Yesterday I spent my day in the company of 580 women at a charity Ladies Lunch. This particular charity is one that I’ve been involved with for many years, and this summer they came through for my little guy and I. They sponsored us to visit Lourdes with them as their guests, and I met three other wonderful mums. Yesterday, we sat together at the lunch and caught up.
At one point I looked around the room and something struck me: every single one of those 580 women has gone through some kind of struggle in their life. Some of those struggles have been more obvious than others. Some have been very public, others private. Some are still hidden away. Every one of us has had to face difficulty, be it bereavement, illness, relationship breakdown or even tension and difficulty in relationships. A sick child, or the loss of a loved one, or a struggle with mental health.
In spite of it, not one of the women I encountered yesterday seemed broken. We integrate our struggles into our existence. It becomes part of us, but we do not become our struggle. It interweaves with all the other things that make us who we are, like a woven tartan. When we look at the finished fabric, it doesn’t look flawed. It looks unique and decorative and beautiful.
I wasn’t quite ready to go home to my empty house when the event finished. Instead I went to my local to have a drink, wind down, and finish my evening. The manager of the pub – a friend of mine – said lovely things, telling me how nice I looked and that he was always surprised at me being single considering how well I scrub up! I laughed, saying I was too broken to date. He said, “You know, it wouldn’t take much to fix you. You just need someone with a bit of patience, and a relationship puncture repair kit.”
He is perhaps right. I have a different take on it, though. I believe I should be the one with the puncture repair kit. I’m still hurt by the fact that I allowed someone else to damage me to the extent that my ex did. My marriage ending was something that happened almost without my knowledge. I just had to sit there and be broken by it all. I don’t want to let someone else be responsible for fixing me, because their repair might come with a warranty, but I need to have the skills to recover again independently.
Later, a guy was chatting me up. I’m a cynical old git, but I was enjoying the banter. It’s nice to feel wanted, in spite of my determination to be independent.
The manager asked him a question:
“Imagine you have a bike. It’s really cool – high spec, nice looking, reliable. It gets a bad puncture. What do you do?”
“I buy a new bike.”
I finished my drink, went home, and thought about those fierce women I had spent the day with.