the most important item

is my daughter being well.

So thanks for asking after her

and showing your concern.

I’m off to be a mum now

I’ll reply on my return.


Second Chances

Hello again. Sorry it’s been so long. A lot has happened since my last post and I needed to get my head around it all, otherwise I find it hard to write down. I’m always worried about how what I write will be received. Will it come across as I intended? Will I offend someone? Will you wonder why on earth I felt the need to share all this with you?

We’re the generation who open up every aspect of our lives so readily, intimate family moments, political opinions, baby’s bathtimes, and yet I’m conscious I’m over-sharing. I think it’s because no-one really talks about the deeper stuff. The problems and the grit and the ugly side don’t get posted on your timeline, but that’s what makes us who we really are. It’s what ties us together and makes us human. So here I go again with TMI about my life, which I write for you with love.

When Paige’s dad Paul was Seventeen he was in a car accident which killed two of his best friends. The car crashed into a tree at 80mph and he was thrown head first through the back windshield. One of his friends was killed instantly, and another friend died in the hospital bed next to him a few hours later. Paul spent three weeks in hospital with a fractured skull, a broken leg and severe internal bleeding which resulted in them having to remove his spleen.

When he was twenty six, Paul came home to find his mum had collapsed in the bathroom after suffering a brain aneurysm. Although he tried to revive her it was too late and there was nothing he could do. A few years later, Paul’s dad Vic became seriously ill with emphysema. After a stretch of hospital stays and being cared for by Paul’s sister Leanne, he let go and went to be with their beloved mum Sandy.

Just four months after the loss of their Dad, my former colleague/Paul’s sister Leanne set us up on a blind date. We met outside Covent Garden tube station and went for dinner, and we just clicked. Within a few months of being introduced I found out I was expecting Paige. It didn’t even occur to us to be concerned by the timing. We were surprised but genuinely over the moon that we were having a baby together. Everything seemed to fall into place, the momentum of what needed to be done swept over us and we were carried into furniture shops and Mothercare, on a babymoon, into our new home and finally through the doors of Darenth Valley hospitals Delivery Suite.

We were naive to think that we could live happily ever after. That kind of thing doesn’t happen to normal people, no matter how many Disney films you’ve watched. I knew the facts about what Paul had been through, he’d talked to me about the accident and his mum and dad, but never in any depth. He always seemed so together and matter of fact when he spoke, I didn’t realise how deeply these experiences had affected him. Nor did I think for one minute that our baby would be the trigger for his breakdown.

From the moment Paige came wailing into the world, things started to change. I was thrown into the depths of motherhood, and as many of you know, the waters can be dark and murky at times, full of uncertainty and hard-hitting emotions that threaten to pull you under. And Paul began a battle that neither of us were ready for. One that our relationship didn’t have the strength or maturity to withstand.

The difference in his personality was almost immediate. A steady decline into depression fuelled by anxiety around Paige’s safety. Paul became completely irrational. He couldn’t sleep or work properly because his thoughts were constantly interrupted by fear that he would lose her. He became preoccupied, stressed and distant from me and extremely critical of how I was with Paige. He didn’t want to go anywhere unless she was with us, and he treated me like the enemy because I didn’t react with the same level of concern as he did to every little thing. I felt like a bad mum, and I became more and more hurt by the way he was towards me.

For the first nine months of Paige’s life I watched him sink into depression like quicksand. I tried to pull him out, but he just sank deeper and deeper until I couldn’t hold on anymore. After months of struggling, I had to let go.

I can’t explain the feelings I had after I made that decision, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. At the time I was trying to do what I thought was best for everyone involved. After months of neglect I honestly didn’t think Paul loved me anymore. No matter how many dinners I cooked, how much weight I lost or how well I looked after Paige I just seemed to make him worse. He couldn’t see how he was acting and I wasn’t strong enough to cope with it all, and it broke us.

Life carried on afterwards. I got a job, a place to live, I went shopping, bought Christmas presents and even brushed my hair. I told everyone that I was getting myself back on track and at times I almost believed it myself. But I could never leave the edge of that quicksand. No matter how messy it got between us, something in me would never truly let him go.

After ten months apart, with Paul needing help and refusing to see it, pushing all of his family away, making terrible decisions and causing so much heartache to himself and everyone around him, I’d almost given up hope. I started to accept that the person I fell in love with was gone. It became the norm for him to be irrational, selfish and volatile and it broke my heart because we’d been so happy just months before. But as out of the blue as the dark clouds of depression had closed in, they suddenly started to shift.

