The show must go on…

“That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?” –  Dead Poets Society

The brain’s a funny old thing. Well mine is anyway. There are countless reasons why my brain should be thinking nothing but positives things to the point that if you were able to open up my head and peer into it, my brain would be a mix of tie-dye colours, cute puppies high-fiving and a physical interpretation of the feeling you get when you smell cooked bacon first thing in the morning. Instead, it’s doing the complete bloody opposite.

Now, I’ll warn you before I carry on. This has the very real potential to go deep and meaningful. Should you be reading this and you happen to be feeling pretty chipper and upbeat, don’t let me bring you down, bail out now.

I’ve said it before… I find writing therapeutic. It helps me straighten out any struggles or confusion etc that I may be stewing over and through that process, find a way to worry less or even let go of completely. I’ve struggled to write of late though. I like the ‘online blog’ format because it keeps me honest, people can read it, can see if I’m going down the wrong path and can reach out and pull my neck in. But recently, I’ve felt restricted to what i should or shouldn’t say and that’s been difficult. The whole point of me taking time to jot down my thoughts is to be able to feel like I’m acknowledging the problem, pondering over it and then working towards letting it go. But when your whole world is dictated to by things like divorce, mental health and ongoing struggles of life in general.. there is only so far you feel that you can open up before people start sending men in white coats round to throw you in the back of a van. I can’t escape the fact though that whilst I did not choose the path, it’s a road I’ve had to walk down for the last eighteen months or so.

A lot of what I’ve written about during that time has been about the divorce. There have been times I’ve felt positive about it and there have been times I’ve been maybe less positive. And yes, I’ve fallen into the trap a couple of times now thinking ‘Yep, you know what, I’m ok now. I’m over it’, I haven’t been and then something or someone will pop up out of nowhere that will completely floor me and make me realise that I’ve still got work to do. Which is fine of course, it’s a long journey back to the top when you’ve fallen down a deep hole. Sometimes you just have to be honest when you are low and not make a jump for it and miss, leaving you feeling bruised when you fall and hit the bottom again. Metaphorically speaking.

I’m not going to start going about how there are two sides to the story… She did this, I supposedly did that.. She’s a wrong ‘un etc etc etc. It’s done now. I can’t change it. Fact. Those that need to know the ins and outs, know. Do I feel like I’ve conducted myself well through out the whole thing? In the most parts, yes. Do i feel that the truth has been somewhat contrived by some? Absolutely. What i have to keep telling myself though is that whilst it might have been almost a game to some, divorce is traumatic experience, one that will ripple for a long time after the initial splash is made. Thankfully the whole thing is coming to a head, legally speaking anyway and i can start believing that when I think that I’ve seen the last of this or that, that it actually will be the last. I’m quietly confident that this will be the last time I will blog about it, directly anyway because some of the lies have been so ridiculous it would be a shame not to use them as a source of mockery or sarcasm.. but it’s still too soon for that.

Joking aside. As you can expect, I’ve found this whole experience horrific. Not because I now have to live with the tag divorcee before I’m thirty, but because my best friend decided to just walk away with no heads up or prior warning. That I wasn’t worth the respect of doing all this in a dignified way and who along with the help of others were happy to pour added scorn onto an already weeping wound, not to mention the friends who decided to think the worst about me without seeing the full picture and kick me to the kerb. I’m not saying I was completely blameless and yes, there were things I could have done better, I’m just as flawed as the next guy. But that’s what we stood and promised, in front of a room full of people, before God, to each other. In sickness and in health, richer for poorer, better or worse etc. No matter my pitfalls, I was fully committed to that promise and i believe I stuck to it. Funny enough, because of that, it’s worked out that I’m going to be a lot poorer. Not just financially either.

You see, lately I’ve been left with a situation where I’m facing a humongous financial mountain to climb but also more importantly, the job of rebuilding what is left of my life. And honestly, there have been days where I just haven’t felt like I have any fight left in me. Days where even the good things, the positive things of which there are many seem tainted or that they are on borrowed time and it’s suffocating. So much so that you don’t see a way out of it, the feelings of loneliness, that you don’t matter, that you are nothing to nobody, the complete crash of self-confidence and motivation become so overwhelming that it leaves you feeling that you are sinking past the point of no return. It’s a scary scary place to be and even worse when your brain starts to tell you that it’s an ok place to be. It isn’t. It never is! That’s why I’ve gone out and arranged time with a new counsellor. I found it such a positive experience before, one that helped me pull things together so it’s time to hold my hand up again. Sometimes you just need to be honest and say ‘You know what, I haven’t got this’. If I’ve learned anything from dealing with all this, is to not be embarrassed about it or ashamed and that you should always speak up.

