Time to start living

Is it really over two years ago that I posed the question, “What should you do when you give your best to someone but your best isn’t good enough?” It doesn’t feel like it. Have I tolerated the intolerable for over two years before it’s come to this?

Today was the final straw. We’re both tired. We both work hard. The boys are hard work. Money is tight. Life. Is. Tough.

I can’t go on living a miserable life. I’m halfway through my forties and I have never felt such despair. There have been hard times in my past where I’ve struggled. I’ve lived day-to-day on the bare minimum. I’ve had hard times before. These pages are littered with anguish and angst. Yet I have never felt quite so miserable as I do right now.

On the surface… Work is great. The boys are a delight. Despite the cost of living crisis and money not being plentiful we can do things we wish to do. We have a lovely house, a car, holidays, heating and eating. But I feel so low. Not depressed, I’m not gonna top myself or anything, but despondent or <insert synonym here>.

It’s time, really it’s time now, to start living. It’s time to start being a little bit more selfish and putting my happiness first. I’m a firm believer in not being able to care for others unless you first care for yourself and it’s time for me to start prioritising me. I need to be okay. I need to be happy. I deserve to be happy. I want to be. That’s crucial.

It’s going to get worse before it gets better. A separation is never easy. It’s worse when there are children involved. I’ve been that child and I’ve been through it once already as a parent with Tom. I have to believe that everything is going to work out for the best. I have to know that the pain I will endure and the pain I will inflict will be worth it.

Positive mental attitude. It’s time to start living.


Current relationship status

When you see someone and get a tight feeling in your chest, that’s not a heart attack, it’s love. When I see Fran I get that feeling. Not all the time, but often enough to know what I love her, through and through.

We’ve been together for almost three years. That doesn’t seem too long when I write it down but we have been through a lot in that time. Bought a house, had a baby, decided to start a life together. It’s not been easy but then nothing worth having is easy. And loving someone is loving their flaws and imperfections as well as the good.

She tolerates me when many others wouldn’t. She puts up with my moods and my sulking. She puts up with me being a grumpy old man. I put up with her insecurities and occasional bad moods. I couldn’t imagine my life without her and sometimes I have to pinch myself to be sure I’m not dreaming and that she chose me.

My current relationship can only be described as ‘happy’ and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Surround yourself with good people.

For too long I got bogged down in relationships which were inherently negative. I allowed other people’s hang ups, issues and problems to impact upon my own well being and peace of mind. When it’s all you know it’s tough to identify. We are never very good at analysing ourselves and seeing the impact of another’s negativity upon the psyche.

My last two relationships were like that. People who sucked the fun out of Al. People who chipped away at a positive mental attitude and transformed me into mirror images of their negative personalities. People who drained kindness, forgiveness and happiness.

I note this was sometimes through no fault of their own, but frequently as a result of their circumstances, their career (or lack of), their relationship with family (or lack of), their relationship with their own children (or lack of).

To be beset by negatives is to have your own positives crushed. To have someone struggle to see the good in themselves (it was there!) and to highlight their flaws and troubles and problems was to cast into shadow the things you liked about them in the first place. You cannot suffer someone saying they’re fat or ugly or bored (boring) persistently without starting to see them as they see them.

The world is a cruel and ugly place. Many people will call you fat and ugly and boring; don’t join them.

I’ve stepped away from toxic relationships and into the light of a beautiful positive lover. She isn’t an egoist or self-centred. She isn’t arrogant. She might even say she lacks confidence in herself. But when she smiles the world smiles with her, and when she laughs it’s as angels singing and you can’t help but laugh along. She’s understanding, caring, kind, loving and generous with her time and compassion. She sees the world through positive eyes and loves everyone and everything in it. To be with her is to feel love and happiness. To be with her to to have found contentment.

She makes me a better person by letting me see the good in this cruel and ugly world. She doesn’t know how truly marvellous she is – and that there is the beauty of her. Unassuming, never selfish. She’s good for my soul. Surrounded by her warmth and generosity I can’t help but feel my mental health flourish.

She fixed me.

Happy Life

I look back over my blog and it’s often filled with angst, worries, troubles, upsets, pain. I was speaking to a wonderful lady recently who I have grown to consider one of the finest people I know. She said she doesn’t hear from me so much recently and I excused myself saying that I didn’t really have anything to say. Everything is fine. Job is good, relationship; amazing, family; great, friends; brilliant, house; getting there, future; Rosie.

