A Letter.

Dear G.

Writing this is ridiculous and you of all people would be the last person who would want me to write this.  I am sorry. I cannot help it. There are things I need to work through and I only do this in writing. Why on such a public forum and not just in a diary? Because I love the drama and so do you – ha! No or yes and no, such a public forum because it will force me to write this rather than carrying the words around in my head.

You are dead my friend and you have been so for nearly seven years. It still bothers me. As I am approaching a new decade, I am spasming out about getting older while simultaneously realising that you will never reach this point. You would have reached this – last year and I am pretty certain you would have been icy cool about it. There are times that I wonder what you would be like now, how a more grown-up you would view the world. I imagine that you would have calmed down a bit, found yourself a man and settled down. Brunches, coffees, books, music, travel, outdoors, wine, candles, films – the good life.

That is what saddens me – I look at how life has rolled on since you passed and by gum, I think you would have loved it. The first babies are arriving G, and in my mind’s eye you pull faces at them from a safe distance, with a glass of wine in your hand. Winking at me – glad that the baby is not yours! They are still little now but when they get older you would have been great with them: drawing pictures, arts and crafts, singing songs… How frustrating that you are no longer here.

You know I was writing about you or writing about us after you. A painful two year process and suddenly this crazy ironic thing happened which has blown my whole piece to ashes. You would have laughed at the irony and told me to move on. You don’t want this play at all I know. But I do G. I need this play, I need to write this play with every fiber of my being. I never quite understood what happened all those years ago and I am trying to make sense of it. I never will make sense of it – fine. Perhaps I am trying to create something out of the emotions it triggered.

It has been a long time but if I don’t finish this, there will be another thing associated with you unfinished. I am getting old G! I need to move on and I can only do this by finishing this friggin play, I am sick and tired of it but it haunts me. Your death haunts me which was never your intention I am sure but it happened.

So let me finish this and then I will let you go my friend: we’ll drink one last glass of champagne and then we’ll say goodbye. Deal?

Musical chairs

Over the weekend, someone shared a metaphor with me:

“Turning 30 is a bit like musical chairs… At 29, the music is playing and everyone is dancing; at 30, the music stops and everyone sits down. Not even on the most comfortable or prettiest chair but on the most convenient one – everyone sits down and holds on for dear life. And there is always one person left, standing in the middle of the room, looking at all the others clinging to their chairs, thinking: “WTF just happened?””

Don't settle! (Pic by Daveynin Flickr)
Don’t settle! (Pic by Daveynin Flickr)

2014 has just started but in my circle of lovely friends, two babies are (to be) born this year and the e-invite for the now near annual hennight has just come through, in preparation for a near annual wedding later this year. Less cynical than the metaphor though, I do like to think that my friends have made their moves as conscious choices; smoothly moonwalking to that 2-person Chesterfield sofa as the music enters the final chorus…

Not even on the most comfortable or prettiest chair but on the most convenient one; at 30, everyone sits down and holds on for dear life.

Yes, as we enter month two of year 30, it’s possible that the one person still dancing in the room might well be me. I’m not sure what happened to my track but I seem to be playing the Baz Luhrmann extended version. Still bopping away, while my friends happily wave their baby’s hand to me (hand still attached to the child, of course!) from their comfy seats. Those moments are still unreal to me, the idea of a third person where there first were two.

At times I get tired of dancing and I envy my friends happily stretched out on the faux-leather sofa but you can’t stop until the music stops – those are the rules! As for settling for the wonky old kitchen stool for one: never. Though tempting at times, even I can see in my weariness that it will only be a temporary comfort until it breaks.

Dancing among the toddlers is not really how I imagined my life to be but then again, I never saw much further than 21 and that was overrated. So as I am slowly being pushed one generation along, I like to think I am embodying the spirit of this crazily American but still kind of cute video for all the new additions on their first days here: “There’s plenty of reasons to dance, you just got to look for ‘m.”

We’re all losers

To my darling friend,

Hopefully you have recovered by the time you read this. I have been thinking all morning about your predicament and I so understand: been there, done that and I think this blog is a testament to the experience. (Getting T-shirts is soooo 90s darlin’).

So the theme of this letter to you is: “We’re All Losers” . It is my personal twist on Einstein’s observation that

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

I take the other angle because I think if we go through life believing we are genii (is that right, my Latin fails me…) and are yet to find the subject we excel in, life can be mightily frustrating. So let’s accept that we are all losers and free ourselves from the pressure. If we accept we are losers, we suddenly have nothing left to lose: nothing that can stop us, no one to judge us (because who cares) and we are free to explore what makes us happy. We are suddenly in charge of our own lives and happiness.

