46. Melancholy

This morning I’m feeling sad… melancholy is the word that I have in mind. There is no real specific cause for me feeling like this today, its just kind of an everything thing. Sometimes that happens.

I’m sitting at the beach… it is overcast, drizzly, cold…the waves are wild and the sand is largely eroded. There are not a lot of people here this morning. The weather matches my mood perfectly or maybe my mood is matching the weather – either way it’s not a nice feeling.

I’m pondering my loneliness… I hate it! I try and fill the void as much as I can, but there is no real escape from it. I am on my own and I don’t want to be. I miss the life I should be living; and while there are some nice bits in it, I don’t much like most of my life now. Some days I don’t recognise the person looking back at me in the mirror. This is not how it was supposed to be!

Right now the grief bubble is big. Some days are like that and there is no way to predict when they will come. I have to feel it and let it engulf me for a little while, otherwise it takes over and I don’t want it to do that. I’m not sure if the full moon is playing into this mood, it’s a big one and it often does. I also have some friends who are going through hard stuff at the moment and I know that’s part of this too.

I know I’ll be fine… I usually am, but just for now, for a little while I’m letting myself wallow. I won’t stay here too long, I really don’t like it, but part of the process (I’ve been told) is to ride the big waves when they come.

This is one of those posts that feels incredibly self-indulgent… this whole blog is a whole lot of that more often than not! But I look at it as a cheap therapy. It gets the weird shit out of my head and hopefully I can let most of it go that way. It’s not meant to be a ‘poor me’ kind of thing, it’s just my reality.

Anyway, I’m heading back to the car, and back into my world. Hopefully the weather and my mood both improve a whole lot and soon! Thanks for letting me indulge with my word vomit. I’m ok, tomorrow I’ll be better x

45. Camp Widow

So last weekend I went to Camp Widow. It was something that took me way outside of my comfort zone, but like most other things that I have done that have been outside my comfort zone, I am really glad I pushed past my anxieties and went! Its a weird thing to talk about – a conference for Widowed people, and it was hard to explain what it would be like before I went. I had one person suggest it would be like some kind of orgy – It was definitely not that!

Essentially Camp Widow was a 2 1/2 day conference, held in the city, for widowed people. It is run by a support group that is based on a similar program in America. It was as you would expect, heavily female dominated – I think out of the 200 people there only about 6 were men. People came from all over including all parts of Australia, New Zealand (1), the UK (1) and the USA (4). We shared drinks, meals, classes and all sorts of conversation about all sorts of things – but predominantly death and grief, our process and our people. It was a super positive experience and I am so glad I pushed myself to go. It was insanely emotional – both my own emotions and those of the other people there, and with all that emotion came extreme exhaustion (I was in bed and asleep by 6pm Sunday night); but it really felt like I was not alone in my journey.

In my friendship groups, at least those friends from “before”, I am the first one to find myself in this situation of being Widowed (Have I mentioned how much I hate that word?! ….. I really HATE that word!) I often feel like I am being watched and judged and used like some kind of case study -I also know that some of this is me being hypersensitive; and I know that would probably do the same if it was a friend in this place. I get that people imagine what it would be like and how they would feel and process it all – I have done the same thing about/to friends going through a separation or divorce; but when it is you that everyone is watching, it can all be a bit much sometimes.

At the conference, I was just me. I was not anything special, just one in the crowd of many… and in so many ways it was almost a relief! My story was not the most awful – in fact I keep coming back to how lucky I’ve been. Some of the stories told were just so, so hard to hear – and while my/our story is horrible and devastating for us, there are so many things that would be so much worse to live with and harder to accept. It feels really bad to say that and I know you absolutely shouldn’t compare grief, but it is a human thing to do it and it made me feel somehow better (and I know again that is not the right word!).

