The lessons.

On Friday I said goodbye to someone I have known for about five years. When we sat down and quantified the time, I was shocked. FIVE YEARS. To put the significance of five years into perspective, let me highlight several key ‘fives’. The downstairs. For five years, I lived in my treasured downstairs flat, the first time I lived on my own, away from the controlling gaze of parents or the irritation of housemates (although, for the record, I think I was more irritable than they were irritating, mostly). That downstairs flat! What a great time in my life! I went to parties, design functions, procured and disposed of a boyfriend (or two), worked for my dream design studio (or two), made friends with the people whom I had only known as my heros, fed many friends over many dinners, met my annoying next boyfriend who turned into my husband (who knew?!), ahhhhh…I treasure those memories and look back with a wistful fondness for what I almost knowlingly took for granted. High school. Five years of secondary school where I met some of the friends I still have today and some of the teachers who cared about me and took the time to help me formulate an idea of who I might become. The years where I worked my guts out to ensure I was going to get the hell out and live the city life I craved without really knowing what I had been missing, but knowing there was more. Let’s be parents together — let’s shun alchool, coffee, parabens, preservatives, see a naturopath, a psychologist, a fertility doctor, an acupuncturist, start a business, close another business, get a ‘real’ job, start IVF, get pregnant, stay pregnant, haaaave the baby. BIG times. Moments in time which begin and end from the first day to the day when you can say it has been five years! FIVE YEARS! Somewhere in amongst those times, I met a woman who taught me some excellent ‘stuff’. And, on Friday, approximately 1, 825 days later, we said goodbye.

Shit.

Such a moment of disbelief (like the moment somebody says “it’s not you it’s me”, though this time it was believable). An end point, however, that helped me face the fact that I am a grown up now. I can do this. I’m all over it. Or, I will be soon. I promise.

So, do you want to know what I learned in five years? Here it is, in a nutshell. Worth every moment of gulping-for-air honesty, fearful of being found out, then relieved to have been and reassured I was still ok. Not ok—better. Here goes (deep breath):

  1. Notice what you are feeling and allow yourself to feel whatever it is you’re feeling. (Another wise woman once said to me “take up as much space in the world as you need to”.)
  2. Figure out what you want, then gently, but strongly, stand by it.
  3. “That won’t work for me” is enough. There is no need to explain.
  4. Breathe.
  5. Read poetry aloud.
  6. Be kind.
  7. Your husband, and children—your family—come first.
  8. Ask yourself at what personal cost does pleasing others come?
  9. Give yourself a break.
  10. Go on a holiday. A proper holiday.

Et, voila! My ten steps to living a less-than-perfect life. You are welcome. 

Any questions?

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The trees have ears

I love snippets of conversation — listening in to other people’s lives, quietly, secretly. Is there a website for that? An archive of unconnected phrases, exclamations, ums and uh-huhs. “No she didn’t!”

I walk the paths of our neighbourhood, where many a mysterious, snippet of a one-sided mobile phone conversation was overheard: two women, earnestly walking through the minutiae of their day, their problems unleashed, now halved. A man, loudly bleating “he called, on my birthday, said ‘I love you’ (he’s never said he loves me), then doesn’t say ‘happy birthday’, then…”

I love the way people express themselves so freely, as if I am not listening in, silently judging, seeing how they measure up, how their lives compare to mine. I feel so unafraid of my own anxious mind when I hear that everyone else is dealing with the familiar awful boss, unscrupulous threat to suburbia, or inexplicable family upheaval.