And The Award Goes To (Twice!)…

cupFor the past couple of years I’ve been involved in a local litter picking project. I say ‘involved’… I don’t actually pick up dog poop and rusty old beer cans I just take photos of the area and maintain a blog. There’s a very small team of dedicated volunteer ‘Wombles’ who do all of the proper hard work and it would appear that the local ‘In Bloom’ judging panel, have just given the group not one but TWO Royal Horticultural Society Neighbourhood Awards!

This has been extremely exciting news for all involved, culminating in an official ceremony and being given our prizes by the Deputy Mayor no less. We wore our Sunday best and schmoozed with the hoy paloy of gardening circles whist indulging in tea and home-made cakes – Hyacinth “Bouquet” would’ve loved it.

The project was never created in order to gain any form of personal recognition, but to try to make the local green spaces and woodland a nicer environment for local people to enjoy. While it was, indeed, a great honour to be publicly thanked for simply being ‘good neighbours’ the real satisfaction comes from knowing that you’ve made a positive difference to your community. Kinda makes you feel all warm and squishy inside…

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Happy Campus…

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I’d maintained loose links with my local university ever since I graduated back in 2008, but now I’m happily single I’ve re-connected with campus and it’s given me some really positive new experiences. During 2014 I took part in numerous paid experiments for psychology students; as you might imagine, I’ve participated in some extremely bizarre and amusing tests! The extensive grounds are a haven for wildlife and it’s been a joy to wander around with my Nikon Coolpix snapping flora and fauna around the lakes and woodland and I even joined the gym!

Today was another first for me – I attended the Student Union Carnival to celebrate One World Week. Mother Nature treated us to near-perfect blue skies and glorious sunshine while the performers delighted onlookers with an array of dancing from around the world, juggling displays and a variety of multicultural food and drink stalls. Flags were flying all around the square and everyone was smiling and clapping along to the beats. It might not have been in quite the same league as Rio, but it was fabulous.

Make It Happen…

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When the weather is cold / wet / miserable and the long-term forecast is for much more of the same, it’s essential to avoid feeling down in the dumps, otherwise it’s going to be a very long winter indeed. Instead of mooching around the house looking for biscuits to scoff on the sofa while watching trashy daytime telly, try to do something positive for yourself.

If you’ve been carrying a bit of excess baggage, use this opportunity while you’re stuck indoors to address the issue, even if it’s simply a case of dusting off your old exercise bike. If you’re looking at increasing your job prospects do some research and use the internet to learn some new skills. If you’re feeling a bit lonely take this opportunity to write a few long overdue emails to old friends (or, even nicer, write letters by hand!)

Just think; by next spring you could very well be slimmer, fitter, have new earning potential and have re-connected with some special people. Don’t sit around waiting for good things to happen; MAKE them happen!

Digital De-Cluttering…

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If your ex had any kind of business registered at your postal address, it’s a huge relief when you finally get all of the online listings removed. Obviously, there’s nothing you can do about any hard-copy evidence of his/her links to your home, but it’s a positive step towards erasing all traces of them from your new single life.

It’s also very cathartic to trawl through your hard-drive and removing your ex from your computer’s memory. There’s little point in keeping pictures and videos on your PC of the two of you all happy and smiling on holidays and day trips unless you look particularly good in them or you’re a whizz with photoshop & video-editing tools. Often, the reality is that those moments of joy were fleeting and don’t reflect the true story. Don’t delude yourself into believing things were all pink & fluffy when they obviously weren’t. Move on, ditch the past and focus on the pink & fluffy future ahead of you.

Not So Fast…

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With your new single status and fresh enthusiasm for being ‘whoever you want to be’, try not to be too much all at once. While it’s a really positive sign that you’re focussing on moving forward with your life, and being pro-active regarding your new social life, additional work commitments, recently acquired hobbies and so forth, do bear in mind that there is still only ONE of you and unless you have a time machine stashed away in your loft there are STILL only 24 hours in any given day.

Just because you made a ‘to do’ list it doesn’t mean that you have to ‘do’ it all at once, no matter how much you want to. Try to reign it in a little and actually enjoy yourself rather than indulging in some manic, whirlwind of activities that can only realistically end with you holed up in bed suffering from exhaustion a couple of months down the line.

I know it’s all new and scary and exciting and that once you get to a certain age, when you have more birthdays behind you than potentially ahead of you, it’s tempting to make the most of every second of every minute, of every hour…. But do try to take a moment or two out of your jam-packed schedule to savour these new experiences. You’ll get far more pleasure out of it if you do.

