I’m single…no dates please.

I have been single for well over three years now.  As much as it has been a good chapter of self-discovery and an opportunity to recuperate from the damage of my divorce and the ongoing draining battle for access to my girls, there have been many times when I’ve craved intimacy, companionship and togetherness.  Particularly since cancer came uninvited into my life.

At times I have loved the freedom and have revelled in my own space, I’ve been selfish with the time spent with my girls, and have even been accused of being reclusive – a title I cannot avoid owning.

But fighting for survival over the past two years completely on my own has been brutal in so many ways, and looking back now I realise just how much I desperately needed that special person over that period. It has left its own deep scars.

The harsh reality though, is that I was not in any shape to be in a relationship. For a lot of that time I was still clinging to a past relationship. Convinced that somehow, she would be back, the woman I still adored and longed to share my life with. That she couldn’t be the person I needed her to be especially after contracting cancer hurt in ways that are hard to describe.

However, it had been a toxic and emotionally abusive relationship, and perhaps you can relate, those are by far the hardest to let go of and close the door on. Regardless of the fact that intellectually you are well aware that it’s the healthy and wise choice.

Her ongoing rejection particularly in the light of a terminal prognosis left me questioning the belief that I could actually be loved as I am.

The timing could unfortunately not have been worse. Cancer robbed me of so much confidence, it rocked me to my core and stripped away much of my self-worth, it seized all of my energy, and at times plunged me into deep consuming depression.

Childhood traumas played themselves out in this narrative too, deep seated fears about being loved, accepted, and understood. I worked extremely hard to peel back the layers and expose those fears, to deal with them and heal. It’s a long and painful process, notwithstanding the additional trauma of trying to survive brain cancer.

A couple of truly remarkable women entered my life over that time, but I was hamstrung by my own self-destructive insecurities, the deep relationship hurt and damage I had yet to heal from, and the effects of the cancer combined with its debilitating treatment.

I was no good to anyone, and if anything, I was more likely to hurt somebody else.

And so, I retracted, closing myself off every time anybody got close. It hurt though, because I wished it could be different. It made me feel that I was incapable of finding love and that special person.  I tried to be as vulnerable, authentic and honest as I could be, attempting to protect both myself and anybody who got close.

 

It’s nigh impossible to truly give when you’re protecting yourself at the same time.  The outcome is also almost always going to leave you a little more broken than before.

 

A number of months back I finally managed to free myself emotionally from the past, and felt for the first time in ages a beautiful sense of new energy. Letting go of something that had plagued me and negatively consumed so much of my emotional and mental energy was a tangible release.

The fact that I still had a Glioblastoma in my brain remained a worry. How could a woman reconcile a massive health risk and a damaged man with the risk of love?

I didn’t, and still don’t ever want to be somebodies rescue project. I don’t want pity, and I certainly don’t want somebody to attempt to heal me.

Yet I now find myself trapped. I am cancer free and I don’t subscribe to the supposedly high chance of it returning. Intellectually I finally think I might be ready, I comprehend all of the dynamics, and I have evolved enough to understand the pathology of my previous choice of partners. I have owned my substantial part in the demise of each long-term relationship. I have grown a massive amount.

But the more I consider not being single, the more I realise that the damage from my battle with cancer runs far deeper than I ever thought.  Emotionally and spiritually I am still in tatters. I feel like a negative drain on those close to me, and am extremely intense. Light and carefree are concepts that have become foreign, and I have less internal confidence than ever before. I have retracted in certain ways that lead me to feel that I can never come back.

I feel as though I am living in a vacuum in certain aspects of my life. I cannot be the person I was before the cancer, and yet I do not know who I am now. How is it then possible to give of myself to another person…what am I giving? Who am I giving?

A fresh journey of self-rediscovery should be one taken alone I’m sure.  But the uncertainty of self leaves me feeling so terribly vulnerable and exposed. Hyper sensitive to how people perceive the post cancer Richard. Questioning whether people can see how fragile I am, in so many facets a shadow of what I was before.

I cannot pretend to be anything I am not. Cancer has taught me that there is little point in any pretence. The façade is so easily stripped away, and the world as you knew it turned irrevocably upside-down, revealing true character.

Yet that character is sometimes foreign. It will be a while before I regain confidence in who I am, I’m learning a new language of self.

I survived cancer once, only to have another cancer return, and having survived again its practically impossible to live without a fear of the future. I try to live my life in the present, living each day as if it could be my last with an intimate knowledge of what the value of life is. My greatest concern is for my girls, and therefore they get every bit of energy and commitment I can give.

Happiness is a state of mind, and not a destination nor possession … I know what makes me truly happy.

