Today the carefully arranged mask of Zen which I discovered in my course last week and had actually started to believe could be my true and serene self spectacularly slipped aside to reveal a considerably less calm interior. Unsurprisingly this has led to an upsurge of those familiar feelings of failure and frustration I’d hitherto been doing an impressive job of burying somewhere in the back of my unconscious (along with jealousy, bitterness, anger, rage and all the other unwanted emotions that reside there – although those ones I have at least managed to batten down the hatches on again).
The most frustrating thing is that I know the way I’m feeling is in almost entirely self-inflicted. I spent the weekend over indulging, entirely neglecting my body and mind’s requirements for healthy food, sleep and nurturing (and, let’s face it, this body and mind aren’t getting any younger). As a result both body and mind became unbalanced, and it’s only now as I begin to recognise this and pay some recompense to both that the situation can begin to be resolved. It’s hardly rocket science – disrespect your body and it will disrespect you back (or something to that effect) – though it seems I’m failing in this most rudimentary of comprehensions.
But you know what? It may be how the day began but wallowing is most certainly not how I want this day to end. The plethora of ‘problems’ I perceive when I’m tired and emotional are First World problems; none have serious repercussions. Instead of letting my brain dwell on negative thoughts I shall, for the remainder of this day, embrace the positive ones – of which there are so many – and be glad. So what if I’m tired and a bit out of sorts? I had a great weekend with my friends – and it was worth every minute. Now if somebody could just pass the Berocca…
On the way home from work today I was ruminating on the idea of having a personal happiness quota. If such a thing exists I’ve already moved considerably further towards the top end of mine by changing jobs and taking the decision to reduce my working week to four days a week (even if it does mean less money coming in – though maybe best to reserve this particular declaration of happiness until after my first pay cheque’s cleared).
Another way I’ve increased my happiness rating over the past few years has been through incorporating competitive exercise into my routine (not that you’d know it if you’d been watching me over the past week, slovenliness having set in a little in the wake of my last race). And over the past couple of days I’ve managed to crank the score up further still by signing up to the Take Ten programme by Headspace, a daily ten minute guided meditation which already has me feeling more calm and in control of my life.
So, you may ask, if everything’s going so well what’s stopping me from hitting the top rung of the happiness ladder? I’ll tell you what: My commute. After months of travelling to work on the new extended overland train to Shoreditch I’d almost forgotten the trauma that is the Northern line in rush hour. Now I’m working in London Bridge, however, it’s proving unavoidable.
There’s are few things worse than spending the 20 minutes before reaching the office and the 20 minutes after leaving it face-in-armpit with a total stranger – especially now it’s nearing summertime when the airless tubes turn into human microwaves (readers of my old blog may remember the time a six foot four inch giant fainted ON TOP OF ME at the end of a packed tube carriage on the hottest day in summer – NEVER AGAIN).
If I’m to avoid a summer of discontent it’s becoming patently obvious I’m going to have to find an alternative way to cover the four odd miles from Clapham to London Bridge. And the obvious solution is to get on my bike and cycle there. Not only will it keep me fit (possibly negating the need for a new gym membership?), it will also save me considerable money on the cost of tube fare. So what’s stopping me from getting on and doing it? The fear of becoming a statistic after having an unfortunate collision with a lorry, that’s what. I know you shouldn’t live your life thinking ‘what if,’ but when it comes to road sense I’m woefully lacking – at nine years old I cycled round a roundabout the wrong way, nearly giving my parents a heart attack in the process.
All of which leaves me in quite the dilemma: Do I face my fear and cycle or face a summer of discontent on a smelly tube train? I think I know what you’re all saying: Get on your bike! Right? Right. Now where did I put that pump?
This was taken during my triathlon last September – incidentally (and shamefully) also the last time I did actually get on my bike…
In the spirit of positivity to which I have become accustomed so far this year, I am refusing to let anything – and I do mean anything – get me down. As long as my friends and family are healthy and happy nothing else matters. Because, when you break it down, everything else in life is just transient. What’s important is the support network you have around you, the people with whom you can be your true self – warts and all. They’re the ones who’ve been beside you through the good times and carried you through the hard times, and they’re the ones who’ll be there for years to come.
I truly believe everything happens for a reason, and that if you’re a fundamentally good and honest person then good things will come your way. Only this afternoon when I’d left my wallet at home and had the sum total of 50p in my pocket to buy lunch, I put my hand into my coat pocket and found a five pound note. That may not seem strange to you, but I’m not the kind of person who leaves money in their pockets. I’ve really no idea how that five pound note got there and I’m sure there’s a very rational explanation, but, whether fate or serendipity in that moment I felt reassured that everything was going to be okay. When I left the shop with a sandwich in my bag I gave the 50p I’d started with to a man who was begging outside. It felt somehow cathartic.
Onwards and upwards is the best mantra to adopt in any negative situation – always believe good things are just on the horizon. What harm can it do?
I took this photo from the balcony of my 5* hotel in Borneo, at the end of my three month volunteer placement with Raleigh International in 2011. It was the end of an amazing journey, which this sunset seemed to perfectly sum up. Now another journey’s drawing to a close and there are exciting times ahead, of that I’m certain.
Tonight I unintentionally put Professor Daniel Gilbert’s theory (which I mentioned in yesterday’s Bea article about happiness) into practice. Having woken up with a sore throat I spent the whole day feeling increasingly less keen to go to my first running club session after work. As the day progressed I thought of every excuse under the sun to not have to go. The front runner (if you’ll excuse the pun) was the fact I felt worse after running 3k at the gym last night, so running 8k outside would almost certainly make me more ill. Fortunately my sensible Twitter followers coerced me by citing the ‘below the neck’ rule, and as my lurgy was most definitely above the neck I decided I had run out of excuses and would give the run a try (I can’t deny the scone and slice of cake consumed at a colleague’s leaving do in the afternoon was also a contributing factor to my need to exercise).
I digress. So how did I put Professor Gilbert’s theory into practice, exactly? Well, I did the run, and at the end of it I thought how much I had enjoyed it and how glad I was to have done it. I even wondered why I’d made such a big deal of it and spent so long trying to talk myself out of going. What Professor Gilbert would no doubt say about this is that when imagining the run – in what was then my present – I was feeling unwell, and was only able to imagine doing the run whilst feeling unwell, which led to me overestimating how bad I would feel whilst actually doing it. As it turned out I felt much better by the time I started the run anyway, and so when the run became my present I was able to enjoy it far more than I had imagined.
Realising this has been a revelation. I’m actually rather stunned!
By the way, in case you’re wondering, I’m thinking of amending the ‘past post’ rule of this blog so that I occasionally post something I’ve written before, but it doesn’t have to be every week. I’m delighted to say I’m enjoying writing something new every day so much I’m finding I don’t want to post old pieces of work (most of which I’m now viewing with a more critical eye anyway and deciding they’re not up to scratch for publication).
Tomorrow’s the last day of January – one month done and still going strong! Who says New Year’s Resolutions are hard to keep?
Here’s the image that comes to mind when I think about things that weren’t as bad as I imagined. I’d built myself up into a frenzy of worry when I did my first triathlon in 2009, but on the day of the event (as you can see in this pic) I quite enjoyed it! Bar the swimming. I bloody hated that part.