In some ways I feel like I am light years ahead of some of the people there with things I have done and the emotional processes that I have gone through, and in so many others I am still right at the beginning. What I have realised – and I do try to tell myself all the time, but sometimes forget – is that it is all Ok. I can only do what feels possible and right on any given day. There is no magic potion that will make me feel better, and wake me up form this nightmare. All I can do is take one day at a time – sometimes an hour at a time, and everyone around me just has to suck that up too. There is no right or wrong, it just “is what it is”, and while I am alone on my journey, I am not alone grieving. I have a community of both old and new people around me that love and support me, and I am lucky and grateful to have you all in my world.

44. Happy Birthday!?

This week marks another birthday for Claytie that he is not here for. He would be 49 years old, and we should be joking about his age and thinking about planning his 50th! He should be unwrapping a bunch of prezzies and complaining about my money spending – but secretly loving being the centre of attention. There might even be a weekend away or certainly dinner out. Instead its kind of just another day, and I guess that is how it is now.

We have a few other important people, family members with birthdays around this one, and they are hard too. I find it really difficult to celebrate them because they fall in this space and I can’t help but feel how unfair it is that Claytie doesn’t get to have his. I feel bad that I can’t get excited for them, and I’m hoping that changes as time passes, for now tho it is still really raw and challenging. I dont begrudge them their day, I just wish Claytie was here for his!

My week has been OK – my sleep has been more messed up than usual, but that is my anxiety leading up to an important-for-me-date. I’ve been up three or four times most nights and my sleep app (Calm – their sleep stories are my go to) has been getting a work out! I suspect that’s just how those times around anniversaries will be for me from now on. Even acknowledging that, which usually helps, doesn’t seem to change it anymore.

In much happier news, We’ve had a baby update in the form of the 20 week morphology scan, which showed that baby is doing very well and all fingers, toes and other important pieces are accounted for! I’m very excited and super looking forward to being Granny, and have been showing off the scan pictures that I have to anyone who even shows the slighted bit of interest… want to see?!

I have also had a couple of lovely catch ups this week, one with a new friend for a coffee, which was really nice and the other with old friends and their new baby. It was fabulous spending the morning with them (Clayties favourite work colleagues) and remembering good times but missing Claytie. I loved getting a baby-fix… there’s nothing better, and he is gorgeous! Claytie would have loved the catch up and he would have adored the baby! He would have spent the whole time trying to make him smile. I managed to get a beach fix in that day as well and it was, as always a beautiful way to start the day!

My weekend this week will be spent at Camp Widow… a conference for 200 widowed people. We will listen to all sorts of talks and do workshops around dealing with grief. I’m not entirely sure what to expect from it, but have been told by some of last years attendees how worthwhile it was for them. I figure it can’t hurt, and I’ve certainly done worse things on a weekend – thinking of you Monty Burns! (See previous posts if you’re not sure of the reference!)

Happy Birthday Claytie! I love you xx

43. Back to normal (ish)

Well this week certainly brought me back down to earth with a bump! The holiday is over and it is back to work for me… and not to a shift that I like!

For the last 4 1/2 years I have worked an early shift which has been great! I wake up super early anyway and this way Ive been able to finish around 3-3.30 and still have plenty of time in the afternoon to do fun things! Not so anymore now that my position has rotated – my hours are now 9.30-5.30! Thanks to all the sick leave at work at the moment tho, I’ve only done one day of the new roster and have been back in my original spot for most of the week!

The new position (same team, just learning a new role) is fun and I think I’m really going to like it! I’m mixing with a whole bunch of different people – and one step closer to the gory medical stuff that I like, I just have to adjust my German OCD and roll with it! It also means I need to be a little bit more organised with household chores and dinner! There is no way I’m going to want to be washing clothes or cooking when I get home at 6-6.30 depending on traffic! So batch cooking here we come! The boys will also need to help … a learning curve for all of us! Thank goodness I still have my mid week day off as well! – what a first world problem to have! Haha… I am gainfully employed in a job that I like and I’m still whinging! Apparently that’s just me tho!

