I went walking this morning with a friend who lives locally, and it was the first time we’d managed to catch up in weeks. She’s been seeing a life coach, and was full of enthusiasm for the changes she’s making to her life. Now, I should say upfront that when I hear ‘life coach,’ I just want to run away – hard, fast, and screaming at the top of my lungs. I believe everyone is different, so it stands to reason that different things appeal to and work for different people. Life coaching doesn’t appeal to me. It’s just the way I am. I don’t tend to look for external steering mechanisms for my own life, at least not in terms of organised religion, yoga retreats, self-help literature and/or life coaches. Some people find all of these things enormously helpful, even life-changing, and my friend is one such person. She’s done self-improvement courses in the past, is a yoga devotee, and has now enthusiastically and sincerely embraced the lessons offered to her by her life coach guru. It’s very much her thing, and it works for her.
I’m not even sure why I’m telling you this.
I didn’t post yesterday, and I could pretend it was because I was taken out for lunch (which I was, and it was lovely) and therefore didn’t have time, but it was really more a lack of inspiration and inclination. What was I going to tell you? That I was and am still feeling a bit flat? Why would I write about that? There’s nothing wrong, I’ve got absolutely nothing to complain about, and in more ways than I can count I am enormously fortunate, so what’s my problem? I don’t know. I’m just a bit out of sorts. I have no reason to be – I have a great husband, I have terrific friends, I have eggs, I have finished another draft of my MS, I live in a wonderful place, I’m a lucky cow. I really am. And it’s not my birthday, because I don’t get morose about ageing, I’m always relieved and delighted to find I’m still here for another one. So that’s not it, although I will admit to a significant lack of enthusiasm for celebrating it this year. No doubt this will sound ironic given the navel-gazing nature of this post thus far, but I actually think I’m a bit over myself. I’m feeling really ho hum about the thing that is me.
So many people I know seem to be experiencing something similar. I’m not sure if it’s a late-30s, early-40s phenomenon, but I can’t tell you the number of friends I’ve had mention this same basic reappraisal of themselves in the world. We’re seeing our first mid-life crises, for instance, and so many of my peers appear to be looking around thinking, “How the fuck did this end up being my life?” I know some of my friends are unhappy, really unhappy, and that’s a terrible thing to realise about people close to you. As a friend, I often feel completely inadequate, and in many ways, that’s exactly what I am. I can’t help with the majority of what ails them, and that’s because, by and large, we’re all stuck having to help ourselves. I tend to believe that if you don’t help yourself, the help never arrives. And yet, that’s not quite right either. I receive plenty of help, and always have. Loads. More than my share. And I try to put it back out there. But it’s not enough, is it? People still have to find answers for themselves. I don’t have them.
It’s funny that some of the things my friend’s life coach has introduced into her life are things I have always done. One is keep a diary. My friend was telling me how amazing it was, venting all that frustration, letting it go before it mushroomed into something else, and it’s always been a very therapeutic act for me. In fact, Llew realised just how therapeutic when he picked up one of my diaries – it’s hand-painted and he had no idea what it was – and it fell open on a massive FUCK YOU. He dropped it as though it had bitten him. I took up the diary to find what had so enraged me that I felt compelled to take a whole page to write just two words, and it turned out it was Llew himself. It was during the month from hell packing up Nana’s flat, at a time when he was not at his most empathetic. I felt badly let down at times during that experience, and I think he’d probably say the same of me, because he was also stressed out and under a lot of pressure at work. I explained the entry was about him and he said, “That’s not very nice.”
“Well,” I said, “this is how I deal with things. I write them down so I don’t scream at you instead. You really weren’t supporting me at times during all that, and I vented in my diary, and that probably avoided a massive blow-up. So… what can I tell you? That’s the function my diary often serves.”
He was still a bit wounded by the hostile sentiment, I think, but it was also hard arguing against my writing FUCK YOU there instead of starting a big fight in person. I suppose this blog has often done the same thing; you’ve all certainly helped lift my morale during various disappointments and challenges, and thank you. It is a way for me to work through things rather than hold on to them. See? I feel better already.