It took a good few weeks for me to even notice. Paul seemed calmer, more settled and he started to be kinder to me. I ignored it at first, I’d seen glimpses of this a few times before when he would attempt to get me back, but he could never be consistent. After a few weeks of getting on well, I asked Paul about the difference in his mood, and he told me he’d finally accepted that something was wrong and that he’d been diagnosed and treated for anxiety and depression triggered by post-traumatic stress.

I’ve been studying the surface of the quicksand, and over the last few months I’ve seen the old Paul start to emerge. He hasn’t got the hollow, troubled look in his eyes that he had during the worst of it all. He is more light-hearted and able to talk without escalating things. He’s being silly and laughing at me again. It’s like he’s remembering who he used to be.

One thing that comes out of going through a real shit-storm with someone is how well you get to know them. I’ve seen the darkest sides of him, and he’s seen mine. It’s certainly not been pretty, but it’s led to where we are now. He’s managed to pull himself out of the quicksand enough to reach me, and I love him, so I want to take his hand. I know now without a doubt that what we have is real, it always was, and to me that’s worth a whole-hearted second chance.

Sad Sunday

I’m writing this from my living room floor, sitting in front of an empty plate after consuming four slices of marmite on toast and two cups of tea. It’s made me feel better, but I’m still hungover.

I went out with a friend last night and drank too much. I very rarely drink anymore, and when I do, it’s never with the intention of getting drunk. It’s more just to have a bit of a laugh and be sociable, I always stop when I’ve had enough. Last night I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to forget everything for a while.

I’ve been feeling quite overwhelmed the last few weeks. Like most of us, I seem to rush through my days at the speed of light from one obligation to another without having the opportunity to enjoy any of it. I talked about it with my counsellor and she suggested that perhaps I could make less plans some days to give myself room to breathe. It made perfect sense, but at the same time the idea of having time on my hands made me extremely anxious, and I didn’t know why.

Usually on a Sunday when I don’t have Paige I get up early, go to the gym, meet some friends for lunch, do a big shop and pop to see my mum and dad before Paige comes home. I literally go from one thing to the next with no gaps, or ‘dead time’ in between. To put the advice I was given into practise, I planned to be planless for this entire Sunday. I imagined I would sleep in, have a leisurely breakfast and maybe laze around and watch some episodes of Catastrophe. I thought I might have a nice bath, and it would be a lovely, rejuvenating day.

But I’m just sitting here, with all this time to think. And I realise how much I miss my baby when she’s not with me. I crave her so badly that I can’t concentrate on anything else. I’ve done my washing up. I’ve opened her curtains where I closed them for her last night, even though she wasn’t here. I’ve folded her blankets and I’ve put her clothes away. I know she’s coming back to me soon, but the fact that she cant be with me and all I want to do is spend my time with her is something I can’t get used to. I don’t know if I ever will.

I feel like it is the harshest punishment, and I did nothing wrong. I’m innocent. I don’t deserve to be punished. I know that every one of you will have felt this way at some point in your lives, because life isn’t always fair, and we have to learn to deal with whatever is thrown our way. So I make plans upon plans upon plans so that I don’t ever have to sit here like this, alone and vulnerable, with an aching heart.

My dream was to spend Sundays as a family. That’s what I wanted, but I can’t have it and I need to accept it. I haven’t really allowed myself enough time to delve into the pain of what I’ve lost, such is the pressure to stitch your wounds up and soldier on. There’s an appropriate timeframe for getting over something, or someone, and once it elapses you have to do the rest of your grieving in private. So to avoid the awkward moments when I feel an overspill of emotion surging forward, I’ve attempted to squash it down by making my life so busy that I dont have any time to feel.

I’m starting to realise, here on my living room rug, that maybe this technique I’ve unknowingly invented isn’t helping me. All I’m doing is running myself into the ground, and to tell you the truth, I’m shattered. I’ve exhausted myself trying to block out how I’m still feeling because surely I should be all better by now? I want to be. I’m doing everything in my power to force myself to be. And one day I’ll get there, I know I will. But today, it still hurts. And I miss my little girl.

I know I wrote about being grateful, and I truly believe it’s the best way to live. To be positive, and realise that we are fortunate to even be alive today. I will bounce back from this lonely living room floor moment and change my mindset, because I don’t want to spend my life dwelling on things I can’t change. But I think that every now and then we need to press pause, and allow ourselves to feel what we feel deep down. You need to be in touch with what’s really going on inside, otherwise you become completely disconnected from yourself. Instead of admitting that my heart is still a bit broken, I’ve become anxious and tearful about every other little thing without knowing why I feel this way.

Yes, it’s now over the allocated timeframe for being sad about something that happened last year. Yes, I should probably be over it by now. Yes, I do know that I have a lot to be thankful for and yes, I know that nobody likes a Debbie Downer. But maybe it’s ok that I’m not all better yet.

