There’s a lot of eye rolling in this house when mummy churns out one of her old ‘Boomer’ phrases and, outraged, cries: “What? Have you never heard that expression?”
I love language you see; I love idioms and proverbs and I love giving my son new…oh alright then, old… ways of expressing himself.
I also like to customise them, although this did backfire once. My son came back from school and told me he ‘got told off’ because he argued with his teacher that Practice Makes Progress. It happened because I’d noticed that I had unwittingly passed on to him my somewhat faulty perfectionist trait – and so I’d decided to try to phase out in him the need to strive for perfection while beating himself up for anything ‘less than’. So, I started repeating to him that practice might not always make perfect, but it makes progress. ‘Practice Makes Progress’ became a thing, and worked just fine until his Year 3 class (loosely) studied proverbs. Poor boy. When his teacher told him what he’d written was wrong, he argued that she was wrong! (I like to think that she has now seen the error in her ways and will help spread this improved proverb far and wide).
I’ve customised another one this winter, although this one is a bit more niche: The grass is always whiter on the other side.
Here in beautiful, coastal South Pembrokeshire, the very westernest edge of West Wales, snow – let alone settled snow – is rarer than Action Man’s tears.
Four times in the past month I have blinked in disbelief because I’ve seen snow on the weather forecast. Twice it even heralded the imminent arrival of “heavy snow”. Three times I have got seriously over-excited. And three times I have been utterly crushed when I’ve woken up to heavy rain. I’m not the only one. A friend told me the snow looked like such a cert last week that they’d already lined up their sledges the day before. Sledging doesn’t work so well in a torrent.
Now you probably don’t need me to tell you that disappointment in these virus-spoiled times is amplified beyond all reason, and can morph into dejection and hopelessness if you’re not watching.
The third, crushing, no-snow-blow resulted in me declaring an afternoon off work and home-school as I hurriedly organised a No Snow Festival. This consisted of camping out in a tent in the lounge and basically doing any activity I could think of to prove (to myself, mostly) that it was possible to have fun without snow. We put on ‘festival’ clothes, munched brownies while watching old Glastonbury footage on iPlayer, forced our dog to perform in the ‘Dog Agility Arena’, enjoyed a Dance Workshop with Oti Mabuse, held ‘No-Snow’ themed colouring competitions and a culinary masterclass in which we let our son ‘teach’ us how to make guacamole… there was more.
Meanwhile, all over Facebook my friends across England, Scotland and mid Wales could be seen frolicking in the beautiful fluffy white stuff. The first time that happened I was happy for them. I loved seeing their (smug) snowmen and (joy-filled) sledging videos. But then it happened again, and again, and again… and all of a sudden, they’d had more snow in 3 weeks than we’d had in 17 years! To my shame, my responses to their good times became increasingly bitter (always with some smiley emoji to disguise the pure venom).
I know I have been a total bore about it and – snow-blessed friends, I am sorry.
But the thing is there is something worse than FOMO, and this time it was my son who customised the phrase. He said: “Mum this is not FOMO, this is AMO. Not just Fear Of Missing Out, but Actually Missing Out.” Damn straight, kid! It sucks!
On the fourth time snow was forecast I was determined not to allow myself to get excited. (I’m a slow learner). This was also because my (increasingly wise) boy had said to me: “Do you sometimes wish there wasn’t a weather forecast?” I stopped looking at it. I couldn’t cope with any more disappointment. Here goes a proverb, from actual Proverbs in the Bible: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” No need to customise that one.
Naturally, of course – and feeling like a reward for my new-found wisdom – that’s the one time it actually snowed. A teeny, tiny little speckledy smattering. Up against the walls and in corners it settled. And there was GREAT REJOICING! We pulled on whatever clothes were closest and rushed out to play! I mean, just look at this epic snowman!
After about ten minutes of excitement and freezing-fingered fun, when it became clear we weren’t getting any more, the little man said to me: “I can’t work out whether to be happy or disappointed.” Seems it’s possible to feel both, because I did.
But then, we’re by no means the only ones who’ve been experiencing AMO during this EWL (Evil Winter Lockdown).
We may have no proper snow but we sure do have proper beaches. It may take us over an hour to walk there, but our two local beaches are pretty much the most beautiful in the country.
During the first lockdown I experienced an awful lot of that most useless, energy-wasting of emotions: guilt. Guilt over the fact that we had not only a garden, but also a field, for daily exercise. Guilt that we could walk to the woods, which lead to a National Nature Reserve, which leads to two of the loveliest beaches in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. Guilt knowing that not only were we Covid-free and didn’t work in the NHS but that we enjoyed such privilege – being able to access such beauty and playgrounds – while others were going through the toughest of tough times and with none of that on tap.
My snow-happy, land-locked friends have often expressed their own envy at our ‘living on holiday’ because we live by the sea. I also imagine that if you live in fire-ravaged California or Australia, where the sun always shines, you might take the occasional wistful look at the green, green grass of wet West Wales.
The idiom goes “The grass is always greener on the other side.” It’s thought to originate centuries ago, possibly stemming from the ancient Roman poetry of Ovid who wrote: “The harvest is always more fruitful in another man’s fields.”
But in truth, the grass is greener, or whiter, or sandier, or wetter depending on where you are standing.
Comparison really is the thief of joy. I am yet to be able to pass on any wisdom as to how to overcome the punishing tendency to compare yourself or your circumstances with others.
I guess the challenge is to tend to your own grass as best you can and extract the pleasure from its upkeep without needing to check on how your neighbours’ grass is looking.
I’m not great at that, if I’m honest. Ah well, Practice Makes Progress. 😊