We will only stay losers if we use the world’s standard for success. Funnily enough, more often than not  his “society standard”   is the opposite of what we have achieved. We make ourselves losers. We feel bad about not owning a house, not having a perfect career, a family or never having seen the world. Yet, rumour has it, that even those who tick all the boxes have worries about their work, relationships and bills.

No one will ever measure up to the society standard of success because it doesn’t really exist: there are billions of people on this globe. How can they all conform to one measure? Create your own rules, create your own standard and stay true to you. In the years to come, and hopefully there will be many, you will create your own unique life. Something that only you will have experienced and can choose to (not) tell your grandchildren about.

Come and join us my friend… Don’t hide away, trying to figure it all out by yourself. Connect to others for their insights because you don’t have all the answers. Nor has the internet. If you wait for all the answers or for life to begin, it will pass you by. This is it, unfortunately. It is a bit like a theme-park but uglier, grimmer but who wants to sit in a carousel all their lives? Pretty, with all the lights but truth is that you are only going round in the same circle.

This is it my dear, welcome! You are part of it. Find your way through the maze, find fellow losers with nothing left to lose and enjoy the ride in all its craziness and splendour.

With love

Cx

 

 

12 Challenges for 2012 continued

Last night, or perhaps early this morning, I accidentally and unwittingly almost added a new challenge to the list.

I was on my annual trip with my crazy friends and had participated in three days of fun and games. Within the three days usually an elaborate game is played which has its finale on the very last day. Last night, or perhaps early this morning,  the finale games consisted of  a personalised game of monopoly. All our houses made their way on the board and  the cards had incidents of our lives on it with the financial consequences.  Our team did very well. So well indeed that we had genuine fear to win…

See, the thing is that the winners have to organise the holiday (and games) next year. It is a serious case of “It’s not about Winning.”  There were only three people in our team and one of us confessed he might have to go abroad next year. Right, so that would leave the other girl and me – the Londonian.  Hmm. Problem.

Luckily, a few alcohol induced mistakes, many millions back and forth (though mostly forth) and 3 hours later we managed to come in second. Phew!

So no Organising Over-elaborate Games Three-Day Party next year but added to the previous list of 2012 challenges:

  • Learn how to make croissants. From scratch.
  • Spending day with my 13 year old cousin.
  • Sorting through my pile of digital pics and make an album.

That is nine down, three to go… and only 24 hours to think…

To Be Continued…

Bits of Saturday

Train conversation 1 : Son: “What’s your book about?” Dad: “About a Man with five wives.” Son:”And that is a PG?!”

3 Replies my text message that I had just purchased a coffee for 90p at the trainstation:

– ” Bargain, that wouldn’t even get you a hot water in London.”
-” I’m worried your coffee might be rancid…”
– ” Can you see a horse and cart somewhere too?”

Driving through the country lanes: “This is so pretty…”

“Scones or Tarte Tatin?” “I don’t know.” “You choose” “Ok erhm Scones” “Ok.” “Wait but we don’t have cream.” “Oh and I forgot the jam.” “Tarte Tatin.” “Yes, Tarte Tatin.”

After already having made cheesecake, meringues, indian potato pie, chickenskewers, salmon bagels, roast veg- and – mozzarella stuffed loaves, vol-a-vents, drumsticks, three kinds of dip: “Do you think I should just cut up some veg?”

“I only go through one pack of these a week. Really not that bad you know” “For a smoker.”

“They’ve just texted: they’ll be here in 20min!”

An hour and a half later: “Oh my god, I’m so glad to see you! I so need the toilet! I’m so glad to see you!” “Maybe be use the toilet first.” Sprints upstairs shouting ” I AM SO GLAD TO SEE YOU!”

“Give me the baby” x 126435

“Sorry, I just remembered I don’t like gingerbeer.”

“I’m worried my son will know you as Auntie Lezza…” ” I’m not a lesbian, I’m just married to one.”

*Whisper, whisper in the kitchen* Door opens: “Oh sorry, did I just interu…WHAT BOY!?”

To baby:”Are you using my boobs as a ledge?”

“She just texted: there is a two hour delay.” “Tell her the food will be gone” “She says to save her a voillavent.”

“I want to try all three desserts.” ” Good me too, just cut them smaller then we can share.” Yeah me too, but I’m not sharing.”

Again two hours later: “Yay! There she is!” ” Stupid lorry, but I made it!” ” Yay! I’m sorry we got to go…” Booo…

On our way out: “Wait! We have to plan Christmas!”

Trainconversation 2: Man on phone: (on redundancy and work opportunity) “Yes, but I don’t think I’d want to go to Hong Kong.(…) No.(…) I know, but I don’t think the dog would like it.”