Something I was looking forward to and excited about this week was the advertised return to Karaoke at my local pub. They have been closed for the last month and a half or so to complete a renovation. I’ve missed going and seeing ‘my people’, but have found an alternative not too far away. It’s a very, very different set up and clientele – a much older and less affluent demographic, and while it’s been fun and they were very welcoming, I like my crew better! It’s seems tho that we’re still another week off which is a huge shame! A small group of us did end up at another venue on Saturday night tho – just to get a fix!

The other thing that I have done this week, and very much a first for me, is to sell a car – I still have one to go, but the first one is done! Since Claytie died, three of my boys have bought new cars, and we did a bit of a shuffle around. We still have Clayties car as well – currently being driven by the one son who has not bought a new car; and the deal is that if we can sell the two ‘spare’ cars, we keep Clayties car which has kind of been a big thing for the boys. Anyway, the car in question was listed on Facebook one day, and sold without any kind of hassle the next! Hopefully it is all been done the right way and I have one less thing to worry about!

Next week is another big week for us – it is Clayties birthday. I have another couple of days off work- it’s hard being around people on these big dates, not knowing how I am going to feel. I have got some stuff planned – Camp Widow is being run in Brisbane, and I heard a lot of good things about last years camp and thought I would go and see what it’s like. It is meant to be kind of a networking thing and they have a lot of guest speakers who are also all widowed. There will be a bunch of talks and some hands on workshops which will be interesting. I am also very much looking forward to catching up (hopefully) with a couple of Clayties very favourite work friends and meeting their new baby!

It’s a weird feeling planning stuff and looking forward to things knowing Claytie isn’t here. I know thats life and ‘it is what it is’, but every so often it really hits you just how wrong it feels! There isn’t anything to do but acknowledge those feelings when they come and then keep going, but so far that has not become easier at all. I guess it’s all just part of my process, so on with the big girl pants and keep marching x

42. 2 Years

Clayton Thomas James

This week – today the 20th July 2022 marks 2 years without my Bubby, my Claytie! It has passed in the blink of an eye and it has been an eternity with each minute feeling like needles under my skin. There wouldn’t be an hour that goes past that I don’t think of him, speak to him or of him, or remember our life together. Every thing that I do has him at the centre of it. The single hardest thing in my life now, is waking up each morning and getting out of bed facing the world knowing he’s gone. But I do it, and I do it for him… I do it for both of us and for our Boys.

Claytie was absolutely and without a doubt for me, the very best person I have ever known, and I knew it from the day we met. He was funny and generous, silly, sarcastic, kind , intelligent, cynical, loving and so much more. I never had to second guess the solidity of our relationship and what we meant to each other. I am so very grateful to have had nearly 30 amazing years with him and that our boys share so many of his characteristics.

I think almost the day that Claytie died- certainly not long after, I knew that I needed to make a choice about what my life would look like without him here. I could chose to wallow and be miserable and sad – and trust me, I have plenty of those days! Or I could chose to find happiness and do that for both of us. Each day I get out of bed and I say to myself that I need to find something to make me smile, laugh and be grateful about… that’s often a whole lot easier said than done, but it’s important for me to do. It’s my way of honouring Claytie, of keeping him close.

Tonight the Boys and I are having Family Dinner. We will be having his favourite and incredibly passive aggressive thing to cook – Tuna Mornay, or as I call it Catfood Casserole (he used to cook it when he had the shits with me because I hate it, but I would be an idiot to say no to him cooking dinner) along with Iced Coffee – his favourite drink and Pavlova for dessert. It is now a meal we have once a year to remember the day our world changed forever.

I know and often talk about how lucky and privileged we have been, even in this shit show we didn’t ask for, and I really don’t take any of that for granted anymore. We have some really amazing people in our lives that we wouldn’t have if not for Claytie, both before and after he died. They have made our world a much better place. I couldn’t do all of this without them, and thank you doesn’t feel like a big enough word for what they bring into our life.