There are so many positives going on just now for me, among some of them being the fact I’ve started college and travelling down the road to achieving my childhood ambition of becoming a teacher. Something I’ve talked about doing for years but always found a reason why i couldn’t. I’m in the best shape of my life having dropped roughly 47kg in weight in the last eighteen months. I’m away from a group of people who made my life a misery for so long and tried to box me in to a way of living that was so constrictive, self glorifying and pompous. I’ve come to see that I truly have some of the best friends and family a guy could wish for, friends that have stuck by me through it all. Not just that, I’m making new friends. This is something that always surprises me when people say they want to hang out/get to know me etc, I know it shouldn’t but it does, to the point I can be socially disabled at times. I’ve always been bad at believing that people want to spend time with me, although I have to say that I’ve gotten even worse since all this divorce stuff happened. It’s something I’m trying to work on though. To believe that I can offer something, contribute and be something to someone. Not just in the sense of a relationship, something I’m sure, I hope will come again. But also in terms of friendship. Yes I feel it’s made harder when I’ve got all this going on, i mean who wants to be around someone with all this going on! But I just remind myself of the fact that everyone has a story to tell, every one has a past and everyone has skeletons in their cupboard. It’ll come in time.

I make no apology for sharing a subject as heavy all this. This has been and continues to be, although gradually becoming less so, a very real struggle I’ve had to battle recently. One that people have happily judged me on, on a couple of occasions have even had a go at me about. I’m not saying I’m the only one with problems, I’m not attempting to drag it out, go over old ground and I’m not looking for attention because of it. I share this because people need to remember there are two sides to every story and it might make people think twice when they come wading into a situation that is as delicate as this. Just because I can’t cry at the drop of a hat in a room full of people or throw wild accusations around, doesn’t mean I’m not hurting or that I’m the monster.

That line from the Dead Poets Society stood out to me the other day whilst watching it. It was as if someone was trying to tell me something because for a while there, I genuinely wanted my own personal play to end and I had even decided on what my final scene would be. I couldn’t see a way out and i wanted to bring the curtain down so to speak but instead I’ve reached out to my counsellor. Honestly though, I feel a better person for having had to go through all this. Don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t have chosen to had i got the choice but I’ve learned a lot from it. About me, about others, about what to appreciate and what not to, when to pick a fight and when to realise it isn’t worth it. I’ve had to do a lot of growing up and when all said and done that’s probably been a good thing. Ok I’m going through a dark spell but little by little I’m putting things back in order, I’m getting the band back together, metaphorically speaking, and the show, or the play, will go on.

I’ve just got to work out what my verse will be…

Don’t look back in anger…

“If you don’t make peace with your past, it will keep showing up in your future.” – Wayne Dyer

Fourteen months, Fifteen days. in the grand scheme of life that isn’t a long time but in that time, there have been more changes crammed into my life than perhaps the last five years. With all these changes, something I’ve neglected is time spent reflecting, accessing and arranging my thoughts and actually it’s been a notable exclusion, especially in the last few days when things have felt like they are starting to bubble over and feelings of anxiety have started to become more of a hurdle. So taking the time now, this time typing out my musings feels immediately therapeutic, and I’m only four or five lines in.

A lot of what I’ve come up against in the last year I’ve mentioned at great length already, explored it and in a few cases let go so i won’t be unpacking that anymore than I’ve already done. Some parts I’m still working towards being able to leave behind and one or two, although I can file it in the ‘lessons learned’ file, will have to carry with me for years to come I’m sure. The main thing to note though is that on the whole, in the last fourteen months, there have been more positive changes that negative and that in the long run I will be better off for the experiences I’ve gone through in this time, especially the tougher ones.

March 1st 2014 I was a 20st 10lbs married man with everything I wanted. A wife I loved, a nice place to live in a place that I loved and felt settled, good friends and a good, reliable job. March 2nd 2014 was when, not all at once but one by one, I started losing those things.

The implosion of my marriage is something I’ve talked about a lot and out of respect to the situation and those involved I won’t go back into that or unpack anything I haven’t already, but also, I don’t think I need to. It’s done, I can’t change it as much as I wanted to. Wanted. Past tense because in the last several months, there have been words said, accusations thrown and things done that have made me not only approach the whole thing with love and respect as I had hoped we could have. Yes it’s heartbreakingly sad and tough but it’s just part of life sadly and all you can hope for is to make the break as painless as possible. Unfortunately, it hasn’t played out that way. I saw a tweet not long after it all happened that read “Don’t ever regret anything that once made you smile” and I looked upon my relationship through the tint of that mantra. Sadly though, the more and more that was said, lie’s that were told regardless of them being proved to be nonsense, has left me regretting the whole damn thing. And that, I feel, is the saddest part of it all.

I’m probably in a position now that I can be a bit more open about it all because I’m away from the situation. I don’t have to have it rubbed in my face two or three times a week. See the people who talked to me as if nothing has happened but when my back is turned either paint me as the devil or do nothing to disagree with those who do or be in the places that ‘We’ used to go to. But what good would it do? Will it get my life back as it was on March the 1st 2014? No. Would I want to go back that? Absolutely bloody  not. Knowing what I do now, the lessons I’ve learned, the truths that have come to the surface and changes that I’ve had to make, all these things have made me a better person that I was then. And in the long run, I will have a much better life because of it. One day, I’m sure a lot more of the truth will come out when people get found out and trip themselves up but don’t have me there to blame, but that’s not my concern anymore. In the last few months I had in Romford, there was a couple of weeks when things were particular difficult so i took the decision to go along to Chelmsford Salvation Army. And it was something said by one of the cadets (trainee minister of the church for my non church going friends) during the meeting/service that has stuck with me since that day. “Change is fun… When it’s done!” So yes, down the track, I fully believe my life will be more fruitful in near all aspects and that the last year or so of hard times, of hard decisions of hard changes, will be worth it. Change is fun, when it’s done.

