Home > One Good Thing

One Good Thing
Author: Alexandra Potter



Hey you,

Remember when we were kids and used to write thank-you letters? It was usually for Christmas or birthdays and we’d do our best handwriting. Well, this email is my thank-you letter to you.

When everything fell apart, I couldn’t see a future. Leaving my old life to try to start a new one was terrifying. You know how scared I always was of taking risks. I was never as brave as you. What did you always say? That life happens at the edge of your comfort zone.

Well, in the end I took your advice. Because you know what’s more terrifying? The thought of never feeling happy again. There are people with broken hearts all around us, yet I still felt so alone.

But by coming here I’ve learned that it’s only by losing what you love that you find what matters most. And I’ve discovered a secret. All you need is one good thing to turn your life around and make it worth living again. Like a smile from a stranger, a hug from a friend or some small, random act of kindness. Or an old, scruffy dog with no name.

Just one good thing can change the course of everything. It has the power to heal your heart, inspire courage and joy and create true friendships that can bring a whole community together. It can even save someone’s life.

So anyway, thanks for the advice. I know it’s not Christmas or my birthday, but when I needed it most, your words gave me the greatest gift of all: hope.




The Seven Stages

The seven stages of grief are widely used to explain the complicated process we go through when we experience any major loss. They are based on the famous theory by psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. Loss can be caused by many different situations: the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship or any big life change. Divorce, especially, represents the death of a marriage and all the hopes and dreams that went into it, and this needs a grieving process for healing.

After the initial shock and disbelief, you will begin a journey that will take you through a series of complex emotions, until finally you will begin the upward turn towards acceptance, hope and even joy. In reality, however, grief is not linear; feelings are messy and difficult, so only use the seven stages as a general guide. Loss is universal, but it is also very personal and everyone’s journey is their own.








‘So what do you think?

Having finished looking around downstairs, the estate agent pushes open a stripped-pine door and shows me into the master bedroom.

It’s an innocent enough question, but probably not the wisest one to ask a recently divorced woman. One who has made the impulsive decision to leave London and all her friends, resign from the teaching job she’s held for the last ten years and move several hundred miles away to the Yorkshire Dales, where she knows no one.

I think lots of things. Mostly that I’m still in shock. That I can’t believe my marriage is over. That I haven’t slept properly in months. That I’m clearly having a midlife crisis. That yesterday I looked for my keys everywhere and found them in the fridge. That I’ve gained five pounds – oh, who am I kidding? More like fifteen. That I feel lost and bewildered. That I lie awake in the darkness thinking this is all a bad dream. That it’s all my fault.

That I love him.

That I hate him.

That secretly I wish I was the kind of woman who did crazy, angry, revengeful things to her cheating ex with frozen prawns and spray paint, instead of being the kind of woman who ran the iron over his shirts, folded them neatly into bin bags and left them in the garage, for when he came to pick up the rest of his things.

‘It’s very nice,’ I say politely, looking around the dimly lit room, with its old-fashioned flowery wallpaper and faded brown carpet, darker in parts where the furniture used to be.

I think I’ve gone completely bonkers and this is all a terrible mistake.

A strong fusty smell reaches my nostrils and I feel painfully homesick.

Only I no longer have a home to feel sick for. It’s been sold, subject to contract, as part of the divorce. The new owners, a couple with two young children, are due to move in in the New Year. My ex-husband has moved out of our home and in with his new girlfriend. His son, Will, my beloved stepson, who would spend weekends and holidays with us, has finished university and gone travelling. It’s just me and an empty house full of memories.

Which is why, a few weeks before Christmas, while the rest of the world is shopping for gifts and decorations, I’m shopping for a new place to call home.

‘I know on your search criteria you said you’re looking for a flat, preferably something that doesn’t need any work doing, but I thought I’d throw in a bit of a wild card for the final property.’

It’s late afternoon and this is my last viewing before I travel back to London. It’s been a long day. I caught the express train from King’s Cross station at first light, changing at Leeds onto the local railway line, which took me on a slow but breathtaking journey through a dramatic landscape, before finally pulling into the small windswept station on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales.

There I was met by Mr Hardcastle, an estate agent who, until today, I’ve only corresponded with by email, after he replied to my enquiry about properties for sale in the area. Ruddy-faced and larger than life in his waxed jacket with corduroy collar, he’s nothing like his slick-suited counterparts in London. Cheerfully squeezing the life out of my fingers as he shook my hand, he ushered me into the passenger seat of his old Rav4 and drove me deep into the Dales, past fields full of cows and sheep, showing me everything on the market while providing a chirpy commentary on the weather, in an accent that is pure Pennines.

‘They’ve given rain . . . By, it’s a bit nippy . . . You’re lucky, yesterday it was fair tipping it down . . . There’s talk of snow on the tops . . . Looks like it’s clearing, I can see a patch of blue . . . With any luck, weekend should be grand after all . . .’

Considering it’s the beginning of December, his optimism in the weather is remarkable. As is his ability to see anything positive in this three-hundred-year-old stone cottage, originally built for farmworkers in the small but beautifully picturesque village of Nettlewick. With its dark, poky rooms, rotten windows and nicotine-stained walls, it’s old and tired and in desperate need of a makeover.

I know the feeling.

‘It’s got a certain charm, don’t you think?’

‘I’m not sure I’d call damp charming.’ I point to some scary-looking mushroom growing out of the wall. ‘Or woodworm.’ I peer more closely at the suspicious-looking pin-prick holes in one of the large beams running across the ceiling.

‘The vendor’s very open to offers,’ he continues brightly, rocking on his heels. ‘And there’s a lovely westerly view from the back garden. There are a few houses, but mostly you can see straight across the Dales.’

‘What’s the view from the front?’ Walking across to the sash window, I pull back the greying, stained net curtain. ‘Oh – a graveyard.’

‘At least it’ll be dead quiet.’ He chuckles at his own joke.

And now I’m thinking dead people. I’m thinking Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ video.

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