When in doubt, freak out
In late 1939 the poster KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON was produced, designed to boost the morale of the British public during WWII. The idea was that it would be released upon invasion of Britain by Germany but, as you all know, this never happened consequently the poster was never in the public domain and was only seen by very few people. Years later it was discovered and released, becoming the iconic symbol of the very British ‘Stiff Upper Lip’ (SUL).
Now, of all the things I have been blessed with in life, an SUL is not one of them. For years, as a tantrum throwing child who morphed into a tantrum throwing teenager, and then a tantrum throwing adult, my instinct has been to freak out. Keeping calm and carrying on does not come very naturally to me and I blame this on my very non-British background.
Born into a Jewish family family gatherings were never a quiet, reserved affair. It was survival of the loudest and luckily for me (if not for my friends and family) being loud is not something that I struggle with. If you had a point to make you had to make it loudly, repeatedly and pretty much continuously until one of two things happened: a) everyone agreed with you or b) everyone left the room. If you were upset you had to shout about it otherwise (god forbid) no one would notice or not think it very important which – of course – it ALWAYS was.
Not being one to hide my emotions (as regular readers of this blog will know) I was told continuously by my mother to ‘internalise’ because, apparently, not everyone in the whole world needed to know what I was feeling 100% of the time. This, as you can imagine, has always been a bit of a struggle and while I like to think it’s lovable, ex-colleagues, Danny, friends and yet more family will probably suggest that it can be a bit tiresome.
My initial instinct is to freak out, to throw my toys out of the pram, and to rant and rave to anyone who will listen about the sheer unfairness of it all, how difficult everything is, and how – if you were me – you too would be sitting on the doorstep crying while carpet fitters tried to pretend that the ‘mistress’ of the house was behaving completely normally and passers-by (we are not on a road so luckily there isn’t that many of them) shuffle past desperately trying to ignore the 34 year old woman weeping like a child in the doorway.
OK, so I’m exaggerating slightly… but it’s not as far from the truth as it should be. Sometimes, just sometimes, things become overwhelmingly hard. I stare at the house, which is far from finished, and panic about opening in two weeks. I watch my friends on Facebook planning their weekend while all I can see is a weekend of yet more DIY, dust, paint and drudgery (hark at the Cinderella). I get photos of my family sent to me on email and miss them so much, I then look to Danny to provide all those missing elements in my life and get annoyed when he tells me that he has better things to do than feign sympathy at yet another self-pitying rant, tantrum or weepy moment.
I knew something was not quite right last night when I tripped up in the hallway, landed on my knee and started to bawl like a 2 year old whose toys had just been taken away by his big brother; and it’s kind of been downhill from there. I wonder, I really do, when the motto Keep Calm and Carry On will really sink in. When we first moved down here a friend bought me a card which had it written on the front and despite staring at it for the last 4 weeks I can’t seem to bring myself to follow its rather basic instruction.
Surely, after 34 years on this planet, it’s slightly odd that my first instinct is to burst into tears. I’m almost (but not quite because I can’t see your faces while you’re reading this) embarrassed to write this in a blog, but the truth is that if they were making a BBC3 documentary about this project I would be the one crying into my hand about it all being so hard, while Danny would be the one just getting on with it.
I suddenly felt an enormous connection with those victims of reality TV programmes who watch their tight budget disappear on fire extinguishers and food safety courses, rather than the antique mirrors and little knick-knacks that money was earmarked for. Those who dream of owning the most stylish guest house in the area but who end up painting the entire place white and eggshell because a) they have no design instinct and b) it’s too expensive and time consuming to do anything else… Oh, wait a mintue, that’s me! CUE: tears of self-pity and pointless rage.