When life throws you limes, make a margarita

Starting again…

When life throws you limes, make a margarita

You’ve heard of the band that kept playing while the Titanic went down, an island girl’s holiday was my version after an iceberg took the arse out of my marriage.

I hadn’t expected to be single again at 50 but recent events had taught me a lot of things can happen you don’t expect. Least of all was I prepared for the particular kind of hell it is to live in quarantine with your ex. The same one who tore my still beating heart from my chest, stomped on it repeatedly all the while still professing to love me – just not in the “same way”. What the actual fu@k right!

The whole year had been a tsunami of devastating revelations that crashed into me one after the other, it had me crawling into the new year on all fours.

My dear friend, Sadie had been experiencing similar devastation so for the new year we booked ourselves a luxury resort, complete with a castle, in Tenerife – the largest Spanish canary island off the coast of West Africa.

Everything but a plague of locusts

We stepped off the plane and couldn’t see a thing, the landscape was desert-like and the sky completely obscured – I guess we should have known then this wasn’t going to be the fabulous new year we were banking on. The year that would take us out of relationship psychological horror film territory and into a fabulous and single-again musical.

Nevertheless, undeterred, we were on our holidays and for one week I didn’t need to deal with the man-child at home fixing to leave me and Sadie didn’t need to fear her ex turning up on the doorstep with a fresh batch of narcissistic manure.  Happy Days!

Grinning from ear-to-ear we rushed into the arrival hall to meet our driver – let’s get this holiday started! Scanning the signs none appeared to have “Josephine” or any other misspelling of it. Excellent! We have time for a quick drink and duty-free cigarette outside.

Returning, still no driver, we called him and were surprised to hear he was surprised we were there. Rushing in and apologising he explained many planes hadn’t made it to Tenerife that day. Sadie and I shrugged at each other, none the wiser and undeterred – we were on our holidays and we planned to milk it for every ounce of fun we could! A few little issues were not going to get in-between us and a good time. Which mainly meant in-between us and the cocktail bar.

Dumb tourists

On arrival the glittering white marble expanse of the foyer and the sleek-looking lounge bar made our grins broaden. Sidling up to reception we lucked out with getting the only grumpy and sarcastic queen on staff – David.

We liked him immediately, his sarcasm, even when aimed at us “dumb tourists” was still highly amusing. He warmed a little when we laughed at ourselves, which set us up for a firm “friendship” with David. Well, it was more we amused ourselves annoying David daily with dumb tourist questions and delighted at just how bitchy he could get, about us, about other guests, about the rest of the staff – his distain was endless. We checked in with David, choosing the prefix “Your Excellency” instead of the boring Miss, Ms or Mrs. I highly recommend it, being greeted by the breakfast maître d with “Good Morning Your Excellencies” got our days off to a really great start.

Margarita Time!

We got to our suite, hurried into cocktail dresses and ordered four margaritas back at the lounge bar. All hands suitably holding a margarita we headed onto the huge balcony to flop into one of the comfy sofas and enjoy the views – except there wasn’t any, view that is – there were plenty of sofas, all otherwise empty. 

“Happy holidays”! we cheers’d. We could just make out the top of the Disney style castle that took centre stage in the middle of the pool area below. The sky, even now at night was still incredibly hazy, our selfies were coming out great though, the haze might have been view-destroying, but it did offer very flattering lighting.

On our second margarita, Antonio the waiter burst through the doors and rushed towards us with a furrowed brow looking incredibly concerned. “Fantastic service here,” Sadie said, “he doesn’t need to panic quite this much though, we’ve still got half a glass left”. Reaching us Antonio made wild flapping motions with his arms, “please, Your Excellencies, the sandstorm is very bad for your health, please come back inside – nobody in Tenerife is outside tonight!”

Sandstorm?! No wonder other planes weren’t able to land!

Later in the week we heard a nearby resort was in total lockdown due to an Italian doctor checking in with a highly contagious virus.

And let the music play on…

Prawns night, will make it all alright

Food is important. More specifically, enjoying food is important. Enjoying with friends or lovers who also enjoy food – pure joy. There was a lot of joy that first night at Fantasia.

