Posted by: Joan Spiller | March 12, 2015

An ex-coward’s guide to life

Bombarded with well-meaning messages from family, friends, the media and of course, the interwebs – on what is OK (and how faaa-bulous everyone is!) is it any wonder some of us sometimes end up wondering if we are doing this whole life thing “right”?

I know I used to wonder about this on a regular basis, and when I say I “used to” – I actually only stopped wondering when in my late 30’s..

I guess what irks me about this whole thing is that no one is inside your head.  No one knows what is going on for you, yet they don’t seem to stop and think before offering some platitude that they favour .. or worse – your basic ol’ generic advice..

Actually no, there is WAY WORSE than this.

There is people who give advice based on their own hang ups, beliefs, goals & / or fears.  

Think I am exaggerating?

Well then may I please offer up a couple of doozies from my life thus far:

1. The time I got divorced!

When I left my husband many, many years ago not only was I told I had made a terrible mistake (after all, he “didn’t beat me” – yes, that’s a direct quote) but by gosh, my life was ruined and (I think this is my all time fave pile of horse shit advice rec’d at this time in my life) – I should have just ‘put up with my lot’ ..

I do struggle with the fact that a bench mark for a happy marriage is not being beaten but yes, well .. Expect a rant on that, some other time!

Fortunately, I was sure I was doing the right thing for all it was scary as all hell .. And so I bravely (albeit nervously) set to making the changes I felt were best for me and CJ. Don’t get me wrong, at no time were these changes easy to do – and I put them off for some time .. but I am very glad I was brave enough to do it.

2. And then I refused to get knocked up! (Again) 

CJ was 2 or 3 years old when this 1st became an “issue” .. The problem for me was that deep down I knew I would eventually be a single Mother and having 1 was going to be hard, having 2 would be .. way too hard. On all concerned!

Yet when making this decision known to people who asked – I was informed that I was a selfish person. Er, run that by me again? I still don’t understand that!?


I can supply a heap more examples however I think the real message here is we all have to make our own choices, make our own mistakes and hopefully, learn lessons as we move forward in life. 

Actually, maybe that’s the kicker, “go forward“..  

If I think back to a similar situation, a few years after I left my husband – I moved to Wellington on a very spur of the moment deal.

My Father didn’t speak to me for some time, he was so cross. My Mother just shook her head as tho’ to say “that girl is so flighty” or whatever she thought (very enigmatic, was my Mum).. My Grandmother, god love her – simply said: “Oh well, I guess you’ll be back”. I suspect “tail between my legs” was in her mind – I actually didn’t bother to ask – as my mind was made up.

I finally wasn’t going to let a small town or family set in their ways hold me back from trying new experiences!

And so ..

I quit my job in HB, moved in with a man I had known for a very short time & attempted to find work in Wellington..

Oh how well I recall the shivery (and scary!) nights I spent standing staring down at Wellington city from our house on the hills, wondering if I had made a huge mistake! (And I had, in some ways, lol)

Cos within days of being there, I realised the man I had moved in with was a complete ass-hat and if it wasn’t for the help of a good friend, and a heap of good luck / hard work – I don’t know how I would have handled that rather horrid period in my life.

Because at this scary and upsetting stage in life, I had to make the decision: crawl “home”..  tail between my legs.. or stay in Wellington (jobless & homeless!) or .. what?

And so we come back to that comment I made earlier, people give advice based on their experiences, their plans, fears & concerns. Obviously, some of it is given with love & care, ie not malice  – but that’s still not going to make it (always) the right advice for you, is it?

Now we get to the part where I struggle with this post.. Every time I try to finish it, I grind to a halt cos when I re-read it, it sounds “lecture-ish”, smug and generally..  irritating.

Maybe it will help if I back up a bit and explain where this post originally stems from? Partly, it’s due to a variety of things I’ve seen or read recently. 

I watched “the bucket list” a few weeks ago and .. well, everyone knows that I am always up for telling people to “give it a go, don’t be silly, try it!” (if anyone is silly enough to ask me for advice!)  

Added to which, I read an article about someone who felt guilt at how badly they had raised their kids .. that was particularly painful to read as I nearly went down the same path ..

As well?  I try to now and then evaluate where I am at in life, in order to see if I need to do stuff differently. But actually? The simplest Q I ask myself is this:

Are you happy?

For all we are not always happy .. picking up on a pattern of saying NO to that question to me means a change would be healthy (if not overdue!) 🙂

Cos (and here’s the thing) I really DO think so many of us are doing this whole life thing wrong in that we’re not happy!??  We don’t seem to know how to be happy, content, good, or in many cases – even halfway OK..?

And this is where, once more – I repeatedly drag this post to a halt because I sound like a preaching jerk with this next sentence but OMG I mean it – for all, I am not always able to rock it myself – curse being human lol

Being is good!
Being happy is better!

I don’t want to leap from an airplane purely because I’ve been told I’m sick with x months to live such that I figure “what the hell, let’s go wild” – after all, I have nothing to lose / am dying.

I don’t want to stay in a relationship (with anyone: lover, friend or family) because I feel obliged to.  Instead, I want to do it because .. well.. simply?

Because I want to..!

I love the idea of choice .. of wanting to be with someone, vs. needing someone.

Of wanting to do something vs. having to..

For me? Wanting is way more special than needing. Again, perhaps a topic for another day / post..

I think what I am trying to say is that I think we spend so much time not really living. Not making mistakes (or worse – making really big  ones that we don’t even learn from).. Not really trying anything for fear we don’t get it right..

And as far as my ability to be poetic goes?

To you I say this:

It isn’t always easy to be HAPPY.. But you can actually be happy without anyone or anything to help you. Honest.. I’ve been there / done it – quite a few times, in my life!

So here’s an idea – try it sometime .. And please let me know how you get on!

Meantime, here is a silly song that I always smile when I hear as it takes me back – quite a few years now! But even now I know that the words “be careful of the advice you buy”..    hit home with me, even way back then!

Because as he says – some things are scientifically proven. Some things, not so much – but here’s an idea – Maybe – just maybe – we place the wrong weighting on stuff!?

*More on that another time, imagine being vegetarian “long before it was cool”, attending a school founded on the (then seen as very) “bizarre” beliefs of a German philosopher, growing up on an organic farm with hundreds of free range hens, and all that .. Yet conservative, cautious – almost fearful in other ways..

Like I said, a post for another day!



  1. […] sometimes, I DO try to sound like I have my shit together / am all sorted .. and at times, I SO am OK. As already stated – I can enjoy a lovely […]


  2. Goats being happy: Perhaps you could get one for your goats?


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