So I’ve had a birthday this week. Yes, despite my queenly status and occasional ninja tendencies, I am mortal like all other royalty. And even though it’s not a particularly remarkable birthday, for various reasons, I’ve been feeling this one a bit more. Perhaps it’s the symmetrical numbers: 44. Thinking that if I’m lucky, I could be half way through my life span. Technically, I am middle aged.
At twenty, I would have thought this age was pretty old, but of course, as anyone this age or even older knows, it sure doesn’t feel like it. In some ways, I’m as clueless about life as I ever have been. As I write that, I know it’s not true. It’s more that I am still prone to do daft things now and again, just like a young ‘un. I suspect that will never change.
Despite my moments of stupidity, I have collected some wisdom along the way, even if I don’t always use it to guide my life. In common with many, I am not too bad at giving advice but I’m a bit pants at using it myself. In the olden days when I used to buy a Sunday paper, one of my favourite features in the Observer, was called This much I know, where various famous people would summarise what they had learned about life so far. It could be a bit hit or miss, depending on how much respect I had for the person in question, but there was always something useful there, even if it was only seeing the perspective of someone I disagreed with.
Therefore, in honour of my birthday, I’ve decided to summarise some of the things I’ve figured out so far. Forgive my indulgence. And sorry if it’s a useless pile of crap, but it’s all I’ve got, seeing as I couldn’t give you the day off work like other Queens can. So without further ado, voila.
This much I know: Queen Leda, 44.
Someone asked me the other day, ‘what is happy?’ which feels like a very difficult question to answer. But I said contentment and gratitude. Anyone with half a brain knows that life sucks a lot of the time and for many, it sucks all the time. Our circumstances can change in a heartbeat, for reasons that are beyond our control. The only thing we can control is our reaction to it. And while it’s natural to feel overwhelmed sometimes by the pain and injustice of life, too much of that will destroy only us. In the meantime, the pain and injustice will carry on, oblivious to our suffering. Instead of suffering, look for things that bring joy to you and others. We can find them all around us when we really want to see them.
Don’t keep things for best. If you have nice things, why keep them dusting away in a cupboard? Use them for the purpose for which they were intended. Any day can be a champagne day.
Pay the good stuff forward. Treat others as you want to be treated. It sounds obvious but we can get so wrapped up in our individual mini-worlds that we forget this basic credo. If some arsehole cuts us up in the car, or cheeks us on the phone, it’s so easy to want to pass that on to the next poor sucker that gets in our way. Don’t, otherwise we’re looking at a never ending spiral of shittiness. If you must get all self-centred about it, remember that being kind when you don’t need to be makes you feel all lovely on the inside.
Practice makes perfect. Or maybe not perfect, but a whole lot better. If you want to be good at something, then don’t be lazy. Most people aren’t natural geniuses at things, they just put the work in.
Good friends matter more than anything in the world. It doesn’t matter if they are related to you or not. I’m talking about the people who know most of your flaws but they still love you anyway, and you love them. Never hide from these people, as they are the ones who will lift you up when you need a bit of help, because they know that you will do the same for them. When we remove the façade of perception, we find that others are struggling too. I take comfort in knowing that other people are just as fucked up as I am, but someone has got to admit it first.
Life is far too short to worry about how clean your house is, or whether you’ve ironed your children’s t-shirts. Obviously it’s not good to live in a state of disease-inducing dirt, but everything above that is a bonus.
Always remember that every perfect picture of every perfect person in a magazine is probably fake. They want you to feel bad about yourself, so you will buy something to fix it. Usually something they are selling, or have been paid to sell you. In all likelihood, you don’t need it.
Life is nothing without a bit of risk now and then. Yeah sure, we can coast along, following all the rules set down by our lords and paymasters, but where’s the fun in that? You don’t need to take suicidal risks with yourself to feel alive, just things that push you out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to make an arse of yourself or to fail. S/he who dares, wins. Although it might take a while.
Travel as much as you can and see different places. If you’re skint, it’s still possible. If you saved all the money you would normally spend on creams that don’t actually make you look younger, or gadgets that don’t make you more intelligent, it might happen a lot quicker than you think. Even when you have nothing, there is always a way.
If we all took our mental health as seriously as our physical health, we would all be a lot happier and the world would be a better place for us all to live in.
Read, read, read and read some more. There is no excuse, at least while libraries still exist. Read to learn and be challenged. Read things you dislike, to try and understand. Read to escape. No matter how lonely you feel, you will never be truly alone with a good book.
We need to try not to put too much junk into our bodies and move around as much as we can. We are ultimately human machines made of organs, bones and blood. If we kept putting diesel into our petrol-fuelled cars and left them sitting on the pavement, they would break down when we tried to use them.
Most of all, learn to accept yourself, all the good and bad bits, which is one of the toughest things to do. Who doesn’t constantly compare themselves to shinier, wealthier, healthier, more serene people? I do it all the time. Or I used to. For example, I can accept that I will never be as kind as some people are, but I’m not mean. That will do. I can remember that there are other things that are good about me that other people might of value. We are all weird in our way, so just embrace it.
I hope this knowledge gets added to every year I am lucky to stay alive, although I won’t always pontificate. In the meantime, you can take it or leave it.
Until next time,