How a Girl's Holiday Saved My Life
It’s easy to get ground down by life. There’s bad news (lots of it). There’s feeling knackered all the time (what is this whole tiredness epidemic anyway?) There’s the pressure to be a good parent, partner and have a glittering, shiny successful career. Yes come to think about it, that’s where the tiredness comes from…it’s the pressure to be all things to all people ALL THE DAMN TIME.
I’ve tried all sorts of things to counteract the stresses of modern life. The most obvious one is spending money I haven’t got on stuff I don’t need. Each time I do this I project myself into a fantasy future where this jacket/lipstick/top will signal the start of a whole new persona (I am in my forties and still haven’t twigged how ridiculous this is!) The next is usually food (investing in healthy brown rice/gruel one minute and then gorging on bags of Walkers Prawn Cocktail the next). Alcohol looms large on the list of stress busters. I even have a mindfulness app which tells me that all my problems are flying out of two holes in my feet whilst my head fills with yellow light.
But I’ve discovered something that works more than all of these things put together…what is it you ask?
A GIRL’S ONLY HOLIDAY.
Okay maybe I should say women as we’re not GIRLS. These are WOMEN that I’ve known since school. We smoked our first fags together. We sampled our first booze. We threw up because we made all our choices on price/relative alcohol content. We had our first snogs (not with one another but sometimes with the same boy on the same night). We shaved our eyebrows off (or at least I did. They weren’t as stupid). We gained weight and lost it again. We met our partners. Split up. Met new ones. Got jobs. Started to get lines around our eyes. Moved to new countries and came back. Had children. The point is we have a lot of shared history.
Every year these girls, sorry women, go on holiday together. The same hotel, the same place (Palma) and three days maximum. Each year there had been a reason for me NOT to go (trying to get pregnant, miscarriages, pregnant, tiny baby, slightly bigger baby, toddler) and this year, well this year I just bit the bullet and said YES.
It was a beach holiday with no dirty, sand covered bottoms. No screaming. No schlepping the buggy. No walking up and down the beach looking for ice lollies. I’d compare it to swimming in winter pyjamas with bricks in your pocket to swimming in the nude. We talked about the influence of Instagram, the relative merits of different sexual positions, musical genres that we no longer understood, ‘Game of Thrones’, how unattractive Chris Martin is and the different boys we’d snogged (always using their first AND second names – isn’t it funny how you always do that when you talk about people from school?) Sometimes one of us would go quiet and fall asleep. The next conversation would start up a bit more quietly like a delicate verbal relay.
We drank a lot. We cackled like hags.
‘Do you remember Jamie?
‘The one with the fat face?’
‘No the one with the tiny nose and the leather jacket.’
‘Oh god I do.’
‘He was a good dancer.’
‘He was terrible.’
‘He was a good kisser.’
‘Did you kiss him?’
‘Oh no that was that one with the perm. The bad perm. Kyle?’
At night we wore clothes that were white and easy to stain. And shoes that cut our feet so badly that I am still hobbling about, three days after my return. We took clutch bags (no wipes/change of pants/snacks etc.). We’d forgotten what it feels like to laugh so hard that your stomach is throbbing. Before the holiday I’d felt low. Okay neutral. The year had been a mix of good and bad but the bad has been bad enough to chip away. My head definitely wasn’t full of yellow light and all the bad stuff was still stuck somewhere around my stomach area. I’d started to think this is personal.
The girl’s holiday was selfish. It was irresponsible. Looking at these old friends I realised something significant. Love is sometimes the only thing that can redress the balance (and an embroidered jacket from Zara won’t). Like Caitlin Moran once said in a letter to her daughter:
‘Choose your friends because you feel most like yourself around them, because the jokes are easy and you feel like you’re in your best outfit when you’re with them, even though you’re just in a T-shirt.’
Being with friends (whether it’s on a holiday or just simply meeting up for a drink) is sometimes the only thing you need. It helps you escape the grind, the struggle and the disappointments. It helps you feel less tired.
In a tiny yet significant way this girls holiday saved my life.