Thursday, 6 December 2012

On Unsolicited Advice and the Art of Just Doing What Feels Right

Friends, I'm right in the middle of unchartered territories right now. The unknown waters of having people in your life, who want to know all the intimate moments of your personal life, the innermost workings of your brain and a minute by minute blow of every minute detail - I'm not talking about my newly rekindled oversharing love affair with Twitter - no, for the first time in years I am living in close proximity to my family, and for the first time in forever I am actually engaged in conversation with these people on an almost daily basis. As I wander round the other untrodden path that is my life right now, my family and my friends are right there through each up and down and decision to be made, they are their with their advice and their stories and their never ending advice.

And there is that other new phenomenon I am faced with - of seeming not to have everything all under control - having before always had a plan, a destination and a dream. Having been some sort of supermom-housewife-power-couple who wrote a dissertation while on maternity leave, attended every church prayer group meeting while attachment parenting a high-energy child, set up a business, worked a 50 hour week while having a happy and fulfilling relationship, learning lines with the ex while massaging out his hamstring and baking my own bread at the same time. Yeah, that was kind of my life. Unrecognisable from the crying mess you see now, wandering round a house full of shelves I couldn't put up, mourning my empty future and not knowing how to set my own hot water to come on before I get up. I was vulnerable as fuck to all that well-meaning advice - my life obviously needed fixing and clearly, I didn't know how to do that. Enter those helpful helpful loved ones. 

It was the same right after Vinnie was born, everyone - parents or not - had some gem of wisdom for me. From not carrying him so much in case he never learned to walk to supplementing his milk with whiskey to help him sleep (I heard this more than once!!) I was a new mum and therefore needed someone to tell me what to do with my kid and how I should be doing it. Except when it turned out, I pretty much got that newborn parenting thing down - my kid was happy, I was happy and people realised I wasn't listening to their dodgy advice anyway. 

And now as I step into further unknown waters - of single-parenting, raising a boy as a lone woman, dating with a kid at home - the advice comes flooding in so quick, I struggle to keep afloat. Unsolicited, mostly unfounded (like my grandma who has been married since she was 19 telling me a woman doesn't really need a man around) and driving me absolutely batshit crazy.

I tried a new philosophy after the break-up - to take advantage of every opportunity that presented itself, not to deny myself or talk myself out of things that could potentially bring joy and fun and excitement. But this 'just say yes' approach led me to another unchartered situation - where I had somehow said yes to going on a date with three different guys in one week. Which I know, is not exactly a ground-breaking, life-changing kind of situation - more mildly hilarious and somewhat ridiculous given that I have only ever been on maybe one date my entire adult life (and that one led to him moving in with me two weeks later). But it was a situation I didn't really want to be in - not least because the prospect of dating one guy scared the actual crap out of me- and besides my life is far too busy and babysitters far too short in supply to be juggling guys like that. So of course, I found myself faced with a barrage of advice - none of which I had asked for or particularly cared to hear. But dishing out words of wisdom is particularly gratifying for other people - and in keeping with my new 'yes-man' status there was only one answer to the question 'do you want to know what I think?' 

Everyone had an opinion on what I should be doing, which of those unwitting suitors I should be standing up and who I should or shouldn't be sleeping with. I heard it all from a suggestion to try lesbianism for a while (which I have no doubt would not have solved my love triangle dilemma) to a friend suggesting I 'save myself' while things are so fucked up and complicated for me right now - and this option sounded entirely appealing until he added that I only save myself until he had got round to ditching his current girlfriend. Ahem. Most popular in the unsolicited words of wisdom seemingly coming from every direction, including my best friend and my own mother was to go out with all of them, drink a lot and sleep with all of them. I'm also pretty sure I heard the phrase 'YOLO' at least once (which, of course, I had to Google because I am pretty much a 25yo commie version of a Tory politician). I responded to most of these 'you're only young once'/'go sow your wild seed' types by reminding people I mostly get my kicks wearing warm socks, churning my own butter and living vicariously through my 3yo's social life - apparently this only furthered their point that getting drunk and getting laid was exactly what I neeeded. 

I'm pleased to say that although I had intended to say 'yes' more often, I also realised that sometimes I should probably choose what I say 'yes' to and that includes dating advice from people who should know better. It also led to a somewhat healthier philosophy of just doing what feels right - which sometimes means I'm too nervous to do something I know I probably should do, and sometimes means I have to turn down entirely beautiful boys who I can't bring myself to attempt to juggle. There was a reason I opened myself up to other people's opinions like that, and that was because that situation I found myself in didn't feel right to me - I looked around for a clue and everyone threw their own answers at me. 

So now as I tread water in this life I am living, learning to float with the weight of my situation and everyone around me reaches out a hand to 'help', I am going to trust my own judgement when deciding which liferaft I should be holding on to. 

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