I haven’t really been offline this long… It’s just that I started writing a reeeeally long post last week that I’m eventually going to publish when I’ve finished it. I decided that there are a few things that might help explain some stuff in terms of back story, but I also don’t want to put it all out there publicly, so it will be password protected like I’ve seen some of the other bloggers do. If this all seems a bit secret squirrel then I can assure you it’s nothing too exciting! It’s just that I prefer to blog anonymously where I can, so you can read my blog perfectly fine without knowing too much about my back story, but some of it is explained in the post I’ve been writing, and I probably have another one or two.
Anyway, back to today’s Thought For The Day: Is the grass always greener?
I think we can say with some certainty that it probably isn’t… It’s just a trick of the light. You’re not looking properly!
T and I have implemented a new regime for Dog, whereby we walk him together in the mornings. This follows on from a nasty incident with our dog walker (see post here) where we decided to stop him being walked by someone else. We thought that given he isn’t getting an extra walk with someone else, we should take the time to give him a more quality walk in the mornings, rather than just a poo walk :). It used to be just me taking him out during the week as I get up early, and then T would take him out at the weekend so I could have a little lie in. So now we both get up a little earlier and it also gives us a great opportunity to spend some quality time. Ahh… The modern couple!
Anyway, on one of our walks last week, we got to talking: T had been out to meet up with some friends from uni, and he came away thinking that he was the least successful out of all of them. Perhaps on paper, he is: his friends included several executive level high fliers and entrepreneurs. In comparison, T works for a large corporation and is at a middle management level – he had a set back a short while ago where he lost his job, and to his credit he went out and tried his hardest to get another one, and he now has a job he really enjoys.
It got me to thinking: How we measure success is pretty much in comparison to others, and much of the time it’s related to job success and financial gain. And this affects how we feel about ourselves…
In comparison to T’s super-successful friends, we are not a particularly successful couple on paper. We are going into our late 30s, and neither of us is super senior in our jobs. I’m on the bottom rung of the management ladder, which again to illustrate my point, I initially thought was fantastic – now I feel like I’m rubbish compared to all the people above me, and the people below me who are snapping at my heels. I haven’t been promoted in 3 years. I’m separated, eventually to be divorced, and the two of us aren’t married, and we cohabit in a one bedroom studio in a dodgy part of town. We don’t have any children (gosh, how we’ve tried!) and judging by Facebook our holidays are pretty inferior to everyone else’s. We’re heading towards 40 with “nothing” to show for it.
But… What you don’t realise from this is that T is a fantastic person (obviously, I wouldn’t love him so much if he wasn’t!) and he has so much going for him. He’s funny and kind, and people like him – he’s very popular, and one of the things I like about him is that he always has time for people. He’s one of those people who kind of picks up a bunch of waifs and strays and people who probably wouldn’t be given a second chance in life – people who are a bit different or special, as well as the popular ones. (I probably fall into the former category of being both different and special!)
For example, one of his friends has mental health and physical issues – they met when they were both fine and working, and now the friend doesn’t work and requires special care due to disability. Many of the other friends kind of fell by the wayside but T remained, and he even took a few days holiday to spend with his friend earlier this year. I feel like not many people would do something like that. He’s that kind of decent, caring person.
He also knows how to have fun – the first thing I loved about him was that he was kind of game for anything, and we had an amazing first “date” where we went to random places in London, and he held my hand as though it was the most natural thing in the world. He’s the kind of person who always has great ideas of what to do – I hadn’t lived in London that long when I met him, and I love that he’s just so enthusiastic about life. He’s always up for an adventure, whether it be a random supperclub or a visit to the city farm. Nothing is ever too much trouble for him, even his many harebrained schemes to add fun stuff to our life (like a gigantic 50 inch television he bought on eBay and now takes up most of our living room). And of course, I’ll always love him for Dog. (He still insists that Dog is his “flatmate” rather than his dog, as he said I have all the responsibility and he has all the fun. And of course, Dog far prefers him to me!)
And then, if you compare our lives to that of my friends – it’s more of a double edged sword. In the olden days, well, I was the success story. I got together with my ex sooner than anyone else – most of my friends are slightly older than me, so I felt properly grown up being one of the first amongst us to be married. I got promoted pretty quickly back then and I doubled my salary in a year. We bought a house, and once we were married I kind of assumed that at some point in the near-to-middle-future we would have children. We took 3-4 holidays a year. We were living the dream.
