How to love your body a bit more…

I’ve been thinking a lot about weight this week. I’m currently reading Martin Amis’ autobiography and I stopped to think when he talked about his father’s descent, or rather expansion, into corpulence in later life as a conscious decision made as an acceptance of his disconnection with his sexual life.

That to comfort eat and gain extensive roundness was to dull his sexual urges and signal in physical form that that part of his life was over. It was something that chimed with me. When I was child I was skinny and mawkish, but once I hit 18 and started working at McDonald’s part time my weight began to balloon, and it has fluctuated for the whole of my adult life and caused me considerable psychological issues. When I’m ‘thin’ I feel good and sexy and when I’m ‘fat’ I feel slothlike, unsexy and unattractive.

I was rather staggered last year when my decluttering urges led to me to start digging around in the loft and I came across an old notebook from when I was 18. In it was a weight chart and exercises, demonstrating in paper and pencil reality that as soon as I hit adolescence I was ensnared by an obsession about weight and appearance, ‘good’ food and ‘bad’ food that would follow me around and find physical form in the range of sizes of the clothes in my wardrobe from a size 12 when times are lean to an 18 when I’ve expanded.

Having my son six years ago lead not only to weight gain but also a change in physical shape, and a lack of a sex life with my ex husband meant that I bought elasticated trousers, sheathed myself in voluminous fabrics and generally signalled through my abandonment of any pretensions to caring about my appearance that my life as a sensual and sexual being was over. 

But when I look back, it was a chronic lack of self esteem that led to me feeling like that. Once I changed my job last spring and lost several stones of weight, started wearing nice clothes again and generally gained more confidence I realised that the weight acted as a cloak to hide behind and give me an excuse not to engage with the world. While eating too much was a way of both comforting and punishing myself and also not caring about my health or my body.

These feelings all came to the fore at work this week when one of my work colleagues was talking about his partner ‘carrying too much timber’, piling on the weight and generally, as a result, becoming sexually unattractive to him. All in the name of banter you understand. But I heard the words and felt chilled to the core, as my sympathies lay with his partner, who, probably aware of his feelings was taking the same path I had trodden, to self pacify with food and not go out and socialise because of a total lack of confidence.

Obviously now I newly single, my worries about weight will once again resurface, as if I do want to re-enter the shark-infested waters of dating then I’ll need to be the best version of myself that I can be, and that will include being self critical and scrutinising myself in the mirror. But I don’t actually have to take that well-trodden path, for once in my life I may just walk tall in self acceptance, however much ‘timber’ I’m carrying, and see where that takes me!

How to draw summer to a close….

‘They’ll all come off at the end of September’ I’d said to a friend as we sat in my back garden in June, when the autumn seemed like it would never arrive. In the lime-green freshness of early summer the idea that everything will turn golden and die always seems inconceivable. But everything has its day. As I was talking I was stroking the two or three wristbands I’d collected from a few events I’d attended in the preceding weeks, and for some reason I hadn’t wanted to take them off. Over the next four months the collection expanded up my wrist taking in night clubs, beer festivals, memories and gigs.

In the morning I’d sort out any crumbled ones, check for breakages and apply tape where needed. It became something of a ritual to touch them and reaffirm my memories and experiences. The colour gradually faded and the indications of what event they’d been for washed off. The black marker pen memories greyed to near oblivion. But I could remember where each one had come from. They became part of me, a conversation starter – I even acquired a couple from events friends had attended – they became synonymous with me and my new life.

I knew that they’d have to come off eventually, but throughout the summer they’d driven me on to travel, do new things, taste the sweetness of life – a siren beckoning me to do more, and be more. They had become part of my new identity – I was the girl with the wristbands.

But, now the nights were cooling and darkening, summer’s lease was indeed expiring and it was time to draw this period of adventure to a close and start a new chapter.

At this time of year I always find it natural to want to hunker down, I start dreaming of candlelight, snug fires, cosy blankets and nights in reading. My forgotten recipe books start looking more alluring as I look forward to cooking comfort food and eating with friends and family. I want to be able to come in from the cold cuddle with my cat, take my son out in his wellies for splashy puddle walks and go conker picking.

And so my brain was already starting to detach itself from my drive for summer adventure. I no longer needed the crutch of my wristbands. I’d learned that adventures are there for the taking, I just need to be the one who chooses to take them, and I no longer need an armful of coloured bands to remind me to do that.