So today spend a minute thinking about Claytie if you knew him – feel free to share your memories. Think about the important people in your world. Love and let yourself be loved. Do a good deed, take a ton of photos, be kind, smile and make new happy memories Life is incredibly short – live it fully!

41. Malaysia – Part 3

Our final 4 days/3 nights of this adventure have seen us in Kuala Lumpur, our accomodation dilemma (see part 2) solved with me getting into Princess mode and booking a Presidential Suite at Vortex Hotel. Holy Wow is all I can say!!! Sometimes the upgrade is worth every single penny, and in this case it absolutely was!!

A central location with everything in easy reach – perfect for all of our exploring. The view was beyond spectacular – one side Centre Point Tower on the other Petronas Tower, in between a billion lights and the kings palace, in the distance Genting Highlands and Batu caves…. All of it magic!! Two levels of absolute luxury… two bedrooms and bathrooms, a full kitchen and lounge room and the most glorious deck complete with a jacuzzi! A truly epic way to finish our trip!

Our first full day in KL saw us taking advantage of the jacuzzi on our deck – Bubbles galore and just soooo decadent and indulgent! We also took advantage of the vastness of the view and embraced a bit of freedom! I loved it! It felt incredibly powerful and emotional… it was a big fat ‘Fuck you world!’

Once we decided we had wallowed and indulged ourselves enough, off we went… China Town and Central Market and a ton of shopping! I feel really sorry for my poor suitcase – it is stretched to it’s absolute limits! We also went to Masjad India and then dinner with L and J at Jalan Alore…. The colours, smells and crowds were fabulous. This was the ‘Asia’ that I had pictured in my head, although I did try to come here without any expectations wanting to be surprised and delighted by everything! The trip has absolutely exceeded any ideas that I had, although I probably haven’t been quite as brave with food choices as I might have been, but maybe that will come next time!?

China Town
Central Market
Jalan Alore

Day two saw us entertaining in our Unit. L and J came over along with another friend Z – someone else that they had all worked with on the Theme Park. Initially the plan had been to go out and meet somewhere for lunch, but with the epic view at our fingertips it would have been a waste to not use our space. It was exactly the right way to spend the day!!! We had all manner of delicious things to snack and nibble on – prawns and clams, Fried Rice, cherries and Dragon fruit, cheese and crackers, chocolate…. A proper feast!

After lunch Z drove us to her favourite Jeweller – perhaps a little bit of a dangerous thing to do!! I managed to spend quite a lot of money on a bangle that is beautiful!! I have been looking for one for ages and this felt right! This trip has made me decide that I will treat myself to some kind of trip each year (last year was Uluru for my Birthday) and a piece of jewellery- one for my birthday the other our anniversary. Claytie would probably roll his eyes, but would indulge me anyway… and this makes it feel like he’s with me in some small way!

My beautiful new bangle x

We finished the day with a Pampering session in the spa… hair treatments, face mask, bubbles and Epsom salts in the water… and of course a tiara each!! Proper girl time and such a fun thing to do! I have to say that the nervousness that I had before coming on this trip was not necessary… K and I have got along fabulously – we have laughed and cried and discussed the meaning of life! We are similar enough that it has been easy and different enough for it to be interesting… I have had a great time and I would absolutely travel with her again!!

Our final day has been spent trying to pack our suitcases and calculations for excess baggage costs… as well as one more trip to the shops haha! Neither of us is looking forward to the flight as the plane looks to be really full! Luckily we were able to negotiate staying the full day in our apartment until we need to leave for the airport, our flight isn’t until 10pm!

I have to say I have had the very, very best time on this trip. It has been beyond anything that I thought it might have been. I have been incredibly lucky to have been accepted by more wonderful people that I would never have become friends with if it wasn’t for Claytie, and I am so glad to have them in my world! Thank you K and L!!!

