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If you go down in the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise

On Sunday evening Meg headed out to some woods that she'd stayed at before, whilst working on a nearby archaeological dig site. She was in need of recharge and time to herself. The Monday and Tuesday in UK were very warm, and Tuesday felt particularly more draining I think. Those cool temperatures up in Scotland sound mighty fine on days such as those.

Signal was bad in the woods, and we had spoken 2 or 3 times a day. Before she'd left I had lent her a book that my therapist had recommended. A Jungian approach to what we look for in others and relationships both romantic and plutonic.

When we chatted on Tuesday afternoon, she told me that she was itching to do something as 2 hot days cooped up in the van had her craving a change. Before I went to the woods, I decided to share something else for her to read - my most recent blog on here. She told me that it had made her cry. When I heard this, I wanted to be with her. Much like she told me that she wished that she could've hugged me when she read the blog. These moments of connection feel heartwarming, to the point of euphoria at times.

She'd mentioned wanting to go bilberry picking, but would have to travel up north. When I showed my interest, she outlined a rough plan of what it'd entail, and my gut felt uneasy. I wanted to see her and yet I was left feeling somewhat overwhelmed. I was honest, and said that it sounded like a bit too much for me. She was lovely and understanding about it, and told me that's why she'd told me her plan of action - so I'd have all the info. I went with my gut, and offered to visit her at the woods before she set off.

Indecision is another quality we share at times, but in the end I told her I'd head off. My indecision at that moment meant I didn't pack an overnight bag, or take my laptop with me. Something which, in hindsight seems little silly.

When I opened the door to leave the house the heat hit me. Subtle this was not. Thankfully my car has working A/C and I drove to get petrol and then onto the woods. A few flashes of catastrophic thinking had me pondering my car breaking down. Mind you, that's a thought that crops up whenever I'm going somewhere other than the office. Breaking down on the way to work almost feels like a minor miracle, although usually an expensive one after it's fixed. Worries seldom match up with reality, and I'm getting a lot better at realising when I'm indulging in worries rather than reality and the world around me.

The drive became very scenic once I got out of the nearby town of St Ives. Whilst the town centre of St. Ives is lovely, the outskirts are quite generic and not all that pleasant. The last leg of the trip had lovely villages and rolling hills of golden wheat. During the last few minutes of my journey, I saw a hill to my right with thick woodland ontop, and I hoped and somewhat expected that to be where I'd end up.

Once I arrived I went into the wrong car park initially, but when doubling back I quickly spotted her big, bright yellow van and I smiled and breathed a sigh of relief. Whilst I had only just arrived at the woods, I noticed quite a few pathways, and upon going to the wrong car park initially - I did momentarily ponder if I'd be driving around for a while. But I re-read her directions on WhatsApp and parked up next to her van once I arrived.

The air was still extremely warm. I'm not sure if it felt humid too - it was just a thick feeling in the atmosphere. The hug to say hello really did feel wonderful, as I believe Sunday evening to Tuesday evening was the longest we'd been apart from each other. I remember her face lighting up when I suggested we sit in my car with the air conditioning switched on. Truly it felt sublime and wonderfully calm to sit and chat in a cool environment. I was mighty impressed she'd gone the 2 days in her van with this heat. Until she told me, the penny never really dropped that insulation isn't just for keeping a house warm. So a van with it inside can remain cooler - especially with the amount of air flow her van has with the skylights and rear and side windows.

That night she cooked instant noodles which a friend of mine recommended. I've a fair few people who don't reply to messages all that much, but I do like to try and keep it going now and then with messages and such. Or just an amusing picture or GIF. When they replied to one of my messages, I randomly asked them what their favourite instant noodles were, and then ordered a small multi pack for £7 on Amazon. They have good taste.

We sat in the car, with the air conditioning on and ate the noodles. The have a nice degree of spiciness to them, and with the additional seasonings that Meg has available - it's a very tasty dish. It felt oddly refreshing to eat hot and spicy noodles whilst sat in a deliciously cool, air conditioned environment. Especially on a day such as that.

From hereon I'm trying to remember the timeline correctly for how things passed. Truth be told, it was such a relaxing environment that looking back on it, some events are hard to pin point.

I suggested that we play our Pictionary game again. I think this was on the first evening, as she showed me some drawings that she'd done. Whilst she'd sent photos of them on WhatsApp, it was nice to see them in person. They were delightful and amusing. Her style and quirkyness put a big smile on my face. They were wonderful.

