ORIGINS OF THE SAYING
It is thought to date way back to a Latin proverb translated into English in the sixteenth century telling people that ‘the corn in another man’s ground seems ever more fertile and plentiful that does your own.’ So pleased that I am not having to read the Latin version as I was hopeless at Latin in school. In fact, I actually made the Latin teacher swear as my exam result was so poor. At least it made the rest of the class giggle, if somewhat nervously!
The translation leaves me with a very bucolic scene in mind. A scene involving a farmer leaning on his pitchfork surveying his crop, maybe even, stereotypically of such scenes, chewing on a blade of corn. He is comparing his own crop unfavourably with his neighour’s crop which is presumably heading towards giving a better yield than his own. I have to say that I do on occasion look at neighbours’ lawns and wonder why mine, despite much moss raking, feeding and cutting doesn’t look as good as theirs! I then set about convincing myself that mine is fit for purpose, despite a few bumps and the still remaining moss. Yes, I have the occasional game of croquet on my lawn, with said bumps providing a natural hazard for all players. An extra element of challenge which adds to the interest being used as my ‘reason’ for allowing the bumps to remain! As it won’t be being called upon to act as a bowling green, football or cricket pitch, I AM able to stand back and accept that for me, my friends and the furry, feathered or squirmy visitors to my garden it is absolutely fine. If I add in that moss is apparently better for our environment that grass, even better. So I stop making comparisons, until I see an immaculately manicured stretch of lawn with neither a weed nor a patch of moss in sight. I then have to simply admire it for what it is and the effort that has gone in to making the grass flourish. I switch off the comparing and lawn envy and switch on to admiration of a job well done instead. A much more healthy attitude, so long as I don’t slip down the road of not bothering with mine as I am absolutely sure that I cannot reach such a high standard. I can only do my best and that is all that any of us can ever do.
Then we have the sheep, as in the picture, or the goats, cattle etc who will hunker down or stretch their necks to get through to chomp the grass just through the fence. The grass that hasn’t already been grazed on and trampled under many hooved feet. In my local farm shop, my granddaughter always chuckles at the animals doing this. The animals are probably further encouraged by the grass being rich with the pickings from the bags of food sold to enable children to hand feed the beasts. The many bits that didn’t make it through the fence. Maybe dropped as little fingers were drawn back when approached by a hairy face sporting large teeth and a food seeking tongue! My granddaughter is one of the many children who like to pick this longer grass and proffer it before the animals move down the fence line to a hand filled with the food from the little plastic bags.
USUAL MEANING OF THE GREENER VERSION OF THE GRASS
As I said, the saying is usually used in a metaphorical rather than a literal way. I wonder if this was the case when it was spoken in Latin?
That metaphorical greener grass that may be divided from us by a literal fence or one in our own mind. The grass representing what may be deemed to be out of reach. Yet, it is reachable by others better equipped for the reaching, or maybe even ourselves if we put in a fair amount of effort. Out of reach yet maybe dreamed about, longed for. A land of endless opportunities and possibilities. Home to those with ‘more’ than us. More money, more education, more opportunities, more support. We can spend our days, often the whole of our lives on our side of that fence, treading our own grass and dreaming of the life we believe we would, could, maybe even should be leading over on that greener grass – on the other side. Seemingly so near, yet so far away.
Lives that we convince ourselves would be so much better as we would have better clothes, a bigger house, a bigger car. We would have the job of our dreams or maybe even have no need to work as we had been so successful – or even bought that elusive lottery ticket. The one that would have led to more than our usual one or two correct numbers. Time doesn’t seem to be in such short supply over there as so much would be freely available for us to do the things that we always dreamt of doing. Travelling to exotic destinations. Spend time simply doing what we choose to do in this amazing place – the place that is where we would be .... if only.
This daydreaming of the land beyond the rainbow, presumably with that pot of gold waiting to be found always focuses on the positives. Usually whilst comparing with your own negatives. A far from fair and balanced consideration, but hey, you’ve probably already decided that life isn’t fair for you.