And I got to thinking, do we define ourselves by our misery? Do we only tell people things that are bad, upsetting, worrying? Do we only divulge our troubles? Is the only thing we have to speak about sadness?

I am happy. It’s a funny thing. It’s a warmth deep down in your gut. It’s contentment, it’s the ability to be unapologetically you. And right now I am unapologetically me. I met someone who makes me smile. She warms my soul. It’s been a few short months of knowing her but she completes me. It’s like I’ve spent years in the wilderness just wandering and now I’m home. That’s what I said to her last week; she feels like home. We talk about rubbish, we sit and engage in conversations about nothing at all. Days go by and I cannot tell you what we did because to the outside observer it probably looks like nothing happened. But I’m with her and she’s with me and that is all that matters. I feel like, no matter what happens, no matter what the future may hold, as long as we have each other, everything will be fine. Everything will be beautiful.

And I’ve never felt this way before. I’ve never felt so content, so complete. We talk about the future, about living together, about starting a family. We talk about all the places we are going to go and all the things we are going to see. We discuss growing old and where we’re going to live, and what our children will be called. She makes me feel young again. It’s rather quite perfect.

Why not share that? Why not tell the world how happy we are? Is it wrong to be blissfully happy and to feel okay and not at all guilty about that happiness? I don’t think so.

People will judge us. People will say it’s too early or it won’t work because of the age difference. People will say that things never worked with anyone else and to anticipate the same this time. People are detractors, they seek to destroy happiness either out of jealously or spite or a desire for drama. For the first time I’m completely open, totally honest, entirely under her spell. To give yourself to someone is to place the key to your happiness in their hands. In the past I have avoided doing this for fear of getting hurt. By not giving yourself to someone completely you will never achieve the happiness which you seek. It takes guts to say, “I am yours” and place yourself in a position where you can be hurt. But if you don’t you’ll never know what it’s like to love and be loved unequivocally. If you do you’ll unlock the secret to a Happy Life.

2017, a year in photo review

2017 has been a cracking year for me. Lots of travel, lots of places to go and things to see. I’ve been sat here on New Year’s Eve Eve reviewing some of the places I’ve been and the things I’ve seen. And here’s a sample and a reminder. Where I have written about the experience I have added a handy link.

You can find all of these photos on my Instagram. If you’re not yet following; get to it: alsmith77x


January: Lindesfarne (I wrote about this!) and The Cleveland Way.

February: Brimham Rocks, Glasgow and London (I wrote about this!).



April: Auschwitz. (I wrote about this!).

June: Manchester One Love Concert.

July: Kielder Water, Devon, Bamburgh Castle.



August: Crete.

September: Portugal (I wrote about this!), Bolton Abbey (I wrote about this too!).


October: Berlin (I wrote about this!), High Force.


November: London.

December: Kielder and Hadrian’s Wall, Whitby.


If you made it to the end, reward yourself with a beer. Happy New Year! See you in 2018. 

The feels

I haven’t written anything in a long time. I’ve been dealing, successfully it seems, with the demise of another relationship. It’s an old story, a familiar story. Meet someone, avoid the feels, freak out when she’s not as successful at avoidance as you, finish it. And repeat ad infinitum ad nauseum. Someone once said it’s the most selfish thing to cause someone to love you with no intention of loving them back; but that it not the case here. I didn’t enter into this relationship with the intention of anything. She loved me, I didn’t love her back. That is not her fault and it was not mine intention. For a long time I believed that I didn’t want to love, or was incapable of loving. That was perhaps my defence mechanism for dealing with the loss of Clare. I was hurt and it was through no fault other than fate. Some things are not meant to be. Sometimes, and it’s an awful, tragic thing, people die. And it doesn’t matter how much you love them. It doesn’t matter how much you want them to live; life, fate, death means that it not going to happen. Such a loss is devastating. It’s life changing in many respects. No-one understands unless they have been through the same situation and even then an individual journey through loss and grief is an individual’s journey and, except in rare circumstances, is not shared. Putting yourself back together after such an experience is a brutal, debilitating affair. It’s an illness. And like any mental illness the scars cannot be seen but they are there.

