Inspired by the wonderful Elizabeth’s days online list of the 40 things she feels guilty about, I thought I’d share my own.
1. I closed my business
2. Every time I get a missed call from an unknown number
3. Every time I get a letter that looks official
4. The fact I quit a sailing course my grandma paid for (aged 12) after day 1
5. I don’t know how to drive
6. I haven’t recovered from my eating disorder
7. I am rubbish at general knowledge quizzes
8. I didn’t pass my grade 5 music theory test
9. Not seeing my grandparents enough when they were alive
10. I don’t have a skincare routine
11. Every time I don’t answer an email, text or Whatsapp immediately
12. I don’t journal
13. I don’t keep up with current affairs
14. Feeling jealous of other’s successes
15. I’ve never read Lord of the Rings (or seen the films)
16. Not feeling enough gratitude for what I have
17. Not recycling every thing I could recycle
18. Letting my house plants meet their maker
19. I don’t drink enough water
20. I hate yoga
21. I can’t do a burpee
22. I can’t do a forward roll
23. I’ve never watched Friends
24. I spend too long on Instagram
25. I didn’t do well enough in my A-levels
26. Every time that I stand up for myself
27. I don’t know how to play chess
28. I gave up learning French
29. I don’t read enough non-fiction
30. I can’t shuffle a deck of cards
31. I don’t message my brother and sister enough
32. Every time I prioritise my mental health
33. Taking annual leave
34. Whenever I say ‘no’ to a social invite
35. I haven’t travelled enough
36. I don’t like coffee
37. The time I used the wrong key when locking up a pal’s house and I had to call (and pay for) a very expensive locksmith to sort it out whilst relentlessly messaging her when she was already having a stressful day
38. I talk too fast
39. Any time I have to make an important decision
40. I’m both too much and not enough
I recently started listening to Elizabeth Day’s podcast where she invites celebs to share 3 of their failures. It’s really great. If like me, you’ve been living under a rock, here it is and you only have 79 episodes to get through. God speed. Inspired by my new listening & my pal Imi’s post I thought I would share 3 of my own failures. Recognising where you’ve failed gives you the chance to celebrate where you have succeeded and more importantly recognise that failing is ok, that it is all part of being a wonderfully flawed human.
Doing a forward roll
I cannot do a forward roll. I never have and I never will. For the first 16 years of my life this was extremely stressful. Through the primary school ages, I dreaded the lessons when those squishy blue mats would be brought out ready for tumbling. Need someone to demonstrate a perfect teddy bear roll? Sign me up. Need someone to demonstrate a perfect forward roll? I suddenly really need the toilet. I remember once at a church BBQ I got all of the adults to take in turns to coach me how to do a forward roll. I wanted to be able to go into school next week and not feel sick with nerves that I’d be asked to do one and maybe I just needed the right teacher. It felt like everyone in the whole world to could do a forward roll except me and when I still couldn’t do one after 3 hours of coaching and a regular intake of hot dogs I thought my life was officially over. I despairingly asked my sister’s friend what I should do about the dreaded p.e. class coming up next week because I had checked the weather and it was going to rain which meant we’d definitely be on those pissing blue mats. He wisely suggested I forget my p.e. kit. So I did. Crisis averted. For now.
Through the secondary school years, the stakes felt even higher but luckily my forgery skills had come on since the age of 6 and I could get myself excused from any lessons that included the word gymnastics. Weirdly 10 minutes into the lesson I would suddenly realise I had a letter saying I couldn’t participate due to cramps (sorry Mum!). It goes to show that no male p.e. teacher had a good grasp of menstrual cycles because my periods lasted for weeks on end and none of them pulled me in for a chat, concerned about the sheer amount of blood I must be losing.
Luckily, since secondary school I have never been asked to do a forward roll and I have since met other people who can’t do one either (solidarity, my friends). This failure embodies my complete fear of letting other people down but in hindsight I don’t think anyone was particularly bothered by my lack of gym mat skills.. except me.
