The French have the brilliant expression “les excuses sont faites pour s’en servir”: excuses were made to be put to use. If that isn’t the best excuse for using excuses. Put that way, one owes it to the stock of excuses to set them free occasionally and let them have some fun. It would be rude not to.
The expression conjures an image of a dusty shelf with lots of pigeon holes, each holding a blob of different size and colour. Much like the old apothecary shelf my mother inherited from her doctor dad that we used as a library and display-a-bit-of-everything. It had a gazillion small drawers in the lower half, and cell shelves at the top. It filled an entire wall of the living room. As a child I thought it an amazing treasure trove. I could never quite remember which drawer held what because there were many more than I could count, so I liked to go open a few drawers on a rainy afternoon just to see what I might find.
Or it might look like the shelves in the Ministry in Harry Potter where the prophecies are stored. In any case, excuses are like little creatures that want to come out and play, tiny genies with a mind of their own. Take one off the shelf and it senses what you need right that moment. It will work with you if you let it, and if you have chosen wisely. Pick the wrong excuse, or fight it, and things can go badly wrong. The genie doesn’t gel with you and takes over the agenda. You end up with a story that just sounds fishy. Think Joey from Friends. Pick one that suits you, and it can carry you far and wide. No matter how outrageous the excuse, you are so attuned it just works. Whether you are convincing yourself or somebody else. Although I find it works particularly well on yourself.
You mustn’t work with the same excuse too often either. Again, think Joey: the genie gets stuck in a rut that digs a deeper ring around you every time. I did try this for a while, thinking the excuse would warm to me and get ever more personal and real. It doesn’t. It starts to enjoy its power and stops caring about you. Better to pull out a few different ones and let them vie for your attention.
Remember that you are doing excuses a favour by using them – it is ok to remind them of this from time to time. They like to shine, and they learn and get richer with every use. Which means you are really training excuses for the benefit of your fellow human beings. Noble, right?
I have done some fabulous venting this week. If you have never tried venting I must urge you to have a go. I don’t mean the polite and useful kind:
More something like this:
Pressure point reached, I unleashed all the pent-up worries and frustration until the magma seas were calm again. And now I am ready for a relaxing weekend.
We are planning a trip to Belgium in a couple of weeks. Spending time with family and hanging around, enjoying the company and the things I miss back home. Actually, there’s been a major improvement on the “goodies I miss” front since last week: Sainsbury’s supermarket now stocks grey shrimps! I love them! Now I don’t have to take a car fridge anymore to bring some back. But I digress. Husband can feel a bit bored, as he doesn’t understand everything that is going on. He wants to play tourist sometimes. It is more difficult than you’d think to keep coming up with places an outsider might find interesting. I have told him I think we’ve pretty much covered the tourist hotspots. Belgium is about the size of a stamp, remember. Husband changes tack. He wants me to take him around where I grew up. He has been asking for years and I have managed to divert his attention to touristy things so far. What do I do now?
It is not that I have anything to hide. I have not run away from anything particularly, nor am I wanted for some ancient misdemeanor. And yet I have not been back to the town where I grew up for 20 odd years and am still reluctant to do so. I have been musing over what exactly I don’t want to face up to, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. I am probably not being honest with myself. Maybe I should schedule a night time session with myself to get some true answers. One thing I am clear about is that seeing our former home again, my home for the first 22 years of my life, passed down seven generations in the family and now some stranger’s home, is going to be emotional. A tangle of emotions at the memories of growing up there and the loss of it all. I am just not sure I want to open that box again. I have managed to move on by looking ahead, not back. I also worry about the impact it might have on my parents if I told them we were going there. I probably wouldn’t tell them. Husband understands, even if he doesn’t know every detail. Things have happened in his life too. But I also understand he would like to fill in the blanks in my history. He won’t force me; I’ll have to make my own decision.
The simpler but still unresolved decision is whether I should contact some of the people from way back then. There are some I hope I won’t run into in town, and if I do, I might pretend I don’t recognize them; there are also a few people it might be nice to reconnect with. At times it seems as if my history only goes about ten years back. I do feel home where I have decided to peg my tent. But maybe it is time to reconnect with older, deeper roots to find a more comfortable way of living with those closed boxes.
For now I’ll promise husband to show him the town, and I’ll decide on the day whether to go to the house. Depending on how strong I feel. I have another two weeks to reach out to people I may or may not like to see again – plenty of time for night time resolution.
More is always better! Never too much of a good thing! I am finding that these are just slogans sly sales people fling at you. I had no intention of experimenting, it was put upon me. Poor me. Allow me to explain why this is plain wrong:
It was my birthday not that long ago (celebration of another year’s wisdom won), and my parents had sent me a HUGE box of fresh chocolates from a local chocolatier. Heaven! I told the rest of the family in no uncertain terms that they were to be very very nice to me if they wanted me to share. Always a bonus. There is no better chocolate than Belgian pralines, I absolutely love them. You select a few and enjoy them ideally with freshly brewed black coffee. But you can’t possibly eat half a box, they’re just too rich. So I stash the box, carefully rewrapped, with the Belgian beers (Tripel Karmeliet and Westmalle mostly) in the garage. The perfect storage temperature for both this time of year. They’ve been there a week now and there still is nearly half a box left. I have enjoyed a few every day of the week, and they don’t nearly taste as heavenly as they did anymore. They are still in mint condition, but my palate is going stale. I am beginning to consider sharing.
Apparently this happened to someone known to a colleague of mine. I can’t stop fantasizing how on earth he got there. I must ask my colleague next week to expand on this summary he dangled out there, to get us all to reveal something nobody else knows we have done.
What intrigues me most is the wetsuit. What was he plotting in the middle of Paris that would require a wetsuit? Exploring the catacombs via the sewage system? I imagine rats and cobwebs, drip-drip-dripping and dank air. Dark – with a flame torch. But he was probably just getting ready for a stag party wasn’t he.
How do you get into a disused metro station? Does anyone even know where there is one? Maybe the Parisians do. Again I conjure dank darkness, where there may actually have been stark fluorescent lighting that nobody had bothered to cut off. I picture the lone diver plodding towards the hole in the wall that leads to the catacombs, while he probably was just drinking beer with his mates. And he was probably arrested for trespassing. How boringly mundane.
What should I reveal about myself? That I once walked into the office full of young men (I was their age then) with my black skirt tucked into my sunny yellow underwear? Nah, I’ve probably already told someone that. That I have eaten jellyfish? Boring. That I once had a brief chat with Harrison Ford in a lift? Yeah, I may go with that one.