Jane Green
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A Novel Idea

December 26th, 2015

Jane Green FamilyAs the end of December approaches, I always intend to sort out cupboards and drawers in bid to start the new year fresh and unencumbered. It never lasts long.

I get bored and make myself a cup of tea. By the time I finish the tea, I have generally forgotten what I was doing half an hour ago. By the time I discover the upturned drawer, sometimes days later, I can’t be bothered to do anything other than pile all the stuff back in it and forget about it until next year.
I started yesterday by pulling out the old photo albums. There are pictures of my parents in the mid-1960s, my mother looking impossibly glamorous, my father young and strong. There are pictures of me as a baby, a toddler, and on through the awkward years, moving into my first marriage, which, frankly, still counted as the awkward years.

Good Lord, they lasted a very long time.

I am thrilled that my next very big birthday (not for a couple of years), will be 50. I have always thought of myself as a fine wine: I get better with age. One glance through these photo albums confirms it to be true. What was I thinking with that frizzy orange hair? And the pearlised lipstick? That skirt with braces! I know that it was the 1980s, but still; shouldn’t we all have known better?

I welcome each birthday, each New Year’s Eve, with the knowledge that as time passes, I have grown more comfortable in my skin. Although I can never quite rid myself of the thought that if I lost 10lb I would be immeasurably happier, I also know, from much experience, that is not true.

I once spent a year two stone lighter than I am today. It was the Summer of Skinny. Although I looked fantastic in a bikini, I can’t honestly say anything else in my life was different. Or better.

Age has seen me leave behind the need to prove myself to other people, and to people-please. It is fine for people to dislike me, although I will then dislike them back twice as hard. I may be better, but I am not perfect.

I no longer read my reviews online, or blogs. It was always pointless; I would skim over the good reviews, barely seeing them, not taking them in, while the bad reviews would strike like a dagger; I would carry those for years.

I now say no to parties where I don’t know anyone. I don’t care if I miss out. I prefer to miss out. Walking into a room filled with people I only vaguely know, and being forced to make small talk, fills me with horror. Curling up on a sofa with a few cats, a good book and a husband is always, always the preferable alternative.

I used to say yes a lot, when I meant no. I now say, ‘I’ll think about it.’ And then I say no.

I used to throw elaborate parties that left me exhausted for days. Now, when people ask what they can bring, I say: ‘Dessert! Salad! Canapés!’ When people used to jump up to help clear the table, I would urge them to sit down and not do a thing. Now I have learned to stay quiet and let others do all the washing-up.

I have learned that takeaways, while delicious, and very easy, are never as good as a home-cooked meal, and that cups of tea will not make the loneliness, sadness or cold go away completely, but they will help. I have learned that sometimes there are days when I do not want to get out of bed and see anyone, and on those days it is far better for me to stay in bed, with a book, and a cat, than force myself out in the world where I am likely to frighten whoever I meet.

I spent years looking for the better party, the better hairstyle, the better jeans, the better friends; I spent years looking for the magic potion that would make everything in my life better. And on the eve of 2016, I have finally learned that happiness is not getting what you want, but wanting what you have got.

May you want all that you have got, and a happy, happy new year!


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