I had a long and lovely lunch today with a true and trusted friend whom I love. (How pleasingly alliterative that sentence was!) I wasn’t my usual, fizzy self: I often find, that once the truly joyous bit of Christmas is over -giving to my little ones and making sure they have a wonderful day- and the new year draws closer, I become somewhat brooding and retrospective. I ask myself where I am going, what I want from the coming year and dwell perhaps a little too much on what I don’t have and would like. For me, this isn’t about material possessions: I am not lusting after new cars, or bigger houses, but rather examining the quality and quantity of my relationships with others. Having been through an incredibly heart wrenching break-up/make-up scenario with my partner over the last few years, a drama which continues to play out, wreaking havoc with my emotions, I found myself crying into my wine on Christmas night, having seen on Facebook that a guy I once dated has just got engaged. He, and his intended, looked so happy that I fell into a well of self-pity that I just couldn’t seem to clamber out of. Why, I asked myself, is my happy ever after taking so long to arrive?
I poured all of this out to my beautiful friend, who after a few rough years, finally got her happy ever after when she married her partner, and father of her equally beautiful son, last year. Her response surprised me: she told me that she had been grumpy and touchy over Christmas too, which had impacted on her partner and was now making her feel a bit guilty. Oddly, this grumpiness was also bound up with a Facebook induced disgruntlement: she noticed that an old school friend of hers had posted a picture of her and her husband on the impressive veranda of their new home, in Africa. When her husband, a steady and pragmatic man known as Bear, who is not prone to flights of fancy, returned from work, she greeted him with, ‘I think we should move to Africa, or France, or get a place out in the country, miles from anywhere.’ His reply? – a simple but effective ‘No’. It sounds like a rather terse response, but he knows her so well, and loves her better. He is her ballast in the stormy sea of life, and while she wanders around looking for the next challenge, the next achievement, and the next celebration and paints all her experiences with high visibility gloss, he is understated and hard-working: for him, things don’t have to be amazing, they just have to be good enough.
When we had finished laughing, we explored our disgruntlements together over a glass of vino, and came to some rather enlightening conclusions: Facebook can be depressing ( so different from the wonderful warts and all human warmth I have encountered on WordPress), it doesn’t represent reality (tsetse fly, malaria, droughts, snakes- beautiful friend is NOT an intrepid girl), it can bring out the worst in human nature- jealously and feelings of inadequacy and finally and perhaps most importantly, that my beautiful friend has to stop believing that life should turn out like an 80s movie, that she is addicted, as am I, to overachieving and being seen to be doing well, and making everything amazing, instead of just, well, nice or good enough and that this doesn’t lead to happiness or contentment. Perhaps, Mr Bear has it right? I think that is, unconsciously, part of the reason she married him.
My New Year resolutions: to start my new job as I mean to go on, by being good enough, and not spectacular; (another down side of expecting so much from life, is the way in which you punish yourself, and others when it doesn’t live up to expectation: my friend is a teacher, and if she takes one less than enthralling class, she feels utterly inadequate and useless); to count my blessings every day, and narrativise my life, and the lives of others, in ways which do not leave me feeling inadequate and depressed. Is my happy ever after already here? – But, because I am convinced other people are having a better one, or it doesn’t match the one in my head, I can’t see it. Maybe I had it and it didn’t last because there is no such thing. But I have two beautiful kids, a wonderful family, a new job, a nice home and a friend like beautiful friend, whom I can pour my heart out to and who understands. In 2014, I am resolved to count my blessings.
Her New Year resolutions: to stop painting everything with high visibility gloss (she started this one straight away by admitting that the spa we went to before lunch was, not amazing if it had been a bit hotter, but shit because it was cold and that the lunch was not amazing, but just really nice and then squealed about liberating it felt to tell the truth!) We decided that from now on, amazing will be reserved for weddings, births and the like and coined a phrase, deciding that we need to learn to be OK with being OK. Not amazing, not brilliant, but…well, OK.
I love beautiful friend: she called me later and thanked me for an ‘amazing day’. Oops.