I have learned that my responsibility is not to make someone else happy, we each own that responsibility for ourselves, But I don’t want to disappoint someone else, and I know that right now I am going to disappoint a prospective partner over and over again.  I’m just not ready.

My eldest daughter Mackinnon spent some time over the December holidays compiling an interview questionnaire for prospective dates for her dad. And this fun and innocent endeavour actually forced me to confront my current reality, hence this blog.

I don’t believe that I am good for anyone, nor do I have what it takes to make somebody feel loved and wanted. I am insecure and broken, and unable to truly give. I am defensive, and have so many walls.  I am just not relationship material right now…no matter how much I crave that special person.

And that’s ok. It has to be ok. And besides, I have two loves of my life I am lucky enough to share my world with.

I know that I need to heal myself, I need time, I need to figure out how to love myself, with all the damage, with all the brokenness. How to accept who I have become, to be gentle with me. Until that time I will continue to fall into the trap of protective insecurity, and I will land up hurting somebody else.

I know what that feels like as it happened to me, and nobody deserves that.

There is a part of me that feels that I might need to be single for a very long time yet.  Maybe that’s just what my journey is, and maybe I will never again find that love. I don’t know, but for now I’ve removed ‘single’ from my status, and I’m not open to dating.

And that’s a good thing.

My wedding band.

I can still feel it, where it was.  I want to fiddle with it absentmindedly, turning it around my finger with my thumb. I hold a mug or a glass and want to tap against it, a subliminal reminder that it is there.

I wore it with such pride, such love, for everything it represented. 

I woke at 02:47 that morning to the sound of armed men breaking into my home. 

The low, antagonistic, guttural tone, “the ring…give it to me.” The hostile eyes looking at me through a dark grey balaclava, the gun trained on my head. The place on my head where the barrel of the same gun had pushed my head into the mattress for an interminable time still throbbed. The terror that accompanied that act of aggression forcing me into submission.

I slipped the worn and battered, white gold symbol off the pinkie finger on my right hand, for the first time in many years. As I held it out I felt a great sense of loss and defeat. I was told to toss it on the bed.

Of course, it wasn’t the first time it was removed. I took it off after three long, hard years of fighting to save a marriage that had died five years before that day. A sad mismatch. Two people who shared many precious memories – but as many moments of hurt, disappointment and miscommunication.

The day I removed that ring remains one of the saddest days of my life. Everything I never wanted.

Two moments in time, seven years apart, both emotional troughs in the sea of life.

After my divorce, I had my wedding band resized to fit the furthest finger from my wedding finger. I had read a quote whilst grappling with the idea of divorce. “despite all thoughts to the contrary, our marriage is not a failure, we have three beautiful children to show for it.”

I wanted to remember all the good about our marriage. The love, the conscious decisions to have each of our girls.  I have always wanted our girls to know that they were borne out of love, that they were wanted, how precious they are…how hard it was to conceive. The two fetuses lost in-between our beautiful little souls. How badly we wanted them, and how important they are to us.

I wanted them to see a symbol, never removed, that represented them. No matter what followed; their parents who could not make a marriage work, but who both love them more than anything!

I have had to fight for every bit of access I have to them. Even though the divorce order stipulates that we are equal parents. They have been their mother’s collateral and her leverage. 

That ring was my struggle for my girls. A determined tenacity in me that divorce would not dictate the story of their lives, but merely a chapter. A fight for their right to a father who loves them beyond all else.

Bailey played with it often, turning it around my finger. Knowing that it was a direct link to my heart, and my love for her. Mackinnon noticed immediately on the one occasion I took if off because I was carrying heavy concrete wall panels that were scratching it.

They both knew exactly what it meant to me and to them. How significant it was to me.

It remains the one thing that I cannot possibly replace.

I have endured so much loss over the past decade. My wedding ring… the one thing I valued above all else… gone. Added to a very long list.

But then I consider that a symbol means a lot less than making sure that my girls always know how loved they are by their dad. Unconditionally and unreservedly, exactly as they are. That they know that they are perfect, and that most importantly…they don’t need to do nor be anything to be loved…

They are my everything.

difference

I went to watch Blue Man Group this week and thought that it was absolutely bloody brilliant. An explosion of the senses. It was a smart, funny, and wildly entertaining show combining various genres of music and art.

A friend of mine went last night and walked out after only 20 minutes…

Paraphrased, ‘It was noise and banging and not funny at all.’

There was a conversation I had this week with another friend. ‘Does prayer work if the person you are praying for doesn’t believe what you do?’

My friends and I share many common interests and compatible perceptions. We can engage on different levels. Yet, we vastly disagree on certain things.