So it was on Sunday that without any sense of ceremony, but with a bouncy child shouting ‘mummy can I do it?’ I took a pair of scissors and one by one severed each band from my wrist. They fell curling in coloured heaps on to the worktop revealing a pale band of skin untouched by the sun. Looking now like nothing more than scraps of waxed paper, but to me, they represent a snake skin, I’ve sloughed off the old and started the new. It’s time to go blinking out into the autumn sunshine, or hang my head under the drizzle and see what possibilities the next few months will bring.

How to go to your first festival…

festival, equinox, summer, camping

Firstly, buy a tent. In an ideal world erect tent before you go so you know what you’re up against. But hey, in my new-found spirit of abandon and winging it I decided to just rock up and see what occurred. The same went for a camp cooker and an air bed. I’ve spent so long within the constraint of dominant relationships for much of my adult life that my new chaos and disorder-filled life is needed as an antidote. I need to know that however much I try to control things life will take its own course.

As my son and I had driven down to the festival site, after rushing around attending training, picking a friend up from hospital, last-minute packing it was heading towards twilight. I’d decided that as we’d slept out in the garden on the sofa cushions in the summer that they’d make ideal air-bed replacements when we went camping. I’d rammed them into the back of my tiny car and entirely filled the back window. As we came to take them out someone commented, ‘hey, cool, you’ve brought a sofa to chill out on,’ I laughed rather too lightly and we continued to struggle over the field to the tent spot with far too much beige upholstery than was sensible given the whole field situation.

As I tipped the tent out onto the parched ground, the words ‘needs two people to erect’ were read, and ignored as I struggled with the tent poles, the girl next door offered her services, to which I replied in my rather-too-English fashion, ‘I think I’ll be fine thanks’. Five minutes later son was saying I an over-loud voice ‘mummy are you going to ask for help’. As though I was the seven-year-old and he was the adult. I’d forgotten the mallet, so when the lads nextdoor took over the tent erection and were hammering the pegs in I was terminally grateful.

The sky was turning that sparkling shade of turquoise and the strings of light that stretched to the festival site started to glow. It was ethereal, a slight chill reminded me that we were at summer’s end. We grabbed a torch – one of the things I had remembered to bring – go me – and headed over to the wooden enclosure where I could already hear a ‘boom boom’ from one of the music tents. We were both giddy with anticipation. Our first festival. We’d made it. We had somewhere to sleep and now we were walking down a chalky embankment towards a huge equinox fire that was showering sparks into the darkening sky. We found a log to sit on that rocked slightly unsteadily but that became our base over the next couple of days.

This was something that in my married life we’d never have done. My son would never have experience this grand autumnal equinox party. He’d never have run up and down this hill under September sunshine, free and full of life, while I lay staring up at a jewel-blue sky feeling happy to be alive. I may have packed badly but in essentials we had everything we needed.

How to have your heart broken…

They say that the break-up of your first relationship after your marriage hurts the most, and they are right…

They….

A few months ago I had my heart broken. I’ve healed now, but the anguish I felt at the time I wrote about in my journal, to process the hurt, and these were my thoughts:

I feel in physical pain, my heart actually aches and my mind keeps replaying memories of last summer over and over, loop after loop. My head feels as though a band is tightening around it. I was warned, of course, not to get involved with this guy. The alarm bells had been ringing in my head for so long they’d given me tinnitus.  But I jumped in head and heart first anyway. They say that the end of your first post-divorce relationship hurts more than the loss of the marriage and the all-knowing ‘they’ are right. I hurt. Badly. I’m anguished. I want to cry cathartic tears, but I can’t. They stay stubbornly in my head, but I know that feeling them wash down my face amid streaks of black mascara would help. Yet they remain unshed.

Last night I woke up in the witching hour. Happy. Until that is I remembered the break-up chat of the previous day. The tears, the recriminations. The crash of thoughts came trampling across the landscape of my mind. Thud. Thud. The pain came flooding back in stabbing, destructive waves. The ‘I’ll contact you in a few days’ parting shot, which materialised today in a ‘it’s not you, it’s me letter’ that finally pulled the plug. I knew he was no good for me, but he looked at me as though I was magic and held me like no one has ever held me in a big, strong embrace. After a long marriage of feeling like nothing but an irritant to my husband, being cherished felt nice. More than nice. It became a hedonistic nectar that I couldn’t get enough of. I was like a love-sick teenager throwing caution to the wind.