Does such a comparison bring you happiness? Almost certainly not. OK, maybe for a few moments when you imagine having that huge cheque handed to you and you begin your mental shopping and wish list. However, the quicker that you stop comparing your life with the lives of others, the better. I wonder how many of us turn the imagining around and consider those who may be looking at our lot with envious eyes. Maybe those feeling cold, hungry and unloved? This is always a good way to ground ourselves, to remember our warm bed, the food on our table, water at the turn of a tap. How they would happily accept a job that was repetitive and lacking in glamour; to have the money to be able to get on a bus or to dream of owning a rusty old car. The other side of someone else’s fence puts our here and now into perspective.
Back to those on that green, green grass. Are the people we envy really happy? What of the peer pressure to always have the best and look their best even if this isn’t how they are feeling?
INSTEAD OF CLIMBING THAT METAPHORICAL FENCE –
The grass is not always greener, in fact the grass that you are currently using as your view point would almost certainly be just as green if you (metaphorically) watered it. I came across a riposte to the saying, though I am unable to source it – it suggests ‘If the grass looks greener on the other side, stop staring, comparing, and complaining, and start watering the grass that you’re on.’
First of all, take off those rose tinted glasses when peering over the fence. You have no idea of the paddling going on under the water for others, or what goes on behind the closed doors of bigger, better homes, or celebrity homes.
Instead, take a good look at yourself in the cold light of day. How can you change things for the better – as with making your own grass greener simply by watering and feeding it. Nourishing your body and your mind.
A good starting place is with a healthy dose of gratitude. Gratitude for the many things that you have – beyond that bed, that food and that water – that are so very much taken for granted. We have so much in this western world of ours that we do not recognise as being worthy of our gratitude. OK, things go wrong with us and our possessions. We have medical, alternative, food solutions to help us. As for our belongings – how lucky are we to have people around ‘who can’ when we can’t. The local garage, the various trades people, the shops providing our food and other on-going necessities. Then we have a Google search or our local social media to track down those that we are unsure about.
I continue to sandwich each of my days with gratitude – when I go to bed and when I get up. Even when I have had what may have felt like a bad day, that bedtime gratitude enables me to recognise that, in fact, it hasn’t all been bad. I had been focusing too much on the negative to recognise it at the time. It’s good to right that focus.
NO CHECKING IN OVER THE FENCE!
It’s always a good idea to make these decisions without referring back to the folk over the fence. Looking at their here and now. Instead, refer to your own back story – how you got to where you are at this moment in time. Recognise what went well and you would therefore choose to continue, all things being equal. Recognise any mistakes that you have made whilst remembering that these were in the past and you, circumstances, finances, health, relationships could be very different now.
Then, it’s on with deciding what you wish to get rid of in your life and what you choose to nourish and develop.
Do some weeding out of the not needed, not helping you, not worth the input of energy, not worth the financial commitment – anything that isn’t in your best interests.
Then move on to the watering stage. Choose what you are to continue with. How you will develop, maybe expand on this – could this include expanding a hobby that you enjoy, an interest, into a business. I love it when I meet people who have done this. They have honed their skills in a particular field.
Finally – do you need to spread any seed around on bare patches – patches that need nurturing to bring your proverbial grass up to par on meeting the greenness criteria. For those who have developed that new venture, this has probably involved adding on the necessary business skills such as account keeping, marketing. They have then stepped away from the security of their previous work to focus entirely on their new venture. They have made their own patch of greenery something of which they can be justifiably proud. Whilst they may check out others who are further on along a similar path, hopefully this is not an envious look, rather than one seeing inspiration to further nurture their own efforts.
How wonderful if they then go on to take a step to support someone wanting to improve the lives of themselves and their family in a third world country. As described in the Guardian.com, or seen on television adverts, a small loan, of around £15 - £20 is all that is required from a number of equally small investors. A small sewing, cooking, farming business is set up or expanded.. The investment is repaid, or can be offered to another project.. paying on in support of others.
In response to the question in my introduction, I guess that it depends on how you view life. Your values. I will leave it to you to decide which camp you place yourself in. Maybe sit on the proverbial fence for a while and glance in both directions as you reflect on what and who you are. I’m all for a healthy dose of self-reflection.
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