Getting drunk, making far too many plans and ignoring myself is never going to get me where I want to be. I need to man up and face my feelings head on, and if that means I have the occasional ‘Sad Sunday’ where I have three sugars in my tea and a bit of a cry in the bath then so be it.

I feel better already 🙂

Love is a Battlefield

It was Valentine’s Day on Tuesday, the day of hearts, flowers and the Big L….Loneliness. I’m kidding! Love people, Love.

We are split into two definitive camps on Valentine’s Day. Those who are in a relationship, and those who aren’t. The occupants of these two camps co-exist fairly peacefully throughout the rest of the year, the singles commenting joyfully on the couples engagement announcements, and the couples liking all the singles gym selfies. It’s ever so pleasant and harmonious and we manage to tick along nicely together.

Then, like an air raid of rose petals, Valentine’s Day hits. All of a sudden, for one 24 hour period only, we are at War. Friends who’ve known each other for years suddenly feel like strangers if they’re based in opposite camps. The usual boundaries of banter are blurred, and all ties are severed. For Valentine’s Day only, we are enemies.

Facebook is flooded with an enslaught from each camp in a vicious turf war. The couples fiercely stamp their mark on the newsfeed early on, tagging their significant other in their cutest kissing photo and displaying newly acquired armour in the form of bracelets and watches. The singles sneak in with killer memes, poking fun at their own single status and slicing through the saccharine with sarcasm.

Some couples refuse to enlist for battle, their profiles devoid of the outpouring of romance expected by their followers. By choosing to keep their celebrations private, they allow smug singles to spread rumours of dissension in the ranks, ‘Did you hear Pat and Mick have split up? Checked their profiles this morning and nothing. Not a sausage. I bet he’s shagging that Maureen from Asda, he’s always liking her photos’. These ‘private’ couples are nothing but a hinderance in the Valentine’s Day stakes, the equivalent of a flat-footed soldier. If you’re not going to even attempt to cobble together an instacollage you may as well split up and join the opposition like the traitors that you are.

Always the underdogs on Valentine’s Day, the singles need each others support more than ever, and yet there are noticeable gaps in the front line. Fearful of being seen as desperate or bitter, some of the newer recruits hold fire with their banter. They stay hunched down in the trenches with their fingers in their ears whilst the rest of the army surge forth, hurling grenades into the love bubble by applying several flattering filters to their ‘Single and Fabulous!’ uploads.

The war rages on and the pressure to keep up the pace takes its toll. Those who started the battle with a bold post of adoration for their partners are never seen again. A true relationship warrior shows stamina, they update diligently throughout the day, incorporating all Social Media platforms in order to cover every angle of attack. Those who post an obligatory one liner of love and then abandon their comrades are looked upon with utter disgust. You may well have a life to lead Graham, but today you need to love your girlfriend, every hour on the hour. We can’t let those sad, lonely bastards get the better of us. Now get back to your post!

Meanwhile, the singles begin to lose focus halfway through the day. Lustful posts about Tom Hardy start to creep into the newsfeed and distract them from the job in hand, which is to convince everyone how over the moon they are to be single.

‘Love love love being single!!! No presents to buy, no need to shave my legs, no prancing about in underwear he bought me which is itchy and too tight! Hallelujah!’

The singles fight hard to reinforce this propaganda, but their grip on the newsfeed is threatened by the lure of Christian Grey. Their heads are turned, and the struggle to stick to their guns and concentrate is almost impossTom Hardy.

The bloodbath continues, and the walking wounded stagger unsteadily into the fray. Confused and shellshocked, their contribution does more harm than good. Singles indulge in too many Spritzers and let their guard down, posting Bridget Jones style snapchats singing Sinead O’Connor through a mist of tears. Couples thank their partners through gritted teeth for one wilted rose from an Esso garage and a bag of chocolate coins left over from Christmas. It’s clear that both sides are running out of steam.

Darkness closes in and the battle is almost over. The couples defenses are fully depleted, their posts have dried up and their appetite for warfare has been satiated by Prosecco, Ferroro Rocher and Candy Bras. Completely spent after a full day of publicly loving each other (ahem), they have nothing left to give. Without a peep from the singles for some time, they wearily retreat.

As the couples head back to their trenches hand in hand for Indian takeaways and candlelit baths, the singles lie patiently in wait. With no dinner plans, nothing on the telly and not much in the fridge, they bide their time. And just as the dust is about to settle, they charge heartily onto the battleground once more. In an almighty explosion of memes, snapchats, comments, quotes, stories, tweets and videos, the singles late night ambush secures their hold over the internet. The couples can do no more than look on in awe as the bombs go off around them. As they snuggle in matching onesies, they are grateful for the fireworks provided.

