Underneath The Stars On A White Horse

Dear you,

I know lots of people say that winning millions on the lottery is the thing that would most change their lives. But for me, ‘life changing’ seems to have decided to gently tiptoe in the back door rather than announcing itself loudly with a fanfare and a big cheque!

In the past year and a half, I have finally begun to do more of the life changing things I’ve always wanted to be doing before ‘being a grown up’ got in the way. Even more excellently, I get to do those things with a person who’s nearly as excited to do them as me, the person I utterly adore spending time with.

These life changing things aren’t as dramatic as coming out, (think that’s enough of a massive life changer for one millenium!), they are the everyday things that make me feel glad to be alive, that make my soul sing and that frankly I’ve been putting off for far too long!

I can hear you impatiently telling me to stop getting lost in the romance of it all and just tell you what these bloody tiptoeing in lifechangers are!!!

Well, it’s the joy of doing the i crossword together, (lazy days sans enfants should always involve words of crossness!), of holding hands to the ‘Silver Screener’ period dramas she reluctantly consents to see at the cinema, the delight of making brunch together.

It’s our craft fetishes – stone painting (who knew painting rocks could be so addictive, once you’ve spent a small fortune on the right tools that is!), the ‘make yourself a human pin cushion’ delights of needle felting, that resulted in my most beautiful gift ever.  It’s the baking together when our sweet teeth get the better of us and it’s finally making it to the swimming pool, managing ten lengths and then spending the rest of the time in the sauna.

Gifts for the handmade Christmas that never was!

It’s going to the hairdressers together, (when are we having coffee Warren??!!), becoming addicted to things on netflix together, (Suits anyone?), all the in jokes we share  (wily nily, cocky wocky, dicky wicky) and gaffs we make – “Furnace Everdene – you know the main character in the Hunger Games” (Woodward, 2018).

It’s finally embarking on writing the book I’ve always wanted to write with nothing but love and encouragement, it’s working together, separately and jointly, fuelled by too many chai latte’s that give rise to loads of ideas, support and laughter. It’s our post therapy processing, our post shower processing, our pre dinner processing – it’s a lotta processing!! It’s me reading Eleanor Oliphant to her at bedtime and my sneaky hope it’ll lead to ‘Book at Bedtime’ on Radio 4 in due course.

It’s also letting more music in to my life, listening and playing. I never made time for it very much before but now I finally have Spotify, my piano lid is always open and Lea is painfully teaching me the guitar. It’s playing and singing together, something I’d never done in a relationship before. Did I ever imagine being brave enough to sing one of my beloved Kate Rusby songs to another human except my children? Nope. Could I be embarrassed about it? Yep! But I’m jolly well choosing not to be, because this, like everything else on my list, has been utterly joy inducing…

Quite glad she came by on her White Horse and took me off to lie Underneath the Stars…

Hey you,

What do we actually do with our precious child-free time together?? Well aside from some of the more obvious things one does when one starts a new relationship (😜), we’ve been busy exploring our inner children and ‘playing’ away…

Remember I used to play the guitar? One of the best things about having some time without kids around had been getting back into it and discovering that I can actually play songs I want to play and sing to rather than have to because a teacher says so! Which means bring on the Taylor!! Though to be fair she is bloody difficult to play to and sing to at the same time and we’ve spent many an hour trying to!

I TOLD her I knew how to treat my plants well and actually keep them alive…serenading them is just one of my many secret tips 😛

Becky also declared her desire to ‘do’ crafty stuff so we’ve painted stones galore (after a slight detour for a hot stone massage and £30 of fancy pens later!!!), needle felted until our fingers bled (quite literally. And yes, had to have all the kit for this too! The garland of toadstools I made for Becky took AT LEAST 10 hours!!!) and baked – a very glutinous gluten-free banana bread, the most gluttonous all-butter, Toblerone and Lindt chocolate cookies and a few more experiments that have been greedily guzzled by Becky us both.

We flirt with exercise too – bike rides (usually ending up at somewhere that does a massive all-day breakfast!), swimming and sauna (though getting there for 10am when we’re child-free of a morning can be a bit of a stretch!), and I’ve coaxed her into the gym a couple of times…the lure of a big purple ball has been too much to resist!!!!

We also spend a fair bit of time working – Becky’s started writing her book (know any publishers looking for a world-changing epic adventure series???!) and I continue to swing between my various ventures.

So, while we’re not exactly doing anything earth shattering much of the time (we save that for the bedroom, ho ho ho!!!), it is really nice to be enjoying some of the things we’ve always wanted to try, get back to or simply enjoy doing, with someone I’m utterly in love with.

