I’m staying in my old flat in London this week, the flat I lived in for 13 years, from the ages of 31 to 44.
As I got under the covers last night and wrestled with sleep – my washing machine head full of a very long To Do list involving decorating, DIY, workshops and a wedding – I couldn’t help but reflect on everything this bed and I have been through over the years.
For a start, I imported it from Brazil, where I bought it together with my then boyfriend to furnish the bedroom in our São Paulo apartment. I was in my late twenties. Writing that word – twenties – makes me pause. How young? It seems a lifetime ago. Was that really me?
Right from the start, my bed bore witness to the emotional twists and turns of my life and it soaked up my tears. If it had a memory (I don’t have memory foam), it would remember the times my then boyfriend and I slept on opposite sides of the bed, a gap between us, as we slowly and sadly drifted apart and our relationship dismantled itself. For the best in the end – we’ve both found happiness elsewhere – but it didn’t feel that way at the time.
Then there was the morning, here in London, when I sat on the edge of this bed with a man I barely knew alongside me, watching as he hastily got dressed. I’d met him the night before in a club in Central London when under the influence of too much booze (both of us). I’m not entirely sure he knew my name, or if I knew his. It was back in the days when I drank to excess and felt an irresistible pull to unavailable men – this guy was a backpacker from Down Under and would be off on his travels again very soon. I remember wondering if I’d see him again as he pulled his clothes on. I remember hoping I might. And I remember how crushed I felt when it became clear, as he left, that I never would. I had looked for love in the wrong place, as I’d done before and would do again, before eventually coming to my senses. I had fallen for the good-looking nomad who’d soon be on his way. I had gone for the adrenaline rush, the quick fix to take the pain away. But I’d ended up with more pain on top. I felt sad, lost, hungover and full of shame.
I remember kneeling by this bed the year after my dad died, looking up to the ceiling, tears streaming down my face, pleading, “God, if you’re there, if you exist, tell me what’s the point. What’s the point of my life?” I was single after a recent break-up that had exposed unhealed wounds from my dad’s death and opened the floodgates on my grief. I was also in a job that gave me status and a good salary but that left me feeling soul dead. I’d stopped binge eating by then, something I used to do to numb my emotions and escape the pain, so I was finally able to feel the hole and the emptiness inside. My bed was there on that dark night, albeit facing in the other direction, parallel to the windows.
I remember sitting at one end of it a while later, on top of my pillows, notebook in one hand and phone in the other, tears present once again. I’d been signed off work by the doctor with stress, anxiety, bereavement, depression and something else I can’t recall and I was desperately trying to explain to someone from Reuters’ employee helpline that I had broken down and had no idea how to fix myself but really wanted to as fast as possible.
Then there was the morning of my 41st, sitting cross-legged on my bed in my Calvin Klein pyjamas as tears dripped onto my knees, silence all around (a scene I describe in my book). How on earth did I end up here? How on earth did I get to 41 without a partner and without children? What have I been striving for? Will it always be like this?
Of course, there were good times too – long lie-ins and early nights with a book when I felt so lucky to live here and felt happy to be single, to have time and space for me and to have this little haven of a home up amongst the tree tops. And there were good, healthier relationships as I steadily recovered from my self-sabotaging ways – long mornings when a boyfriend, a laptop and I (my version of a threesome) would plot holidays or buy concert tickets.
But it’s the sad times I remember most.
I took to this bed in the daytime once after I’d split up with my boyfriend – my now fiancé, the man I’ll marry next year – with a box of tissues and a Downton Abbey box set installed on my laptop. I’d ended it because he’d said he didn’t want children and couldn’t promise he’d change his mind. I was 42 and believed I still had a shot at motherhood. I also thought that’s what I really wanted. I’m not so sure now, although the question is often there.
I returned to this bed with my now fiancé after we got back together. One Valentine’s Day, we swapped kisses and chocolates and marveled at our good fortune because we’d finally stopped messing around and had committed to being together. On another occasion, I cried myself to sleep next to him after working myself up into a tizz and convincing myself that our relationship was all wrong – a reminder that sometimes I just need to let the tears flow, the feelings pass and process what’s really going on deep inside, and then the attraction and my love will return.
Two years ago, I packed up my stuff but left this bed behind as I took a leap of faith, followed my heart, committed to seeing if my relationship could work out and moved out of London to the seaside – some 13 years after I’d arrived.
So much had happened in those 13 years – all the events I’ve catalogued above and so many more. I changed. I transformed. I went from a binge-eating, overworking political journalist who flew on prime minister’s planes and worked out of parliament, to a more courageous, more authentic woman who blogged, wrote about the stuff she cared about in the press and aspired to publish a book. I went from a single woman to a woman in love. And in the two years since I’ve slept in this bed, there’s been more change. I am now the proud author of How to Fall in Love – A 10-Step Journey to the Heart and I am doing work, some of the time, that’s beyond my wildest dreams: coaching others to create healthy and loving relationships with themselves so they can have long-lasting relationships with emotionally well partners. I’m engaged to be married. I own a house with my man. The floor of my mini is covered in sand and I recently bought a paddleboard so I can get out on the water whenever I please. What freedom.
And now I’m back in this bed, for a brief stint, as one tenant moves out and others move in, for another twist in the tale, another memory to hold.
This morning, I peered underneath the bed and found a book, left by the lady who’s just moved out, the lady who’s pregnant. The Complete Book of Baby Names. Plus there’s a John Lewis Baby catalogue. I winced a little, just for a second, and then I smiled. Yes, dear readers, a baby has been living in my flat and sleeping in my bed for the last few months, inside her mother’s tummy, and someone has been reading about baby names right here, in the very place I sat at 41 and watched my tears soak into my pyjamas as I mourned my age and stage, my singleness and my childlessness, as I wondered how on earth I had ended up here.
So how did it feel to find that book of baby names? How does it feel? It felt OK. I thought it would feel worse but it felt OK.
I’m 46. I’m in love. I have a wonderful life and a sandy home by the beach in Dorset. I am building my dream career and my dream life, something I couldn’t have imagined a few years ago. I’m still me, of course. There’s still a heap of anxiety and I still have some self-defeating behaviours I’m doing my best to let go of, one day at a time. I still have sleepless nights. But I am, by and large, very happy. In fact, some days my heart is so full of joy and love for my man that I want to cry. There are mornings when I step onto the beach, before anyone else is there, and tears spring to my eyes. I did this. I created this. I live here. Could it get any better?
So, as I go to bed tonight in this bed, I’ll slide once again into its memories but I’ll also gently let them go. In a few days, I’ll be leaving this bed behind again as I return to the seaside. I’ll be moving on. Moving forwards. And that feels good. I’ll also be going online to search for a new bed – I think it’s time to let this one go for good.
* * * * * * * * *
If you like what you’ve read here, you may enjoy my book: How to Fall in Love – A 10-Step Journey to the Heart. It’s not just for single women. It’s for men and women who want to heal and transform their relationships with themselves and live fulfilling, wholehearted lives. I also have an online course and a one-day London workshop coming up so check out my website for more details.
If you like my work, have a think about joining my free Facebook community for women who are committed to living wholeheartedly: Being Real, Becoming Whole.
Thank you! x