Change is fun, when it’s done. I’ve lost count the amount of times I’ve said that to myself, especially over the last two months. Seems that March is not a good time for me, which is annoying because my birthday is in March, but never mind. Last March I lost my wife and this March I lost my job. Just thinking about it now, worryingly I don’t think I’ve got anything else to lose so I’m already dreading next March!!! Cross that bridge when I come to it I guess. Anyway, yes, this March saw my time with the company I had been with for the last six years come to an abrupt, but partly expected end when i accepted an offer of voluntary redundancy. I’d not been totally happy there for a wee while, for a few different reasons so it was probably as good a time as any to start a new challenge but that didn’t change the fact that in my time with the company I had got to go to some pretty incredible places, to do and see things I may not have otherwise got to and meet and make friends that will be friends for years to come. Something I will always be grateful for. So for that to suddenly come to an end was a bit of a blow. But that phrase came back to front and centre.. Change is fun, when it’s done. So I approached the situation with a sense of optimism instead of one of looking at it as a death sentence.

The knock out blow came not far behind that though. Knock out blow is maybe slightly dramatic. It’s not like I’m now in a slum begging for crisps documenting this blog on a dirt road. The turning point, that’s probably better. The turning point came when I had to find somewhere else to live. The situation was such that the task of finding work became that much harder as I didn’t even know where I would be living and I couldn’t realistically commit to a new lease somewhere else without knowing my work situation. Just straying off topic for a second. If you’ve seen the film ‘The Perfect Storm’ with George Clooney and Matt Damon etc you’ll know the bit I mean when I say right at the end, after battling through an enormous storm out at sea, the Captain is faced with an impossible wave but instead of turning away from it decides to fire the engines on full and go for it in an attempt to get over it which (SPOILER ALERT) they don’t manage to do, the boat capsizes and in the end the whole crew perish. Think it’s based on a true story if memory serves. Anyway, up to that point that’s kind of what my life felt like, metaphorically speaking. My marriage breakdown, the accusations, the stories that swirled round following that, the actions of those judging me on those stories and also my own attitude and battle not to get bitter and twisted up by it all, the upset I had to deal with, the job loss. Not just that, also the things I did wrong, because I’m not perfect, I did make mistakes so I had to accept that and learn from them. All that, over the space of the year, felt like I was sailing against the wind, battling to keep moving forward, fighting to keep my head above water (To keep the seafaring metaphor going) just like that boat. But then right at the end, just when I thought I was starting to get ahead, that came and tipped the boat.

What can you do in that situation? When your whole life seems to be slipping through your fingers and you seem powerless to do anything to stop it, what do you do? Again though that phrase came. Change is fun, when it’s done. That and I spent a lot of time praying about it. I’ve not hidden the fact that my faith has been a massive foundation throughout all this and I’ve had to trust that this all serves to a higher purpose. Also, it’s important to keep a sense of perspective too. I’m not naive to believe that I’m the only with problems. In recent months, several of my friends and family have had times of huge heartache, way more than I have faced in all honesty, WAY more! Actually that kept me grounded in a time it’s easy to let your head get to a space where you believe the world should revolve around you. So, between that and advice from those closest to me, the decision was made that it was time to remove myself from the situation. I love Romford, I love Essex as a whole. That hasn’t changed but it was the right time to come away. For now. I didn’t leave because I had to, I wasn’t run out-of-town, there was no angry mob chasing me up the M6. I left because it was right decision at that time. If the option presented itself in the future to go back, and it was the right call, I wouldn’t have any reason not to go back. For now though Manchester is home and to be perfectly honest, it’s probably the only place (other than maybe Melbourne) that I would say is a worthy replacement. I remember the first night I arrived feeling a mixture of relief, a sense of peace and a sense of homecoming. In the past when I’ve come to visit family here, I always had this sinking feeling at the idea of only being here a day or two. On this occasion I was here to stay. And that felt good.

So what now?

Well, I’ve still lost my wife, yes. But then with how things have played out, it would appear that I am better for it. I still live in a place that I love. It may not be the same place but it’s still a positive change. I’ve lost people I looked upon as friends. True, but then if someone is going to drop you quicker than a hot turd in your time of strife, are they really friends? Hmmm think not. What it did though was highlight just how lucky I am to have the people around me that I do. Those that have stuck by me and judged me on fact and not on hearsay. Who have pulled me to task when I’ve needed to be but at the same time protected me from the unfair criticism. Something I do not take for granted. Health wise, I’m now seven stone lighter than I was when this all started and I’ve never been fitter, physically speaking, than I am now. Mentally I still battle with my anxiety and confidence but the way things are going, all the positive steps taken with everything else, I’m in a much better place to deal with that when it does strike. So I’d say I’m in a pretty good place. Job wise… well I’ve started looking and hopefully something will come up soon. But the way things are going, the positive changes that are happening, I’m sure that will resolve itself soon enough too.