This Theme’s Soundtracks…Spoiling you with two!!!

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True Colours

Dear you,

You’re not the first to ask me the “Have you always been gay?” question. Often accompanied by the “Why wait so long to come out?”, “Why have children with a man?”, “Surely you’re bi and not gay?” and even the really cheeky “Why have you shagged so many men and no women if you’re gay then?” questions!!

Well to cut a long story short, yes, I think I am gay. I have sexually fantasised about sleeping with a woman for a long time, despite having never done it. And now that I have, I can’t ever imagine wanting to go back to having sex with a man!

But that’s only part of the story…I have slept with a lot of men. In all honesty I can’t tell you how many, because I can’t actually remember. Over 50 but less than 100. I’ve tried several times to write a list and always get stuck. I don’t say this to impress you – the older I get the more sad I feel about this and the reasons I ended up giving my body away so freely to any man who showed the slightest interest.

As you know my dad was adopted and I have always experienced him as unable to give me what I needed emotionally. As a teenager with burgeoning hormones this led me to look for the attention and emotional connection I so desperately craved from him in totally inappropriate places. I was reasonably attractive and so sex became a way of me getting that to some degree, although obviously it never really filled the void and so I craved more.

I think I was playing out a dynamic with men that was really about my dad and it took me a long time and a lot of therapy and unfulfilling sex to start unravelling that!

Alongside all of this I had always had quite intense female friendships, finding women far more able, generally, to have emotional connections, to want to talk on those deeper levels and, for the most part, to ‘get stuff’ in a way that most men I knew just didn’t. I didn’t fancy any of these female friends except one, when I was in my thirties. Fortunately nothing happened. I think I knew that despite finding her physically attractive and there being a spark between us, we were poles apart in other respects, the biggest perhaps being that she was an Evangelical Christian who thought same sex lovin’ was the work of the devil, literally!!!!!

And then along came Lea…smart, funny, beautiful, emotionally aware, able to really see me and give me that emotional connection I so wanted. It was the first time I’d really considered a relationship with a woman and it meant facing the “Am i really a lesbian?” question…

I could answer that quite categorically after our first sexual encounter – “Yes definitely” – followed by the frustrating “Why the hell didn’t I do this sooner?” question!!

Hope that answers yours!

Hey you,

Good question! My instinctive answer is: Yes, I probably have always been gay. But I know most people assume I’m bi especially having been with men and been married to a man.

I think on some level I’ve always been attracted to girls/women. In my teens I had many a (secret) crush on women – Gabriela Sabatini, anyone?!?! But all my initial relationships were with boys/men and I was initially attracted to them – at least physically – in some way although it often felt like more of a power game: Can I ‘get’ them? – And once I had them, I wasn’t usually bothered anymore.

So why didn’t I act on my feelings back then? I think that was probably fear or utter lack of courage to buck the ‘norm’.

And yet it feels odd writing that since – as I’m sure you know! – even back then I’ve always chosen the ‘other’ path…German cos everyone else learned French, not getting caught up in cliques etc etc. You know me, choosing the opposite sometimes just because. But this felt different. It felt like it would set me down a different path entirely and I’m not sure I was ready to be ‘that’ person back then.

I think my biggest fear at the time was “What would my family think?”. Before my mum died I remember having a conversation with her about men being gay in relation to something else. After sensing her discomfort, I jokingly said “You’re homophobic, aren’t you?!” and she didn’t deny it. Knowing her as I thought I did, I think it massively surprised me that she’d have such a bias although I’m quite sure there were other things going on underneath it all. And I do believe that she’d have been nothing but supportive of both my and Daniel’s coming out, despite any difficulties she had around people being gay.

(Interesting that both Daniel and I are gay, having both been adopted from different families in very different circumstances – am sure Freud would have a field day with that!).

Then once I’d started a serious relationship it just seemed really difficult to get out of that and off the ‘conventional’ track, although I think in the back of my mind I always thought “there’s always time”.

And then I got married – though had always said I never wanted to (pretty sure that was a defence mechanism to try and give myself that get out clause – clearly didn’t work!) – and then obviously got pregnant unexpectedly.

I do remember feeling at each point a tinge of panic that it was now going to be even harder to jump off that track and on to the one I think I knew I really ‘should ’ have been on.

And as I think I mentioned at the time not that long after we’d moved to the depths of the Nottinghamshire countryside, it was that sense of “Is this the life I’ve created? Is this what I really want?” that really made me pay attention to what was going on and how I really needed to jump tracks sooner rather than later.