But then it all went a bit wrong. And suddenly I was in my 30s and getting divorced. And I didn’t have the baby and I didn’t have the house, and stuff happened at work which meant a lot of people got laid off and my job was at risk, and suddenly I was paying two rents and going steadily into debt, and I was single in my 30s with some fairly bad and expensive habits (wine and cigarettes, one of which I’ve given up!). I wasn’t a success story any more, and all my friends who I’d sort of passed by in the success stakes were getting married and having babies. I mean they were all popping sprogs like there’s no tomorrow. Even the ones who we kind of thought were terminally single got together with someone!
Life can turn on a dime.
I had a pretty bad and turbulent year, and just before the end of it, I fell in luck again. I say luck, because I think that a lot of this is all chance… You have to be open to opportunity, and I was coming through my alcoholic smoke-fuelled fog and there he was. My T. I don’t think I owe all success in life to him… but I owe the majority of my happiness to him. Because I think if you can find joy in life then it’s easier to be successful.
Because the thing is: We are successful. We’re happy. We have joy in our lives on a daily basis. I never take it for granted that I have T’s love. I used to be in a relationship where I felt like a great deal of love was conditional, with a man who didn’t like to hold my hand or kiss me on the lips. T kisses me every day many times, on the lips, tells me he thinks I’m attractive (even though I’m a big fat blob) and shares his joie de vivre with me and everyone else he meets. We have what is literally the best dog in the world. (I know this because the joy I get out of being Dog’s human could erase even the toughest day.) We have laughter and stupidity and fun and everything else. Life is pretty darned easy with T.
I know that I could be happy without T, but life is so much happier with him. I can choose to be happy, but with T it isn’t a choice. I just am. And I think that’s worth more than any fancy holiday, fashionable outfit, or high falutin’ job title. You can take your CEO and I’ll stick with T.
I am loved.
(And I know this isn’t specific to me. Well, I know you don’t have a T, because there’s only one T, but I am betting you have an A or a B or a C or a Whateverhisorhernameis, who brings you joy and who you light up when they think of you. It’s the magic of the human condition, I guess… There’s someone for everyone and maybe you haven’t found that person yet, but I think in this world of however many billion, there’s gotta be someone for you. I hope you have already found them. I hope that you can see the wonder of life even when times are dark, because it’s there.)
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On the subject of social media: This story just came out about Mark Zuckerburg (FB founder, for those of you who live under a rock!) and his wife Priscilla Chan. He has a public Facebook profile (he kind of has to, really) and they announced at the end of July that they’re thrilled to be expecting a baby.
What was interesting was that he says in his status update that they had previously suffered three miscarriages and opens up about what a lonely experience it had been.
I think of the irony of poor Priscilla, having to see friends’ Facebook status updates about pregnancies whilst going through the agony of three losses. (I’ve only had one and that was bad enough – I can’t even begin to comprehend how horrible repeated losses must be, although I’ve learned a lot through the blogging community about these private agonies.) I guess it might be somehow worse, knowing that your husband created the social network that provides a constant stream of fertility updates. I don’t know.
What I do know is that I’m grateful for someone rich and successful being open about their fertility problems. A lot of the time in comparison I think we make ourselves feel unsuccessful, when really a lot of perceived “success” is just luck. All the money in the world (of which Zuckerberg probably has a good proportion!) didn’t help them get pregnant before time. Maybe their billionaire status meant that they had access to special treatment. He doesn’t mention IVF (and of course he has no obligation to mention anything, but given he’s so open about the miscarriages, you’d think he might mention treatments if they’d had them). But even so, with the kind of massive wealth they had – they still experienced loss. It’s not beyond any of us.
I don’t say this through schadenfreude. I take no joy in their suffering. I do think it reminded me though that misfortune happens to all of us, and that we can’t know everything about anyone else’s life.
I’ve spent a lot of time being insanely jealous of friends who seem to “have it all”. And Facebook and social networking allows us to put on a show. Doesn’t it? We can all insta-filter our lives and show just the success, just the green grass, and none of the rainclouds.
The thing is, the grass isn’t always greener. Maybe that lush grass has grown in the fertiliser of sorrow. Maybe our eyesight just isn’t what it could be. Maybe our friends are using filters just to show us the light, the green grass, and none of the darkness. If one of the richest couples in the world struggled to have children, then maybe we aren’t being punished – it’s just bad luck. And when we think about stuff, and take a step back – maybe we’re pretty bloody lucky after all.
