Sunday, 3 April 2016

Happy as a clam

Years ago I had a friend call Tanya. She was witty and smart, a businesswoman, a dog lover and a body hater. She was amazonian and tall, but in her mind she was wildly overweight -  forever trying to diet and find a way of liking herself. At the time I was a stone and a half heavier than I am now, from a traveller's diet of fries and nachos washed down with cocktails and beer. I too despaired about my figure, so she sent me to see her trainer, a lovely beefy bulky chap called fetchingly, 'Rainbow.'

Rainbow got out his callipers - measured my flab and announced I was obese. I walked along the Auckland waterside and wept. It was Fri 13th Nov 1995. I was the only traveller I have ever met who got herself a nutritionist on her trip around the world. Jenny took no prisoners and certainly no fat and basically shamed me into losing 10kgs. She made me write a food diary, hit the gym, forgo carbs, say goodbye to creamy cocktails and sugary shakers and embrace vodka, fresh lime and soda. Single measures. (Single measures!!!)  She gave me a back a flat stomach and the ability to climb back into my jeans. God bless her.

I left Auckland a good deal smaller than when I'd arrived. The year before when I was planning my big world trip, I had folded jumpers in Gap, and my main food source was the tasty salty fatty produce from the Thomas Bakery across the road. Pasties, sausage rolls and cheese sandwiches had filled my days and helped me fill my clothes - and then some. So by the time I'd even landed in NZ, I was curvy and then some.

Tanya, and her trainer both told me one thing. It doesn't matter what size you are as long as you are happy. Whoever is happy in their skin gets the gold star. I always remembered that - and through my years of curves, my months of skinny and all the stages in between, my figure has never made me happy or indeed really sad. My body has produced two fabulous kids, made me rarely sick, supported me in all my endeavours and although isn't toned to perfection, is reasonably strong.

Lately, I've been looking around and noticing that Tanya's line about life applies not just to waist size, but to all spheres. It doesn't matter what car you drive, what house you live in, what clothes you throw on your back, what job you do - if you aint happy - nothing is gonna bring you joy. I watch as I see folk struggle to find what makes them happy - they think it will be if they have the next rung on the career ladder, the 4th bedroom and kitchen extension, the botox, the diet, the new shoes. The goalposts move every time and happiness, it just seems that little bit away - just out of reach, every time.

Recently a good mate RK told me of how her kid was bullied at school by another child. This vicious little bugger announced to my friend's son that 'you live in a house only worth £200k, your Mum is poor and you'll end up being a cleaner when you are older.' None of these statements are true - and even if they were there is nothing wrong with being any of them. I was astounded that a kid of 11 could even think this way - could be so cruel, so materialistic. Thankfully my friend's son is a great kid and he responded saying he would grow up, get a wife and have kids and have loads of mates - and that is what mattered. That soon silenced vicious kid.

It got me thinking - what makes me happiest of all? What times in my life have I been filled up with joy? They all involve my family, my friends, sunshine, sometimes the sea, wine, chat and laughter. They all - every single one of them - are an experience, not a 'thing.' Sure, my work has brought me joy - I love writing beyond measure - but the real joy of my working days has been in the fun I have had with colleagues. As my mate RK said to her son, 'People make you happy - that's the key.'

I'm as guilty as the next person in coveting stuff - reading blogs by fashion starlets in their 20s who spend days in the bath slathering themselves in products or in the gym, fashioning elaborate breakfasts with eggs and avocados and having endless time to pour over clothes and pick cushions - and I have thought - dear god why is that not me??? Then I remembered I've been there and had fun and did all that - thankfully when lives weren't lived online. I've had the pre-kids years when you dance round London dating and spend £400 on a meal for two at the newest wanky restaurant. It was ace, but I'm happier now watching Jurassic World and eating the kids' Easter eggs.

It took me a long time, and it is a constant journey - the cliched marathon not a sprint - but I get what Tanya meant. Being happy in the here and now - that's the gold star.

1 comment:

Courtney said...

Wonderful post crummy mummy - and one I really needed today. I want to write something more insightful but I can't think of much to say beyond I completely agree. It's so easy to get caught up in a competition for material things, thinking if xyz happens then I will be happy - and it makes me sad when I see people well into later age (like 60s, 70s) still play this game. There will never be enough *stuff* to fill you up if you don't know what makes you happy. I hope load of people read this post!