Do I regret not doing anything about it earlier? Not really, maybe a tiny bit but then I don’t think Becky and I would be together. It’s all happened as it has for a reason and at least I’m on the right track now!

This Theme’s Soundtrack…

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Fireworks

Dear you,

It’s not all been a bed of roses. I know it can be easy to focus on the upsides, especially in the beginning when a new relationship is fresh and exciting, but there have been many difficult aspects in making this leap to totally change all our lives.

First, having the courage to end a 12-year relationship was not easy. It had been the longest relationship of my life and the man in question was my children’s father. However, I had known for a long time that things weren’t as I wanted them to be between us, and while my coming out might seem the reason for that, it was by no means the only reason and our differences were, for me, too great to try and work through. Although it was difficult at the start I think he realises now that we were both in denial, not facing up to the reality that we just weren’t in love any more and clinging onto the relative safety and security of our familiarity.

Once Lea and I were aware there was something between us, even though we didn’t know what, we knew we had to be brave and end things, not just because we wanted to give us a chance but because regardless of whether we worked out or not our relationships weren’t right for us anymore and hadn’t been for a while.

That was a difficult call to make because once we did, it meant facing up to the fact that we would be breaking up the family unit for our children. We both come from divorced parents and each have our respective emotional baggage around that. So, the idea of consciously creating emotional baggage for our own children was painful, however much we believed that in the long run it would be better for them having two happier parents.

We’ve had to navigate our way through holding four little hearts and minds, and help them come to terms with all the change that has been thrust upon them through no fault of their own. There have been many challenges, but overall we have worked tirelessly to try and ensure they all have a voice and aren’t internalising their feelings. That’s certainly how I felt as a child, and there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that holding onto those painful and unresolved emotions from childhood can lead to illness and disease in later life – I have fibromyalgia 😁

Helping the kids navigate their emotions has got easier as Lea and I have navigated our own, both individually and together. We were both pretty self aware when we met but being together has taken this to a whole new level! As we have processed our way through aspects of our own individual unresolved stuff and supported each other to look at our defences – the ways we hide and the games we play, often unconsciously – we have become better equipped to help our kids unpack their emotions and deal with them in a more direct and straightforward way. It’s been a steep learning curve though and continues to present challenges!

All that said, despite the difficulties, challenges and sadness I wouldn’t change any of it. I have never grown so much in so many ways – ways that have helped me grow as a parent, as a partner and as a person.

I’ve made tons of mistakes and will doubtless continue to do so, but I’m living a life that feels far more authentic, makes me feel happy and offers my children a chance to see their mother taking her own needs seriously, managing (for the most part!) to have an amicable, adult relationship with their father and helping them learn emotional skills that sadly they won’t learn at school. That’s the thing with fireworks…after the loud bang and the shock, you’re treated to something spectacular 💥

Hey you,

Well, I think the hardest thing has been making sure the children are as ok as they possibly can be with what’s happened. We’ve all worked really, really, really hard to make sure they know it’s not their fault.

Navigating the dynamics of each of them individually, as siblings in a pair, and then all four of them together has been and still is a massive challenge, and can be quite triggering for us both at times especially given some of the dynamics currently playing out. I think it’s probably been one of the biggest causes of friction between us, aside from some of our own stuff. Fingers crossed that the endless sportscasting will eventually pay off (for adults and kids!!!).

The second hardest thing was obviously the ending. How do you end a 22-year relationship as smoothly and amicably as possible for all parties? From dividing house things and sorting out joint admin to agreeing how things are going to work with the kids etc., never mind the emotional stuff.

It seemed much easier in the beginning strangely, but even months later it’s still not a clean break – not sure it’s really ever going to be given the kids and some of our respective ‘stuff’. 

And then I think it’s been the realisation – from being in a new thing with someone – that we all have so much of our own shit to deal with. Obviously mine relates hugely to my adoption (rejection, abandonment and separation, as you can probably guess 😬).

There’s something scarily powerful about the dynamics of being in a new relationship that will highlight all sorts of insecurities, patterns and behaviours that an existing ‘safe’ relationship just doesn’t. And being with someone who is so good at seeing my shit – sometimes before I even know anything’s going on – is both a blessing and a curse!!

But while this has been really, really hard, it’s also been one of the best and most precious things about what Becky and I have together…the ability to see through the BS and the defence mechanisms we’ve so cleverly hidden behind throughout the years to keep everyone else at bay is something I’ve never experienced with anyone before. There’s nowhere to hide and for the first time, it feels like I’m being really and truly seen for who I am by someone who gets me, sees me and loves what they see.

So yes, there have been some very tough times and there continue to be. But was it worth it and would I do it all over again? Hell yes!