I think it was Laozi that said “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. Yes I miss the lads down south, I miss going to football on a Thursday and acting like a complete plonker, being part of Romford band, the buzz of London, a bag of chips on Southend Sea Front. The list could go on and on and they are all things I can look forward to when I visit. But for now, Manchester is the next step and I’m going to throw myself 100% into that. What the next thousand miles hold, who knows. But I’m taking it with a sense of optimism.

Change is fun, when it’s done.

Drama queens speech…

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” – Sage Francis

I’m aware the above quote is also from a Charles Dickens Novel, but if I told you I had read it, you’d never believe it. But whether it be the song lyric by a hip hop American artist or the opening sentence from a Dickens novel you associate it, either way it sums up perfectly in one line what 2014 was for me.

I started 2014 a husband, and ended it a soon to be divorcee. I lost my wife who was also my best friend. Double whammy! And the times following the split in March were indeed the worst of times I’ve experienced in my whole life. Anyone that has experienced something similar will know just how big a hole it leaves in your life and although I’m in no way saying my situation was worse than anyone else’s, I do feel it was a slightly harder impact that it maybe could have been given just how much I relied on her and the strength she gave me to get through what was some of the toughest challenges in my life. So to not have that input into my day-to-day life took a lot of adjusting to get used to. But ultimately it’s something I managed to do with the support of friends and family. Sad? Absolutely. Have I learned anything from the whole situation? Absolutely. I’ve written enough about it over the last nine months so I don’t feel I need to write about it anymore, and i think it’s appropriate to leave it in 2014 now. Yes there will be a few bits to sort out to dissolve it completely over the next wee while, and no doubt it there will be a couple of sad times to come during that, but ultimately that chapter is done now. It’s time to turn the page so to speak.

And that’s it. In terms of bad times that was all I had to deal with. But given the magnitude of it, it was enough to mean 2014 getting filed in the “lots of room for improvement” category and stopped it being what should have been one of the best years of my life.

But the good times. And there were plenty of those thankfully, otherwise I think I would have needed the Samaritans on speed dial.

There were plenty of contenders for the top spot on this one. Aberdeen winning their first cup in years, Celebrating my granny’s 80th birthday with pretty much the whole family there. Either of the weekends away in Liverpool, what seemed to be a summer of weddings, going home to Caithness and finally clearing a couple of skeletons out the closet and spending some time with Donald and Suzanne at his bench or even my weight loss. The list really could go on and on. But probably the most notable thing to come out of 2014 was seeing the world, well some of it. I came late to the party when it comes to travel as we never really did foreign holidays growing up. So to have a year that was spent mostly in the air and hotels was pretty cool. It started in Gran Canaria where i spent the best part of three weeks aboard a drill ship and ended with me spending Hogmanay with my Granny in Aberdeen with stops in Krakow, Milan, Madrid, Tenerife, Swindon & Hull (wasn’t all glamorous), Nerja, Tbilisi, and Baku in between and also all the experiences that went with each stop.  Although towards the end i struggled hugely with home-sickness, the time on the road gave me the chance to learn a lot about myself. One being that I can put that dream of being a rock star to bed given that I would be rubbish at touring given my homesickness weaknesses. That along with the fact that I’m musically disabled has all but killed the dream. Seriously though, time away gave me the space to gather up the pieces from the split, to let the dust settle and eventually the space to start putting some of those pieces back together whilst letting me see parts of the world I might never have seen otherwise.

The main lesson i’d say is how I’ve come to appreciate the value of my friends and family more than ever this year and also the importance of losing others who may not be the best influence in your life. I’ve always known I was lucky on that front, but not fully grasped just how much and that’s something I’ve spoken to them about over the last few months, I know they don’t do it for glorification but at the same time it’s important to let people know just how much of an impact they’ve had on you as they might not know or think they’ve had a smaller input than is actually the case. Some of the biggest acts of kindness has been in the smallest forms I’ve found this year. An encouraging text, a Facebook message or an arm round me have all played a part in keeping me going. And something I will be eternally grateful for. And it’s because of that encouragement, love and support I stride into 2015 with a positive outlook. I feel like my attitude as a whole is gradually changing anyway, maturing and I feel more comfortable in my own skin, maybe because there is less strain on it as my weight loss continues. I’m only miserable most of the time now instead of all the time. I only see the negative some of time instead of every time. A good friend actually said to me recently that I seem to have found myself and I’d like to think that is the case. Or certainly discovering more of myself. Either way, 2015 has all the markings of being a good year. Hopefully with not as much travel, a little bit less flab and whole lot more time with friends and family and I’ll be content.

That and an Aberdeen Fc League Title… it’s not much to ask, surely?