We spent the summer together in a collection of warm nights sitting outside drinking cider followed by bike rides home when I was dizzy with the thrill of it all. He joked about me being his ‘summer girl’. I always knew I’d never make it through winter. Yet, I continued to be dizzy with the thrill of this guy whose gaze made come alive, made me tingle. But fast forward a few months, when the hard reality of starting a new life from the ashes of my marriage meant that I was crying more than I was laughing, weighed down by the Sisyphean task of pushing the boulder of my new life uphill, had made me needy, requiring of someone to share the burden of the boulder, and predictably, the chimera disappeared. As I always knew it would. Instinct you see. Instinct told me from the get-go that when the going got tough he would disappear like some willo-the-wisp, to where the going was less tough, less requiring of emotional effort. But I ignored that small voice of calm. Just as I ignored the warning signs at the start of my relationship with my husband. I pushed them down, ignored them, sat on them, muffled them. But they wouldn’t be silenced, and ultimately the unheeded warning signs would years later be the reason I moved out and moved on. I’m learning that not listening to your little inner voice is A Bad Thing.

And the warning signs I ignored with this guy, the ones I drowned out with cider and hedonism, the ones I just couldn’t ignore for much longer would have strangled this relationship at some stage. I’m just annoyed that he was the one to make the move to end it. Now I feel cheated, rejected, and grieving. Mourning for a lost summer of bliss, fun, sparkle, chilled cider, sand in my shoes and warm breezes. Now I’m left with the cold, pavement-grey reality of the end of a relationship that gave me the strength to bring about the end of my marriage. But now I have to learn to live without that beacon of light at the end of the rocks and navigate the stormy seas of single life as a separated woman knowing that, like too much sugar, this relationship was harmful and bad for me, but also that it made life just a little bit sweeter, tastier, and gave me a rush. Now it’s time for the comedown.

How to see things from a different perspective….

Since moving here my son has discovered an aptitude for climbing out of my bedroom window and sitting on the apex of the kitchen roof below. Probably not his best trick or my finest parenting hour, but I admire his confidence in his agility and his freedom. So I don’t stop him from doing it. Even though I probably should.

Last night I tried to sleep, I’d spent all day nursing a hangover of head-splitting epic proportions. When I eventually peeled myself off the sofa, which was surrounded by half-drunk mugs of tea and Quality Street wrappers, I went upstairs. Head pounding. Waves of nausea crashing over me every time I bent over. ‘I’m never drinking again’ I’d messaged my mate. Yeah right.

Sleep didn’t really come despite how many times I’d beckoned its welcoming embrace. Rain clattered on the lean-to on and off all night, like thousands of tiny pebbles. I can never sleep when it rains. I love the sound of it. The bedroom window was open and I could hear my cat in the garden, protecting her territory from other cats. They fought. And wailed. She jumped in through the window scattering the mess I’d left on the windowsill from the night before. Hair gunk, moisturiser, mascara, mirror. All the essentials for getting ready for a night out. Anticipation, glamour. Imagining the night ahead. The morning after they lose their sheen. Dress laying in a crumpled heap on the floor. Normality restored.

I had a vague sense that in the night my cat had sent the mirror flying out of the window to settle on the lean-to roof below. She had. We’d both had a restless night.

I leaned out of the window and stared at it. Glinting silver with rainwater on the plastic roof sheeting. Could I do without a mirror until Wednesday, when chimney sweep wise I could send my young son down to retrieve it? He’d think that was cool.

No, I’d get it myself. See what he sees, do what he does. It’s a small window. I managed to get through the opening and sit on the ledge. My frame filling the window frame. The roof tiles were slimy to my bare feet. I ungraciously managed to get out and stand on the slanting roof, hanging onto a heating pipe for balance as I leaned forward to grab the mirror. I hurled it through the window and on to the bed. Then sat on the window ledge looking across my neighbour’s gardens. Rectangular patches neatly laid out next to each other, row after row. An insight into other people’s lives.

I got it now. Why my son likes sitting up here. You can see so much and you feel ever so slightly naughty. I breathed in the rain-chilled air. Noticed my neighbour’s bike – I’ve never seen him ride a bike. He’s got a small vegetable patch too. All the familiar looks different from up here. Change your perspective and you see different angles, look at things in a different way. Up high, looking down. Viewpoints upended. I squeezed back through into my bedroom. I should do that sort of thing more often.