Not So Happy Endings…

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When relationships break down, for whatever reason, it’s always a difficult time for all involved. Whether it’s the knee-jerk reaction from a massive argument or the inevitable outcome of a partnership that is way past it’s sell by date, the aftermath can be a real challenge for everyone who finds themselves caught up in the crossfire. This can put friends and family members into very awkward situations, which often ends up with people taking sides. This him versus her situation is something that isn’t particularly helpful as it simply adds another unpleasant dimension to what is already something horrid. However, if both sides can remain at least civil to each other, this can help to ease the pain a little. Mud-slinging and general ongoing accusations are not helpful to anyone.

Usually, someone (or sometimes both parties) have to move out of what has been their home for probably several years. Most of the time it’s obvious who should move out but it’s not always the case, which simply adds another objectionable dimension to the whole situation.

Once the decision has been made there are numerous issues to be dealt with immediately. Someone has to pack up their belongings and find a new place to stay, and at short notice this can be quite a challenge. Friends and family may offer a bed for a few nights and a garage or shed to store things, but a long-term solution needs to be found if the displaced person is to avoid living out of boxes for any length of time. For the person leaving, it’s often much harder.

Once the person who has remained at the property is eventually alone, it will most likely hit them like a ten ton truck. They may be relieved but it’s likely that they’ll also feel shock and sadness at the breaking of emotional ties. There may be financial worries or practical concerns to deal with as well. While it’s really difficult for the person who’s moved out of their home it cannot be assumed that the person left behind has an easy ride.

For the one now home alone, keeping busy usually helps to focus the mind but it’s only a temporary fix. Manic cleaning is therapeutic for a while but when there’s nothing else to scrub the feelings of loss can no longer be suppressed. It’s better to let the emotions out sooner rather than later, even if you don’t want to, as once this period of grief is completed the ability to begin moving on is made a little bit easier.

Communication during the breaking up process, without animosity if humanly possible, is the key to relieving some of the pain, although this depends on the individual circumstances of course. On a practical level there is the need for a forwarding address for mail, unless you can agree that the other person can collect it regularly, or send a trusted friend to collect letters and parcels. For the person no longer residing at the property, there seems an unending number of people and places to inform of the change in address; from GP the surgery, to banks and insurance companies.

If children are involved there’s the complicated process of access to go through. Again, this will very much depend on individual circumstances. For situations where children are not involved there will probably still be thorny points to address. This can mean anything from payment of bills to custody of a much-loved pet.

Once the dust has settled, the tears have dried and your stomach has settled sufficiently for you to think about venturing outdoors, there’s a scary new world of firsts to contend with. The first time you walk out of the front door as a ‘single’ person after a break-up can make a familiar street feel like an unknown route. The first time in a supermarket will see you wandering down aisles that you no longer need to be in. You may feel like you’ve become a very tiny person or that everyone is staring at you. The first time back at work can feel unnerving, but a necessary evil now that there’s one less income coming in.

Whether you choose to announce recent events on social networking sites, or take the more subtle approach of explaining to a small selection of friends and family members individually, word will soon get around of your new situation. The hugs and kind words are meant to be a comfort, but even though they are well meant they can often reduce you to a flood of tears. No matter how much the break-up was needed or inevitable, your emotions will be all over the place for quite some time and you’ll need to learn to adjust to your new status.

There’s also ‘protocol’ to follow. What do you do if your recent ex’s family or close friends want to stay in touch, for example? Every situation will be different for every person, but diplomacy will be needed to avoid appearing to be treading on any toes or to prevent being accused of deliberately stirring up trouble.

When you invest a lot of time and emotion in a relationship the last thing you want is to abandon it, but sometimes you have to admit to yourself, and to the other person, that the relationship has run its course. Sometimes this will come from a particular incident while other times it happens when you both finally accept that things simply cannot continue as they are and that a decision needs to be made to prevent any further unhappiness. It’s an immensely difficult thing to admit to, that a relationship has ended, but it’s also a very merciful thing to do.

Break-ups are often acrimonious affairs which are made all the more challenging due to the event, or events, leading up to the final split. However, if both parties can be tactful and considerate to each other, this challenging experience can be made a tiny bit more bearable. This can then smooth the way towards both people being able to move on with their lives in a more positive light.