“Wheels on the bus…”

“It’s a big theme in my life, learning about myself and being a better person.
I’m a work in progress; I have revelations every day.” – Rick Rubin

Something I struggle with, negativity. Too easily I let things get to me and let the clouds roll in, I wear my heart on my sleeve and sometimes that gets me in trouble, sometimes I jump in and run my mouth off without taking time to step back and have a think. I see it as one of my many flaws but the flip side of knowing that is that I can do something about it, well, try at least. I think I’m slowly starting to get there. Seeing a therapist helped. Having close friends and family that have incredible patience and a willingness to see past that, especially this year, has helped more.

I’ve reflected and written about friends and family a lot this year, how they’ve got me through what’s happened, how they’ve supported me, picked me up and dusted me off when I’ve needed it. Without them I dread to think the state i would be in now. But more and more lately it’s become glaringly obvious the gap between those who supported and those who were quick to judge, quick to reject me, because the goalposts are, i hope, slowly starting to move. There were days I literally prayed for the day to come where people felt or at least got a glimpse of what I was dealing with but when that day came, all i felt was sadness because it only shone the spotlight on just how crap the whole sorry situation was. I thought I would be glad, delighted even, but I actually find myself feeling the opposite. I wish i could rejoice because the way I’ve been made to feel these past months, at times, has been really difficult and would love to shrug my shoulders and be like ‘Now do you see’. Am i perfect? No. Do i claim to be? No. Did I make mistakes? Most definitely, but have I deserved to be treated the way I have and be judged as harshly as I have? I don’t believe so. I’ve written about that already though so don’t need to go into all that again.

Sometimes, I think I’m the worlds worst christian. If the rapture happened today, I doubt very much I would be given a golden ticket. I also don’t think I would have to worry about being lonely based on people’s attitudes recently, no matter how much they tell themselves otherwise. Forgive and forget, turn the other cheek, sort the log out in your own eye before pointing out the spec in your brothers (or words to that effect).. these are all phrases drummed into us from as far back as our Sunday school days. Lately though, I’ve found myself drifting further from those kind of attitudes at times and surfing a wave of rage for want of a better phrase. People have come up to me because either they have an audience or they are trying to massage their own conscience , you know they are about as genuine as the easter bunny, but i still smile and nod at them because that’s what I have been brought up to do. Be polite, don’t be rude, be the better person. When really in my head I’m screaming at them “Can you actually hear yourself?” “Do you actually believe what you are saying!!” “Sorry I forgot that you were perfect, my mistake.” I think I’ve managed to stay fairly polite on the whole though, couple of times I’ve taken the bait and bit back, but, I think, I have stayed fairly true and not given into that rage overall.

I should say I won’t apologise for what is an angry post. I think I’ve needed this time to think, reflect and get out some of the pent-up frustration. Sadly the gym can’t take it all out. I will also say that I’m not claiming to be the next messiah, as usual I will say I’m not perfect and there have been times where the treatment from others has been more than deserved and I’m glad of those times because it keeps me on straight and narrow and pulls me back to those “Sunday School attitudes” pontoon.

Yes, Some days I’m sad, sometimes I’m angry, sometimes I’m fired up and motivated and feel like I could take on the world, sometimes I get lonely and other times I’m ready for giving up. The mistake I think I’ve made though is that when I get the fired up and motivated, I think to myself ‘Phew, made it, got over the hill at last’ and i quickly try to tell myself everything’s rosey in the garden again but then when the sad or giving up days roll round I feel like I’m back to square one and forget about all the positives I’ve got going on. It’s like one big roundabout and I’m going round and round and round. Am i though? How often do i get those days.. honestly? Not too often actually and when i do, it’s usually because of someone or something out of my control, or that I actually am having a bad day and need to deal with something instead of burying it. But that’s good, that’s healthy i think. And that’s what I need to remind myself each time i think. I also need to learn patience, which for those that know me, know that patience is not something I’m blessed with. I’ve probably been a bit naive to the scale of the situation. I was married. Now I’m not. I was 100% convinced I was strapped in for life and excited to see where that journey would take me and now, five minutes down the line, the wheels fell off that bus. That’s a huge shift. Especially given that the decision was in no way mine, i had no prior warning the bus was even in need of a service (to keep the bus metaphor going) and I’ve had very little control over the scrapping of afore-mentioned bus (ok, enough of the bus). Am i over it? As much as I’ll ever be i think, but there was always going to be a time of putting things back together and learning who I am as a result of all of it and that takes time.

What I do know though, is I’ve gone through a massive transformation this year. Physically given that I’m now 5st lighter (more if you count the weight of years of constant judgement and ridiculous ideals of a family so wrapped up in themselves it’s frightening) and mentally because I’ve had to constantly adapt my attitude to try and battle through and be a better person from all this, granted given what I’ve just said, it’s clear to see that’s still work in progress, although given the flack I’ve had to take, I feel I’ve earned one slip. In fact, that’s the bottom line right there. I am work in progress. I need to put up or shut up now, focus on leaning more on the positives. Yeh, it’s been crap but this “Boo hoo, why me” has to stop now. And to not see the “down days” as a negative but in fact see them, as weird as it may seem, as a positive step in the bigger picture. What’s that saying… “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain!”

