Letter number 14: Unfucking myself

Dear Alexandra,

I’ve felt a little better this evening, I was struggling this afternoon, lapsing into negativity. I made a point of spending time at home rather than escaping, I wanted to spend some time with Sonic which felt important, we had lots of fun. He’s not reacted dramatically to the loss of beard which is good, although he did take a chunk out my face earlier, haha, silly bird. He joined me for song recording earlier too and made loads of noise in the background, it doesn’t really come through in the sound though, which is a shame!

A surprise message from K. who I worked with in my last job was a welcome and unexpected distraction, she’s had a similar experience to me — probably worse really as hers involved someone living with her. At least I’ve been spared that, attempting to cohabit / sell a house was bad enough the last time around for me and that was a fairly amicable split without the horrific fall out we’ve experienced. It was lovely to hear from her — maybe sharing our respective woes might help reassure each other we’re not going mad!

It was prompted by the song, she commented on it and in a reply made the fatal error of asking if I was okay. I’ve tried to make a conscious point of not just doing the blokeish/British thing of just saying “Yeah fine thanks, you?” and actually saying that I’m not. I wasn’t melodramatic, but just said that things aren’t great but I’ll get through it. It feels uncomfortable, but kind of liberating too. That drove the messaging, which was lovely of her. Saying that ‘talking about it helps’ is a bit of a cliche but it really is true.

N. has been planning a programme for friends to spend 30 days to ‘unfuck themselves’ — she always had a direct way with words. It’s actually 7 relatively simple, on the face of it, steps you commit to each day, and be mindful of it, and record it. I’m going to go for it — some of it relates to eating healthily, hydrating, exercising, getting outside — so I’m ahead of the curve on a lot of that as, recent appetite problems notwithstanding, I’ve been doing these things for months anyway.

In the spirit of it starting tomorrow I popped to the Asda garage this evening and pigged out on snacks, a kind of ‘last supper’ moment. Whilst it was enjoyable I must admit it made me feel a bit sick — but well, it was as much symbolic as anything. N. set up a video chat this evening to kickstart everything, naturally we descended quickly into talking nonsense and abusing video filters to make each other laugh, but we shared some hopes and ambitions and anticipated struggles too, it worked really well.

Human contact you see, even over a video screen. It helps. I wonder why that’s why you’re so inexorably drawn to this virtual world you’re immersed in. Despite all that’s happened, societally in general and particularly during lockdown there’s an awful lot of things driving us to lose sight of what’s important — that’s what this 30 day challenge is about. Because after 21 days, according to NLP theory, you should embed new habits, we should be able to naturalise these ways of being a more mindful by the end of the 30 days. Then maybe we can identify further improvements or increment it.

It certainly can’t do any harm, I don’t think. I feel very positive about it — it’s nice to have a supportive group of people, some of them we know, some we don’t — I’m being careful to keep my guard up a little depending on who is present in the calls. N. and S. in the group know a little more than most about our situation, other people we both know don’t, and whilst they’re dear friends who I trust, I don’t feel comfortable sharing too much with them, so I won’t.

There’s one complication that C. has joined, I’ve established that from comments — I have her blocked on Facebook after the dishonesty I experienced with her and D. back in the day. That means she can’t see my posts or comments, even in the group, and vice versa — but it does mean presumably that if she joins a video chat I’m in that we’ll see and hear each other. I had that experience when group video chats were the vogue earlier in lockdown. They seem to have died off now, or I don’t get invited to them!

I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. There’s plenty to discuss and share without going into specifics, it was so nice to just chat nonsense tonight. A. was there, she always seems so troubled, I. and L. were both there, so happily coupled up yet clearly feeling at odds with something — it was awesome to just be silly with them both. Whilst it was just N. and S. on the call with me we did have a little more ‘deep and meaningful’ chats, not to any great depth — more discussing progress, high level feelings, that kind of thing.

I’ve made myself a slide deck in PowerPoint to log progress each day — I can’t quite seem to break that habit of making it into a process and draw on the kind of things I do at work, haha! I’ve offered to share the template with the group in case anyone else is weird like me. If I tried to do it on bits of paper or a notepad I know I wouldn’t do it, and/or I’d lose bits. I’ve been terrible for that lately — I’ve fallen into the habit of using bits of paper when working rather than a notepad and I’m constantly losing stuff.

I keep considering getting a digital notepad to try to help me get organised, I thought about an iPad (having not long given my old one to my nephew, ha!), but I had that option before and never really used it. I get regular Facebook adverts for a digital notepad more designed for note taking, so it feels like writing on paper and doesn’t have the inbuilt distractions an iPad has. They’re over £400 though, and despite the great reviews I just can’t quite bring myself to spend that much. Maybe I’ll decide to at some point, I’m not sure. I know what I’m like for getting drawn to gadgets and the novelty quickly wearing off!

Despite an afternoon and evening being ‘stuck’ at home I’ve succeeded in not letting Sherlock Bert get dominant. I’ve stuck to my guns, I’ve not Twitter stalked, I’ve not looked to see if you’ve been online on Messenger, imagining that virtual connection between us when it says you’re online, just a few taps and I could bring me to your mind. I’ve resisted it all. It’s been nearly 60 hours since you last texted, aside from the occasional ‘incidents’ we’ve had over the years that’s an unfeasibly long time for us to not be in touch.

And it doesn’t feel that bad. Logical Bert is starting to cut through — whilst of course even in a relationship you always have a right to your own space and time, now we aren’t in one you have no obligation at all to be keeping in touch, to tell me anything going on in your life. Of course I still wonder, I still care, I still worry — but I know I have to readjust to our new situation and let go of those compulsions. And whilst I do think I deserve some kind of explanation and resolution, I know you well enough to know that I’m never likely to get one. I’ve drawn enough dots myself to have a credible timeline and explanation, that will have to do.

I know that more lowest-of-the-low days are bound to come, today has been like that at times, but I’m optimistic that I’m functioning well enough, and that I’m finding ways to ease the pressure on my mind. I’m starting to realise using initials is going to become awkward over time as I’ll duplicate, but well, I know who I’m talking about and that’s really all that matters for the purposes of these pages I think!

Whilst I’ve consciously tried to retire Sherlock Bert I do hope you’re okay. He is waiting in the wings, itching to get his magnifying glass out so find out, and it would be all too easy to I fear, but I’m going to try to keep him at arms length. I do worry about you and how you’re coping, whether you are actually recognising potentially damaging habits you’ve formed — or maybe I’ve got it all wrong, and this will lead you to happiness. Who knows?

I can worry, I can care, but I also need to realise my priority right now should be myself. Oof, that feels uncomfortable to write, and it’s not really any of my business any more on how you’re getting through this. As A. said in her email, subconsciously or otherwise you’ve been mentally preparing for this for longer than me, you’re further down the road which is probably why you seem unfeeling or callous to me. I just hope you’ve found the right road.

I love you, Bert

An attempt to process a messy ending to a relationship against a backdrop of Covid-19, insidious online communities and the associated fall-out of all that!