(Warning – This post is a little grittier and closer to the bone than the blog’s usual light hearted feel. It’s hard to sugar coat some things. This year I’ll be writing a lot about life in the country, so I guess it made sense to start with telling you how we got here. I’m going out on a limb sharing such a personal and difficult part of my life, so please be kind. I’m doing this for two reasons; firstly in the hope that in speaking out about it, it’ll smash the last bit of shame that clings on. Shame survives on secrecy so I’m removing its’ life source. The shame can just jog on now. And secondly, to encourage and virtually hug those single mamas that feel like it’s all too much right now. If that’s you I wish I could look you in the eyes and tell you that I know. I just know. And I’d beg you to just believe that everything is going to be okay in the end, that if it’s not okay, it’s not the end). Hang on in there.)
I’ve never been a stranger to country life but only in short bursts. My childhood half-term holidays were spent either ambling over the North Yorkshire Moors or plodding through Dales fields before taking refuge from the inevitably wet and blustery weather in front of an open fire.
It’s not the same though is it? Holiday life and real life? On the most part holidays give you a glimpse into the ‘best of’ somewhere, and retrospect shows you those highlights through rose tinted lenses to further enhance your perspective of a place.
In 2014 I uprooted my girls from suburbia and started a new life for us in, what felt at the time, the middle of nowhere. Right bang in the middle of the Yorkshire Dales. The truth is though, that it wasn’t to follow a pipe dream to make those childhood memories a reality.
It wasn’t because I was ready for some new adventure. Far from it.
I had just about muddled through nearly a year of single parenthood following a painful and complicated marital breakdown.
Side note: Out of love and respect to my girls, who will one day read these posts, I won’t delve into the ugly truth that, to this day, continues to lurk beneath the surface of what people perceive to have happened. Precious friends and family have soothed my wounds with promises that the truth always comes out in the end and ‘what comes around goes around’. It’s funny, because the injustice of such misconception of my divorce tortured me back then (and still feels like a kick in the crotch at times) but having bitten my lip and having chosen to respond with quiet dignity over and over again (when all I wanted to do was scream bloody murder) is what makes me able to hold my head up high today.
I had survived, but I was overwhelmed. The divorce had been going through the motions for months and was coming to a conclusion but most friends didn’t know it was even happening because I’d been advised by confidants to keep my mouth shut. These friends, some of whom I’d walked through life with for over ten years didn’t know what to say to this single mama who had previously been one half of a loved and respected couple. So they backed off. I felt like a leper and dude, that doesn’t feel good at the best of times (please please, if you know someone going through a rough break up, especially if they’re looking after children at the same time, don’t keep your distance. Even if it looks like they’re coping. They need you more than ever).
With a home to be financially and practically responsible for and no family in the area for that hug at the end of a rough day, I had some big decisions to make. My parents, living in the Yorkshire Dales couldn’t bear to watch me crumble any more and pleaded with me to be closer so they could help more.
With my house on the market and juggling work with my two girls, one of my best friends, who had been working away at sea knew I wasn’t okay. Fiercely trying to be this strong single mama, I was feeling the pressure of raised eyebrows and misplaced judgement on top of trying to learn the ropes of being both parents in the family home (I’d never changed a light bulb before then. I didn’t even know what days which bin went out). On the outside I became harder, but on the inside I was breaking.
I had once sworn to Mr C, right after my first marriage imploded, that I’d never be in a relationship again. It just wasn’t worth the risk. It was too painful. He said either way he knew I could be strong again. I didn’t believe him. When he came back from sea we spent time together with my girls. He force fed me pizza and challenged me on my obsessive compulsive cleaning. He made me watch silly films and his like-minded love for good food made me smile. We talked endlessly of his dreams and he coaxed me to readdress my own. They slowly turned into our dreams.
Then he told me he wished he could love my broken pieces back together. If I’m completely honest I didn’t think my pieces would fit back together, I had already built a wall up and was developing a distrust and resentment in men. But I realised that if anyone could love my broken pieces back together I wished it could have been him.
Despite my guarded heart we became a team. A pair that stood together. A few months later he made the call to leave the RFA and join the three of us in our move to the Dales.
And so as a newly formed unit, we started our life in the country. So we could be near my parents. So my oldest girl could flourish in a small country school and so my youngest girl could spread her wings. So I could really breathe again.
We didn’t move to the country in a bid for adventure. We moved to the country to retreat from the judging gazes, the blatant shunning from those that thought they knew better and the not so quiet whispers. I just didn’t want to be around it anymore. I couldn’t be around it anymore. And I was damn sure I wasn’t going to expose my girls to it.
We moved to the country to be part of a kind community. I craved normality. Heck, I craved boring. I didn’t have the energy for anything else.
That was two and a half years ago. I’m still a little bruised but I reckon I’ve bounced back even stronger than I was before that chapter of my life. I wish I could jump back and give the me back then a bit of a shake, to tell her to stand up for herself. To kick ass a bit more. But I’m choosing to learn from my yesterday and live for my today. I’m ready for adventure and I don’t feel ashamed or guilty for seeking good things for me and my family anymore. We deserve it. I deserve it.
The country life. It’s given me so much more than I hoped for and everything I needed. Space to grow and strengthen. Freedom to be myself again. A slower pace to stop me hiding in busyness. A community of folk that welcomed us to live alongside them without interrogation.
A few months ago I read a post by Journalist Liz Jones, where she slated the Yorkshire Dales. Though I respectfully take my position as a migrant to this wonderful part of the world, I found myself feeling defensive of this place I now call home. Sure, it has it’s idiosyncrasies, but I challenge you to show me a living and breathing community that doesn’t have it’s querks.
I love those querks and the place that bears them; it gave me my life back.
Mrs C x
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