This may sound silly but although I make up titles for my blogs on the fly I rarely forget them. To me they’re often quite prescient and are rarely disposable words that mean nothing.
Sometimes I can hide things in plain sight with them and their meaning is only 100% obvious to someone in the know – because they’ve been lifted from a conversation and are openly private.
Someone I’ve known very well for many years does the opposite to me and always creates his titles before the content underneath – however for me the process is different. Usually I let creativity take its course and decide upon one at the end of writing a post. Consequently they’re typically based on what I consider to be the most important item of content and more often than not seem to fit.
One that I think I’ll never forget is called ‘Christmas Tree‘ (link).
If you want to have a look I’ll wait.
I’m in no rush.
Help yourself (sips coffee).
No – seriously – the rest of what’s coming will make more sense if you do.
(Sips coffee again)
Ok – now you’re all caught up I’ll continue.
This blog has undeniably been an extremely useful tool, because it’s not only helped me change my life, but it’s given a voice to many of the thoughts that I’ve experienced along the way and (on rare occasions) it’s also inspired true transformative change in others.
From time to time I get messages from people, just like me, who were lost and then found themselves again. They tell me that they managed to turn things around because they read about a man that had achieved something incredible – and that when he started he too didn’t believe he could accomplish what he ultimately did.
As they quietly followed what he wrote (never telling him that they were watching) they too realised that no-matter how bad thing had become, or how low they felt they’d sunk change was still possible.
It’s nice to think that words I’ve written have impacted, or even in a couple of cases changed lives for the better.
It’s extremely gratifying.
Up to the end of my last post (according to my cumulative stats) I’ve written a mind boggling 857,693 words on this site.
To put that in context Leo Tolstoy’s epic War and Peace contains a mere 587,287 (link).
I’ve almost written as many words as JK Rowling did for the entire Harry Potter series!!!
Sadly mine have not yet proved anywhere near as lucrative – so I guess volume isn’t the only skill to work on if you want to make yourself rich with writing.
Even though there are a lot of my words out there they’ve all individually been very important to me at one time or another and they have taken many hours of agonising about where they sit in sentences to produce.
However, even after all that effort I feel I have to give them away to ‘the internet’ and I genuinely feel purged when I do.
Once they’re in a blog I just fling them out into the ether and the relief I experience is palpable – but I never know what will happen to them and can only hope that they’re received positively.
Sometimes they provoke comment, but at times there’s complete silence. Once in a blue moon (wonderfully) they change others – but occasionally (even more wonderfully) they can also change me.
My Christmas Tree post was just such an occasion – because it marked a turning point where a passing acquaintance (whom I met at Cheddar Gorge partly because I was looking for something to write about – link) decided to reach out to me.
I was in a moment of personal crisis and on that day I felt like an open wound.
I was alone and also in the process of realising that I was truly lonely. It had taken me many years to admit this to myself, and when I did the realisation hit me like a brick in the face.
Worst of all (despite trying) I felt completely incapable of fixing the problem.
In my head I was sure that I carried with me such huge volumes of baggage regarding the past that I was completely unlovable. I had no idea how to explain to someone new in my life who I was, why I was so physically scarred or how things had spiralled so out of control for me.
Every time I had attempted to it left me feeling diminished and broken.
How had I become this man and why would somebody want to inherit the wreckage that was left?
How do you spin the narrative behind a picture depicting a man so vast?
When you’re a your lowest and you can’t see things for what they though are a blog can be useful. They’re two way streets – and sometimes when you need it the most a voice reaches out in the darkness. You’ve touched them somehow and they need to tell you that something you’ve said has resonated with them.
Or they want to help.
After writing about my tree I drove to a friend’s house, and on the way I did something unusual.
I did so until my voice broke and I couldn’t speak properly. I did so until the pain of loneliness seemed less and the frustration it caused was reduced.
I felt in that moment like everything I’d done to lose weight had been a waste of time. It all meant nothing. It didn’t resolve anything. It just made me like everyone else – but instead I was now decades behind everyone I knew and alone.