How to reclaim single status

‘Don’t worry you won’t be on your own for long,’ a well-meaning male colleague said not long after my marital break-up. As though I only have value in terms of my worth to a man. I was in a state of single doom, not singledom in his eyes. He pursed his lips and looked sad. I was deserving of his sympathy because I was now single. I should have challenged him, but at the time I needed that reassurance that yes, I was ultimately loveable, and that no I wouldn’t be condemned to a life of single doom.

This is entirely counterintuitive to my recent experience of actually being single. I am free. I can do what I like, on the days when I’m not with my son. I don’t have to put up with a remote-control hogger or the crushing silences from someone you share a house with but doesn’t speak. I don’t feel that I need sympathy, and my women friends are certainly casting a slightly envious eye at my freedom. I feel inspiring and inspired, not in need of a ‘there there’ a man will soon come along and rescue you from terminal spinsterhood, as though I’m some old maid in a Jane Austen novel, sitting on the side of the dance floor waiting to get picked.

And talking of dance floors, a friend recently commented on a night out that I don’t ever scan the room for men, or engage with chatting to them despite how many interested looks I get. I’ve always had a lot of male attention, but I’m at the stage in my life now, where I don’t want to assess myself in terms of how much male attention I get. I want to go out dance and drink with my mates and have fun, without the constant engagement with potential partners. It’s wearying. I want to be me, and like me on my own without feeling the need to be completed.

It would currently take one very special man to shift me back into that state of perpetual compromise that comes with being in a relationship.

The chirpy monkey part of my brain that has been programmed by modern culture into thinking that I will only be complete as part of a pair still kicks in occasionally. And trust me, when you don’t have a constant person at home, then you have to make much more of an effort in order to connect with people and that takes time and vulnerability. Some days it would feel much easier to shut the door and have a companion waiting for me at home, than to keep up a constant set of balls in the air in terms of my social life and maintaining connections with people. You appreciate your friends a lot more when you’re not in a relationship, but sadly, in the past, for me, they have been the first thing to slide when I’ve met someone.

I’ve been telling everyone that I’m quite happy on my own, while at the same time talking about meeting someone, so maybe some part of me was struggling. But I had something of an epiphany this week. I sat on my own, on my sofa, in my house. It was calm, and quiet, and there was no panic, no voice in my head noting the absence of a potential other. There was just me in my space, perfectly happy to be there, feeling whole, and happy, and free. It was a lightbulb moment. I don’t need to have a man in my life, I’m okay on my own. But, if at some stage, I want to have a man in my life and am lucky to find someone compatible, then hopefully the relationship will be stronger because I’m ok with myself. In the words of Shirley Valentine, ‘I’m okay. I quite like myself actually.’

How to learn the meaning of home….

Home is not a place. It’s a feeling.

A white light flashed on my phone. In my eagerness to hear from a particular someone I picked it up to read the text. The disappointment was crashing; the message wasn’t from the long-awaited contact, but a friend telling me she won’t be in work today. Rather than continue thrashing about within the sheets I got up creaking myself awake as the pre-alarm day dawned.

In my new place a silhouetted row of terraced houses faces my bedroom window, they slowly flicker to light, small orange rectangles floating in the gloom. In the dying days of my married life, I would cycle the streets of my town at twilight, irresistibly drawn to the pinpricks of white light hanging from bay windows and the glow emanating from living rooms. I felt adrift, detached from my own home and longing for the cosy warmth of other people’s houses.

Now, in my new pared-down and post-relationship life, it is other people who come into the warmth of my home, my heart has found some degree of peace within its silent walls. I see the orange windows of other homes and feel that I am now part of that illuminating flicker. I have found a new place to call home, I am safe within its cocooned walls, no longer looking outward, but inward, my new space quelling the turmoil.

There’s an adage that what you have now is what you once wished for, and that’s true of this house. When I wanted to get away from the suffocating sadness of marriage within the four walls of a house I’d spent 20 years living in, I’d visit the tenant of this house to talk about when she would move out and I would move in. When I’d reclaim the space I owned, but she rented. I’d dream about the day when I could walk through this front door, and close it quietly behind me and create a new world and a new life. I worried. Would my son like living here? Would he find this house, which needed so much work doing to it, a home? My fears were unfounded. He found a sense of freedom and adventure in living here with me. In the early days when we had little materially but had each other and he seemed to revel in the abandonment of the rules I’d had to live with within my married life, but now lay by the side of the road, left in the dust as we took a new path, a new journey. We explored our new neighbourhood together, made new rituals and routines and got used to our new life as a two, rather than a three. I learned a lot about parental love in those early days. He didn’t care where he lived as long as he was with me and I realised that my love for him could survive the times when we weren’t together. Myself and our new home would welcome him back into a loving embrace each time he’d been to his other life, his other home. And ultimately I’d learn to deal with the void left by his absence. He always comes home. Home isn’t a place, it’s feeling. It’s love.

