Ah Wednesday… the day of the week where I used to start the count down to the weekend. Yep - on a Wednesday. I would wish for the weekend, the time when I'd catch up with my girlfriends, get all dressed up and hit the town.
The weekends would start with pre drinks, gossiping while you paint your face, straighten the fuck out of your hair and agonise over the FIFTH outfit and still not even remotely happy with how you look. Ah, give me another glass of cheap fizzy wine, because that will help!
These nights of reverie always ended with cheesy chips, kebab meat and a stumble to the taxi rank laughing at each other's various interactions with the folk of the opposite sex. 17 years in a relationship made singledom utterly terrifying for me, and I was incredibly awkward when being 'chatted up'. I mean, shocking! 'Hey, how are you? Look great. Lovely dress' Me: 'Yeah, you too- um, not the dress bit, the look great bit, but not in a creepy way…' 'Uh, right - Ok, have a great night'. For fucks sake.
The inevitability of a hangover already being widely discussed among the group and the ubiquitous competition of who would have the worst head; eat the most shit food; spend the most time on the sofa; who'd drunk the most. Who'd had the most attention. Who hadn't had any, and the 'poor love' patronising head tilt. Oh they were fun times.
The morning after would always be the beginning of a shame spiral, induced by the depressant effect of too much alcohol together with the foggy recollections of 'dancing' the night away. This actually translated to more of a controlled stagger, screaming the lyrics at the top of my lungs utterly convinced I looked as good as Beyonce. OH THE SHAME!!!! Never fear though, there's always that one friend who takes the time and care to studiously remind you of everything you did last night - in HD. So thoughtful huh. Christ. I don’t miss those days one little bit.
Now don't misunderstand me. I still like to get all glammed up and hit the town with the girls, and my favourite human. The difference for me is that I don't need to do that every weekend anymore. Why is that I wonder?
I was out this morning walking the beagle. Or more accurately, he was walking me. However as I approached the river, leaves crunched underfoot, the wind had a little bite to it and the evocative smell of a log fire wafted under my nose. Oh how the smell of a fire can spark off nostalgia. Memories came flooding in, some welcome and warm, some not so.
When a memory creates discomfort for me, I'm learning to focus on that. To tolerate the feeling. To explore the source of the niggle. It isn't easy and I don't always succeed, but when I do it's incredibly enlightening and liberating. Today's loudest memory was of those drunken weekends. Blurred flashes of a time I was deeply unhappy. Self medicating to make it better, and creating a galvanised veneer of confidence which would have shattered under any kind of close scrutiny. Nobody close to me knew just how unhappy I was. We are good at that, aren't we?
I remembered the decision to step away from that circle of people. To put distance between myself and the circus. My father once said to me, 'if you continue to do the same thing, you get the same results'. Now, my father reads self help books for a damn living and I am yet to see him put one ounce of his learning into action. I love him fiercly, but damn he likes to preach and not practice! However, his sermons over the years have stuck and on occasion - helped. Don't tell him that!!!
I wanted to be happy. Desperately, frantically. I knew I had to do something. I was living a contradictory life - hitting the gym 6 times a week, losing weight and getting nice and strong and yet I was still smoking and drinking far too much. Enough, I deserve more.
I consciously deselected people from my life. Fuck me, that's incredibly hard. People I had been associated with for a long time - gone. Suddenly my social circle became very claustrophobic!
I invested in those friendships which added value, those which made me feel good. Authentic.
I came off all online dating sites. That one right there is a HUGE one. It had become a bloody full time job servicing all the messages and keeping on top of all the conversations. Who needs the fucking stress. DELETE!
I cut out alcohol for 3 months. Now that was harder than I like to admit, but I did feel bloody fantastic. Again, please don’t think I'm some evangelical tee totaller. I'm not. I love a drink - I just don't 'need' to drink anymore.
I quit smoking. And kept it quit.
I decided to be what I wanted to attract. A healthy, happy, positive individual. This was a decision each morning. Literally. I'm not kidding. I would wake up and decide to smile. I would decide to smile at everyone I saw, like a crazed woman. I figured if I did this, it would eventually be a real emotion. And you know what. It bloody worked! That moment someone walking past you catches your eye and then returns your smile with one of their own is infectious. I feel immediately happier.
I now work in an industry which promotes positivity and under the expectation that I'm always bouncy and positive. I'm not. I'm a real live boy! I have bad days too. However, I have learned that even on the bleakest of days - SMILE! You WILL feel better. And hey, you might be the reason someone else smiles today. How amazing is that?
So to answer my question earlier, why? Because I am happy. Because I am fulfilled. Because I am self aware. Because I am in love. Because I am loved. Because I love myself. And all because one day I decided to smile…..