Has this created a wedge in our friendship? Has difference created an elephant? Something that we cannot ever talk about?

On the contrary. I’d rather engage with somebody who has differing views than those who all think the same way and like the same things. Yes, of course the commonality is fabulous and fun, and sharing is caring after all.

But my thinking will never be challenged if I remain within the confines of my tribe. I cannot broaden my view on various interests and topics. I will struggle to grow and evolve into the person I wish to become. The Richard in five years from now.

I am the first to admit that I can be sensitive at times when some of my ideologies are tested and challenged, defensive even. It isn’t something that I’m proud of.  I grew up needing to be right, the undesirable product of deep seated insecurities.

It made me critical, judgmental, and focused on the offensive. It made me dogmatic and stubborn.

For a number of years, I have been consciously working at changing that, expanding my interactions to include those who differ vastly from me on pretty much everything, and have been trying hard to listen more. It is a process.

Additionally, I have made many big mistakes over the past ten years that have exposed weaknesses within. Facing the ramifications of these mistakes has forced me to deal with the concept of being human, fallible, and downright flawed. A wonderful foundation upon which to explore and build a new sense of self…

One that accepts, celebrates, and marvels at differences.

Seek out those who are different to you, for they will become your teacher if only you will let them.

Proviso; if you ask to be challenged or convinced around an idea or concept, but remain dogmatic, it doesn’t count.

This is my worst quality, but one of my best too… 

​My worst quality and greatest fault…I am…intense. Positioned on my tattooed right forearm, next to ‘grateful’ and ‘fallible’…and the word my eight year old daughter chose and wrote for me – But more about that in another post. 

‘Intense’ is awful, it means that it’s easy to live in your head. 

It means that you over analyse, you’re hyper sensitive, and that you see things many others don’t.  It means you are often too self aware, too self critical, and too intuitively conscious of other people. It means that you feel deeply, experience fully, and are prone to anxiety. 

You’re incredibly hard on yourself. 

You think too deeply when others see things and situations at face value. It means that you often have unrealistic expectations of others. 

Intense means that you don’t laugh at yourself enough, because you’re too busy berating your own faults. 

It means that criticism from others is a very tough thing to internalize. 

BUT….intense is also one of my greatest attributes…paradoxically for many of the reasons stated above, and for other reasons too… it means that I can understand others, feel and relate to their emotions. 

It means that I am a deep thinker and question life, I’m creative, that I can write, and paint, and express. 

It means that I can understand and speak of deep and vulnerable things that others can relate to but that not everyone can speak about to their closest circle, let alone to strangers.

It means that I am both my own worst enemy and my own best friend all rolled up into one. 

It is something my friends admire and love about me, but at the same time frequently despair about me. 

Some days I hate the gift…some days I am extremely grateful for the gift.

It is part of my human condition. It is a quality I need to temper and control so that it doesn’t control me. I know that as I continue to develop my sense of self worth I will feel the negative impacts less, as much of the behaviour lies in deep personal insecurities. 

It’s a constant and very real struggle, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

It is who I am. 

Stepping into a new awareness.

​It is part of the human condition that when we are deeply hurt by another person we intrinsically look inwards to find reason within ourselves. We try to take responsibility and in so doing somehow validate the other person’s actions and ease the pain of that betrayal. 

Based on who we are, we have expectations of the other person that they will treat us the way we treat them. 

But actually we can never take responsibility for somebody else’s hurtful and self motivated behaviour. It is hard to understand that other people are not like us. And that they might cognitively do things to cause pain.  
Most often that is their own pain and unhappiness coming out in actions. 

It is inexcusable and something we can never say that we deserved. But perhaps we allowed it to happen… 

Like many people I have experienced relationships that have become toxic. I have been hurt badly and have looked inward owning it all, thinking that I was somehow to blame. That if I could just change enough and become enough I could be loved in return. 

In a relationship within which you’re told that you are loved, whilst the person consciously withholds love, there is an automatic tendency to assume that you’re not good enough. It is a common pattern particularly in people with a low self esteem. It is a dangerous cycle and one that is difficult to escape.

I ended up depleted emotionally, mentally and spiritually… and was blamed for my own pain. 

I wasn’t a victim. I had a choice. That’s the most important realization… choice. 

I chose to stay where I was. I cannot blame anybody but myself for the hurt that ensued. I was to blame for that.  

It takes two. I had to consent to another person breaking parts of me.

I desperately craved for that person to see what she was doing, take responsibility and change towards me. And so I held onto that idea. My own self destructive behaviour.  

I’ve been working hard at the issues within myself that would allow me to give my power to somebody who hurts me continuously. 

