I’m not a fan of this time of year. Have I said that before? This year more than ever I seem to find the cold, short days and the long, dark nights unbearable. I’m struggling to get up in the mornings; and even more than usual, I’m taking comfort in nostalgia for a past that didn’t really exist. I’m starting to lose faith in the positive spin than I always try to put on things. And the logical, realistic take that I often have when positivity fails is itself failing tonight.
I was instantly impressed with my date on Friday. He looked great as I approached him outside a busy southern tube station. I’m thinking: I’ve scored here! Confidently he took me to a quiet coffee house off the high street, and we quickly fell into conversation about all the interesting matters of the day. The state of music and film in the 21st century. The Hollywood sex abuse scandal. Brexit. A topic that has joined the weather as a mainstay of British social conversation. You have to talk about it with everyone you meet now, it’s the law.
I almost loved my date when he let slip the names of a few French musicians that he liked – something that’s always guaranteed to raise my pulse. But by the second hour I couldn’t help thinking we were still having a very average kind of conversation. Everything was interesting and normal and…everyday. Not banal, as such. It was like a conversation you have with a favoured colleague as you pass them in the canteen. Pleasant – just not what I’m looking for at this stage in my life.
It’s never a good sign when you’re looking at your watch and thinking about how to get home. I didn’t mean to show my boredom but it slipped out anyway towards the end of the second hour, when I yawned. The enthusiasm of earlier was rapidly waning for both of us, and it was just a matter of who would decide to leave first.
For a couple of days afterwards I sincerely questioned whether it would be worth contacting him again. By today, having not made my mind up, I’ve had to admit to myself that I simply can’t be bothered. There’s been no word from his side, which I’m learning is a classic sign of disinterest on the dating game. If things had gone really well we’d have been messaging each other like mad over the weekend, I’m positive of it. I’m not upset over another dating disappointment, nor do I think this will be the last time I reach out for a potential catch. Tinder has me well and truly hooked, so there’s no danger of me giving up the game yet. My hope is that at some point I’ll get better at spotting the likely disappointments before I’ve gone to the trouble of meeting them.
Had another dreary meeting in Soho to attend on Saturday. My year of making the tea there has officially come up, and I was hoping to be replaced in a group conscience at the end of the meeting; in fact I was probably slightly more excited about going to the meeting than I’ve been in quite a while because of it. Except that no one was interested in taking on the service this weekend, so I’ll have to continue going until someone is interested. Lord, what a slog it will be.
Clearly I need a new home group at the weekend. I’ve given up trying to tolerate the crowds and the noise that swirl around the streets of Soho on Saturday evenings. It’s all right in the summer, but in December it’s the worst. At least I won’t have to attend this coming Saturday because I’ll be in Norwich on my much needed break, thank God. I asked them on Saturday if they could announce the vacancy again for me next week, but somehow I doubt they’ll remember, so I’ll probably have to come back in two weeks and announce it myself. Yes I’m annoyed. Other commitments that were available have been filled easily, and the outgoing contributors all got a nice thank you and round of applause, while I was just an afterthought. And yes, I realised years ago that waiting to be thanked in AA is a waste of time and energy, but in a meeting that I’ve called my home group for two years it would be nice to feel a bit more like one of the group than I do at the moment.
I’m doing the same thing that I did five years ago when I was on my way out of AA the first time, and I have to be careful. The only real solution is to find another meeting that I do feel part of. There are plenty of options out there.
Amidst the winter gloom and away from the pressures of AA service I’ve taken opportunities to cheer myself up. I went to the theatre last Thursday, to see a symphony orchestra perform the hits of the Beatles, having found a cheap ticket on Groupon. It couldn’t have been closer to the kind of show I’ve been wanting to see for years. And yesterday I went to the cinema to giggle at The Disaster Artist, keeping up what has been a sort of Sunday tradition of cinema trips this year.
The nice thing about it is that I couldn’t do those things when I was a kid, when it really mattered, and now I can take myself off to them whenever I want. Back in the push and pull of real life, I hear a small, predictable voice saying: yeah, but those things are always nicer with other people. And here lies the whole dilemma of my social life at the moment. I seem to be surrounded by people who can socialise with each other, and I’m doing it all on my own. When I cut ties with P in the summer I knew it would be like this, I knew I would find it difficult; it seems no amount of knowledge about the difficult times ahead is ever quite enough to prepare you.
For years I’ve complained about not understanding how to sustain intimate relationships with people, yet all the time there was one with P right under my nose. For the vast majority of the time that I knew him our relationship was platonic as opposed to sexual; but it had sexual beginnings, and in the discerning light of hindsight I now see that I had a ‘proper’ relationship in my life for all that time. I had exactly what I wanted – and it was never enough.