We went on an evening stroll and were lucky enough to get some rain. It really made us happy and excited, especially as I hadn't thought it would rain until Wednesday. We hugged under the rain, and smiled and laughed together. You know it's strange - I can't recall many moments in life where I've been so happy that I've laughed. Of course there's been plenty of funny moments in life that triggered laughter, but to laugh simply through sheer happiness? It's something which has really stood out with my time with Meg. Our connection is what had both of fearful of potentially risking that by being more than friends.

Perhaps, like the word love - the term best friend was something that I couldn't relate to. I felt that they both existed, but it was almost like I was slightly off frequency with them both. Herein lied some conflicting emotions when I met Meg that evening. I was happy to see her, but that went beyond a feeling of meeting up with a friend. When we hugged that evening - it happened a lot, and much like our first goodbye hug on my birthday - each one carried a lot of emotional warmth and charge. Her smile at times is truly remarkable. Her entire face and expression lights up, and it displays a warmth and energy unlike anything I've ever seen before. I get lost in it - almost like a Siren's song. The conflict laid in feeling like I was holding back. Bottling up my desire for her.

That night I slept on the sofa bed and she was in her bedroom at the back of the van. I felt a longing for her that night. It didn't feel as intense as our first night in the van together - as that atmosphere felt electric to me. That's not to say this was any less special - but I was trying to acclimate to our recent decision to forgo the FWB relationship and to stay as friends only. There was a nagging internal desire that I was keeping a lid on, and they were seemingly trying to find way to be expressed.

We both managed to get a decent night's sleep, and when we woke up it was a lot cooler. It's always nice to wake up to a view of someone you care about. When I woke up a few times during the night and early hours of the morning - I found comfort in seeing Meg nearby. Being able to look up at sky, stars, trees and the sound of the wind and woodland made me feel truly at peace. Van life is another world and it's one that I'm finding myself ever more drawn towards.

The next morning felt serene. I sat crosslegged with her head in my lap and I worked on her dreads in the morning. We listened to music, chatted and she did some crocheting of her own. Before I'd driven to the woods I had been working on a playlist for her. This will be something I enjoy doing, but might take some time to complete. Initially I made a Spotify account as I know it's a service she uses. Unfortunately I started encountering one too many songs that it didn't have, so I figured I just use Youtube. As I've made an account and added songs specifically to complete an A-Z list of my all time favourite tracks.

One song, by a folk metal band struck a chord with her, and she said she'd had the song on repeat on a drive home once with her mum. It's truly a wonderful song, and in the right or maybe wrong moments - it's often brought a tear to my eye:

I'd bought a crochet needle with me, and keep it in my wallet now. I first bought it for when the time comes to do my own dreadlocks. Meg has been kind enough to let me work on hers. We both felt like we should be thanking the other - it was rather charming to be honest. We've done a few dreadlock tidying sessions now, but Wednesday's session was the longest, and lasted about 3 hours. There were many moment when I looked down at her laying in my lap, and I wanted to reach down and kiss her. Ahh, bottling stuff up was tricky. I wasn't scared of getting a boner, which is good. Nice to know I was that calm and at ease. Because normally I'm playing tripod all the time when I'm around her, and even moments which aren't overly intimate have me feeling rather excited downstairs.

For breakfast, we had strong black coffee and ate croissants and pain au chocolat. We had another stroll in the woods, and also went to a nearby town of Stanford. It truly was a remarkable place to visit. The buildings and historical architecture enraptured me. It was a real buzz and filled me with wonder, as well as wanderlust. So many moments and adventures in the past few weeks with Meg, and it's something that is creating sparks, motivation and ideas.

When we parked up at the supermarket, the sun was fairly high up in the sky, and whilst it was 13 degrees cooler than Tuesday, it was feeling quite warm. Thankfully the shops were also air conditioned, and we purchased bits and pieces to make a veggie chilli, along with some snacks. We also ventured to a supermarket next door so I could use the facilities, and Meg could buy a couple of big bottles of water. Whilst I knew van life would innevitably include going out into nature when you needed no.2 - I wasn't sure when I'd take that leap myself. It wasn't a nerve wracking idea, but I also knew that doing something new and rather bold can create a feeling of uncertainty.

The food was delicious, and I was glad to help up with vegetable prep. Along with helping to make our own guacamole. It feels good to pitch in, and I tend try to be a helpful person where possible. I guess it helps grease the wheels in day to day life. Be the nice person - be helpful and kind. Others appreciate that, and it feels good inside to know you're helping.

We did some staffing in a clearing next to one of the other car parks. I was impressed with Meg being ok with walking across gravel and such like. The timing was a little uncanny that she then got something in her foot. A thorn or some such I believe. In situations such as those, being the helpful guy can make you feel a little awkward or on edge. You want to help, but you can't - and that's fine. It's just being comfortable with your discomfort and rationalising it. If you don't reconsider or change vantage point on a negative feeling - then you'll probably keep the negativity going for longer.

