There’s that moment when you don’t know whether to shake or hug the person you’re talking to. I was with a friend – a good friend – having supper as we rehashed a version of the same conversation that has taken place with worrying regularity over the last ten years.
The pattern-al behaviour he demonstrates leads to self-loathing – he recognises this and yet struggles to alter it. It’s hard to break our rhythms as we all have ticks and habits that we know aren’t good for us; whether it’s that extra slice of cheesecake, glass of Chianti or unwise illicit rendez-vous – the key is to give it up if it’s going to hurt you or anyone you truly care about.
This friend, though, seems to be crying out for help by discussing his issues, and yet resolutely refuses to listen to any small, easily-incorporated-into-his-lifestyle steps that he could take to alter this cyclical pattern. It’s almost as if it’s easier for him to hide behind the self-fulfilling prophecy of himself he’s created rather than to change.
It’s rather similar to the client I have who bemoans the fact that they can’t find the right place to buy with their £10 million budget, despite having looked for almost three years now. ‘No,’ I want to say, ‘of course you can find the right place – you just don’t want to. If you’re determined to nit-pick at every small detail nothing will be perfect, for nothing is.’
I’m amazed that he and his wife ever got married as I imagine they were looking, as they walked up the aisle, over their shoulder in case someone better came along.
My tolerance level to such self-imposed problems is running low this week. I learnt that someone I know vaguely through a close mutual friend died of cancer. She was (it seems so wrong to use the past tense for someone in their thirties) a mother to two small children who will now grow up knowing her only through pictures and other people’s fragmented memories.
It seems intolerably cruel and yet I learnt that even in her last days at the hospice she was laughing and making those around her feel comfortable in the impossible situation she faced – she didn’t have faith but she found peace and bore the inevitable with dignity. She passed away at the moment the St Jude storm gusted and spluttered its last and the sun came out and the air was still.
We all get involved in the quotidian of our daily life, the navel-gazing that only the privileged can afford to do but there are times when a shot-gun blast of perspective snaps us out of ourselves and makes us realise life is short and precious and not to be wasted. We owe that to the betters who have gone before us.