This Theme’s Soundtrack…

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Why?

Dear You,

So why does someone straight suddenly decide age 42, to leave the father of their two kids, and begin a romantic relationship with a close same sex friend? One of the biggest reasons was that I really didn’t want to get to the end of my life and not have drunk from the furry cup!

Ok so I’m being facetious. But seriously, I consciously had the thought “would I be ok with being on my deathbed never having been with a woman?” The answer was a definite ‘no’! Given that it was something I’d fantasised about for a long time, at least sexually, and given that I have spent my life searching for someone who really got me, and men didn’t seem to fit the bill, it seemed pretty clear cut.

However, I think I would have drifted on indefinitely had I not met Lea and realised quite how much I had been surviving on breadcrumbs in many ways and how detrimental that was for all of us involved. Myself, as I felt I wasn’t honouring who I really was and what I really wanted; my ex, who really wasn’t getting what he wanted and needed from me, especially on the love, sex and romance front; and my kids who were experiencing parents who were together purely for their sake and because it felt too difficult to contemplate anything else.

For me, I think I had become so embroiled in the ‘my kids are my life’ narrative that I couldn’t see beyond it to what my needs were and why they were important – especially raising girls! The realisation that my being selfish and acting with integrity about what MY needs were was not only a good thing for me and my mental health but, at least longer term, a great example for my children of not becoming a martyr to something that really isn’t working – even for the sake of your own kids!

Not only that, but I want my girls to grow up with a great model of what a loving relationship looks like. And with the best will in the world, that wasn’t their Dad and I anymore, if it ever was. Being with Lea has shown me what real love, romance, affection and yes, wonderful intimate sex, is really all about. I haven’t experienced that before. Ever. And anyone who knows my sexual history might be surprised by that!! (Put it this way, I was making jolly sure I wasn’t straight for a really long time!)

I know you’ve thought about making a slightly different life leap for sometime and I guess what you’re asking me is ‘whether leaping is worth it or a massive mistake?! Well I know the saying goes ‘look before you leap’ but frankly sometimes your only available mode of transport is a leap of faith…and in my experience you can build your wings on the way down!

Hey you,

Good questions! Why now? Why do it at all? Why, why, why?

Well, a few things had been whirring round my head but I think the big catalyst came one day when I suddenly realised that the life I was living – 2.4 children in a country cottage with a Volvo in the driveway wasn’t exactly the one I’d seen myself living. It brought about a very definite “What the fuck am I doing?” moment which lead to the following thoughts, in no particular order…

Finally admitting to myself that I was probably gay or at least bi, and thinking to myself that there was no way I wanted to get to the end of my life and regret not ever having done something about that, would it be better to wait till the kids are older to leave? To defer my happiness for theirs? Which would be more detrimental to them – destroy their family now or later??!

If I waited, then they might then think I’ve/we’ve/they’ve been living a lie for all these years (watching the film, Elena Undone in which the teenage boy feels this way when he discovers his mother is having an affair with a woman had quite an influence on that)…and that’s not fair on me, their father or the kids to have known all this time that I wanted to make a change but not to do it. That feels like a coward’s approach.

And did I really want to wait until I’m almost 50 to be trying to find and start a new relationship when I’m well past my prime? I know how ageist that sounds but did I really want to be trying to pull a hot woman when I’m half a century old!!!

I’ve always wanted the kids to have the model of a relationship where 2 adults love each other, are attracted to each other and are in a ‘healthy’ relationship in as many ways as possible; and I think deep down I suspected that I could only do this if I were with a woman.

On many levels, their father and I ‘worked’ but having made the leap I realise that on many levels we didn’t work, and certainly not as well as things can work in a relationship. Not addressing this would have meant continuing a relationship that wasn’t best for either of us, or the kids.

I remember spending a day with some friends and feeling really uncomfortable that they were really lovey dovey after at least a decade of marriage still – snogging in front of us, wanting to touch each other constantly – it highlighted the fact that we weren’t like that, that I wasn’t sure I could be or wanted to be like that with their father but that I did want that with someone.

And ultimately, it came down to the fact that I didn’t want any regrets; I didn’t want to live a life that wasn’t what I knew I truly wanted deep down and pretend that it was ok. Once I’d fully acknowledged this to myself – that it’s not how I wanted to live for my kids and it’s not how I wanted to live for me – I knew it was time to do it sooner rather than later…and so I leapt!

