By Jo Cresdee
In December 2017 I got this result in an FB quiz late one night – and it made me realise that my happiness is my responsibility. I think we expect happiness all the time and think something is wrong when we do not have it. We have been sucked in by the prolific images of happiness in lifestyle magazines, social media and TV drama. It’s almost like we fail to believe in our reality.
Life doesn’t work like that, it goes up and down like the waves in the sea; constantly changing. It is not a Facebook profile full of beaming faces endlessly living their “best life”. Happiness can be hard work to find. This does not mean you are clinically depressed or suffer from anxiety – this means that life is currently a bit rubbish. It is our expectation of perfect unfaltering happiness that is the crux of this issue.
So, 2018 you’ve been a bastard – you’ve been the year that has seen me become a single mother for the second time. The year when I lost my ability to run, and the year I gained the most weight I have ever gained outside pregnancy. I am not one of those women who becomes thin and beautifully sad in times of hardship – I get fat, cry into a biscuit tin and look red and blotchy with a streaming snotty nose.
There have been lots of opportunities for me to sit and blog in true Instagram style about how “authentically vulnerable” I’ve become, but I’ve saved you all the torture of reading another one of those articles. I do not find them an inspiration, the adversity described is actually often little more than temporary hardship, and our perspective of personal difficulty is totally skewed when you compare it to that experienced by our grandparents. I also don’t believe it to be helpful to the author – we now live in a world where we focus more on our weaknesses and are scared to be proud of our strengths. We look to others to “fix” us, when in fact the responsibility for our own happiness lies at our feet.
Maybe it’s too hard to celebrate accomplishment? It takes a lot of work to achieve that, so maybe instead we elicit public pity at our times of weakness to make us feel good about who we are and get a temporary fix to feed our narcissism? I honestly don’t understand the tendency to criticize the people around us who are perceived to be “strong”. It’s almost as though a lack of public demonstrations of unhappiness is overtly judged by others as emotionless stoicism.
So yes, 2018 you’ve been a trial. The first quarter was awful, the second saw me move my children to a new home which was terrifying, traumatic and elating. The third quarter was just bloody hard work and gruelling, just at a point when resources were at their lowest ebb and the fourth quarter? Well, it seems I might finally have got my shit together. My point is change takes time, ages in fact. It takes long, slow persistent graft, there are no quick fixes, and no one can do it for you. You have to work your way through it, there will be ups and downs and things go backwards and forwards. Grief is a funny thing and change is a painfully slow process which our brains fight against.
Throughout this time I have experienced some incredible kindness and the people I am closest to have lifted me and held my hand unquestioningly for months at a time, (there is another article in there,) but for now, and to save others the pain of these stupid comments, I’d like to offer you my Top 10 things NOT to say to someone when they are getting divorced or separating from their partner:
1. “Do you think you could have tried harder? Maybe go to counselling?”
Do you honestly think that I would totally alter my life and future without trying everything within my/our power to overcome the difficulties we were experiencing before coming to the devastating realisation that we were not going to be able to resolve our differences?
2. “I’m so pleased – he was awful anyway – we all wondered when you would see the light.”
I get that this is meant to be nice and supportive – and gives short term comfort, but no matter how rubbish your friends perceive your ex to have been you committed your life to that person and the relationship failure makes you question yourself and your judgement.
3. “I’m really sad – I just didn’t expect it – it’s been a real shock to me.”
Yeah because it’s all about how YOU feel. Really, how can people actually say this stuff?
4. “Was it because of your weight gain/the fact you work too much/spend too much time running (delete as appropriate)?”
Can’t even credit this with a response.
5. “But what about the children? Aren’t you worried you’ll totally mess up their lives?”
Again, displays a startling lack of compassion, empathy, and sensitivity – of course, is that not everyone’s greatest fear you utter ****
6. “You need to get back on the horse, have you considered Tinder?”
Tinder is very amusing – but don’t go on a date!
7. “Aren’t you worried you’ll be poor now?”
8. “Couldn’t you just pretend? There are loads of us out there who loathe our husbands and we’ve just got used to it.”
Integrity is choosing courage over comfort. Choosing what is right over what is fast, fun or easy and choosing to practice your values rather than simply professing them [this answer can also be used in reference to the comment regarding messing up your children.]
9. “Well you’ve made your choice – no point being depressed about it – you just must get on with it now.”
True but can I just take this moment to thank you for your compassion. [sarcasm is sometimes an appropriate response to F**k-wits]
And my personal favourite:
10. “Do you feel like a failure? It must be so embarrassing, I mean it’s the second time isn’t it…….”
Yes, someone really said that………………………
The thing people must appreciate is that you grieve the end of a relationship. It’s not the same as being parted from a loved one by death, but I do believe one of the hardest things in life, no matter what has happened in the course of a relationship, is to grieve the loss of a person who is still living.
Furthermore, when you have a child together despite all the emotion you are experiencing personally you still have to parent alongside one another, rationally, without hostility and without your child being exposed to your emotional reactions to the situation. I am thankful that in our circumstances we have been able to do that.
So, 2018 – it’s been messy, dramatic and sponsored by Oreo cookies, but it’s finishing in a good place. It’s taught me that you can pretty much work your way through anything, but you can’t excel at everything at the same time. That long-term goals require commitment, sustained effort and focus, and the road to reaching those goals is often lonely, there are no cheerleaders on the extra mile.
What is true – and Katie will tell you this too – is that resilience is everything. Happiness and success are not about never falling over, they are about how well you bounce. Above every storm cloud there is always blue sky. In our Instagram generation, when we are so focused on being #SoBlessed and #MakingMemories we need to realise that instant gratification does not exist – anything worth having takes time, patience, hard work and persistence. Perhaps we also need to #GrowAPair (of ovaries) #FaceOurFears and #NotBeShit.