Letting go of anxious or depressive thoughts before they drag you under. Reflect and readjust. Whilst a lot of this will go on internally - I've found that me and Meg has continued to be open during moments of building emotion.

As I said earlier - being friends with someone who felt like so much more was certainly bottling up how I felt, and how I wanted to be. Yet we'd both mutually felt like a relationship isn't what both of us need at this moment in time. That's not to say our decision made things easy. The atsmophere and spark between us was clear. In each hug, and our reciprocating smiles and laughter. Whilst no more FWB felt like it was for simplicities sake - it was starting to feel like our emotions and our intuition was telling us otherwise.

She picked up a lot of the staffing moves quickly. I was intrigued to see her natural ability. There are a lot of tricks which involve having the staff spinning towards or over your head. Having something big and heavy doing that naturally makes people tense up or flinch. As such, some of the more advanced tricks will simply take practice. However, I started to see a change in her expression. Much like I'm told I can be - I can read emotions on Meg quite well. Whilst I might not be able to name exactly what they are, I can see when she's feeling discomfort, and suggested we headed back to the van.

We went back to the van to have a nap. We both laid on the sofa bed, curled up in the fetal position and facing each other. I looked at her a lot when we lay there. I closed my eyes and tried somewhat half-heartidly to fall asleep. I kept coming back to opening my eyes though, and looking at her face - inches from mine. She looked so peaceful and beautiful. I found myself looking at her in detail. I pondered what I should do, as I felt something building inside. At times I tried to convince myself with "what if's". Almost to try and talk myself out of how I was truly feeling. But the more I looked at her, the more I found myself smiling and feeling positivity. I wished for her to open her eyes and to see me looking at her, or at the very least to give off enough of a vibe that she could feel what I was. I pondered in my mind's eye hugging her and snuggling up. Or gently stroking the side and contours of her face and jaw, as I had done several times before when we had been intimate. There was another part of me that wanted to kiss her passionately. But I lay still, and time drifted on by.

I think 15 or so minutes must have passed, but I could still hear in her breathing that she was awake. I think some extraneous noise led me to whisper talk to her, and then a conversation began. She said that she was really struggling not cuddling up with me. This led to us talking about our feelings and what was happening.

"A relationship is not what either of us need right now" - something that we've said, and agreed upon. Yet, in that moment - laying beside one another in bed, we voiced what we felt like we did need in life. But also, what could prevent us from having a relationship with each other. Both of us had experience codependency in previous relationships, and yet here we were, once again openly discussing our feelings, beliefs and behaviours. It seems bizarre to me that all relationships don't start and continue with this degree of openness. Share your thoughts, your fears and your expectations. Don't go in blind, and assume that the "display model" that people project early in relationships is the real deal.

In Meg I'd finally found a matching half. By that I mean that she described experiences and events in life and relationships where I took, or would have taken a similar path. Time and again I felt her values matching mine. Each and every time I would smile and feel a warmth and calm from within - another tick. The way we think and act has us agreeing and smiling time after time. This synergy is unlike anything I've ever felt before.

My therapist and Meg both said that in the early days of a relationship, people can project onto the other person, their needs and wants. I believe Meg termed it as "filling in the gaps", so that what you present yourself with in a new partner is an idealisation. This is where our repeated examples of similarities in beliefs and experiences helped cement the reality that this wasn't a case of projection. Not to say that you don't overlook some differences in relationships - but we actually tried to think of examples of differences we had this morning, and it was a bit of a struggle. Nevertheless, it was another wonderfully open conversation.

We both felt like just being friends was bottling up something. It prevented us in certain ways, and the more time we'd spent around each other - the more a feeling was beginning to grow. A feeling that goes beyond the similarities, the laughter, the hugs and the smiles. I felt like I'd struggled with eye contact a few times during this conversation, because it was hitting close to home - and that meant I'd be revealing and trusting on a level where fear of getting hurt also resides.

The inner child is what my therapist called it. Something that is still scared and afraid during moments that bring back moments of trauma or fears of emotional dejection or abandon. That side of you where you tear up swiftly when something hits a little too close to home. Yet, it's also the side which was so positively overwhelmed with excitement when driving through the beautiful streets of Stamford. It might inhabit the body of a 36 year old man - but that inner child has such a powerful presence in my life, that it can fill me with manic joy as well as moments of seemingly unnavigable fear.