So the relationship ended. I didn’t love her. She loved me. And, ironically, it was her love that finally pushed me away. I couldn’t cope. I couldn’t accept. I couldn’t go through with being loved by her and not loving her back. That was not fair. Someone who is capable of loving someone should be with someone who is capable of loving them back, not with someone who won’t catch The Feels.

As I deal with the fallout from the relationship, as I watch from the sidelines as someone attempts to rationalise something which I struggle to rationalise – even though it is happening in my head. As I read that they would ‘rather catch ebola than catch feelings again’, as I see them struggle to come to terms with a decision they had no part in making and decide that they should always and forever be alone; I reach the conclusion that I don’t want that. I don’t want ebola, I want feels. I don’t want to be alone, I want to be with someone. I don’t want to protect my heart, I want to risk everything for love. I don’t want to hide away, I want to expose myself to the risk of heartbreak, to the risk of rejection. Because it’s only when you risk your life you are truly alive. And only by putting your heart on the line will you ever find love.

I want that.

Remembering lost loves

I think that probably for the rest of my life there will be days which are significant because of Clare. January 14th 2012 is the day we met. Purely by accident. She asked me to dance, I said no. I bought her a drink instead. I asked for her number, she said yes.

It was five years ago. Only five years. So much happened in those five years. One day – I promise myself – I will write it all down. I’ll share what happened. The good, the bad. The battles with ex-girlfriends and ex-husbands. The struggle to be accepted. The passion. It seems like such an extraordinarily short period of time for such an extraordinary woman to be in my life. I feel cheated. I feel like someone took her away from me. All too soon.


I miss her so much. The touch of her skin. The taste of her lips. Her smile. The way she held my hand. Her enthusiasm for life. Her compassion. Her fire. Her spirit. I miss the way she would dance up to me in a playful manner and try and wrestle or tickle. I miss her laugh. I miss talking to her. I miss the way she made me feel like I could do anything and be anyone.

I give thanks every day for those years she was in my life. It was sometimes painful. It was sometimes ugly. It was sometimes frustrating. It was sometimes difficult. But it was also the most amazing of times. I am fortunate. I got the best of those years with Clare. The pain of losing her hasn’t diminished. I feel the hurt all the time but I have learned to cope – mostly.

But here’s the deal. I accept the pain. I embrace the pain. Because I know that is because she loved me and I loved her. It’s because of how much she meant to me and how much I meant to her. The feelings of loss are matched by the feelings of love. It hurts so because I loved her so.

Goodbye my lover, goodbye my friend. You’ll always be my wonderful special lady and I will always, always, love you.

I want to talk about Twitter for a moment.

Some time ago I posted on here about Twitter not being real, about it being a ‘a meaningless yet useful tool for communication’. How haughty and superior I was, thinking that this thing didn’t matter to millions of people, that real connections weren’t formed in 140 characters, that people couldn’t love and hate – in equal measure – within it’s databases.

Perhaps me posting that entry was a sign to the universe to shaft me, because since then, Twitter or rather the connections made within, has been very real. And occasionally emotional and occasionally painful. If I was brighter I’d probably talk about how relationships and connections are changing in the digital world and how social media is the catalyst. We ‘meet’ people we wouldn’t normally meet. We connect with people from different walks of life. We share facets of our personality which we may hide in the real world. There’s a degree of anonymity and safety which comes from communicating over vast distances and virtual mediums. We can be who we want to be. We can fly whichever flag we choose to fly. We can put on masks, take off masks, filter, alter, amend, enhance. We can love at a distance and not get hurt. We can display hostility at a distance and from behind locked private accounts and suffer no consequences. No one is waiting around the corner to cause us harm, sticks and stones may break bones but names over the internet cannot hurt, right?

Each Twitter handle, each online personality, contains within an often vulnerable real person. A real soul capable of feelings, capable of hurt, capable of lies, capable of harsh truths. Pull back the masks and filters and alterations, amendments, flattering angles and inside there’s a Me or a You. Step away from the protection offered by a virtual medium and there’s a world of hurt in the real. We’re capable of forgetting that. We’re capable of seeing these transient connections which we make and not understanding the gravity of them. Not grasping how important they can be. To some people those connections are incredibly real, incredibly important, exceptionally vulnerable.