Deep wounds stemming back to childhood.  

Of course I own responsibility for my part in the narrative.  Intellectually I knew it all along. What was lacking within. It was healing I needed. My own brokenness. 

Cancer forced me to confront so much with myself. My self worth, value, the indomitable spirit within and how it relates to my relationships with the people I allow within an intimate distance. 

Realising that time is precious, and that I deserve better. 

I have changed so much and grown. I still have hurts, and will for some time. But I have made huge ground over time and most importantly have identified the patterns I have to avoid. When you refuse to face the circumstances that present the lesson to you, you will continue to suffer the pattern. It was my own fault. 

The only thing that can change….is you. 

Growth hurts. A lot. 

Lessons taken from pain are the scars we carry that make up the rich tapestry of the human condition.  

Each of us is worthy to be loved exactly as we are…in all our fallibility, and strength, our weakness and our authenticity.  

Never ever settle for less. What you allow…will continue. 

Let 2017 be a year of change within you first and foremost.  Change starts with…you! 

On giving and receiving.

I love spoiling people, but don’t ask me what I would like for xmas…

I have a problem asking for help, but yet I’m so good at giving it…

Receiving is genuinely hard for me, even allowing somebody to make me a cup of coffee and bring it to me in bed is hard. That’s my job, and you’ll get your favourite beverage, in your favourite mug, made just the way you like it.  Every single morning.

I know the root of the problem, it exists in the ego. A deep insecurity, actually a fear, and somehow having to ask for help makes me feel insecure about myself. Giving empowers me and makes me feel fabulous inside.

My occupation allows me to pour myself out and give everything of me, a big reason I love what I do so much. I arrive home exhausted and depleted, but deeply happy.

On April the 15th this year I took an Uber to go for a lumbar puncture, and after discovering that my tumor was in fact a carcinoma, I was immediately admitted to hospital for a brain operation. I took an Uber home too, despite offers of help.

It was an extremely traumatic time for me.

The closest people to me were angry and horrified.  Deeply disappointed that I had robbed them of an opportunity to love me. That’s just one example of what I did at that time, determined that I wasn’t going to put anybody out.

In my defense, as a single person, one learns to be independent, but perhaps there is a limit.

My mother has always called me fiercely independent. Somehow, I have loved that term.

At times during the subsequent recovery, and the seven weeks and 35 sessions of radiation, close friends delivered things to my house by contacting my housekeeper on the days she was at home. It was the only way that they could give me what they wanted to.

I didn’t want to feel pathetic, a victim, needy, or worse…dependant.  I don’t believe that anybody fighting cancer does.

I went to every session and appointment alone, despite the many offers of help.

I was showered with love and support, care, concern and more food than I could possibly eat. I was sent supplements and health products from somebody I hardly know.

Eight months later, and I have learnt some good lessons. Due to a very recent armed robbery wherein I lost a massive number of my belongings, and having made a call in May, between household insurance or paying off medical debts, I chose the debt.

It was a good call at that time when the prognosis was negative. There was an urgency to settle affairs.

But it left me financially unable to replace clothes, shoes, and even some basic belongings necessary to go to work. I lost so much, and am still discovering things that are gone. In the photo above, every single item I had on me besides the waistcoat was stolen.

Without my knowledge a special friend rallied support from another friend and together they started a crowdfunding project. I was perplexed to discover this splashed all over social media, it was incredibly hard to read the kind words and the plea for help. To sit back and allow this to unfold.

And worse still….it was shared over and over again. In the face of colleagues, family, distant friends, and people I have never met.

My colleagues started initiatives of their own, even sharing my bank account details obtained from the HR department..

I have been the recipient of an outpouring of love and giving I could never have imagined possible. It has been quite staggering. I’ve had to deal with my ego, put my pride in my pocket, and handle the fear of facing the people who have reached out in so many remarkable ways.

“how can I now stand in front of these people and deliver, inspire and motivate. Teach, and impart knowledge?”

I asked myself that question over and over.  It seemed deeply uncomfortable to me.

But yet I have discovered that it isn’t at all.  In my vulnerability I realise I have merely become more human.

Many many of the beautiful people whom have reached out have said how fortunate they feel to be able to give something back to me.  How grateful they are to have been enriched by me at some point.

And then I realised how selfish I have been at times to prohibit people from experiencing the delightful feeling that giving brings. That feeling that I adore, the one that motivates me to do what I do.

I am so humbled, and so hugely grateful to each and every person who has given in any way to me over the past eight months. From the messages, the calls, the visits and the gifts…to the amazing help I have received.

Thank you for teaching me to receive, and thank you for all that you’ve given to me!

From Richard the receiver… xxx