Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Illusions, illusions

I was speaking with my dad on the telephone yesterday, and he started saying something about the gas price rises, and how we barely made it through last time. And I went "wait, what?" It turns out in the mid-70's when the previous gas price craziness was going on, he and my mom were really struggling financially and were constantly worried about losing the house. He said things were very dicey for about 18 months and they really struggled to get by for years afterwards, even after they stopped worrying about the bank repossessing the house. I had no idea. I mean, I remember my dad planting a vegetable garden, and making our bread, and home brewing his own beer, but I thought he did all that stuff because he enjoyed it. Just shows you how clueless kids can be, even once they've matured into adulthood and should know better. My dad never volunteers to take on extra chores or has expressed any interest in home brewing or bread baking in the 30-35 years since! And he was telling me how my mom would try to make 7 days of food money last for 8 days, so they could eke things out for a bit longer. See, I always thought she was just thrifty with clothes and toys and things, and that she was a bit of a health nut trying to make sure we had healthy food! Clueless, I tell ya.

Anyway, this all came up because we were discussing my cousins in England. I have American cousins and English cousins. And the English cousins have always done everything right, and seemed to lead these charmed lives. I will admit to feelings of jealousy and inadequacy! Luckily my American cousins are just as messed up as my brother and I, so that at least was reassuring. My English cousins always had tons of toys. All the latest stuff. I was so jealous as a kid. And then after my mom died I would be jealous that they were always cuddling their mom, who doted on them, doing everything for them - laundry, cleaning their rooms, you name it, my aunt was supermom. Even into their 20's, which I always thought was a bit sickening and wished they would just grow up already and do their own feckin' laundry. They both went off to college and just did everything right. So, of course, as time went on they both had perfect weddings, and one has produced the perfect child. The rest of us are all still lame and single. And barren. Wait, it's only me that's barren - I'm not sure anyone else has tried.

But in the last couple of months both of my cousins marriages have broken down, and they are both now going to get divorced. I mean, I never expected both perfect marriages to necessarily last forever, given the current divorce rates, but for both to fail at the same time is downright weird. And now both are stuck trying to either sell their houses or buy their spouse out, and both are of course struggling hugely with all this, it being the worst time to try to deal with all things real estate right now. And once again, the illusions that I should never have had about other people are falling away. I mean, nobody's lives are perfect. I know this. I know this instinctively about anybody that I've met since becoming an adult, but I guess there's just this warped thinking with family members that means I was still harboring lots of childhood jealousy and anger towards my cousins.

And I hope this doesn't come out wrong, but in a way having their lives fall in the crapper makes me feel better about my own life. My life ain't so bad after all. I mean, so I'm single. But I have a nice house, the sun shines, the sky is blue, my kittycat likes me most of the time and I'm in good health. Sometimes I guess I need a reminder that I have it pretty good most of the time.

So, I resolve that today is a good day. I'm wearing a cute new top that I bought at the weekend, which is a medium (OK, a large cut medium but I tried the large on and it was too big). My boss is out for the day. The yard is perking up since the rainy season started. I am doing well with my healthy eating. Life is good.


Alacrity said...

((And I hope this doesn't come out wrong, but in a way having their lives fall in the crapper makes me feel better about my own life.))

Why do people watch Je.rry Sp.ringer?

People watch because it makes them feel better about their own lives in comparison. I think it is totally natural and normal to judge the quality of our own life against those of other people.

When I felt down in my younger days, all I had to do was watch one episode of the Rick.i Lake show to feel better about my life. And I did that intentionally.

I think it is easy to fall into the trap of idealizing someone else's situation because we are not aware of all of their personal baggage and the sh*t that goes wrong for them. Most of that stuff never shows on the outside.

I guarantee that your cousins have thought, at some point, wow, Sarah has it made. She's moved to the US, has a great life in a great climate, lives in a nice house. And we are stuck here in the UK, where it rains every effing day of the year (j/k). Why didn't I strike out on a big adventure and move to the US like Sarah did? Am I just not as brave and confident as she is?

And as their marriages started to fall apart, they probably thought, Why did I even marry this person? Sarah is lucky she doesn't have to deal with this crrrapp.

Its all about perspective, but you know that.


calliope said...

I know what you mean exactly. People that live exceedingly sheltered & perfect seeming lives are sort of disgusting to me. Whether they mean to be or not! It is sad that marriages are ending, but I know you are gloating about that at all. I think it's more this internal perspective grass isn't always greener oh hey my grass IS green moment.