This Theme’s Soundtrack…

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Get Together

Dear you, OK OK!!! So I drop a bombshell like that and then don’t give you enough juicy details!! Well, I think I began to feel we could be good friends when she out-pooed me at Forest School!! As the queen of poo gags and double entendres I am always impressed if someone can tell a good poo story and she raised the bar…considerably! The story in question involved her then 10 month old son eating his own poo!! We started hanging out more socially, and talking on Messenger, about all sorts of stuff. I was quite depressed at the time, remember when I first had anaemia and how I hadn’t realised for ages and just thought it was the fibro and I was just beyond exhaustion? Well this was during that time so I shared much of how I was feeling with her. Fernfest, the mini festival at her house showed me quite how much I enjoyed her company although I still couldn’t have said I fancied her! However, I can remember talking to two girlfriends about arranging a girls weekend away in London to include Lea and I laughingly said how great it would be to have a lesbian encounter whilst we were there. Still refused to mentally make the connection that I meant with Lea!!! It was Elbowgate at the cinema where our elbows brushed against each other and it felt like a lightening bolt through my body, that finally kicked everything off. However, after it had happened, she seemed to move away from me and I had a slight panic that it was because my wool coat was smelly from being in the rain!! We messaged that night and she told me she thought I was that friendly with everyone, to which I retorted I never got electricity surges from my elbow touching other people!!! She said my coat wasn’t smelly and that actually, just as I had been, she’d tried to find subtle ways for us to touch again. I didn’t see her for four days after that as I was away, but we messaged throughout that time trying to work out what the hell was going on between us. None of this was expected or ideal. We were both still in relationships. That didn’t feel good. However, for me it made me realise quite what a half life I’d been living and how I was being cowardly for not ending the relationship with my children’s father. That weekend we met up again and shared our first kiss. She’d prefaced it by saying that she’d been told she wasn’t a great kisser! I didn’t go into it with high hopes, frankly. Was I nervous?! Hell yeah! I’ve never kissed a girl before, but to quote Ms Perry, I liked it, and fortunately she wasn’t a shit kisser at all. Quite the opposite. It felt strangely normal, natural, because I really liked her, not just on a physical level but much more deeply than that. However, there was a voice in my head that kept saying loudly ‘Oh my god I’m a lesbian’! And it turns out that voice in my head is quite correct, I am!! And I finally feel like me!
Hey you, So you want details???! Hmmmm. Ok… Well, I think things started quite some time ago before either of us were really conscious of it being anything more than ‘just friends’. My first real memory of meeting Becky was at a meal for local women that she’d organised with another acquaintance of ours. One of our mutual friends invited me to come along and we had a great time on a table on our own – may have been something to do with the fact that we were the only table to have brought wine with us!!! I remember asking my friend if she’d introduce me to Becky and we had a brief chat as we left the restaurant. We then met sporadically at forest school sessions though I’d often send Jonathan along – very much a fair-weather forester me! I think one thing that put me off was the clique-y nature of the friends she’d go to forest school with – I used to describe it to Jonathan as a witches coven from which I felt very excluded. As I write this, I think this is the main reason I didn’t often go – that sense of not being included/not belonging and feeling really uncomfortable which obviously, as I know now, taps into my adoption stuff. But one forest school day was particularly memorable – we all went exploring in the dyke (ho ho ho!), Becky and I had more chance to chat (I think the rest of the witches coven may not have been there that day), and I think it kicked off our messenger conversations. The messenger chats went on for quite some time, sometimes becoming quite intense. At the time, though I sensed it might be something more, I just assumed she had these kinds of conversations and this kind of relationship with all her friends! I also think this is why so many people were surprised when we came out…while we were both busy getting to know a bit more about each other and were in sporadic but fairly intimate contact with each other via messenger, no-one else really knew we were friends. In fact, a couple of mutual friends said they didn’t even realise we knew each other when we told them about ‘us’. So fast forward to FernFest and I knew on that last day when she was literally the last to leave that something was up! We had a level of intimacy, a level of comfort, a level of connection that felt different. A week later at her daughter’s birthday party, I felt it there too. And then there was ‘elbowgate’ at the cinema about a week later… We’d had a messenger conversation the night before where I’d disclosed a near-miss I’d had with a previous friend (am pretty sure that planted the seed and so the cougar was born!!!!), and there was a palpable tension when we met the next day. I remember feeling nervous wondering how it’d feel to see each other, seeing her in a different light though I didn’t exactly know what that light was. But she looked HOT! Black top tight black trousers, high ponytail (it turns out I’m a sucker for her high ponytails!!), it felt like instant physical attraction, but this time far more explicitly than ever before. And when our elbows inadvertently touched… More juicy details later 😉

This Theme’s Soundtrack…

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