Pokerface / The “My Friends” test

This weekend I met up with friends, one of them just bought a house with her man. Let it be known: not a flat, not an apartment, no ma’am a Real House! It comes with a garden with chicken-holding potential, two cars (and a business-van) on the driveway. It was very exciting to see that in five, ok six, years after graduation this all happened for her.

We had a barbecue, slept in the sun and I was taught the art of poker. It was interesting to see how different our playing strategies were and perhaps we resembling of our different lives. After learning the rules (it seemed that every household has their own variation, it’s a bit like Spaghetti Bolognese…) my strategy  seemed to bet whenever I even thought I stood a chance. This made me win the first round and lose everything in the second: it was all or nothing. Then I learned to moderate and to fold sometimes, but that was a bit boring.

All or nothing, or I get bored. Story of my life. As we are approaching a year since I have decided to change and rearrange my life, it seems wise to evaluate.

I am happy with the work-in-progress. I have made decisions, I have travelled not to find myself but to find people who think alike. I  came back with confidence, a renewed focus and I have applied myself to my new goal. There seem to be a lot of projects in the pipeline and I hope something will pay off. I have a sense direction and the feeling of freedom.

On the other hand: the novelty of crashing on someone’s floor is wearing off, the lack of income is getting a little ridiculous and the call of the money-making dream-squashing Sirens is getting louder. So are the screams of my heart for New York. On top of that are the moments of doubt that pop up : though they have stopped sending me into irrational panic, I cannot yet ignore them.

So sometimes I do what I like to call ” My Friends Test”. I think of all my gorgeous friends, both old and new, who have encouraged and supported me. If any of my friends would be in my exact situation, feeling exactly how I feel: what would I advise them?

I would tell them to keep going. To try to fix the money situation with non-soul destroying paid job but to not lose focus now they’ve gained momentum. To keep an open mind to any opportunities. I would believe in their abilities and trust their decision-making.  I would say that they deserve to be happy.

I would want the best for them, so why would I accept less for myself?

Love Friendship and Death (2)

When I saw my friend’s textmessage to call him back, I knew the inevitable had happened. It had taken precisely 5 months.

Forget silly stories and local writing competitions, there are few reasons why I would step onto a coach for 8 hours and cross countries in the middle of the night. I had contacted my friend last week whether I could see him and his dad this weekend. He had answered he really wouldn’t know how long it would still take, but to call him when I got home. I never got to make the call, because the news of his father’s death reached me on the day I got off the bus.

Flashforward 12 hours and my friend R. and I open the gardengate and walk through the backdoor into H. dad’s house. The door is open of course: one of the many small-town traditions. We hug our friend H, his girlfriend and his sister. I put my silly gift of  Family box M&S biscuits on the table, well they are going to get enough visitors the next few days. His sister has her girl friends over, we decide to leave them to it in the living room and retreat to the kitchen. We are sitting around the kitchen table and hear the occasional giggle coming out of the other room. Yes the mood is not just sad,  everyone had been prepared for weeks and the inital shock has waned.

We talk about what happened, how it happened and what’s going to happen now. We discuss what we can do for them. We see initial drafts of the funeral card, I make a quick translation for any foreign colleagues and clients his dad might have had. I’m glad I can at least help a little bit.

There are so many things you need to organise when someone dies: paperwork, logistics, family-politics. The neighbours pop in, his mother phones from her place to remind him of other relatives to call. H. has everything under control. Two more friends join us all dressed up: his god-daughter has just done her Confirmation. His god-daughter, born when he was /we were fifteen and we were all impressed he had been chosen to be god-father. The fact she’s done her Confirmation must mean she’s twelve now…

We go upstairs and I say my goodbyes to H’s dad. It is easy, he is the shadow of the man he once was. Only H’s warning has prepared me for the fragile skeletal body displayed on the bed. It is easy: his dad is most definitely gone.

Back in the kitchen we open a bottle of wine, bottles of beer and drink to his life. Whilst conversation flows and laughter rings around the kitchentable I know there are only a few reasons why I wander the world for hours/days/weeks/years on end: because no one bats an eye-lid to see me in that kitchen, because the conversation and the banter stay the same, because the hugs are as warm as ever. In a house filled with death and friendship, the love is once more confirmed: I travel because I can come home.

Epilogue: On the very last day his dad was awake and had a sudden clear moment he requested, despite not having eaten anything for nearly two weeks, two things: a cigarette and a drink. They all had a drink with him, on an empty stomach before noon. Apart from a toast to his life, he had one more simple message:

Be good to each other kids. Be good to each other.