I am really happy that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and been brave – and this has absolutely felt like an incredibly brave thing for me to do. I have never really travelled without Claytie, but I know now that I can. I’m still not sure – in fact I know that I don’t want to travel on my own, but I absolutely want to travel a whole lot more and I am already planning where to go next… maybe Tasmania, New Zealand and definitely back to Germany at some stage – let me know if you want to come!!

40. Malaysia – Part 2

Part two of this travel story starts with leaving the Genting Highlands and heading towards Kuala Lumpur with a side serving of 272 steps at Batu Caves….

Genting, as mentioned previously, was K and Jerrods home for 3 years. He was involved with building the Theme park there and she decided rather than doing it FIFO (fly in fly out) she would move over too and they would have an adventure. Based on the stories I’ve been told, they absolutely did just that! Leaving there was bittersweet for K – there are still loads of people working and living there that remember them both very fondly, and it was really nice for me to see the impact that they had there – but we had other exciting places to go and see!

Our first stop was at Batu caves. A very famous monument for the Indian God Lord Murugan – a revered Tamil known as the god of war. The temple is guarded by a very impressive statue of Murugan with a height of 42.7m – it is the tallest statue in Malaysia. To get to the caves, you have a whopping 272 steps to climb (each painted in a different colour), keeping in mind that the humidity is at about 90% and temperatures are in the high 30’s, as well as the 100’s of monkeys that take up a lot of the handrails -they do make a good excuse to stop and catch your breath!

The view out from the top is spectacular, and the inside is also amazing (although there are quite a lot more steps inside that no one warned me about!). The limestone cavern is pretty epic, and it’s hard to know just where to look. There are shrines in several places inside and quite randomly also a lot of chickens! K was not able to make it to the top with me as she has very sore knees, but I am so glad I did it. My legs were absolutely like jelly by the end, and my clothing drenched from the heat and exertion, but it was absolutely worth it!

Next stop Kuala Lumpur and the one place we were both nervous to stay at – K’s best friend L’s friends (J) unit. She met us at the gate and was super proud and happy to have us staying in her space. We were much less sure as it a small unit (only one bed and a very strong smell of mothballs) in an area that felt quite uncomfortable for us. Lots of seedy looking men staring at us – and two blonde women definitely stand out in that area!

We kind of decided to park our discomfort and just moved on to checking out KL…. I think we walked about a million steps around the city, in and out of shopping centres, getting food and exploring. We got soaked with rain and laughed ourselves silly – We also avoided our accomodation as long as we could. We stayed up way later than we should have, repacking our suitcases for Langkawi as we were only allowed a 7kg hand luggage case.

Our morning flight to the island of Langkawi meant that we had to get up super early as the airport is an hours drive away… I made friends with some neighbourhood street cats waiting for our Grab to come, trying to avoid eye contact with random blokes.

On our arrival in this island paradise, we were whisked away by our pre arranged driver and taken to Casa Del Mar, our resort home for the next two nights. Our unit was a beach-facing bungalow and very luxurious! The view was amazing! L had very, very generously arranged all of this for us, and boy oh boy did he do good!!

The view from our room at Casa Del Mar

We dumped our stuff and got changed into clothes more suited to the much hotter weather, and off we went up and down the Main Street shopping up a storm! When the shopping got too heavy, we headed back to the resort for cocktails by the pool… such a decadent way to spend the afternoon! Dinner that night also turned into an adventure!! K remembered a place that she had been to before, raving about how good the food was… it was not!!! We both ordered Pad Thai and we’re served bright pink, sloppy noodles that we completely inedible!! We tucked our money under the plates and hot footed it out of there! Room service for us instead!

Nasty, nasty Pink Pad Thai!