"I think I'm starting to fall for you." Is what I told her, whilst struggling to look her in the eye. It almost felt like I was mumbling it, because this is me now. A reveal all in which I felt comfortable enough to tell her, and yet the inner critic felt highly vulnerable. The synchronicity continued, and once more, she echoed what I was feeling. This listening to my gut is really paying off, and it feels so different to how the inner critic sounds off internally.

Being around Meg has made me feel things I haven't felt before. Yes, I've felt elation, intimacy, happiness, contentment etc. in the past, and of course every friendship and relationship is unique. Yet, I can't deny there's something profound with me and Meg that runs on a deeper level. It's eye opening, and now that I've had time to ponder and reflect; perhaps this is what is meant by soul mates, or when your partner is also your best friend. Maybe this is the enigmatic feeling of love that I thought I'd never truly feel or understand.

When we kissed again for the first time - I felt that connection again. Something so strong that our faces lit up with smiles, and the van was alive with laughter throughout the evening. Laughing with glee, and smiling with such enthusiasm that my inner self was welling up inside with emotion. That night our kissing and cuddling was building up and she told me that she didn't want to have sex that evening. The emotions have been so hot and heavy recently that it might've led to a similar overwhelm as last time. Her telling me this didn't lead to an ill feeling, and I didn't feel dejected - as was a common feeling in past relationships. But why should I feel dejected? I was on a bed, laying with her - I felt calm, happy and content. If anything, not wanting to have sex makes de-escalates things a little. No pressure, just relax...and so we did. We cuddled, we shared an intimacy which continues to perplex me with it's intensity. I guess perplexed makes me sound like there's doubt. Truthfull, I'm left questionning why other relationships didn't feel like this. It's been 18 years since my first relationship, and yet now I feel more alive than ever? Mind you - 18 years also coincides with my time in the rat race. Being free of that stressor, along with entering into something that has couched me in a feeling of warmth and uniqueness is on a whole new level for me. This is living - this is growth.

Intimacy is something that I have found lacking on my part in previous relationships. Yet I've also struggled to have the restfulness to be able to cuddle up and watch a movie or show with people I dated. I've mentioned before that Meg's presence is calming. It is this calm which I felt was a solid benchmark for how things should proceed. Not to say life doesn't have it's peaks and troughs, and storms as well as calms. This degree of energy and happiness is unlike anything. Yet the inner critic isn't stirring as intensely as it has in the past. I notice the catastrophic thoughts, but noticing and identifying them as such means I can let them go. Worries vs realty - the reality of the here and now felt almost fantastical. It's strange that worries are fuel for - or perhaps exhaust fumes from the inner critic. I find it odd because it's both a voice of self-preservation as well as self-destruction.

This all feels very different - not simply because of our level of connect, but also the amount of conversation and revelation of emotions. Both of us will be working and travelling - as such, the times we spend with each other won't be as linear as previous relationships I've had. Yet this was something we both stated - a need for "me time". Once again, another statement we've repeated is "too much of a good thing". Why should we allow this to burn out? You know, we even agreed on something novel, and yet uniquely helpful - we think we'd like to try couples therapy. Why wait for a relationship to be strained before seeking outside perspective? Wouldn't it be intriguing to discover more about each other in couples therapy in the early days? Maybe it's just us being quirky, but it feels like a worthwhile and beneficial thing to do.

Moving in with someone is where things can falter - once you spend lots of time with each other, and lose a degree of independence, this is probably where codependence really made it's mark. Yet I knew the excitement and elation I'd feel when Kristy's work schedule meant I had a free evening. Similarly when I know my folks are off out somewhere - when I realise I have some "me time" I feel calm. Again - calm as a benchmark. I know that one day I will settle down, and me and Meg both discussed our dream for what our future home and life would look like. Not only do they both sound lovely, but they are achievable. Whilst I know the next few years will be busy - a relationship that calms and benefits us in so many ways is definitely worth pursuing.

I knew that following my dream of becoming an artist was going to be an adventure. I think we'd feared perhaps a relationship would lead to codependency and slowing down our own journey and progression for the sake of another person. But truthfully, she's not only calming me, but energising me with thoughts, ideas and beliefs. I want to share this adventure with Meg. We've both been held back in relationships before, and there was a worry that it might happen with our chosen paths in life if we were to be an item.

I know I sometimes repeat myself a lot, but these past 3 weeks have shown the power of conversation and openness. Bottling stuff up just makes you uncomfortable. That decade of stress related aches and pains is the perfect example of that. When things go unsaid and have no release - they fester. How much goes unsaid in a relationship until that festering has rotted out the very foundations that the relationship was built upon. Thoughts need expression, and expression requires action and a belief in oneself. Meg brought up a good point though - feeling any sort of intense emotions, whether good or bad is quite draining. This probably is adding to the fatigue and desire for me time and rest.