As the clock struck midnight, the conflict finally came to an end and order has since been restored. Friends have reunited, wounds have healed and soldiers from both camps play football together on the battleground, where one day soon, roses will grow.

Until next year…


There was a time not too long ago when I’d spend hours in the bath every night once I’d put Paige to bed. I’ve always done two things when I’m overwhelmed, one is sleep, the other is get in the bath. I think it’s because it’s the only place where no-one can ask anything of me, and I have a chance to think. I would watch countless self help videos, searching for ways to cope with the loss I felt when my relationship ended.

Looking back on the last year, I’ve realised I spent most of it in a daze. I don’t think I functioned properly for months. I watched some old videos I took of Paige and saw such a difference in myself, a clear before and after version of me. In the videos before, I noticed how carefree I sound, being silly with Paige and exclaiming loudly at the smallest achievements. She was always giggling and babbling away, she was such a happy baby.

I tried so hard to fake it afterwards. I went through the motions like I was dragging myself through quick sand. I tried to smile for her, to embrace the moments that made my heart beat, but it was so hard. I continued to take videos, and when I watch them now it feels raw. I can see the anxiety in my face, I seem distracted and over protective of her. I’d get through the day on auto-pilot, struggling not to break down in front of my baby. Sometimes I didn’t manage, and she would see me cry. I was letting her down, and that pain was worse than the heartbreak itself.

I just wanted to be the good mum I’d always been and I knew that I was failing. So every night I would give her a bottle, rock her and put her down to sleep. Then I’d spend the rest of the night searching for ways to fix my head and my heart, steps to take to help myself so I wouldn’t be broken anymore.

It’s been such a slow process. I’ve been frustrated with myself at times for not having more will power, or for letting things get to me when I shouldn’t. But I persevered, and recently I’ve started to feel like my old self again, which is what I’ve been striving for. And then there are these rare, sparkly moments where I feel like my old self, but better. This is so new that I hardly dare talk about it in case it goes away, or I lose it somehow, but every now and then I get a glimpse of who I am becoming.

This version of me is a brand new and improved model. I’m still very emotional, my heart feels too big for my body and is easily impacted by the world around me, but I’m strong. I’ve never felt strong before in my life. The new, shiny me appreciates everything that she has been given. She worries less about the future, and has moved away from what happened in the past. She lives in the moment, and because of that, she is free.

It may not seem like much, but it’s such a huge step in the right direction that I can’t help but feel proud. I had been treading water for so long, but I’ve found that being grateful every day has kept us afloat. Instead of dwelling on things that seem unfair, or focussing on the challenges I’m faced with, I try to acknowledge all the positives around me. I’ve realised how much there is for me to be thankful for. From the big things, such as my family for every reason you can possibly imagine, to the small, like having time on my commute to sit down, close my eyes and listen to Ed.

I write them down, these things I’m grateful for, just a few every day, and I can see how blessed I am. Life can be tough at times and every single one of us has a story. Concentrating on the areas of my life where I’m so incredibly fortunate has helped me to be more at peace with mine. I couldn’t stand being riddled with anxiety, so to feel calm again, even when things are as stressful as ever, has been life changing. Not only for  me, but for my little girl.

I’ve been taken aside a few times since Paige started nursery 7 months ago. They were concerned that she wouldn’t participate, she played alone and was easily upset by those around her. I know deep down that my stress affected her. I still feel indescribable guilt because of it. But the last few weeks they’ve noticed a change in her. They told me they’ve never heard her laugh so much. She’s gaining confidence and is starting to interact more with the other children. She has started to talk more, and she dances. I love that she dances.

Hearing how she is blossoming has made me realise the connection we have to each other. The change in her seems to have coincided with me finally managing to move forward and stop letting the bad stuff crowd my brain and bring me down. Maybe it’s coincidence, but if I’ve had even a tiny part to play in Paige’s happiness, I’ll work on myself forever to bring her more.

For every storm you face, I know that being grateful can help you gain some perspective, as it has done for me. It will wrap a silver lining around the clouds that you are under, until the day finally comes when the clouds disperse, and you can see the sun.

On the Catwalk

A few years ago I was asked to be a model in a fashion show held at the Sugar Hut in Brentwood (shu’up!). When I got the message from Lindsey, the lovely organiser of the event, I wondered if she’d meant for me to ask my 5 foot 9 sister who has twice been scouted by modelling agencies, so beautiful and symmetrical is she. But no, apparently Lindsey did mean me (in your face Claire) and I was super chuffed.

