This week I turned 50. It’s been a big half-century. I’ve had four distinct careers, several romantic entanglements, 10 homes, one long, often wonderful marriage and a painful divorce, three amazing, bonkers children, and a terrible bereavement.
The good times have been great, but the hard times have been rough. But a few truths have helped me survive the rough times, and I will distil them here for you:
Things don’t always happen for a reason.
Life is random and unpredictable. Bad things happen to good people, all the time. And you know what else? Good things happen to bad people, too. Accepting that life is random can be incredibly liberating. It allows you to take the bad with the good and make the best of the cards you are dealt. And it allows you to stop worrying about what cards other people are dealt, because there will always be people more and less lucky than you.
Being alone is far better than being in the wrong relationship.Being single is only scary when viewed from inside a couple. Sure, you get lonely sometimes but it is infinitely less lonely than waking up next to the wrong person. There is great satisfaction and contentment in running your own life and being answerable to no one but yourself. Also, you can sleep like a starfish, limbs all splayed out. How good is that?
Grief is survivable.Few of us will reach the end of our lives without experiencing significant grief and pain. Pain is awful, but it is survivable, if you face it head on. You need to go through the grieving process to get to the other side. Eventually, even the most gaping wound forms a scar, and scars don’t stop you from feeling joy. Scars change you, and they ache sometimes in the cold, but mostly they are just part of who you are.
Gut instincts should be honoured.We all have gut instincts but as women, we tend to ignore ours. We allow ourselves to be swayed by other people’s opinions, or by cultural expectations. We need to trust our intuition: that niggling sensation that tells you something isn’t right, or that nice calm feeling that tells you that this is how it’s meant to be. Learn to hear the voice. Honour it. It will rarely lead you astray.
No one is to everybody’s taste.No matter how much praise I get for this column, I will also get criticism. And that’sOK, because no person, and no idea, resonates with everyone. No artwork or piece of music or place is universally loved. And no human being on earth is universally liked. If you don’t resonate with one particular person, it doesn’t make you less worthwhile. You will resonate with others.
Don’t cut a fringe when you’re having a bad day.Yes, this is a metaphor. You need to be OK in yourself to make good decisions in life. When you are scared or desperate or insecure or sad, you will make decisions arising from fear or sadness. You’ll compromise your standards. You’ll accept less than you deserve. You need to believe in your own worth. You need to trust that you deserve good things. You need to make your choices out of desire and not fear.
A relationship isn’t a failure just because it doesn’t last forever.My marriage was wonderful for long periods of time. It was also really shit for long periods of time. But we made three great kids and travelled and laughed and had amazing experiences and I don’t regret it for a second. We don’t consider friendships to be failures if they don’t last forever. We shouldn’t consider romantic relationships to be failures if they end.
Happiness is not a state of being.We can experience happiness. We can feel pleasure and joy and delight. But these are moments, not extended states of being. They last for a while then they’re replaced by something else. Tiredness, maybe. Disappointment. Hunger! And then those negative moments pass and are replaced by something else again. Enjoy the pleasurable moments in every day and hang in there through the bad. Grab the moments. Grab the joy. That’s what it’s all about.