Day two in Langkawi started with a yummy brekky by the pool which was just lovely, then a change of clothes into togs and a huge walk along the beach. The only thing I’ve been really disappointed with in Malaysia has been the amount of rubbish everywhere – and it was really evident along the sand! Another walk into town, more shopping and pizza for lunch- made by Iranian people in Malaysia at the beach, a very multicultural moment.

Dinner that night was at a market that we had been told would be at one end of town, but turned out to be in the opposite direction… a proper adventure! Loads of food stalls with very interesting offerings – I wasn’t brave enough for most of it, but I loved the experience!

Langkawi Night Market

A very long, dark walk back into town – and some nasty thigh chafing! We had another cocktail by the beach and a nice chat to some other resort guests (our neighbours in fact) while watching a beautiful marriage proposal. K and I got told that we should get into motivational speaking about our experience by our neighbours as they were quite moved by our conversation. I’m not sure that would be my cup of tea.. I don’t think I’m anything special, I’m just trying to figure out what my world is without Claytie in it – but I guess it is nice for people to realise that life can be very short and you need to live every moment.

Our last day in Langkawi saw us having another brekky by the pool and then packing our bags ready for check out. We did soak up some more sun both at the beach and pool before our driver came to pick us up. A delayed flight back to KL meant that we made a decision about where to stay – both of us agreeing that we wanted to finish our holiday on the same high note as every other moment has been.

I have loved every single experience of this trip and I am so glad that I didn’t let my anxiety stop me – I’ll always have it and I’m working out the best way to deal with it! I’m too young to not keep having adventures, and I know that Claytie would back me 100% with this. Stay tuned for part 3 of this epic trip!

39. Malaysia – Part 1

“Arnie and Danny do Malaysia”
Names taken from the movie Twins, starting Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito … I’ll let you work out who is who!

Our trip, the one I have been nervous about for some time, started with a bit of a fizz… a text message at 2am to say our flight would be at least 2 hours delayed.. uh oh we thought, but it was all fine. Brekky at the airport following security clearance, and then we were off! We chose the back end of the plane for our seats – which worked out super well… plenty of spare seats to be able to spread out! I hate flying and did my usual anxiety take off routine – being laughed at by my friend K – which was probably deserved – I know it’s ridiculous!

The flight was, as flights often are, a long and tedious 8 1/2 hours, and the security queue at the KL airport was next level chaos! We then had a 3 hour drive into the Genting highlands. A trip that normally takes 1 1/2 hours doubled in time because of a public holiday long weekend for a Muslim holy day. To say we were exhausted on arrival would be an understatement.

We did manage a bit of a sleep in day one and then enjoyed some quality pool time, followed by a trip down to the local DFO shopping centre for a look around at all the big brands. Some more pool time and cocktails, and then a trip to the local village of Permai for dinner. That was definitely an experience! All the colour and smells – it is Durian season – a fruit that has the most pungent aroma- think vomit and sewage!… Cars driving everywhere and so many things to look at!

Day two saw us eating curry for breakfast before heading up the mountain! We went to see the Theme park that my friend K’s husband Jarrod was involved with building before his cancer diagnosis. It was such an interesting thing walking through the park with someone involved in its construction (K’s best friend L still lives and works there). We went up the mountain in a sky rail which was very high, very fast and mildly terrifying but with amazing views! On our way back down we stopped at the ChinSwee Caves Temple… a fabulous place with a giant stone Buddha and dioramas telling the story of the 8 gates of hell. I loved every minute of it!

Day 3 started with surprisingly noisy rain but is was a lovely morning to sit and wallow for a while. We had curry for brekky again. L came around to our room and we had some fabulous conversations… my new nickname is either Behemoth or Hindenburg (a strikingly attractive large object)… depending on the mood… I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it, but he has assured me that it is meant to be complimentary!?

