It was one year ago today that I sat in a hotel in Tamworth and started to write. Life wasn’t great and I felt compelled to write about it so I started a blog. When I hit ‘publish’ on that first post I had no idea what to expect (other than that people would think I was losing the plot).
That didn’t stop me, I was determined to speak my truth hoping that it would help me to deal with the challenges that I was facing and also to help others facing similar situations in their own lives. I found that I loved to write; it helped me to make sense of a life that had been turned upside down and to view my challenges with a wider perspective.
104 posts later here I am, still writing, still trying to figure this shit out. It hasn’t been an easy year (for anybody it seems) and sometimes I feel I’m no further forward than I was a year ago, but really, I know that’s not true. I’ve learned an awful lot this year – often from tough lessons – and have gained so much from blogging.
The response to my blog has been pretty overwhelming with over 50,000 visits from all over the world. I’ve also been privileged to have my writing published on many fantastic sites.
I would like to thank each and every person that has visited my blog and taken the time to offer comments and compliments. And to everyone that has contacted me to tell me that what I have written has helped you, thank you so much, it really does mean a great deal.
So, on my blog’s 1st birthday I would like to take a moment of self-indulgence to look back at 10 posts that hold particular significance for me.
I hope you enjoy looking back with me and I would love to read your comments about any of my posts that may have stood out for you, helped you through a difficult time or made you smile (hopefully it hasn’t all been doom and gloom!).
1. Here Goes…
Where it all began…
“Is this something that many men do? I expect not, apparently expressing our deepest hopes and fears, sharing our highs and lows and opening ourselves emotionally is not the done thing for us men. But you know what, fuck that. We’re human, we all feel these things to a greater or lesser degree and whether tens of people or thousands of people read this I hope that somehow, something that I say will connect with somebody, will act as a light in sad times, and provide some laughs along the way.”
2. I Had a Black Dog
Having suffered with two crippling depressions I started this blog with the shadow of a third hanging over me. I was never afraid to be open about my struggles and they had such a significant impact upon my life that I felt I had to use my blog to do my bit to raise awareness of the nature of the illness, of how it feels to suffer with it and the impact it has upon people’s lives. It was my hope that it would increase understanding and provide a glimpse of light to fellow sufferers.
“Depression can be very difficult to admit to but I don’t fear being thought weak for admitting my struggles, because I know from experience just how much strength it takes to overcome them.”
3. Single Parenthood for Beginners
The most difficult thing about divorce by far for me was becoming a single parent. My relationship with my children is the most precious thing in the world to me and having to adapt to not being there for them every day was very hard. Like everything, you adapt and make the most of it but it’s never easy.
“You get on with it – after all, what choice do you have – but it leaves its mark on you, on the dreams that you had for your future.”
4. Me, My Blog & I – The Joy of Writing
I started writing when I was 41 and now can’t imagine a life without it. How did I live for so long without writing? This post considers what writing means to me and why I feel the need to share my writing with others.
“For me, nothing quite compares to the feeling of completing a piece of writing, of seeing my thoughts clearly articulated on the screen, often the end result of the merest spark of an idea that grows and spreads its way across the page. It is the very act of creating something from nothing that satisfies. A creation that depends on nothing and nobody but me.”
5. The Promise of Day
One of the most satisfying things about writing has been discovering poetry. I never thought I would write poems but I’ve found that I love how it allows me to explore and capture feelings and emotions, and I really enjoy the challenge of selecting words to create a sense of rhythm and rhyme. I am really proud of this poem as I wanted to capture the stark brutality of depression whilst also offering hope in the knowledge that it passes.
“The sun it always rises,
Shadows never stay;
Persevere through the darkness,
Night holds the promise of day.”
6. Down at the End of Lonely Street
There have been many times throughout this year that I have struggled with loneliness. I have been single for 16 months after having previously been in relationships since I was 18. I’d never lived alone until last year and I’m still adapting to it. Approaching my second single Christmas this is on my mind again. It’s gotten easier and I’m trying to make the most of it but, for me, life always feels better with someone special to share it with.
“We are one of the few species that create lifelong partnerships and this expectation of how life should be is threaded through the very fabric of our society. And when your lifelong partnership is terminated and you find you are alone, it is hard not to feel that something, someone, is missing.”
7. The Ultimate Style & Dating Fix Part 2: “Bang On Trend” – Operation Fix Up Look Sharp
Perhaps the most unexpected result of my blog was becoming a guinea pig for a Styling & Dating consultant. Not an everyday occurrence for a middle-aged man from Middlesbrough. Always keen to have new experiences I embraced the opportunity and loved smartening myself up with Paula from TranslateHer at London’s Westgate Shopping Centre.
“Once satisfied that I won’t be sent home a) looking like a ponce, or b) as if I am tragically denying my age and auditioning to join a boy band, we drain our glasses and set forth to leave the old (old) Matty behind and stride boldly towards some new threads.”
8. Lucky Man
This year hasn’t been easy. 2016 has been a real rollercoaster and has had more ups and downs than any in my life to date. At times it’s been exhausting. But through it all, I know I have an awful lot to be grateful for. I’m a lucky man, and one day I will be able to look back on this record of this strange year and see just how far I’ve come.
“There are a number of significant instances in my life that I can point to that remind me of the luck that I have been blessed with. Events that remind me of how difficult times have led directly to better times ahead. Events that show me just how unpredictable and wonderful this life can be.”
9. (Not) Just Good Friends
To all of my friends, old and new, that have been there for me this year, thank you.
“Amongst the dating disappointments and adapting to being on my lonesome I have in my life something with a value that becomes ever greater. Great friends.”
10. Embracing the Unknown
Sometimes life’s disappointments are hard to take and we wonder when we are going to catch a break. Sometimes it catches up with us and in our hurt, frustration and disappointment we act in ways that we wish we hadn’t. Sometimes we lose our shit. Sometimes, I need to remember to take my own advice…
“Let the turmoil that surrounds you,
Be not your enemy, but a friend,
That will lead you to a better place,
Until you find it, it’s not the end.”
Happy Birthday – Stevie Wonder