Aaaaand breathe. To think as well, this blog started as a look back over my time in Azerbaijan and Tbilisi and what I learned from it. Perhaps that can be the next post.

The end is nigh…

The finish line is in sight. In eleven days I get to go back to “normal” and put my travelling lifestyle back in the cupboard for a little bit. In a month that has been incredibly difficult from a personal point of view, this brings me a lot of comfort. Some truly horrible things being passed around in relation to stuff that I was supposed to have done. Friends, or so I thought, disconnecting themselves from me both in a social media sense and also a physical sense by choosing to cast me away and ignore me when I’m around them and more worryingly, warning people to stay away from me like I’m some kind of criminal. Homesickness, belief in my own ability severely lacking, constant character knocks and questioning my “worth” or place within my circle of friends.. the list is quite an impressive one. But through all this, I think, I hope, that I have clung on to my dignity by keeping a respectful attitude throughout.

I had the pleasure of speaking to a close friend and mentor towards the end of last week. It was a call I’ve been putting off and finding excuses not to make if I’m honest. Not because I didn’t want to speak to that person, but because I knew that when I did, given the role this person has in my life, that it wouldn’t be superficial chat. Stuff was going to get straightened out. And that would mean complete honesty, because anything other than that and they would see right through it. Not that I would bend the truth or lie, it’s because opening up is something I struggle with of late. Yes, I’ve talked about what’s gone on, what I’m feeling, struggling with etc. But there comes a point where I shut the door again. And believe it or not there has only been a couple of people who have got passed that door because I’m apprehensive to open myself up too much in a time where I’m already smarting from a couple of big blows and the trickle of pot shots that are still being aimed at me on a regular basis.

It was nice though to be reminded of just how far I’ve come in terms of my attitude, my maturity and how i handle things. Even as recent as four years ago things would have probably have been a lot different if I was faced with the same challenging situation. And I cling to that for dear life. Even though it’s a horrible thing to hear that you are being accused, without any truth or substance, of some pretty awful things. To be shunned in the eyes of people you looked upon as friends but take no time to attempt to hear both sides of a story and to start to question your own self. Even with all that, I will not revert back to a previous way, even if it would be easier to lash out, scream, shout, open the closet and start through skeletons about just to make myself feel better. There comes a time you feel you should defend yourself, and that conversation and that reminder of the person I’ve grown into, that was my defence. Having that person or people to dust you down, stop you from turning back and giving you a kick up the bum to keep going, that is all the defence I need right now. Yes it saddens me to think people judge me without knowing the facts or taking five minutes out to try to find them out. But that’s life, it happens. I’m not the first person to find this out and I won’t be the last, and remembering that is the key. Otherwise you start to fester with a victim attitude.

Some days I get this nirvana like feeling where it feels like a “normal” day, like the dust has finally settled and the circus has moved on to someone else. If you’ve seen the Matrix, It’s a bit like the bit in the third Matrix where Neo and Trinity head to machine city. The machines are bombarding them, trying everything to take the ship down whilst Neo is fighting them off with his power, given that he is the chosen one. (I’m not in any way referencing myself as a chosen one).
Anyway eventually he tells Trinity who’s piloting the ship to go up, over them and although they struggle to get their ship up above the clouds, they eventually do. But just as they take the magnificence of that view, the glimpse of sunlight, they start falling back down and under the clouds once more. That’s a bit how i life i feel at the minute and I get angry that this “Sh*t cloud” is still hanging over my head and I can’t get away from it to move on in peace. In some cases it feels like I’m not allowed to, like people keep fanning the flames for their own benefit and pull me back in. I apologise in a way if I seem like I’m dwelling on this, that isn’t my intention. I want to be free of all this as much as the next person, but it seems there’s a bit more of this race to run yet.

I’m reading a book at the minute. (Yes I can read thank you). A book by Max Lucado called “You’ll get through this”. I was recommended it and even within that first page, I found motivation to keep going. It said this:

“You’ll get through this. It won’t be painless. It won’t be quick. But God will use this mess for good. In the meantime don’t be foolish or naive. but don’t despair either. With God’s help you will get through this“.  

I’ve been very lucky to have a great support network to get me through a tough time. Not just “churched people”, some of the best advice and guidance I’ve had over the last few months has been sat in the pub with people who couldn’t tell you the last time they saw a church hall. But it is worth mentioning that these past few months, time spent in quiet reflection, in personal prayer and through little messages from friends and family, reminders of bible verses keeping me focused and encouraged have been a huge factor in keeping my head out of the clouds and my feet on the ground. And in that one quote from the first page of that book, it just hit home that reminder.

I saw this video on Facebook last night, a friend posted it on their wall and I found myself completely gripped for the full three minutes or so it lasts. But something in particular jumped out at me:

“I can tell you from experience, the effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is. Because everything you gain will rot and fall apart and all that will be left of you will be what was in your heart”. 

