For my Darling Auntie Sylvia, rest peacefully beautiful lady. I love you xx
I've always had a boyfriend or at least been in some kind of tryst. In fact, since I was a teenager the longest I've ever been single is a few weeks. Maybe because I love being in love.
More probably because I was looking for my self-worth in someone else's bed (we're right in the deep end with this tale).
For the best part of 20 years, I hopped from relationship to relationship (even marriage), without ever processing the emotional fallout. Carrying the baggage and projecting it onto the next person... Yikes.
I've been (mostly) single for two years now.
But I've not used all that time productively. I may have spent a lot of it trawling dating apps. Usually for some sort of tattooed, bearded, devil*. My friend David refers to them as 'out of the Jordan factory'.
He's really quite accurate.
* I acknowledge not every tattooed, bearded man is a devil. I'll wait.
After a short but very horrid situation, came a significant turnaround point in my romantic life. I'd finally had enough man-drama and reached a point I was going to do what I always promise myself I'll do - delete Tinder and stop eating crisps (aka learn to love myself).
This time my level of self-awareness was refreshing.
Back in March, I moved up to North Wales to spend lockdown with my family. Sharing the responsibility of home-schooling my son, and having a beautiful landscape to explore every day felt incredibly lucky.
One of the reasons I made the decision was my Great Auntie. She had been battling cancer for some time, and earlier this year doctors told her she would see Easter but not Christmas. Her condition worsened considerably early Spring, we knew she didn't have long left.
Something I adore about my Auntie is her ability to remember absolutely everything. She is the only person I know who can recall a cricket score from the 70s (player stats and the weather).
At my 30th birthday party, she got absolutely leathered on Aperol Spritz and had to be escorted back to the hotel - my Uncle was not impressed!
Before she got too poorly, I'd visit and listen to her tell stories with incredible details. Revisiting coastal towns from her childhood and globe-trotting adventures with her husband.
One evening in April Mum was called to their house quite late. My Uncle was having trouble changing my Auntie's catheter and needed some support.
This moment really made me reflect...
My Auntie and Uncle were married for 59 years.
They have slept in the same bed together for 59 years, woken up together for 59 Christmas mornings, and had more than 3,000 roast dinners together. They may have had the odd night apart (mostly due to hospital stays), but they have been together for 21,535 days.
At first, I really struggled to get my head around that level of commitment. But when I did, a feeling of pure happiness swept over me.
My Auntie and Uncle have loved each other unconditionally for 6 decades, and now their circumstance was proof the vows they committed to each other 59 years ago hold true. Wonderfully true.
This tale isn't meant to draw feelings of sadness, it's meant to make you realise that you deserve this same level of commitment.
Modern dating is the equivalent of walking through treacle. It makes us superficial, judgemental and encourages feelings of paranoia that cloud logical thinking. None of these things has a place in a healthy relationship.
We often find ourselves compromising or settling for less when it comes to relationships. We ignore red flags and our gut instinct because we tell ourselves it's better to be with someone than all alone.
Like being alone is the worst thing that could ever happen!
Fundamentally we allow our self-worth to be determined by how much attention someone we barely know is showing us.
I cannot tell you how much energy I've wasted over-analysing 'blue ticks', obsessing over social media likes, and trying to force things with people who just weren't interested.
Being real, I've zero patience for online dating, nor am I interested in one-night-stands (no matter how hot the bearded guy is!). I won't live my life waiting for someone to realise I'm the best option.
If a guy can't return a text, how on earth could he change a catheter?
I feel beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to see my Auntie most days before she passed in May.
Watching her battle cancer with my Uncle fighting at her side reminded me of what an equal, loving partnership really is.
This lockdown has taught me a few things, firstly, just how important it is to care for each other - not just our loved ones, but also strangers.
And secondly, we have to care for ourselves - our body and our mind.
If I can leave you with one reflection; learn how to love yourself - beyond any conditions - before passing the hopeless task on to someone else.