Booking a Spanish owned and run resort was no accident, not if you love food. Sadie is a confirmed buffet snob but quickly recalibrated her view after experiencing a 5-star Spanish resorts version. Some cultures just eat better, I’ve always found the Spanish appreciate good food. I love their style of cooking and eating and could not imagine a Spanish tourist tolerating mediocre food at their holiday resort. So, I’d picked the resort with good food, sangria, margaritas and opportunities to practice my Spanish-speaking all in mind.

Everything including a castle

It was of course though the enormous Disney castle dominating the centre of the resort landscape and its skyline that tipped it. Who could resist that cherry on top! Anything utterly ridiculous appeals greatly to me and is never lost on Sadie either. As my wise and fun-loving Grandfather said, “Don’t take life too seriously or you’ll never get out of it alive”. I’ve learnt in my half century that extends to, “Don’t take yourself too seriously either, or you’ll never stay happily alive”.

Got that good food good feeling

The chef station grilling fresh prawns was Sadie’s idea of heaven. She is sometimes hard to please I’m not going to lie, so I was thrilled to see the gleam in her eye and the smile spread across her face at the sight of it. She spent most of the night there, the chef appeared as enamoured of her as she was of the prawns, so the juiciest most beautifully grilled king prawns and langoustine were reserved for her regular visits.

I have similar heart skipping moments where angels sing in my head at the sight of a good cheese board.

It had been a long day, Sadie looked set to fall face down into her prawn plate in a total food coma so we agreed it would be best to have desert and wine on our suite balcony. I made a cheese board and olive selection and neatly wrapped it all up in a huge napkin for secreting out of the restaurant.

Just needed a good bottle of red. Strolling around the huge restaurant on the lookout I spotted some nice red wine in a bucket by a waiter station. Securing one under my jacket I casually walked back to our table to collect Sadie and the cheese napkin picnic.

She’d taken the opportunity to get another load of grilled prawns, so I sat down and hissed I’ve got a bottle of red wine in my jacket. “Give it here”, she instructed, “I’m really good at hiding a whole bottle under my arm”.

Oh hell, you didn’t!

Chatting away, the still quiet of the mostly empty restaurant was suddenly shattered as a red wine bottle smashed on the white marble floor beneath Sadie’s chair. She nonchalantly kept peeling and eating prawns. I looked her directly in the eyes and said, “I commend your positive attitude but I have to tell you there’s really no styling this out. There’s a large red wine puddle directly under your chair and there is literally nobody else sitting in our area of the restaurant”.  Sadie howled with laughter.

There wasn’t anything else for it, we both laughed til we cried. I did of course profusely apologise in heavily accented Spanish to the charming Cuban who came with a mop to clean up after us. We shoved a ton of guilt euro notes at him before leaving, with the cheese in a napkin in my handbag and another bottle of red wine under Sadie’s armpit.

Mum always said the happiest people are happy with the smallest things, like the smell of a sweet flower. Horrible break-ups and sandstorms didn’t stand a chance at making us feel miserable against the almighty power of good food and wine with a good friend.

Don’t stop dancing, we may fall

I see what I’m doing here, I’m focussing on the good times and not telling you about the not-so-good times. This is an old habit which quite frankly is a damn useful survival skill.

 Laughter is the best medicine; I don’t know who said that first but I’m an avid practitioner. Could be a cultural thing, humour and stoicism. Where I come from the usual advice is, “Build a bridge and get over it” or “Toughen up buttercup” followed swiftly by “Here have a drink (or cup of tea, depending on the hour) you’re too pretty to cry”.

Nevertheless, I understand it’s a journey and I am grateful for the empathy and the wisdom that comes from the painful times.

The hard times make the good times sweeter; like when you peel a fresh clementine with great expectation, then recoil at the sourness because it’s not fully ripened. The next ripe one is much sweeter and you savour it far more than if you’d tasted it first.