I make mistakes, granted. I’m the first to admit that. Everyone does. It’s how you learn from them that matters. That doesn’t make me a bad person. I just hope that those, and I mean those because this isn’t aimed at one person in particular, sadly there are a few of them that have felt they were right to “disconnect” from me, in any sense, without having the courtesy to know both sides of the story and instead play judge and juror towards me, that they actually have a look at themselves and ask, who is the one that should be given a wide berth? You who are causing unnecessary gossip and poking at an open wound so to speak with your judgmental and shortsightedness from your Ivory tower. Or me a guy who’s trying to keep his head down and not draw too much attention to himself (even came half way round the flippin’ world to take myself away from the situation and I still get pelters without even being there), trying to be as honest and open as possible during what’s been a very difficult and confusing time and who wants, or at least to try, to move on and start rebuilding without the label of “bad person” round his neck.

Here’s that video:


“Trying to plan for the future without knowing the past is like trying to plant cut flowers.” – David Boorstin

Home. Where is home? It’s a question that has crossed my mind a lot lately. I’m not talking about your physical house, although if you don’t know where that is, that’s worrying. You see, I was born in Aberdeen but I grew up in the far north of Scotland in Caithness but because of the events of my childhood Thurso stopped being my home and the escapism that came with the idea of Aberdeen being my home was something that gave me a little release in a time of hardship. It because my promised land if you will. For years I would day-dream of moving to Aberdeen because then my problems would be solved. I would be home. It would all be ok then. And don’t get me wrong, I love Aberdeen. I still do. Some of my nearest and dearest are still there. But, and it took me a long time to realise it, it wasn’t home. I spent some time in Melbourne. Now if you’ve spoken to me for any longer than ten minutes, I will have no doubt at some point crowbarred into conversation about my time in Oz. I adore Melbourne. The place, the people, the sights, the smells. I love it, part of me has never left Melbourne and yes, for a long time I’ve played with the idea of emigrating there if I got the choice. Sadly that hope dwindles every passing year but also with that, the realisation that, like Aberdeen, Melbourne is not home. So it must be Romford right? Wrong. Essex is almost on par with Melbourne for me. I love the place, the sights, the smells, the people. It’s just a really cool place to be. However, as much as i am settled there, I want to set roots down there and plan to be there for many years to come, it’s not what fuels my soul.

So what does?

Caithness. Thurso.

For years, and i literally mean years, when i would think of Thurso I would think of it in a negative way. If i pictured it I would picture one man. But when the time came that I dealt with that one man and let go of that one man, I didn’t see Thurso in such a negative way. In fact I had this deep desire to go back. It was almost as if a homing beacon had been set of inside my mind and I needed to go back. And for the first time properly, I wanted to go back. And thanks to a very special wedding invite, I got my wish.

IMG_1612From the moment I accepted the invite I knew this was always going to be more than just going to a wedding for me. It was going to be a journey of huge sentiment. My therapist and I talked at length about my childhood, unsurprisingly, and we’d regularly talk about Thurso. She mentioned that if and when i got back up to Thurso it might be hugely beneficial to do something symbolic like write a letter and stick in a bottle to throw off a cliff, light a candle etc for a visual “letting go” of the past and getting back to remembering the good times there, of which there were many. From the second i got on the plane in Baku, i had this sense of magnetism come over me. That probably sounds strange, but it was like with every passing minute I could feel myself getting closer and closer. And the closer i got, the more philosophical and reminiscent I seemed to become. My close friend and travel buddy Suzanne can confirm this, I’m just grateful she has the patience of a saint and put up with my musings when in such a confined space otherwise it could have been a hell of a long walk. It only got worse the further north we got too. I lost count of the amount of times I said “Come on, isn’t that just the most stunning thing you’ve ever seen?” or “Go slow down, i need to get a picture of that!”. I must have about 150 pictures of the Highland landscape on my phone now.

When we eventually got to Thurso, there were no candles, there were no letters written. I knew exactly where I needed to be. It was late, I think around 10pm if i remember rightly, being that it’s so far north it was still fairly light. I dumped my bags in the hotel, listened for a couple of seconds to the terrible accordion act who was the turn for the night and went straight out. I was going to sit with an old friend.

Donald “Sarge” MacGregor. I’ve written about him countless times and about the influence he had on me growing up, and even now. Well when he died, a bench was built in memory of him on the beach front in Thurso and until that point, I hadn’t been to this bench since it was built. That’s where I needed to go, that’s where I wanted to go. He looked after me growing up so i couldn’t think of a more perfect place be now.

The time spent sitting with Donald was special. Made even more so that I shared it with Suzanne (who is Donalds granddaughter for those that don’t know). We sat and told stories. Some about Donald and his life, some from our childhood, some about life in general and some just completely random. There was also times of complete silence though where we just sat and listened to the sea whilst watching the sunset. Not awkward silence but i think the sense of just how special that place was took centre stage. The feeling that Donald was there was so tangible for me I almost expected to see him come along the path with Tobey (his dog) at his side. We laughed, I had a tear or two. It was perfect. The sense of peace and relief of years of built up negativity just draining from me that i felt in those moments though were bliss. There was literally nowhere else in the world at that time I wanted to be. This picture doesn’t do the view from the bench any justice:


 Next up, the wedding.