I am 29 years old and I cannot drive. I would much rather walk, run, cycle, get the bus, crawl or skip thank you very much. The thought of driving makes me feel sick and I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the place where I actually want to learn to drive. I fleetingly did driving lessons shortly after my 17th Birthday and I think I got to the bit when you start doing manoeuvres and then my driving instructor quit and I convinced myself it was because I had let him down in some way. After that I did a few lessons with a new instructor who was so passive aggressive she made me cry and I vowed I would never try again. I hate being bad at stuff and I thought I must be the worst person who has ever tried to learn to drive. In reality, I had hardly had any lessons and it takes time to be able to safely drive a hunk of mental around the mean streets of the very small town I grew up in which in hindsight would be a much easier place to learn in than the big bad city of Bristol. Sigh.
I still feel frozen with fear at the thought of getting back in the drivers seat. I don’t think it’s too much of a big deal that I can’t drive until I want to do a big food shop or not get on a Megabus which always smells of feet.
Boundaries is such a buzz word at the moment and I use it a lot but I absolutely suck at actually implementing them. The queen of multi-tasking, answering emails at midnight and putting away laundry whilst also on loud speaker chatting to someone I definitely didn’t need to be chatting to. The nature of my anxiety means that I love having a packed diary because the more I do the less I need to think. My favourite days at work are the ones that whizz by because I just have so much to do and it’s only recently that I’ve realised how unhealthy that is. For years I allowed my time to be sucked up by everything and anyone and never carve out time for me just to be. I think I’m getting better at this but I can easily find myself slipping back into it because old habits die hard. I said to my therapist once that I was exhausted because so many people needed stuff from me, I was trying to keep so many spinning plates spinning and it just wasn’t fair. Rather than sympathising with me she told me that maybe I find my worth in needing to be needed and she’d absolutely hit the nail on the head. I am regularly serving from an empty cup & I.am.thirsty.
This weekend I returned to Cornwall to see my parents and finally get round to sorting out my bedroom. Alexa, play Adele – Hometown glory. In my naivety I thought I had already done this when I left for University but it turns out that looks can be deceiving. My bedroom on first glance may look organized, tidy and grown up – minus the fuchsia pink carpet – but the cupboards and drawers and under my bed painted a different picture. Piles of clothes, photos, 1000 chunky belts and many silk black clutch bags stuffed with Marlborough lights were unearthed and separated into charity shop or ‘for the tip’ black sacks. I might be 29 years old but I still hid the crushed up cigarettes from my parents because it is important they still believe that I am Sandy before she had the makeover.
Sorting through these objects made me feel like I was on a low budget version of This Is Your Life. I used to have dreams that one day I would be famous and be surprised, but not too surprised, when I was presented with that iconic red book. Judging by the current trajectory of my life this is eXtremely unlikely. It felt kind of funny meeting my past self in journal entries of scathing tones that XYZ boy didn’t fancy me and the black silk clutch bags (why did I need 7?) that were an essential item for a successful night out, obviously paired with heels and intensely back combed hair. It felt kind of nostalgic meeting my past self in school reports from the celebration of when I first wrote my name to the recurring theme that I would be really capable if only I would stop talking so much. It felt kind of sad meeting my past self in love letters from a boy who used to make me cry at every six form party, push me around and smashed up his iPhone on the Oceana dance floor after seeing me weeks after I finally plucked up the courage to dump him.
Through this process I had the chance to meet with myself from child to teenager to adult, facing up to past worries, triumphs and regrets as I filled black sack after black sack with my history, tied up in broken hair bobbles and garishly coloured tights. I could let go of things that I had harbored for years and recognising that these no longer have a hold on me. I’m free.
During that weekend I saw from a distance, people who once were placed with great importance in my life. The girl who used to fill me with fear when I walked down the school corridors now played with her children on the water slide at the local leisure centre and the boy who used to tease me for being tall now walked with his 2 year old son desperately trying to get him to take a nap. Instead of placing these people into a black sack never to be seen again I had to face up to the fact that I am going to see these people over the years when I visit home and instead of feeling that knotted stomach feeling like I did walking to my English class in year 9, I had to let go. My Mum used to try and appease me when I went home crying, desperate to be in the ‘popular gang’ who in fact were a group of people who weren’t popular at all, they were feared. She would say that these are their glory days and one day when I was a grown up I might even be thankful for how these experiences had shaped me. I never believed her. Until now. I walked past them, looked them in the eyes and smiled. I have absolutely no idea if they recognized me and if they did, I hope they know I forgive them. Boy that smashed his iPhone, I forgive you too.
Life’s too short. I’m happy.