Better to live in truth than a web of lies

Ultimately, once I found my legs again, got up and dusted myself off I’d learnt – it’s better to go through the pain and live in truth than continue to live in delusion and lies. The journey to that was crawling the gauntlet on coals of fire. Sometimes the pain consumed me so bad I couldn’t see any end but fire cleanses and if you won’t wake-up I guess it takes a good smack in the face.

I also discovered it’s scary how deep in a web of illusion you can be, you’ve literally got no idea you’re living a lie. That was me, living the lie.

Love at first sight, in a faraway place

My ex-husband I used to call “the love of my life” and my “soulmate” and I meant it. We’d had a romantic start, met in a tropical paradise and had the whole love-at-first-sight passionate thing going. I’ve always had a romantic heart and I look back now and see it’s got me into a lot of trouble… and a lot of fun. I don’t regret any of it. Do I regret marrying the ex, yes maybe I do regret that because it has become clear I was the only one truly committed to our marriage.

Looking through bubble-wrap

He’s a complicated, difficult man and very prideful. Though not so prideful that he bothered to ever get his life together and stop making me clean up his continuous messes from his continuous bad decision-making. See that was my first mistake, I thought he was a man, he’s not, he’s still a teenager pretending to be a grown-up. That was exhausting, carrying someone who never carries you back.

Self-analysis and criticism are not difficult for women, so I see where I went wrong.  So deeply in love was I that I ignored all the red flags. Skipped merrily right over them insulated in a warm cosy thick blanket of love, I felt safe – I wasn’t. Oh! He was so good at that, it’s hard for me to describe to you. He used to make me feel sooo loved, so adored like his every happiness depended on me. When someone loves you hard like that it wraps you in a bubble. I guess it’s hard to see the truth through bubble-wrap.

The smack in the face

When he told me, he wanted to leave me ten years later he said our marriage “was only a piece of paper”. That came as one of the biggest shocks, I’d believed we both believed in our marriage. This conversation happened after I picked up his phone that he’d dropped after passing out on the sofa. I was just picking it up off the floor to put on the coffee table but there was a still active chat conversation on it. With someone I didn’t know called “Sam”, I didn’t even know if it was a woman or man but whoever it was my husband was professing his love to them in the same way he had to me. Turns out it was a she, but for a moment there I was so confused I wondered if I was married to a man having an affair with another man.

In it, alone

We had our problems, that was for sure. But I’d believed it was a bad patch, marriages can go through whole bad years of those – I was playing the long game and believed we’d get to the happy life together I’d always envisaged. Apparently, we weren’t in on that together though. He’d already given up on me years ago, he’d just forgotten to tell me.

Hospitals and police-stations

I was paying all the bills and he was continuing to behave like a reckless teenager. Finding him passed out after partying or not even home at all by 8am was so commonplace I’d long ago stopped calling the hospital and police station in fits of fear he was hurt somewhere. He continued to promise he’d start to come home at a reasonable hour, or at least let me know where he was, but it never happened, and he went out after work (which he finished late) most nights. When he was home, he was surly, grumpy, bossy and frequently criticised me. His verbal abuse was so bad I learned to completely mute him, then I’d be jolted out of that as he’d yell, “You never listen to me!” I did explain why when he was in better moods and he’d apologise, then the merry-go-round would start up again.

No fool like an old fool

Even as I’m writing this, I’m seeing what a fool I sound like. I was a fool but I’m not the type to be a doormat. I believed in our love and our marriage, I really truly thought we could sort it out and things would get better. Ok, I can see now I was deep in my own web of lies, I guess I just wanted to believe so bad we’d get back to that loving place and build a happy future together.

It’s important to understand my ex is very charismatic, charming and the life-of-the-party. He knows how to say all the right things to a woman and he’s passionate. The thing is you just never know who you’re going to get one day from the next. He has his demons, many of them and I understood that. I guess what I didn’t understand is that I couldn’t fix them for him. I made a lot of excuses for him is the truth. Ultimately, he never did anything to deal with his own demons other than try to drown them in alcohol or take the frustrations of his past out on me.

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