How to find love in other ways…

I had my heart broken earlier in the year. It was teenager-y, painful and physically hurt. As per my way of dealing with the situation was to research and read. I knew if I read enough on the subject a way of healing would eventually materialise, and it did.

I heard a psychologist talking recently about relationships. Her research suggested that we need to fall in love and have that dizzying, obsessive, chemical-drenched phase in our lives as payback for the procreation side. It’s a glue that will keep us together. What her evidence also suggested was that we can actually live without that one great romantic relationship in our lives. Pull the plug on it and we won’t survive. What we would soon wither without however, are our friendships. A fact being borne out by the current epidemic of loneliness afflicting the country, and something I see with the people I work with on a day-to-day basis.

While my heart was being ripped to pieces I went through the usual reactions, staring at my phone, willing it to ping up with a message. Replaying his last messages over and over in my mind trying to extrapolate any clues for hope – anything that would give me something to hang on to that we would reconcile. Dark nights of the soul where I very nearly climbed the walls in despair. As I think back to those painful stormy days now and visualise the person I was in love with I realise now what I was suffering from was some sort of addiction. This guy was so not right for me, at all. If we’d stayed together I would definitely not be enjoying the freedom and self discovery that I am now. But when I was in the middle of the storm none of this was clear, I was left clinging to the side of a boat at sea desperately hoping for sight of a safe harbour.

That safe harbour appeared in the form of one blog post. My lightbulb moment. ‘There are many ways in life that you can find love’ it said, ‘not just one’. ‘Actively seek out love from lots of other people in your life’. I got it. Instead of pinning all my hopes for happiness on one person I needed first and foremost to be happy with me and my own company, but then I needed to make and reinforce lots of connections with other people. For someone who was brought up on the ‘one big relationship’ myth, and as a consequence has kept many friends at the periphery of her life this was a big challenge to rise to. It would mean reaching out to people, making myself vulnerable, and simply loving other people and hoping they would love me in return.

And so it was that I went on a friendship odyssey. I reached out to people on the outer radius of my life and asked them in. I went deeper with a couple of people that I’d already considered myself pretty close to, but then went the extra mile, and I tried to find love in everyday encounters with shop assistants and random people on nights out. It worked. Ultimately I just needed to know that I mattered to someone, and that they mattered to me. Whether that was one person or many. My heart breaking apart had made room to let more than one person in and as a result I’ve become a more loving person who is ultimately less dependent on the idea of being in a relationship to be whole.

How to reprogramme your brain…

If you are lonely when you are alone then you are in bad company.

Jean Paul Sartre

I’ve had a boyfriend since I was 16, with very limited periods of singledom/doom inbetween and from the age of 14 I’ve been very aware of how I am seen within the context of the male gaze. I’m not sure at what age men learn to be subjects within the world around then and women learn to be objects, but at some stage it happens and it can create a lifelong blueprint.

This is the first time in my adult live that I’ve lived fully alone for any length of time without any meaningful relationship with a male going on, apart from my son that is.

I have full control of the remote control to watch what I want on TV, I don’t have to keep constantly putting the toilet seat down, and on every level I don’t have to compromise, at all. I’m mistress of my own destiny and I’m very happy thank you. My friends are all telling me that I look amazing, happy, and that single life suits me. I’m out, about, and doing my own thing. Feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

But, and it’s a big but. Somewhere in my brain is some faulty programming that keeps telling me I need to be on the lookout for a relationship. It must be faulty code because in my day-to-day life I’m totally happy being single. I’m more than capable of putting up shelves, cutting the grass and doing any number of other ‘male’ tasks around the house, so I don’t need a man for any practical purposes.

I earn my own money, own my own house and am financially independent with plenty of friends. I absolutely love having the freedom to flirt, do what I want and have anyone round to my house that I like without having to ask anyone’s permission. Life is a ball. But the glitch in the programme keeps saying ‘well you can’t go on forever on your own’ closely followed by ‘you need to find a man’.

