I spend a fair amount of time each day sitting in the waiting room of the Cancer Clinic, so I've invented a game to stop myself getting bored. It's a little macabre, and I can't see Hasbro fighting for the copyright. It's called: Who's Got Cancer?
You see most people come in with a partner or a buddy. You know one of them has cancer, but not which one. Until the receptionist calls a name, and you see who responds.
Sometimes it's pretty easy to deduce. It's the one with the suspiciously luxuriant hair, but no eyebrows, eyelashes or arm hair, for example.
However, sometimes it's really difficult.
I try very hard to NOT look like a cancer patient. I turn up as if dressed for the theatre (Shakespeare, not operating). I wear heels, cashmere and fur trim. It makes me feel better. Plus, I'm usually the youngest person there by a decade or two, which makes me feel additionally glamorous (if a tad unlucky).
Today a young couple walked in. They were both gorgeous. Radiantly healthy looking. I was bamboozled. Turns out it was him - poor sod. Testicular? Hope so - it's got good odds.
(The problem is that I know everyone else is playing this game too. I've had a cold, but try desperately not to cough, Because every time I do I can see someone thinking uh oh. Secondary tumours in the lungs (terminal) All of us have become amateur medics, you see).
Then a middle aged lady arrived. She was French, and had that effortless, Parisian chic. I assumed early stage breast cancer (like me).
She had her daughter with her, around twelve years old - the same age as #1. Nice of her to come with her Mum, I thought. And she looked really cheerful about it, despite it being a precious day of the Christmas holidays.
As I watched surreptitiously, the daughter pushed up her sleeve revealing a chemo cannula. I felt like I'd been punched. You see, there is something way worse than having cancer treatment: watching your child have cancer treatment.
(Listen up, angel of destiny. I'm taking this bullet for my family, so don't even think about pointing a finger at one of my children. Or Mr SM).
What this game has taught me is that you can never tell what's really going on in people's lives.
Maybe part of the reason you drank was because you looked at the perfect lives of the people around you and wondered where you went wrong? Drink was a consolation, taking the edge off that feeling of dissatisfaction, of unfulfilled potential, of stuck-in-a-rut-ness.
But the truth is, nobody's life is perfect. You never know who's dealing with a life threatening illness, a sick child, a parent with dementia, a job that bores them stupid or a partner they secretly despise.
A friend told me that after her parents got divorced, her mother told her never to take the 'life-and-soul' couples at face value. She said that the reason they're always at every party, always having fun, is that they can't bear being alone together. She knew because that used to be her.
So stop envying other people's lives, and start living your own. Really living it. Because, like the grit in the oyster that forms a pearl, it's the imperfections in our lives that (eventually) make us strong, unique and beautiful. So long as we deal with them, and don't just drown them out with buckets of vino.
Here's to all of us perfectly, imperfect people, making our imperfect lives just that bit more perfect - one day at a time.