Up-grading Your Life

By Alison October 20, 2010 14 Comments 4 Min Read

The eminent writer William Faulkner once said that trying to be better than our contemporaries was a fruitless act and that the real competition lies in trying to be better than ourselves, and so my Darlings, this then is our mission: to start working today on up-grading who we are and what it is we expect of ourselves.
To become better.
While there is a tiny part of me that cringes at the very notion of finding our current selves unacceptable, there is always room for improvement in every aspect of our lives, and I rather suspect that a big part of that dratted discombobulation is mere boredom with the sheer banality of accepting who and what we are and failing to  continue to strive to something more.
Being aspirational isn’t wicked. However in a society now jam packed with those whose very betterness makes us want to throw in the towel and declare ourselves pointless, it is enormously difficult to isolate our aspirational direction from those lives we imagine others are living and instead concentrate bit by bit on bettering our own lives, according to our desperately personal, inner authenticity and the maps that authenticity creates, and we so very often choose to ignore.
So what am I talking about here? Am I saying that every nurse should be harbouring ambitions to be a doctor? That she who lives in the terraced cottage should secretly aspire to live in the gated mansion across the road? Am I heck. I am saying that by the merest teeny tiny acknowledgement that we are both entitled to and capable of better, we create the kind of subtle aftershocks that influence a hundred other aspects of who we are and what we expect from our time on this earth. I am saying we don’t have to do the same things for the rest of our lives. That we can be different. Better. More satisfied. Less damn discombobulated…
* Giving up the modern trashy novels we indulge in daily for the occasional classic or vintage novel. If only so that occasionally stretch our imaginations beyond that which we already know to be true and cease fearing classic works, which are very often more accessible than one would ever believe.
*  Choosing to learn something we barely understand. Making the liberating move from Blogger to WordPress. Fathoming out the mysteries that are HTML and CSS.
* Giving up TV-Dinners. Laying the table. Cleaning the bathroom truly, madly, deeply. Sleeping under starched sheets. Remembering to use the lavender linen spray that helps us sleep.
* Committing to replacing at least one thing in our basket with it’s organic or wholefood alternative. Buying the posh biscuits and eating fewer, but truly enjoying those that we do. Buying dark chocolate instead of milk. Skimmed instead of semi. Deliciously salty Normandy butter instead of that same old margerine.
* Stretching our budget to buy the moisturiser that we KNOW makes a difference to our skin instead of constantly settling for  the greasy substitute we can chuck into our trolley in the supermarket. Saving up to go back to the hairdresser who made us feel a million dollars.
* Speaking out when somebody says something that hurts us instead of allowing that kind of tiny pain to fester and swell.
* Expecting more from our children. Asking them to do something properly and having the energy to make sure they see it through.
* Making a fabulous three course meal weekly. The kind of meal that  acknowledges your relationship and has you striving to improve your culinary prowess.
* Walking away from gossip because we are better than that. Actually walking full stop. Walking and walking and walking till we can’t walk no more because there is so much to see and no better company than ourselves.
You see?
This isn’t about huge ambition or ludicrous aspiration. It is about making the effort. It is about subtly making changes to the way that we already live our life. It’s about saying I don’t have to live in this little hole I have dug for myself. For all of us. I can dig a whole new tunnel or pop my head up out of the ground occasionally just for the pleasure of feeling the sun on my face. I don’t have to buy the best, but neither do I have to settle for the worst. Settling is TERRIBLE. Settling is MISERABLE. Settling leads to WITHERING and trust me, there is nothing worse, than a withered woman. She is a bitter and twisted and gnarled old thing. Even if she is still bleaching her hair and looking for all intents and purposes like she is surviving with aplomb.
It is about abandoning envy and working on ourselves: giving up laziness and moment by moment, task by task, chipping away at all the petty fears that keep us bouyed to our current lives, treading water and staring longingly at far off islands and distant horizons. Fears of financial ruin because today you bought Heinz instead of supermarket own brand beans. Fears that no-one will love you if you get a little high-brow in your taste in movies. Fears that others will find you ridiculous or your husband will shout or your Mum will be disappointed or you won’t understand or it will hurt your head or you will bankrupt the family coffers or your kids will pack their suitcases and go and live with the Mummy less silly down the road.
Because make no mistake about it: this is about fear and we don’t have to be cowards all our lives.
We can be better. Get to it today my Sweet.x


  1. Susan says:

    Oh, I so so love this post. And I agree whole heartedly-especially about never ever "settling". And believe it or not, you actually SAVE money by never settling, because you buy EXACTLY what you want and that's it. There is no bigger waste of time, money, and emotions, than getting something with the plan of upgrading at a later time. What a waste. You lose not only the money spent on the original junk, but also lose precious time of enjoyment you get from having the original object of your affections. This applies to everything, from a divinely soft set of sheets to a favorite outfit. Don't settle!!

  2. gina in RI says:

    Very well written! Thank you!

  3. Amy Feistel says:

    Thank you for this post. I needed a gentle reminder to let go of my fears.

  4. What a fantastic, inspiring post.

  5. Victoria says:

    I love this post! I actually feel happier having read it than I did before 🙂 Thank you. FormSpring asked me a question this morning that said, "If you could wake up as anyone tomorrow, who would it be?" Me, of course! But you're right, maybe my answer should have been, "A better version of me". I'm going to cook a proper dinner tonight!

  6. Wendy says:

    Oh Thank you Alison!!!! I came home from errands to read your lovely post and in it I read that I could do just one little thing at a time. Not everything at once. Borrowed a cookbook from a friend to make a new list of never before tried recipes. Bought some storage boxes today while out to start sorting pictures for my family and scrapbooks for the girls. Am learning French with my teenager. Just to add 2 cents worth…..How do you eat an elephant? ONE bite at a time! This was a wonderful post. Thank you for the back up encouragement and heres to being a better me! And a better YOU!

    1. Victoria says:

      Wendy – I'm a vegetarian. Maybe I can use the phrase: "how do you eat an Oak tree?" Do you think that works? 🙂

      1. brocantehome says:

        Whether it works or not Victoria , it made me giggle…

  7. Carlie says:

    Upgrading my life….what a great thought. Will have to ruminate on what exactly I should do for the cause. Am inspired and feel like you've given me a very boosting kick in the pants.

  8. Megan says:

    Thankyou! xxxxoooooxxxx Megan

  9. Lesley says:

    Awesome post. All very, very true. Except for one thing. Milk chocolate rules! There I said it. I'm out of the closet! Love plain choccy in a cake, cookie et., but for sheer comfort and warm fuzziness – only Dairy Milk will do, I'm afraid. 🙂

    1. brocantehome says:

      I eat plain chocolate because I have convinced myself it is medicinal…

  10. Valerie says:

    I always believe in bettering, but sometimes I'm my own worst enemy, because there are so many ways I want to better my life that I grow frustrated I can't do them all. It's hard to have to choose some and leave others behind or wait for them. Patience, I say to myself, patience.

    1. brocantehome says:

      Have you read Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott Valerie?

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