Meg saw another shooting star one night when we were in the woods. Some might discount any perceived symbolism to be found in a perfectly normal, and frequently occurring celestial sight - but I'm of the belief there's something within it. Even if that's just the feelings of hope and elation that it stirs up within me. Personally, I think the universe is endless potential, and our beliefs and thoughts affect the world around us. We always have freedom to choose, even if we can entrap ourselves with worries and fears. I imagine shooting stars are for good luck, or significant moments in life. The fact we've seen 3 in 3 weeks does feel special to me, and I'm happy to feel sentimental about it.

You know, I've come over really tired since writing this. I'm sure I'll have a good night's sleep. I'm finding it easier to sleep in the van, which is nice. I had a history of getting worked up when trying to sleep in new places. This was prevalent as a child, and whilst it has improved as I got older - it can still crop up at times.

Meg reminded me the other day that there's no need on my part to try and impress her. This growing feeling of self-acceptance and understanding I've been building inside was really complimented nicely by Meg telling me this. I told my therapist that Meg was a real woman. I find it intriguing I embrace her not shaving. I find something wonderfully wholesome about seeing an authentic woman. Shaving and plucking and maintaining feels like such a business. Then there's the fact my past 3 girlfriends now have been almost entirely makeup free. Seeing the real person is something I value. Whilst I can appreciate the neverending art project that is some people's make up routines etc. - I also can't help but feel somewhat forlorn that some people feel the need, or lack the confidence to not reveal what lies beneath the mask of makeup.

As we were getting ready to leave a policeman pulled up. He was a lovely and kind sounding man who queried when the van would be moving. Much like myself, I think the wonder and quality of her van conversion may well have convinced another person to follow their gut instinct - and get a van that allows you to do comfy road trips, with the convenience of the space, storage and facilities a van conversion provides. The policeman said he didn't feel the need to move people one, especially when living such a free lifestyle as van life, but of course - he has to do his job. Honestly though, it was good to meet a nice person, and he had a nice warmth to him. When he'd finished chatting to us, we got the last bits ready before we went our separate ways.

Our goodbye hug and kiss was wonderful. Meg is off up north to see her dad and is going to a gig with him tonight and then spending the weekend fishing. Now we have our "me time". I intend to get a lot more framing done, as Sunday of next week is my first art & craft fair. The first of many. A new adventure begins.

A new outlook on these past 3 weeks occurred to both of us too - that this is just the beginning of our adventure together.

"I think I'm falling for you." To hear her agree with this feeling was quite humbling. Revealing that inner self to another is quite a moment. For it to be reciprocated is magical. Much like these past 3 weeks with Meg have been.

I think the past 2 days is the longest I've spent out in nature. Whilst I am tired this evening, I felt so at peace being in the great outdoors. What a level of freedom and calmness.

Another interesting development and growth I'd noticed was when she spoke with her ex - I wasn't overwhelmed. I felt calm, and there wasn't really any unease at all. There seems to be a recurring pattern of being able to let go of these conjured worries from the inner critic. I'm no stranger to catastrophic thinking - and yet they never came to fruition. In the past I'd had ex's cheat on me, but I realised you can't paint everyone with the same brush. The fact you've encountered something with one person doesn't mean every subsequent person will be that way. Besides, if there's a pattern emerging in who you date - then perhaps that's revealing more about you, and that's worth exploring. That's not to say her speaking with her ex led me to go down the rabbit hole with catastrophic thinking. In fact, the level of calm I felt was quite refreshing. I also think it's a positive sign that people can be amiable after a breakup. As so often people go their separate ways, or it ends with a great schism that leaves friendship unobtainable afterwards.

Therein lies the surprise in all of this - meeting Meg has broke the mould for me. It has come as somewhat of a revelation to me. Not only is there inspiration and a new found vim and vigour - but there's been regular reminders that I'm continually growing, healing, and letting go of things that once held me back. Meg told me that I had really helped her too. I'm glad that I've been able to, and I know talking and getting other people's perspectives is always invaluable. But I could also echo her feelings and realisations of being in a relationship that is taking more than it's providing. I think what we have is providing a bit of a night and day comparison when we look to our previous relationship compared to what we are entering now.

These past few weeks have helped us both heal and grow. Whilst we feared a relationship would hold us back - in truth, not being in a relationship felt like it was holding us back further. Maybe we tried to deny what this was through fear of possibilities and dystopian potentials. But, as my therapist said - relationships help us grow and develop. I guess it goes to show that you shouldn't deny yourself what truly feels right in your gut.




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