Monday, 29 November 2010

Striving for more, or happy with enough?

Approaching a first anniversary, I find myself wondering if I should have accomplished something more than a year of marriage. Which is ridiculous when I consider that l have - a year of marriage, still very much happy and in love; an accomplishment indeed by today's standards. So what does it say about me - or about society in general - that this doesn't seem to be a success enough?

Today, we expect every year to have achieved something big, to have outdone the previous year somehow, and not even just from year to year. 'Make every second count' is a positive version of today's ethos, but the uglier version of the message constantly thrust at us these days is: 'More'. A better job, a higher salary, a bigger house or flat, a more fulfilling relationship. But in the pursuit of an ever extending social life, an ever increasing wardrobe, and a life crammed to the brim with 'More', are we happier? Or are we hot on the tail of an endlessly tall order, and a potential nervous breakdown?

Ask anyone how they are these days and the response will usually be 'Busy'. Said with a smile and a helpless shrug, our level of busyness seems to be a measure of how well we're doing. But when 'busy' feels synonymous with 'stressed', why are we doing it to ourselves?

Having just spent the weekend helping friends in the throes of planning their own wedding, I thought back to this time last year, as we frantically juggled full time work, and daily life with copious phone calls back and forth to family, suppliers, caterers and family again, arranging a long-distance wedding and reception from London to Cornwall, where everything will be done 'dreckly' and a sense of urgency has yet to cross the border. I thought across the manic two days decorating the venue, hastily putting together a seating plan the night before in my now-husband's B&B room. 
Then I thought of the feeling a sheer happiness as I walked down the aisle, said 'I do', flitted through the reception in a grinning blur, and eventually flumped onto the sofa in our hotel room with the man I love, ready to start our lives together.

The beautiful, surprise honeymoon to Skye, our first Christmas together, creating our home, and every day since then that we have spent building the foundations of our marriage. Marriage may have lost it's flavour for a lot of people today, but for some of us, it's a safe place, a haven from the rest of the world - a place to be yourself. As with all long-term relationships, it's a combination of friendship, domestic living, and daily monotony with splashes of humour, adventure, romance and excitement. It has days where the groceries and an early night are the extent of its riches, and other days where the butterflies of first kisses and a warm fuzzy feeling fill the spaces in us. 

It may not bring 'More' on a daily basis, but it definitely brings a sense of happiness, of fulfillment. It is enough. And for me, I think 'enough' is a far more attainable, sustainable thing to strive for. More than that - it's an accomplishment in itself. To feel that you have enough, or a near-constant basis, is a positive that we've lost today, I think. It's a positive that's not looked on so positively.

Well, I've come to look on it positively. 'Enough' is exactly where I'm at, and whilst I'll continue to look to 'more' (no-one wants to stagnate), it will hopefully be in a way that doesn't demand a certificate of achievement or a sticky star every other day.

For now, I feel that I - we - have achieved something. Something spectacular. We have made it to the end of a whole year, and whilst marriage may have lost its cherry-on-top, or even it's frosting for much of society today, for those of us who still choose it, that remains something to be proud of.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Happy thanksgiving!

Having well and truly missed the boat of blogging cool, I've decided to adopt it as my latest outdated means of kick-starting the writing process.

But what does a girl write on one of these thingies?!

Well, I thought I'd start with the next exciting holiday that many people anticipate. 

'Thanksgiving? I didn't know that you were American!' Is often expelled in my direction when I announce that the time has come to plan the epic Thanksgiving Menu. I greet them with a blank stare and a short 'I'm not.' Because for me, the Thanksgiving Tradition is a tenuous link through a father who spent his childhood in the States, and a fulfillment of the need that most people manage through Christmas and call quits thereafter.

A family get-together. Well, a chunk-of-the-family get-together.

Since the age of 13 when our family went through the all-too-common divorce process, we have been vying for ever more loosely connected celebrations to fill the gap left by the Family Christmas (my mother recently attempted to hijack Bonfire Night). We feel the need to come up with an occasion to gather en masse without putting pressure on all and sundry to commit to the evermore sought after Christmas period, which, with the onset of long-term relationships and marriages amongst us, is more coveted by adopted family members than ever.

This year then, having made the miscommunication faux pas of assuming my father was too busy to join in (grovelling was needed), my husband and I, with my brother and his fiancee, began the loving process of devising the menu, digging out the awful but comical plastic turkey, 'Trev' (which my mother, after a trip to Florida, lovingly bestowed on us in an effort to join in), and planning of a beautiful weekend revolving around food, wine, and a few obligatory walks.

This year sees a new member of the family, Poppy the Labrador pup, venturing into the chaos. It also sees my attempt to bake a pumpkin cheesecake, never before attempted. To be honest, it can't be any worse than last years' shameful foray into Pumpkin Pie, which had to have the sugar hastily applied post-cooking...

Excitement ensues... and we prepare for this weekend.

Sorry? Did you mishear? This weekend? But thanksgiving isn't until the last weekend of November...

You're right of course. But in the spirit of true traditonalism, we only embrace the bits that mean the most to us.

Happy thanksgiving!