Lists of Glory: Important life lessons I have learned…(or am trying to learn… or really should make an effort to learn before I drink too much gin)

It’s unbecoming for a woman in her late forties to be as confused as 19 year old but it’s a myth that life gets easier. Here are a few life lessons I really feel like I should have learned by now. But I’m not sure I have…

  1. When to stay…and when to go.

Let’s ignore politics and just talk about life. I’m a leaver. I leave parties, jobs, relationships and fashion trends as early as possible. I’m restless, impatient and nothing frightens me more than the possibility of finding myself stuck with a place, person or skirt length whose time is over. I know that other people are stayers. Some people just have sticking power. Which is great. Unless you’re sticking to the wrong thing. This is an area of life where balance is required. I’m trying to develop some endurance but I urge you stayers to experiment with being a bit braver and flightier. And if you’re wondering where to find me…I’ve just left.

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Alternative lessons 1. Banana milkshake contains vitamins. And bourbon.

  1. Ghastly people can be the best fun.

I was brought up with a very moralistic attitude towards people. A person’s worth is based on their ‘goodness’. You certainly wouldn’t want to have anything to do with someone who isn’t ‘good’. They might hurt you. Or taint you. Even though I rejected, quite early on, the definitions of ‘goodness’ that I was taught as a child (which derived from the exceptionally ‘good’ Presbyterian stock of my kin) it’s only recently that I realised I had created my own, suffocating definitions of ‘goodness’ which I have been liberally applying to people and getting very upset when they didn’t fulfil this criteria. So now, I’m thinking that whilst, for emotional sustenance, I might require certain character traits in the people I depend on and love, there are plenty of other people who don’t meet my very specific standards of ‘goodness’ but are still completely fabulous to spend time with.  In fact, self-indulgent, thrill seeking narcissists are some of the best people to hang out with. You just wouldn’t want to be married to them. At least that’s what my husband tells me.

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Always wear dark glasses after 10am. Make sure they match your flower crown.

  1. It’s the process, stupid.

Obsessed with the end result. That’s me. I read the who dunnit of a who dunnit first. I want to know the punchline before you tell me the joke. I’m really stressed out over not knowing exactly how long my life will be and how it will end. Yup, just a bit a control freakery here. In contrast, artists often recognise that the process is everything. Experiment, play, concentrate on the material and resources you have in front of you. Let the result take care of itself. In a goal orientated, success obsessed society, concentrating on the process seems a much healthier way to be.

  1. What other people think of me is none of my business.

This is an old one, but my absolute favourite. Again, I brought with me from childhood the notion that what other people thought of me was EVERYTHING! If other people didn’t like, approve, applaud and support whatever I was being or doing, then it was a total disaster. And society likes us to feel this way. It keeps us in check.  It was a complete revelation when I realised that most of the time what other people think about me has very little to do with me and an awful lot to do with them. Their interpretation of me is based on their own experiences, fantasies and prejudices. It was so freeing to accept this. They might think I’m a wonderful; they might think I’m complete cow. But that’s their problem! Obviously sometimes it is important that people have a positive interpretation of us; because we love them, respect them or perhaps want them to vote for us to win Britain’s Got Talent. But ultimately it’s vital for our emotional health to remember that what other people think of us is none of our business. Unless it is…

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Always double check the hotel he’s booked.

  1. In continuation of point 4: you can insist on your right to do something. You can’t insist anyone else likes it.

It’s my right! I’m entitled! I’m allowed! Well, yes, to a certain extent you are. But I’m allowed and entitled to think you’re an arse. Freedom of expression is a thorny subject, both in the public sphere and people’s private lives. Legally in the UK, Article 10 states that people have a right to free expression unless it causes harassment, distress, incitement to breach the peace or threatening behaviour … it goes on. But in our private lives, we’re all so desperate for validation that we want people to not only allow us to behave the way we want but also to applaud us. And sometimes we have to recognise that what we want to do or say is not everyone’s cup of tea. Which is why I’ll wear those sparkly fishnet tights. But I’ll understand if you don’t love me for it.

  1. And finally….Never give a stuffed pig to a puppy. Or if you do, don’t expect the pig to enjoy it.

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