In my office I have a notice board on which I pin uplifting cards that people send me.
There are loads of them.
I don't mean that I'm constantly being sent uplifting things, nice though that might be. It's just that I seem to keep the ones I'm sent. Sometimes I even look at them! I read the messages emblazoned on their fronts and I get a little warm glow that someone has gone to the trouble of picking out that specific message just for me.
So that's good. Job done.
But it's not just on my noticeboard. We are totally surrounded by uplifting sentiment. There are whole accounts on Pinterest or Instagram entirely dedicated to producing beautiful little memes. Card racks are bursting with them, and don't get me started on gift shops. It seems that you can buy pretty much anything you might ever need with an added inspirational quote.
I once made myself a mousemat, back in the day when I used one of those. It said 'What would Maggie O'Farrell do?' on it. I loved it. It was before I was published so the cheek of it made me smile each time I saw it, but also it reminded me gently of what I was trying to do (be published) and what kind of books I wanted to write (ones like Maggie's!)
There's also an inspiring (albeit ironic) message on my coaster which I won't share with you for fear of embarrassing myself, and I could buy an uplifting mug to go with it if the mood took me. In fact, I could surround myself entirely by words designed to comfort, encourage, cherish or chastise me depending on my mood.
I don't, but I could.
But why is that, I wonder? It seems to me to be a relatively new phenomenon. When I was a girl we had a wooden plaque on the kitchen wall that I proudly brought back from a school trip to Windsor. 'You don't have to be mad to live here. But if you are, it helps!' A gentle attempt at humour 1970s style but with no hint at self-improvement.
Is it that we feel ourselves to be somehow lacking these days? Do we measure ourselves against an unwritten chart and find ourselves coming up so short that we have to constantly comfort ourselves that we can do whatever it is, remind ourselves that today we will live our best life and not waste a single second?
Because if that's right then it's quite sad.
I know that it's important to work hard and try our best. I get that time is constantly passing and that this is the only 22nd April 2022 that there'll ever be. But I also understand that some days it's harder to be my best self than others. Whole weeks and maybe months might go by without me getting as much as a glimpse of her (my best self, I mean.) I can't help but think that by surrounding ourselves with all these little nudges to remember to be more this and less that that we are just putting an even heavier burden on our shoulders.
Don't misunderstand me. I love my uplifting noticeboard and I'm endlessly grateful to all the lovely people in my life who send me cards that are well chosen enough for me to save them. But what if we just tried to do our best, without all those affirmations constantly snapping at our heels?
After all, "You are enough" all by yourself.
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