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I wanted to show you this awesome ring I ordered last night whilst browsing the internet in the middle of the night. My sleeping gets a bit out of whack at the weekend, so we all go to bed at the same time, but whilst Dog and T are snoring away, I catch up on reading. (I know, backlit screens aren’t the best, but when the nice doctor assessed my sleeping patterns last week, she said it was fine in the short term as I’m not particularly stressed about my insomnia.)
I know when some people suffer a loss, they do something to memorialise it. Actually I didn’t think of it like that, although I referred to our pregnancy on here as carrying a Pizza Baby. I just love pizza! So when I saw this ring, which is based on the pizza emoji, I just had to have it! 🙂
I actually think it’s a pretty great way to add a bit of fun to my life (in a hopefully quite subtle, possibly even safe for work way) as well as reminding me that I love pizza. (Okay, I don’t need reminding… It’s always on my mind!) I don’t really think of it as a requiem for PB, but I do love pizza and I loved little PB whilst I was carrying him, and I think of him fondly.
At the weekend, we met up with friends who have a fairly new baby. Well, he’s probably not that new any more, but we don’t see them that often. The last time I missed seeing them was when I was having the miscarriage, so the mum did refer to my previous absence through illness and asked if I was okay. I did half think about telling her about the miscarriage, but she was toting little baby at the time and I kind of felt… Why rain on her parade? The baby is a real cutie and has sort of grown into his face now so he looks like an actual person rather than a grumpy old man! (Why do all babies look like old people?!)
I felt like I could enjoy the day and not be miserable about being out with someone with a baby. It’s not their fault they’re fertile (honeymoon baby!) and I’m not. I guess I just compartmentalise it in my mind. There is very little time of the day when I’m not thinking about PB in some way, at the back of my mind, but I think I’m sort of desensitising myself to the pain. I’ve always been quite good at the jedi mind trick and I just think I can enjoy spending time with friends without making our loss ruin the entire day. They even started talking about baby names and what we might call a baby! I don’t know how I got through that. I think I just smiled, took it for the good natured ribbing that it was meant as, and changed the subject back to them.
I sometimes think that it is all in how they act… They’re not rubbing our faces in it, and they’re always very gracious about letting us hold the baby, or not if we don’t want to. (He’d been sick so that was a good excuse not to, but actually he’s a lovely baby so I quite like holding him… which is progress for me.) Another of my friends practically crows about her good fortune, but these guys are very unassuming, and they just bring the baby along without making a massive deal of it. That helps.
The point is: It’s easier to be happy for someone else when you’re happy. I am happy, pretty much – I have a lot to be grateful for. Equally it’s okay to be unhappy about some aspect of your life, even if you have a lot to be grateful for… There’s no right answer. I feel like I can manage a bit of dualism: I can be sad that PB’s gone, and sad that we might never have a child, whilst holding the joy in my heart that T and Dog bring me. I can be frustrated at seeing pregnant bellies pop around me whilst being grateful I have such great family and friends to support me and make the burden of infertility a little lighter. I can be frustrated in my job and how hard I have to work to get anywhere whilst being happy that I live in a developed country and have the opportunities I do (particularly to go on holiday!).
So… Back to my original question: Is the grass always greener? I think that we can safely say it isn’t, and even if it is, I can’t stand gardening!
On one of our bargain hunting trips we found a big roll of greengrocer’s grass. The people who were clearing out their space gave it to us for free! They also gave us a free chair and desk (which is now my desk, piled up with detritus, but that’s another story) and T’s desk was only a ridiculously small amount, for a solid wooden desk. We’ve actually gotten a lot of our furniture for free or very little! Anyway, we live in a studio and we don’t have a garden, but we decided to lay the “grass” on our little balcony and make our very own garden. On our last trip to IKEA I found a bunch of fake flowers (I tend to kill all living plants, sadly) so I wove them into the balcony railings. I strung up a hammock which I like to lie in with Dog lying on top of me. The sunlight catches the balcony late in the afternoon, so it’s ideal… It’s like our own little urban garden, and I love it.
Even if you don’t have a garden, you can make one.
Even if your grass isn’t green, or you can’t grow grass… You can dream it up.
I’ll leave you with one of my favourite sayings:
Life is a series of happy accidents.
Be happy, guys. Life’s too short not to be!
Remember, if you want to get the password for my protected post (it’s really not that exciting, I promise you) then please drop me a line below. In order not to stick it all out there I ask you to let me know who you are, blog wise, as it has some fairly private stuff in there so I only want to give it to people I “know”. 🙂