I call this fault my chirpy monkey. He is popping his head up now a lot because I’ve had a summer to remember but now the nights are pulling in and I’m thinking a warm body in bed and someone to make me a cup of tea would be nice. ‘Get yourself an electric blanket’ was the sage advice from a friend. Somehow my chirpy monkey keeps telling me that this stage in my life has to be a temporary thing, and therefore needs an end date. Yet I know I’m learning so much and my self esteem is growing so much that I need to have this period of growth in my life before I even think about bringing a second person into it. I need to engage with any future relationship being the best version of myself that I can be so that I don’t accept anything less than the right treatment from the right person. But for that to happen I need to cage the chirpy monkey and learn to be an object rather than a subject. The irony being that in order to do that I need to be on my own. Be with my son on our own. Need to travel on my own. Eat out on my own. Mix with as many different friends as possible. Then, and only then will my faulty programming correct itself. Well that’s the plan anyway!

How to get your first tattoo…..

I’ve never been a big fan of tattoos, mainly because I have a massive phobia about needles, but also because when I was a uni student I worked in a pub that was full of former fishermen who had those blue, bleeding into the skin tattoos done in the impulse of youth, but not something that had aged well.

So, it came as something as a surprise to myself when ‘get a tattoo’ appeared on my bucket list. Really? Why would I want to do that? It wasn’t until after I’d had it done that I realised why I needed and wanted to have one.

The decision and execution of this plan was done in less than a fortnight. A friend had recommended a tattoo parlour and I’d been on their site, found a design I liked then messaged them about what I wanted done.

I called in after work one Tuesday in June. I was physically shaking and as the words ‘I’d like a tattoo doing’ fell from my mouth, it was as though they’d been uttered by someone else. I explained my fear of needles to a very patient tattoo artist, who listened to my ramblings with a wry smile, all the while reassuring me about the process and what I’d need to bring. A bag of sweets and my ipod were his suggestions. The sweets were there to provide a sugar hit after my post-tattoo blood-sugar drop and the music would help cover the noise of the tattoo gun.

I wobbled rather uncertainly out of the shop clutching my appointment card. I’d be arriving after work the following Tuesday for my date with the needle. For something that was about to be indelibly inked into my skin I was surprisingly quick to make a decision about choice of design and the speed with which I was getting the whole thing done and dusted.

The day arrived. I’d left work to the sound of my boss making buzzing noises and telling me how much the whole thing would hurt. I pedalled off to the tattoo parlour with a massive knot of anxiety in my stomach, wondering what on earth had led me to make such a stupid decision.

I rocked up, fists clenched and was led to the upstairs room. In my head I’d be lying down on a bed. In reality I was seated on an office chair. The buzzy needle was fired up after the design had been drawn on my back and we were off. I’d been told that the outline would hurt, but the shading less so. I’d chosen to have a set of three dragonflies drawn at the top of my spine.

The pain was worse than childbirth. Seriously. The only way I could deal with the constant and repeated contractions of pain was to grip my jeans as hard as I could, and hold my breath. The latter being the worst thing I could do as I came very close to passing out. I was trying to read a text on my phone. The message was telling me to man up and deal with the pain. Oh the irony. The letters started swimming in front of my face and I could feel myself slumping into the chair. ‘Could you open the door please mate’ I asked as the room span. A jet of cool rain-laden air hit me and I started to revive and was able to deal with the relentless rhythm of the needle on my skin. They lied though. The shading hurt more than the outline. It was like a really vicious cat clawing my back. Over and over again.

An hour and a quarter later I’d been indelibly inked. My back was covered in cling film and I was proffered a mirror to see the results. I picked up my bag, ipod and sweets and politely declined. The tattooist looked a bit hurt that I’d not wanted to see his handiwork. He’d taken a photo of it on my phone, but I couldn’t bring myself to look. It looked raw. And red. And sore. ‘Most people want to see it afterwards,’ he said. ‘Well I don’t,’ I said skipping out of the shop so I could head to the pub where I met up with a couple of friends, and sank a pint of cider and a double vodka.

It was only over the next few weeks as I daily moisturised by raw skin and it started to heal did the reality of why I’d done this sunk in. The pain was a catharsis. A rite of passage. I was physically a different person now to the one who’d moved out and left her husband in January. I couldn’t go back to being her again. The dragonflies symbolised rebirth and the pain drew a line in the sand. I think I’m going to go back and have another one done!