This isn’t about romantic love, I never had those feelings for him for a minute. But there was everything else. And now that I’m finding it hard just to go to a show without thinking about him, I’m realising the cruel irony of it all, because I had the partner I wanted, the perfect partner in life that I could do everything with. The irreconcilable differences that drove us apart in the end still hold, and I definitely appreciate that I can’t go back to him now, after everything. But…as an adult who is trying to grow, and be really authentic, maybe I accept that the ‘perfect’ relationship for me in the future won’t be so obviously perfect, or as full of sexual bliss as my dream made me hope for.
In recent weeks I have begun to see various aspects of my life in a new way, something I thought I couldn’t do any more, because I’d already done all the changing and growing I was prepared to do. It turns out that you’re never done changing, or growing. I never thought I was sexually abused at school, yet now I see it as clear as day. I never thought of P as a good boyfriend, but he was, in so many more ways than I ever gave him credit for. I seem to be gaining a new understanding of reality, and if I’m not careful it could tear me apart, with all the irony that I keep experiencing. Thanks to social media I have spent years seeing perfection in other people’s lives and comparing it to the vast lack in my own. With this shift in understanding I am seeing a crack in those assumptions, new ideas are starting to flood in and I almost can’t take it.
All of which seems much worse, of course, on a cold dank December evening. With nothing better to do I resort to swiping through faces on Tinder. Rather that than spend more time looking at the news. My logical side still can’t tell if all the swiping is worth the effort, but doubtless I will continue because there’s momentum now and I can’t stop anyway. It’s taking longer and longer to find matches now; when I do unexpectedly hit on one it’s heaven.
I compare myself to every face I see without questioning it. They’re all so good looking! They all have such great jobs (compared to me!) They’re all so out of my league!
I literally don’t know if there is a point to all this. I don’t know if I’m doing it right, no one’s ever given me a map to this. I’m trying harder with the dating thing than I have in a very long time, and the rewards seem a bit meaningless. No, thinking and analysing it don’t do any good, but I don’t have anything else to do in these moments.
It can feel like you’re a fish in tank, swimming aimlessly from one end to the other, on an endless cycle. When it comes to dating, has anything really changed for me since 2001? Oh, of course it bloody has. I analyse everything to death now. I can’t have a feeling today without questioning its validity. I’m becoming one of those therapists that no one likes, the type who questions every word and its inflection.
Also, I tend to try and come up with answers to my negative thoughts these days. And I can specify my problems relatively easily:
- I don’t have enough friends
- I can’t attract the type of man I want
- I don’t do enough fun things
Earlier I was on the verge of thinking about abandoning AA again, for like a minute, and I know if I do that then that will be it, I won’t have any friends left at all, so I could kiss goodbye to any chance of future fun and engagement with the world. Things are tenuous enough as it is, I don’t need to be making drastic decisions right now.
Rather than using some valuable free time to study earlier I committed the crime of looking at old diary entries again. This time I jumped in a time machine to December 2003, a time when I thought I was at my most miserable, only you wouldn’t know it from what I was writing back then. Something really strange appears to have been going on in my life. While I was suffering in the throes of alcoholism, constantly either drunk or hungover and always on the breadline, I was regularly penning chirpy little vignettes about all the great things that were happening to me. It can almost convince you that I was having fun.
I suppose I was having fun, in a disturbing way. I was out there meeting people, getting myself deeply involved in people’s lives, sending text messages constantly. Without the blackouts and the vomiting and the hangovers it would have been a truly wonderful life. Except it could never have happened without the alcohol – so I have a conundrum in how to remember it now. So many things were happening in my life that I wish would happen now, and as much as I don’t like to look back to the past as some kind of guide for today, I can point out things I’ve abandoned which perhaps I shouldn’t have abandoned. I really hate to say it, but say it I must…fuck it, my life is boring today. I’ll be 35 on Wednesday, yet – no word of a lie – I feel 55. All the fun things I do involve me being on my own. In 2003 I went to people’s houses, I went to the fun fair and got on rollercoasters with people, I got into cars and drove in the night, I phoned people, people wanted to know me. In AA it’s such a cliche to say that all of life before sobriety was black and life in sobriety is white; for me the cliche isn’t true. Of course there are so many good things about life today that couldn’t have happened when I was drinking, like my career, my financial solvency. But in striving for those things it seems I have sacrificed all fun, all frivolity. And I’ve suspected this for a long time but I don’t think I dared say it until now.
More evidence of the scales falling away, or am I just fooling myself yet again? Who can say?