I mentioned that I was yet to see monkeys – I had been told they would be everywhere on the golf course but hadn’t seen any, L organised his driver to take us to a spot we would be guaranteed to find them. And that we did! They were everywhere and quite terrifying up close! I was given half a loaf of bread to feed them, and once they saw the bag they were very enthusiastic and clearly hierarchical if the pushing, screeching and baring of teeth was anything to go by… but also very very cute!

When we went back to our resort, it was decided that we would complete the main reason for our trip… to place Jarrods ashes in a spot that he loved, one of the water holes that are on the golf course at the resort. It is a beautiful spot and it was a privilege and incredibly moving to be part of something so special. I didn’t know Jarred, but if it wasn’t for him, this trip and my friendship with K, and by association L, would never have happened. A nasty glass of his favourite Rum and Coke and L and K sharing their favourite memories rounded out the afternoon for us.

For dinner that night we went back down to Permai to eat at one of the local shops. It was almost impossible to get a Grab (like Uber) given it was one of the holiest days of the year for the Malay people, so when the local police chief offered to drive us down the hill to the village for dinner in his car that has a bullet hole in the side, we couldn’t say no!! The lady that runs the shop we went to, had promised to make my friends favourite curry, and was just so so happy when we came back to eat with her. There were plenty of tears from all of us – police chief included, when we discovered that we were all widowed – Echo Chamber of Misery – Malay chapter – sometimes it really feels like a very small world!

We had the very best chicken Randang curry I have ever eaten and a fabulous conversation with the locals! The Police chief very kindly also drove us home – and contrary to some of my boys predictions no one harvested my kidneys (or showed the slightest inclination for that to happen!). One last night in Genting and then on to part two.

There was a bittersweet sadness leaving the Highlands – K and Jarred’s home for 3 years, and heading on to KL and the next part of our adventure, but also excitement and enthusiasm for what was to come! …. Part two still in progress, but coming soon xx

38. Louis Theroux

So this week I had thought about and was definitely contemplating a more serious post…..Tomorrow morning I’m flying out to Malaysia – anxiety is peaking! It’s my wedding anniversary – it should be 27 years, but instead it is now two years without the most important person in my world… huge ANXIETY!!!

But I kind of talked about all of those things last week, and then Saturday night happened and that is absolutely worth telling about! … and sorry to those of you who have already heard this story during my need to debrief!

Recently I have been on some very random dates. I have for the most part enjoyed myself and have no real complaints other that it is super difficult to find someone that you connect with at the right level. There really are ALL kinds of people out there! How fussy do you let yourself be before it becomes ridiculous!? Is it that they didn’t stand up or kiss you hello? Or that they were entirely too touchy-feely? Is the look of someone’s hair or hands a reason not to go on a second date even though you spent several very enjoyable hours together over drinks and dinner!? Shaved legs, too hairy? Sneakers and longer socks? Does the way someone chews their food really matter? Jeans and thongs for a dinner date? How much communication is too much and screams unwanted commitment? A lot of it feels very very shallow, but I guess if they were the right person then those things wouldn’t matter.

Some things tho really, really matter! Last Saturday night I went on a VERY blind date with a guy I’d been chatting to who seemed reasonably well educated and well spoken. We hadn’t exchanged pictures, so I had no idea what he looked like but there were no real red flags at that stage as to why not to meet up …the time and place were organised, happily for me following on from a super enjoyable day catching up with my Uni girlfriends.

I Ubered to the designated spot and realised much too late that a photo should really be a compulsory check before meeting! I hate to say I’m so shallow that looks absolutely matter, but sometimes they do! Turns out there was a reason he did not show me his pictures ahead of time – think Montgomery Burnes from the Simpsons!!! The teeth, nose, hair… liver spots! It was all there – and too late at that stage to turn around!

