To Be Perfectly Frank | All good things …

This is my last column – for the time being at least. I’ve done it now for two years and am beginning to miss the thrill. It’s getting more difficult to find something to write about that I reckon my readers will find vaguely interesting. That’s different from saying I can’t find anything interesting to write about, so the problem – if problem there be – is that this phase of my life has run its course and it’s time to move on. If I can indulge in a pun, the writing has been on the wall for a while now and the dread of the approaching deadline every month is the clearest indication of my need for a break.

As I’ve grown older, giving up on something and moving on has actually become a little easier. For most of my life, I’ve tended to associate giving up on anything as akin to failure. If at once you don’t succeed, try harder. And if you still don’t succeed, blame someone else for your failure. Well not really, but the drive to get things done (and done to the standards of the perfectionist I am), often at the expense of my relationships with family and friends, has in retrospect not always been worth the effort. Don’t get me wrong, I still like to do things properly, but that’s a little different from being obsessed and not seeing the wood for the trees. ‘Get a life’ has often been a sentiment I’ve assigned to others, not realising that perhaps I’ve also been missing out on some of the opportunities – the good things – of life.

What has brought all this about? Largely, I suppose, the fact that I’m in the throes of moving house. When Ulla and I bought our present house and moved in together over 13 years ago, I subconsciously assumed that it would be my final, happy abode. No more moving for me; the house was not only a home but a challenge to the perfectionist DIYer that I am. All those projects! A new garden, a new cellar, a new porch. Then all the smaller ones too that would keep me occupied in my retirement. The house became, if I’m to be honest, not so much a home as another place of work – a substitute for the job that I used to have where all my obsessions were honed to … well, near perfection.

I convinced myself that I’d had no problem adjusting to retirement. After all, I had all these interests to serve. Not just the DIYing, but the CTC and a bit of freelance work as well. Keeping occupied, physically and mentally, was the object of the exercise, as indeed it had been most of my life. Spending time with other people took second place when there was something important to do! Oh oh!

Yes, as the saying goes: ‘All good things must come to an end’ (though why it only mentions the good things has always puzzled me; thank goodness most bad things also have an end). But that begs the question of the nature of ‘good’. Looking back, the perceived good times can really be divided into two broad categories: those that satisfy the loner in me, such as projects in the house and writing these articles, and those that satisfy the social animal, particularly my theatrical activities. Leaving the former behind and moving on is no great wrench for me, whereas the latter I would really miss if I were forced to give them up. So the writing on the wall has become somewhat clearer: spend more time being social and creative with other people and less time and effort trying to impress people (including myself) with what I create in isolation.

So I’m moving on. Thanks for the opportunity to air a few grievances, and I hope from time to time I’ve provoked a few thoughts too. But just as with moving house, I’m not going too far – just far enough to take stock and try to sort out the best from among all those good things.

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