It’s just one of those times. Current life events are challenging and my ability to deal with it all ranges from ‘can-do’ to ‘fuck-no’ on any given day. My resilience has been lower than usual, with all sorts of old baggage and vulnerabilities rising to the surface. In short, I’ve had just about enough of this adulting malarkey.
Is it just me? I often wonder if everyone else feels that they are grown up and have most things under control. I grew up with an expectation that I might have cracked it by middle age. When our mothers gossiped about who was ‘doing well for themselves’, success was measured by various criteria: how important their job was, if they had a nice house or a car, long distance travels, a decent husband or wife (obviously no-one was gay in those days), number of fantastic children and so on. Of course, I realise that these expectations are privileged compared to the experience of many, but I don’t imagine they are so different to most.
Same as it ever was.
Things have moved on from then, and society has shifted. But these conventions remain to an extent. For example, us Brits live in a property obsessed society. Oodles of television time is dedicated to shows about buying a house, converting your house, building your dream house and decorating it. And while I know that owning a home is a mere pipe-dream for today’s debt-ridden, cash-strapped, zero hour-contracted millennials, I am part of the generation that is expected to own. At my age and among my peers, there is a secret shame attached to renting.
Despite this, I don’t normally absorb this shame. Renting is just the way it’s turned out for me due to circumstance and it suits me just now. Now and then there is a tiny voice in my head that wonders if it isn’t just because of circumstances, more due to being rubbish at money. And what happens when I am old and retired? Should I be working on a plan B where I gather all the cash I have to cover my wrinkles, enlarge my boobs and look for a short-sighted, nearly dead, old boy to look after me?
Hopefully it won’t come to that. I’m leaving it as something to worry about in the future; there seems to be enough to be getting on with for now. I had that nerve-shredding angst while the letting agent for the new flat was doing my credit checks and looking at my bank statements. The shame and horror of that judgement kept me sleepless for a few nights. In my heart of hearts, I know that there are people worse off than me who still manage to rent flats, but my stomach was somersaulting all the same. I imagine that none of my friends or peers worry about whether they have enough cash to fill the tank of their rusty old car at the petrol station, or if their debit card will tell them to get stuffed two days before pay day. Despite knowing this isn’t true, my hormones are filling my head with anxiety.
Same as it ever was.
The truth is that life has become expensive for everyone and almost impossible for those who have the least money of all, so no moaning here – I’m not in poverty. While the cost of living has escalated, I’ve not become properly frugal, just more skint. And envious of those who can spend casually and without fear, all the way through the month. I wonder if it’s too late for me to grow up in this regard, or will I end up flying by the seat of my money pants for the rest of my life?
In the same vein, the clearing and packing is also making me compare myself unfavourably with others. In my imagination, everyone else has drawers and cupboards they are happy to open in front of others and everything stored neatly away. Still, my aversion to housework is no secret and I have a flat full of stuff I should have chucked out years ago, so any anxiety caused by this has been of my own making. And even though I have been panicking about all the work to get done in the next four weeks, I am good with a deadline, I have printed off a calendar to project manage and have a lot of post-it note action going down. I’ve stopped worrying and I’m in the zone.
Best of all, I’m being surprisingly ruthless about what is getting thrown out. A few years ago, I wrote about trying a Kondo-style clear out, which I largely failed at. This time I am following her advice strictly; if I’d followed it at the time, I wouldn’t be in the mess I’m in now. Instead I did my usual thing of congratulating myself on doing two rooms, making a cup of coffee and slinking back to a book, forgetting about the rest of it.
I am not even keeping everything that sparks joy. Or tears. I had a right good blub the other day when I found a bag of my son’s early baby clothes, remembering when he fitted into them, all small and soft. Rookie mistake – Kondo recommends you do all the tricky stuff last, so the emotions don’t get in the way of the ninja tidying. It’s a take no prisoners approach but in future I won’t have the luxury of an extra room to hide all the crap in, so the crap must go. Less stuff equals a good thing anyway.
One important factor is that I am lucky to have lots of people offering to help. Although that’s another sticky one isn’t it? Like many people, I am better at offering help than accepting it. What’s that about? Sure, it’s a good feeling to be able to help our friends out, but why not accept it in return? Perhaps out of stubborn pride, thinking we should be able to manage everything by ourselves; that stiff upper lip, or super warrior woman ideology, both of which prevail in our culture.
Are we worried the offers aren’t genuine, that our friends don’t really want to spend their rare free time packing boxes? Or is it the fear of showing that we do need a helping hand sometimes, that we are vulnerable? Personally, I’ve got an ‘all of the above’ situation going on here. And I suspect I get a few extra offers because I am on my own. I don’t count myself as a lone parent because I have the support and friendship of my son’s dad, but in terms of life and the burden of the move then I am. And sometimes that just feels fucking overwhelming. Yet it’s only when we truly open up about our imperfections and worries that we allow anyone to help us.
So, in this instance, I am going to take some of the help offered when I need it. By my reckoning, once I’ve finished throwing stuff out, it will take less than a week to pack. A few days if I get some pals on it too. It’s the clearing everything out which is the real work of change. Delving into dark and dusty corners, stripping out the excess and crying over the things that need to go. Deciding what is part of the past and what belongs to the future. No-one can help me with that, it’s the work I must do myself.
Same as it ever was.
Until next time,
Jude, you constantly write my life and worries/ challenges…so no you are not alone. I too am unable to afford my own home (at 49) and have a short lived panic about the future on a regular basis and worry whether I’m able to put enough petrol in the car the week before payday… basically everything you said! If I can ever be of help to you please let me know – an offer given is meant and never feel scared to accept help. We all need it whether emotional or practical. Hope the move goes well and you enjoy your new, clutter free home xx
Sorry to hear you are in the same predicament & the same offer of help to you…or come & visit! Or maybe one day we can set up a big shared home for old women 🙂 xx