What’s my conclusion? Perhaps that I am guilty of not seeing just how real these connections can be and treating them with disrespect and disdain. Perhaps that I am guilty of expecting the masks and filters to translate into the real – they seldom do. Be kind, be cautious. I’m going to learn from my errors, learn from my mistakes, take lessons from very recent and very real experiences. If someone gives you a piece of them; be that in the street or on Twitter (masked, filtered or other), treat that piece with respect and kindness. Because behind that small piece of @ there is a real person who is reaching out and putting themselves at risk. They can be hurt.


Goodbye 2016, or ‘what I’ll do differently in 2017’.

People keep saying that 2016 has been a really shitty year. Mainly as a result of the celebrity deaths we have experienced in the last 365 days. It’s very easy to jump on the bandwagon on death and disaster. The rise of Donald Trump The Anti-Christ, for example, and #BREXIT as a decision made by 50% of the UK population to be isolationist, backwards and to undo decades of progress. It’s very easy to look back at 2016 and think just how terribly awful it has been. And I very nearly got sucked into that pit of despair.

But then I stopped. I thunked for a bit. And remembered. You know what? My bad years have passed. 2014 was brutal. I lost Clare in the most wicked, cruel and evil way. Taken by cancer before turning 40. My world collapsed and I didn’t know how I would get through each day. 2015 wasn’t much better. I fell out with my brother which ultimately lead to our family being splintered and me not being invited to his wedding. Those wounds have yet to heal.

2016 hasn’t been bad to me. I have had my fair share of crazy experiences and dangerous liaisons, I’ve had stresses, I’ve tolerated fools. I’ve fending off stalkers and compulsive liars. I’ve been mis-sold on an idea which didn’t manifest in reality. I’ve been gullible, deceived, shallow and vain. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes in my personal life.

Professionally it’s nothing but positives. There are no complaints.
I’ve maintained friendships with those I’m interested in and cast aside those who bring me down.
I’m closer to my parents despite being estranged from my brother. They see my side of things. We’re allies.
I’ve been to Portugal, I’ve been to Lanzarote. I’ve bought a car. I’ve made improvements to my home. I have more money than I have ever had. I’m far from ‘rich beyond my wildest dreams’ but my bills are paid, there’s money in the bank, and there’s wine in the fridge.
My relationship with the boy’s mum goes from strength to strength. My relationship with the boy evolves as expected with a nine-going-on-nineteen-year-old. He’s stubborn and headstrong. He is his father’s son.

As the clock ticks over to midnight it’s time to consider what I’ll do differently in 2017. One criticism I’ll level at myself from the past year is my tendency to rush in. I’ve been so keen to capture that which I lost before that I have thrown caution to the wind and involved myself in situations too early and too soon. Too deeply. Too personally. I’ve opened myself up to people and given myself to them before I first weighed up their worth. I’ve invested time and emotion in people who did not deserve my time or my emotion. I’ve been stupid. I’ve been kind. I’ve been cruel.

2017 is to be a year of standing still and taking stock – I’ve said that before. I have plans to do interesting things and read a lot of books. I might even move house, but if I don’t or if I can’t I’ll make my current house more of a home. I’m going to go on holiday; maybe twice(!) (maybe thrice!!). I’m going to enjoy life and living it.

But there’s going to be No More Mister Nice Al. It’s time for me to be careful, calculated, cautious. Rather than taking people at face value I need to wait until the big reveal. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. It’s time, 2017 is going to be the time, for Al to no longer be foolish.

I’ll see y’all on the other side of the bells.

Love is bravery

I’m incapable of withstanding the heartbreak of love.

I loved once. I was brave once. That bravery was repaid with hurt. Before that bravery I was a coward. I shunned connection. I shunned the possibility of hurt and pain. It took a special woman to encourage and nurture my ability to be brave. To risk heartbreak. 

Since she left me I have returned to cowardice. I’m not brave enough to risk hurt again. And that, more than anything, is the reason for my perpetual single status. 

In a previous post I criticised those who pre-empt rejection. Those who jump before they’re pushed. How dare I criticise those who expose themselves to risk whilst I stand back from the edge? They’re braver than me for putting themselves out there, even if just for a fleeting moment. What must happen for me to be capable of taking that risk again? When you risked it all once before and you’re still dealing with loss years later? Who is going to give me the strength to find my bravery once again?