Originally posted on February 27th, 2017 on The Olive Fox which has unfortunately closed down.
My mum has this phrase, “sometimes, it’s just your turn. Right now, it’s your turn”. She says it whenever things fall apart, whenever they get overwhelming. It was my turn during the Summer.
After six months of trying to cling on to what we had, my boyfriend and I ended our relationship of seven years. We’d lived together that whole time and for the first time in a long, long time, I felt alone. My world as I knew it was changing right in front of my eyes and there was nothing I could do but watch it happen.
Four weeks later, as my favourite person moved his half of our belongings out of the home we’d shared for five years, my landlord called to tell me that he was looking to sell my home. The next day, I had a hospital appointment and I was told that I’d likely soon be losing an ovary.
Even my body wasn’t off-limits. It was definitely my turn.
Monday-Friday, 9-5, I functioned. The rest of the time, I lay down. I lay in the bath, on the floor, in bed, just staring, wondering how I was going to find my feet again. Would I ever? I had a future planned and now my present was too overwhelming to deal with for more than eight hours at a time. I lived on noodles and toast. Anything more than that required effort that I just could not muster.
Eventually, the sparks started. The tiny, beautiful lights in what had felt like all-encompassing darkness. Small, but significant.
As I sat in a garden surrounded by those who I call my second family and my best friend, I realised that outside of my home and my ex-boyfriend, I had an entire world. It was always there. I wasn’t okay, I wasn’t going to be for a while but what I knew was that, no matter what, I wasn’t alone and I never had been. We drank ciders, wrapped ourselves in blankets and toasted marshmallows.
Mid-way through packing my belongings, I went on my first date in seven and a half years. We talked about literature, politics and how we’d found ourselves in Glasgow. He shyly asked me which gin was on the fireplace in the cosy pub we’d snuggled in and as I turned to answer, he kissed me. What a kiss. A tiny spark.
I’d told everybody that I could cope, I’d been through worse. I just needed time. Knowing me, and how stubborn I can be, they waited. They patiently offered words of support, songs, games, films – anything that felt like they were offering comfort. They waited, and waited until I eventually admitted I was struggling.
And then they charged.
My friends and family reminded me who I was outwith my sadness but, more notably, who they were. They loved me which I learned meant that, even when I was a mess, even when my heart was broken, they loved me. This love was shown through helping me pack, and move my belongings. It was shown by adding an uplifting song to counteract every sad song I added to a joint playlist. It was shown by holding my hands during those songs at concerts. It was all around me, once I accepted it, I couldn’t escape it. I had love, I just wasn’t in love. And that was okay.
My new home was huge, airy and actually, exactly the kind of home I’d been trying to move into since moving to the city nine years prior. I settled quicker than I expected and my new bed didn’t feel empty, it felt like mine. Only mine.
Barcelona had been the plan long before this happened but now, it felt necessary. It felt like I needed to be somewhere that wasn’t tainted with memories and corners I’d kissed on. Somewhere fresh and new but where old friends were living.
We flew on a Wednesday evening. A flight made up solely of Prosecco and excitement led us to what is probably the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen. After much confusion and frustration, we found our hostel. Sitting on the balcony drinking Sangria and looking out at late-night Barcelona, I exhaled for what felt like the first time in a very, very long time.
The sparks had been becoming more apparent with each passing day but at that moment, cocooned under Spanish skies with the person that had carried me more than anybody else, they were blinding.
Our weekend went by in a haze of Sangria, Las Ramblas and catching up with our friends that moved there years ago. We didn’t make any itinerary – the last thing either of us needed was stress. We took the weekend as it came and if you are going through tough times, getting lost in a city with somebody you love is such an effective way to blow away the cobwebs; I thoroughly recommend it.
I cried leaving Barcelona. I didn’t like leaving my friends behind and I strangely felt as if the hope and wholeness that I’d recovered in Barcelona would stay there. I was wrong, I was so wrong. But I was grateful for all that Barcelona, and the friends I was there with, gave me.
I had my second date when I came back to Glasgow. He was a gentle, dorky, giant and I was smitten. We talked about anything and everything in-between, petting dogs, admiring the river we were drinking beside and having moments where we just smiled. I wasn’t forcing a smile! I couldn’t actually stop myself from smiling! He gave me his (stupidly long) jacket and under the stars, in Kelvingrove Park, we shared a kiss. I was beyond giddy. Even if this didn’t work out, having such an unbelievable crush was a relief. I could do all of this again and this was an excellent place to start.
I only had to look up to see the lights in the dark now.
I only had one more hurdle to face, I felt, and then I’d dealt with the worst of it. That hurdle was my birthday. My ex-boyfriend was a chef whose birthday was in December so my birthday always ended up being a bit of a big deal as we knew we wouldn’t see each other until January. It’d gotten to the point where I associated my birthday with him and, in all honesty, I wanted to cancel it and just hide away but I didn’t expect anybody to let me do that, so, I organised it.
I invited friends from home in England and, of course, the friends in Spain. It was more of an acknowledgement than actually expecting them to turn up. It felt strange not to and I worked under the assumption that I wouldn’t see them but as they always are, they’d be there in spirit.
On the day, I woke up alone and actually happy. It was just me, my cats and the knowledge that I was entering a new age as a single person. It felt like a fresh leaf.
Then I had a message “be ready for 11”. My best friends took me out for breakfast. They didn’t want me to spend the morning alone so they treated me to breakfast in a retro café. They didn’t need to do that, and I didn’t think I needed them to but my two favourite sparks in the dark had plotted behind my back to make sure I knew, on this day more than any other, that I was loved and not alone. It was a small, simple gesture but it was also the most beautiful way to start a new age.
I gathered everybody in the basement of a pub I’ve been going to since I moved here. They’d all helped me in one way or another and, on my birthday night, I wanted to party with them as a way to celebrate my birthday but, more importantly, celebrate us and the love between us. As I was wedged between my mum and one of my oldest friends and saw that my friend from Spain was stood right there.
I had no idea that he was coming.
This sparked a drink-fuelled sob at just how bloody wonderful my life was, how wonderful my friends were. I was surrounded by love and I was never, ever given the opportunity to forget it. Him turning up epitomised the last four months of my life and as we walked through Glasgow at 4am, I told him how magical it had all been, and how grateful I was for him and everybody else.
I actually can’t even begin to cover how many people helped me through these times, I can’t begin to tell you how much love was enveloping my entire life. I can’t begin to go into every kind gesture, every wonderful thing said, every step that got me to where I am today but, what I can say, is that those sparks lit the way. Life was tough but I was tougher. I am tougher.
The brightest spark in all of this was me. If I have learned anything over the past 7 months it’s that I am strong, I am loved and even in my darkest, most horrifically intense moments, I know that I’ll be okay. I’m resilient and I am so, so proud of myself. I’m proud that I fought to be happy and stable again. I’m proud that I have grown to be the woman I always hoped I’d be. I will always be okay.
“I have realised that the moon
did not have to be full for us to love it,
that we are not tragedies
stranded here beneath it,
that if my heart
every time I fell from love
I’d be able to offer you confetti by now.
But hearts don’t break, y’all,
they bruise and get better.
We were never tragedies.
We were emergencies.
You call 911.
Tell them I’m havin’ a fantastic time.”
– Buddy Wakefield, We Were Emergencies