IMG_1643To get to the wedding it meant going even further north, to the Orkney Islands. I’ve been to Orkney a couple of times when i was younger but the last time was probably sixteen years ago. And given the events of the last few months, the business of work and all the travel, My time in Kirkwall was a much-needed escape from all that. The way of life there is much slower, you don’t get the same hustle and bustle as you do down south. And after a morning walk round the town I found the perfect place to just sit. And be. Nothing else. Just sit and absorb the view, the calmness and quietness. In case you haven’t noticed, I love being by the sea.

IMG_1663And the wedding itself. What a rollercoaster of emotions that was. Here i was, the first wedding since my own, for someone who i look upon as my wee sister, who i’ve known since she was literally sitting on the front of church doing colouring in and now she was up there getting married. But not just that, in that room was so many people from my childhood. Family, friends, new friends, One of my first girlfriends, a man who took our band at music school alongside Donald, people who looked after me in hard times, people who gave me a clip round the ear when i needed it and kept me on the right path. And that was not lost on me. Needless to say I cried of course. It seems to be fastly becoming the norm nowadays. It was just a special day. The day was beautiful, the bride was even more so, and I’ll not forget sharing in it for a very long time, in fact if ever.


What this trip reminded me of was that I’m extremely lucky to have grown up there. I kept saying to Suzanne just how much i didn’t appreciate it growing up. And that’s understandable. As a kid growing up you see all these unbelievable places on the TV and you dream of going and maybe start to not appreciate what’s around you. But going back to Thurso for the first time, properly, gave me a chance to appreciate it all over again. I got a chance to speak to old friends. I got a chance to thank people for what they did for me growing up, for what they taught me. I got to go to my sisters grave and spend time remembering her, filling her in on all the goss. And that was special. I got to sit with and enjoy the company of an old friend again. Maybe not physically, but it felt so much like he was sat there with us that it felt no less like he wasn’t there. And importnatly, I let go of that last little bit hurt I’d been holding onto all those years.

I was home.


Sweatbox of solitude…

“True silence is the rest of the mind, and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.” -William Penn

I’ve been in Azerbaijan now for 11 days. Azerbaijan. Even saying that still makes break out in a little grin. Growing up in Thurso all those years ago, the idea of going over the border to England was one of massive adventure. So to think that I’m sitting in a country that I had only heard about for the first time a few years ago is hugely satisfying. But being here has been emotionally stimulating in quite a few ways. And I’m not being rude and talking about the vast amount of beautiful women that Baku boasts.

I mentioned before how being here has allowed me the space and time to work through the emotional mess of the last few months. Space and time that has been priceless. Which is ironic because in Baku, the minute you walk outside the door, you have neither space or time because you’re either getting beeped at my taxi drivers touting for fares, people bumping into you walking to who knows where or traffic that seems hell-bent on trying to kill you. But even with all that, Baku has become my fortress of Solitude. Although it seems the opposite of Superman. I’ve left the relative quietness of Essex to come to a place surrounded by car horns, hot temperatures and madness. It’s perfect.

Journeying through and patching up my mind is dangerous at the best of times, but doing on it off the back of a massive emotional body blow has even more potential for danger. These last eleven days, I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve had harsh realisations, I’ve got angry, I’ve thought I cracked it and I’ve realised shortly after I didn’t crack it. I’ve asked questions, I’ve even received some answers to those questions. But there are still some that need answered. I fear though, I may never get those answers. Yet even with all these unresolved hurts, scars and questions still circling around, in this sweatbox of solitude, I have had times where I have felt at peace for the first time in a while but more importantly, I’ve started to get a sense of acceptance which I’m grateful for.

I saw this on twitter this week:


This is my baseline. From now, this is my baseline. That’s not to say that I will ignore the counsel and guidance from those closest to me. It goes without saying that I will continue to cherish that and need that because this isn’t a quick fix, there is still a big ladder left to climb. But instead, I will draw to a close the time I’ve let myself worry about what the minute few that have seemed to enjoy my misery the last wee while or people who have decided, for what ever reason, to give me the cold shoulder. They know who they are I’m sure. I only hope they also realise that they have made an already crappy situation even harder to deal with. On both sides I’m sure. And that they don’t do it to anyone else. Yes there have been times I’ve wished misery on them in the hope it would give me the satisfaction to move on from their judgement, their ridicule, that’s only natural. But my time here has given the chance to see that it’s time now for me to get back to that platform of positivity I was on briefly before. Worrying about other things, more important things. Like when i get up in the morning and get ready for work, do i swoosh my hair to the left or the right? Will I ever realise my dream of being a professional snooker player? If I really did have to choose between Daddy or Chips, would Daddy understand if i did choose chips? Or more serious things like giving back to the people who have invested so much time and emotions into me by being there for them when/if they need me.

One last thing that jumped out at me today whilst pumping up a storm in the gym. A lyric from a guy called Raleigh Ritchie;

“I fall but when I rise I’ll be stronger than ever”

Well here’s to getting my first step back up and having my focus realigned…