While I was busy screaming I received a message from the person I’d met in Cheddar. She was complimenting me on my Christmas tree, and ended her text with ‘You are welcome to call whenever you want a chat x’.
At the time it barely registered but I mentioned it to my friend when I arrived.
This was lost in anger though. I instead spent far more time ranting about how I felt regarding several other texts I’d received (from elsewhere) and why they were the cause of my screaming.
As I blew off steam over a cup of coffee in his living room I was completely focused on how much pain I was feeling rather than on a random message out of the blue.
He let me vent and then pointed out that the wording seemed kind and that I should pay attention to it.
Maybe I should even reply to it?
He made me promise that I would and so (while talking to him) I fired off a quick thank you note.
Once this was done he made me agree (and contacted me the next day to ensure that I was complying) that I would follow it up and get to know the person at the other end a bit better.
He couldn’t have known at the time how much difference that would make to my life.
It turned out that this person, concerned for my well being, and reaching out to help someone in pain that she had begun to get to know through the words of his blog was my partner to be.
My blog had not only caused our first meeting, but had also enabled her to get to know me better, to decide whether or not she liked me and whether I was worth developing a friendship with. Everything changed that day – and as we gradually got to know eachother better the completely unexpected happened.
We found love.
My other half has a way with words too – and she often says things casually that end up sticking with me for a long time.
One of the most memorable was when (chatting about the circumstances in which we finally connected) I complained about how difficult it was to find anyone on a dating site.
It all seemed endlessly superficial – and all of the swiping left or right just reduced it to a volume based looks contest, meaning what you wanted from a life partner got lost in the need to scroll though thousands of pictures and reduced to thoughts about who had nice teeth or pleasing hair.
Even if you managed to get someone to respond things didn’t get better.
‘Often…’ I whinged ‘…people leave the truth about themselves out of their profiles and don’t tell you the full story until you’re already talking to them.’
‘They say that they’re single and without strings when actually they have an ex still on the scene with lots of children, or fib that they’re a social drinker when actually they consume a bottle of wine a night, or are homey when in fact they appear to be married to their career and will only be able to see you once in a blue moon.’
I sighed deeply.
‘I’m so glad I randomly found you face to face because I could never have waded through person after person on a website until you popped up.’
‘I couldn’t have used a dating site.’ She said.
I looked at her quizically. ‘No?’ I replied.
‘No – because even if I’d written down everything that I’d wanted to find it still wouldn’t have worked.’
The punchline was coming.
‘I didn’t know what I wanted until I found all of the things I didn’t know I needed in you.’ She said whilst looking me in the eye.
The memory of these words still put a lump in my throat because I knew when she said this that she’d somehow managed to reach down deep inside me and pull my own thoughts out that I didn’t realise were there and give them form.
She was right.
The profiles I’d created and persons that I’d looked for were not her.
They weren’t even close.
Like many of us the mistakes we make are not based on us looking for what we really need – but what we think we want – when the two are often completely different.
I’d been so preoccupied with finding and fixing what had gone wrong in the past when I’d created dating website profiles that I’d missed who I was in the present. I’d failed to recognise what a man who was now very different to his younger self needed from a partner.
I know now.
At times I feel like I’m looking in a mirror when I stare at her – and it’s scary how alike we can be in so many ways.
As much as I’ve learned about how (and why) she ticks I’ve also learned about myself – and in the past year I’ve had to re-write much of my own internal narrative.
This is because I’m now being viewed through the lens of someone that loves and cares for me and this continually forces me to re-appraise my perception of myself. I can’t spout bullshit about being a bad person, tell her that I’m not worthy, or that I’m a failure without a swift incoming reality check, and I don’t allow her to do similar things.
When we see the worst in ourselves we also simultaneously see the best in eachother.
She’s made me realise with patience and compassion what’s possible between two people – and I’m amazed that I never understood the depth of it before.
To think it all began with some Cheddar and a Christmas Tree.
Here’s to the next year together and to many many more anniversaries after that.