The only tiny hiccup was the fact that I wasn’t sure Lindsey knew about my quaver spine. She probably assumed a petite pole dancer would be fairly easy to dress, which as I’ve mentioned before is not the case. Positive head on, I decided I’d keep that little secret to myself and seized the opportunity, as I’ve always been obsessed with Americas Next Top Model and I was pretty sure this was the closest I was ever going to get.

Rehearsal day dawned and I made my way to the Sugar Hut to meet Lindsey and the other models. At 5 foot 2 I’m often the shortest adult in the room, but this was like wandering into some kind of sexy, contoured giraffe enclosure. I consoled myself by remembering that this must be how Kate Moss has felt for most of her life, got into the queue of beauties and awaited further instructions.

Any hard core fan of ANTM can easily recite Miss J’s golden rules of runway, and I’m no exception. I’d laid out dressing gown ties on the floor at home to create a makeshift catwalk and practised everything I knew, smising and popping my hips, neck long, arms loose, I worked my mums front room carpet like a 9 to 5. So when Lindsey asked us to take turns walking the catwalk, mama was ready.

The only trouble was we had to walk to music, and it was rather fast. When it came to my turn, I tried to strut like the prize pony I know I can be, but I found myself struggling to keep up with the pace because my legs were too short and I had to rush to keep the spacing. I was worried Lindsey would tell me to immediately return to my apartment here in Brentwood, pack my belongings and leave. Thankfully she didn’t, and I got to stay and try on all the clothes. Yay! Or so I thought…

One of the designers had a collection of gorgeous, hand-sewn bikinis encrusted with jewels (natch), and I was asked to try on one of the bikini tops. Bugger. I’d been able to hide my wonkiness up until this point, but the jig was now definitely up. I didn’t want to be a pain, so with a sweaty upper lip, I went and got changed. I came out and clocked myself in the mirror, I was bright red and stiff as a board. I felt absolutely mortified that my entire ‘problem area’ was on show.

I stood in front of everyone frozen, more of a mannequin than a model (before it was cool). The designers flocked over to me and, seemingly oblivious to my discomfort, started to decorate me like a christmas tree. A handbag was looped over my elbow, someone hung a really long, beaded necklace around my neck, I had a sarong draped loosely round my hips and, last but not least, an enormous feather headdress was placed on my head, like the cherry on top of a bemused, half naked cake.

In films, this is when the girl is made to look silly, but somehow still manages to pull it off. This didn’t happen to me. I looked and felt like an idiot. I didn’t even say anything, I just stood there and let it happen. Like when you dress a baby up purely for your own entertainment and they just lay there helpless, with an oven glove on their head. All the other girls were watching and I tried to smile and be professional but I just wanted to take it all off and put my jumper back on.

Once the crowd had disbursed I went to find Lindsey to ask if she actually wanted me to wear this creation. Praise sweet baby Jesus, she told me I only had to wear what I felt comfortable in. I was so relieved, but it made me massively worried about what I’d be asked to wear on the day.

I went home that night feeling deflated. I’d been so excited to be in the show, but I was unbelievably self-conscious about my body. I left there feeling like none of the clothes looked good on me, and no-one would want me to model for them. I felt like the joke after I’d been loaded up like a glitzy buckaroo, and I actually started to wish I hadn’t said yes in the first place.

Still, I invited my family and some friends to come for moral support, and by the time the event came around I had bounced back from the rehearsal and was full of beans again. You just can’t keep a good show pony down.

I was surprised to be given 4 outfits to wear that day. One of which was a backless evening gown. This delicious garment had been tried on by most of the girls, and I’d been one of the last to attempt to walk in it. Even though I knew it was too long for me and my back would be showing, it was so gorgeous I couldn’t resist. I didn’t for a minute expect to wear it on the day, I was genuinely shocked to see my name on the hanger. I had a flicker of doubt when I considered my scars being out, but then I thought sod it, I’m going for it.

I later found out the designer had chosen me because of how I’d bounced down the catwalk in rehearsal, beaming and giving it everything I’ve got. I was also asked to open and close the show which I was thrilled to do. It goes to show that people’s perception of you isn’t always what you expect. I was so focussed on all my ‘negatives’, I struggled to understand how anyone would see past them.

Life is full of little lessons, and this is one that I’ve come back to many times. Take the chance to do things that make you happy, even if you doubt yourself. There will always be reasons why you shouldn’t, but you can’t let anything hold you back. When you have an opportunity to walk a new exciting path in life, you better werk.

Congratulations. You’re still in the running towards becoming Americas Next Top Model.