I was greeted with a handshake – new for me on a date! We went for a drink and had a hugely enlightening conversation – the fellow is very firmly entrenched in the BDSM scene, and was looking for a submissive partner for his activities. Not what I had been expecting, but I thought why not find out all of the information I’ve ever wanted to know about such things! I channeled my inner Louis Theroux – a journalist and documentary film maker who I think is fabulous (look him up for those that have not heard his name before!) … Not sure old Monty knew quite what hit him, but he was very indulgent as I honestly asked at least a million questions – I feel like I am doing research for a book!!

I got educated! … questions asked and answered… some further ‘studying’ (?) to do, and my little mind exploding! Following the interrogation and perhaps to give himself a breather haha, he took me to an adult entertainment place in Brunswick street – he told me kind of what it would be like, and at that stage and so many questions in, I thought why not!? Downstairs is a sex toy shop and upstairs a combination of Peepshow rooms, glory holes and all manner of surfaces to use as required! I was given a tour and had all sorts of things explained to me (diagrams not necessary as the demonstrations were live!) … I’m not sure what I was expecting, certainly not this! – but it was definitely an interesting evening!

I’m not sure either of us got what we expected from this encounter, and I can guarantee there wont be a repeat, but I can’t say I’m sorry it happened. My number one takeaway from all of this tho is that you should definitely ask for a current photo, possibly have a more sane exit strategy, and if all else fails a very long list of questions to ask!

37. July

So we are just about in hell month for us, and it marks the end/beginning of another year without Claytie. Two years now without the very best person in our world, and it feels both like a life time and like it was just yesterday!

I will never ever forget the day our world changed. I try not to relive it too often, because the conscious nightmares are far worse than the sleeping ones, but every so often I need to play it out to make sure that I remember it right – not that I could ever forget! – and thank you if you’ve been a shoulder and ear for me on those days that I have needed to talk out loud about the details…. It feels like the only concrete way to convince myself that this isn’t some kind of weird altered reality. It’s kind of the glue holding all of the fractured old and new parts of myself together.

This year I decided to be proactive (and I’m not sure that’s the right word??) and to get in early. I took a whole bunch of time off, pretty much the entire month- last year I only gave myself those big dates and it didn’t work out so well for me. They ended up feeling so very different than I had anticipated, some slightly more expected and others that took me absolutely by surprise and flooring me with their impact. I really didn’t want to be surprised again, but imagine I will be, and by different things this year. That seems to be kind of how this rollercoaster works. The twists and turns and sinking feelings come from nowhere and steal your breath in the hardest ways.

This year I am also taking myself far away for the worst of those dates for me, my wedding anniversary. Last year I was only thinking about Clayties death anniversary and how hard that first one would be. I did not acknowledge ahead of time the fact that my 26th wedding anniversary would be without my husband. That day and my first birthday without him, making me older than he will ever get to be, were that days that broke me.

I will be travelling overseas this year, with a friend who is coming to the end of her first year without her husband. We are going to Malaysia for 10 days and will be making new memories. I will be away for what was my worst day last year, but home for the ones that we need to spend as a family… and we have our own new tradition for those that I am almost looking forward to this year – which is not something I ever thought I would say!

I do have to say that I am really conflicted about my feelings around this trip… on the one hand I’m super excited. It’s a place I have never been and I’m excited for the adventure. I am travelling with a friend who knows the area incredibly well and who has a lot of friends over there. I already know that I will have incredible stories to tell, and I’m looking forward to writing those, but the other part of me is really nervous. Is this a good idea? I have never been somewhere this new to me without Claytie, and I am really, really shit with flying – I am not the person you want to sit next to on a plane!! Should I be going away leading up to Clayties anniversary? How will the boys go? How hard will it be to support my friend for the big things that she needs to do on this trip – some of her husbands ashes are coming with us to be left in a place that brought them huge happiness. Will she be ok, and how will we go travelling together?

Not all of this stuff is rational, and I know that; but this is how my anxiety manifests. I guess all I can do and continue to do, is go with the things that feel the best at the time. It’s been the only way I have got through every other day since my world changed.