A couple of weeks ago I joined the Ladies Bible Study group at the church down the road. It’s totally ok to find that hilarious. Most people do. Wes included.
The thing is, I love it. Every Wednesday morning we have a cup of tea, marvel at the wildness/coldness/mildness of the weather and then sit down for an hour to read the Bible together. It’s an oasis of calm in the middle of the week, and quite frankly feels like an excellent use of my newfound free time. Thank Nursery.
My absolute favourite part? The other women. There are about twelve of us. Me, a few others with small children, and a whole load of utterly brilliant old ladies. The kind who discuss their cataract operations and grandchildren’s antics in the same breath as the refugee crisis. Who commiserate with us over our little ones and reassure us that it won’t really get any better as the years go on. And who are wise beyond telling. Smart, yes. Sassy, definitely. But mostly, wise.
It’s the kind of wisdom that makes you feel safe. Like there are others who have travelled this road before you, who faced down second world war bombs as children, and still manage to paint their nails, find matching jewellery and turn up every Wednesday to giggle in the corner and discuss faith, world politics and cake. Chocolate cake, to be precise.
This morning we were discussing contentment. Which is tricky to find. And even trickier to hold on to.
My week so far is textbook evidence of that.
On Monday I did my authorly duty and let the Internet know that my book is now available for pre-order on Amazon. Which still blows my mind a little bit.
Did I mention that it’s also beautiful?
For at least an hour, I felt contented. Like I was making something of myself. Like I was getting somewhere. Like perhaps I’m not a total washout after all.
I think it lasted an hour. It might have been less.
Because then I went on Twitter. And saw that another mother, who I’ve never met, but who has also written a book about parenting, is currently selling out a national tour of bookshops to promote it. Mine hasn’t even been released yet. And there certainly hasn’t been any talk of bookshop tours.
Doom. Immediate, crushing, doom.
I’ve read her blog. Most British parents have. It’s hilarious. And real, and relatable, and a huge consolation for parents who have run way past the end of their tethers. She’s way funnier than I am, way more controversial, and is signed to a way bigger publisher. So she’ll obviously sell millions more books and probably buy a yacht in the Caribbean and never want for anything ever again in her life.
This isn’t a sympathy vote. Everything I’ve written about her is absolutely true. Except perhaps the part about the Caribbean. I’ll let her make that call.
The thing is, if it wasn’t her, it would have been someone else. Someone else would write a book that was better than mine, or funnier, or just plain longer. In fairness, the vast majority of the writing community already has. I just try not to think about them.
All it took was one tweet. Just one. And then obviously a few more, after I’d Twitter-stalked her and her publishers for half an hour. She’s going to make it big. Really big. And there is precious little space in my tiny grumpy heart to be happy for her.
Which is ludicrous.
If you had sat me down three years ago and told me what my life would look like today, I would have cried. Sobbed, more likely. Because it would have seemed impossible. Sitting there in my brand new house, in an area where I knew nobody, with a four month old baby, an erratically potty-trained two year old and the clouds of depression closing in a little tighter every day.
Three years on and we’re settled into what is actually a staggeringly brilliant community of people. Elvie is at school, Joel is at nursery. And I have three solid hours to myself every weekday. Wes’ work is going really well, I’ve been off my medication for half a year, and my first book is just three months away from the shops.
It’s a turnaround of epic proportions. I should spend at least half my day on my knees weeping tears of gratitude.
Still, despite all of this, somehow I can lose my cool in the space of 140 characters. I’m not sure that should even be possible.
This morning was my wake-up call. Sitting in this formidable sisterhood, with a few centuries of combined experience. Discussing the path to contentment.
This is what I realised.
I will never be content. Not ever. Not if I’m measuring myself by what I’m achieving. By who I’m beating. By how many times I win.
I’ll spend the whole rest of my life striving, struggling and probably pretty grumpy. Which, I’ll be honest, is not my plan. (Regardless of what my children might tell you.) I just don’t think I have the capacity for it.
I want to be happy. Contented. Regardless. It would be nice to be able to feel happy for other people’s success. Or at least just not be plain furious at them.
The ladies this morning reminded me: there is a place I can go. A place to be content. A tiny secret place right in the centre of my soul. A quiet place. A place of love. Where I know that I’m safe, and precious. And absolutely enough. No bells, no whistles, no pressure. Just as I am.
Where the only one I’m listening to, is the only One that matters.
I should probably spend more time there.
And less time on Twitter.