How to be happy even if you're English

what is happiness and how to get it


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How to respond nicely to an aggressive encounter (forgive me, I couldn’t help it)

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Dear _____

It was good to see you in the corridor the other day. Sorry I didn’t have chance to say hello before you shouted at me.

I do appreciate just how cross you were that my eleven year old son and his friends woke you when they came up the stairs at 5 30 from their camping expedition in the garden. It is a shame that the sun rises so early in the summer and they felt compelled to get up and dressed.  When I offered advance warning of his birthday party and said they might come upstairs in the night for the toilet, or if they were scared, I hadn’t considered this scenario.  I do apologise.

When I said they were nice boys (all five of them) I sincerely believed it. I fully understand from your comments that this is not the case. Clearly nice 11 year olds do not jump on stairways. However I am immensely relieved that no other residents heard this atrocious behaviour.  Again, please accept my apologies.

It was lovely how so many residents (some I’d never met before) expressed how delighted they were to see the little camp hidden under the willow tree.  One even said how relieved he was, as he felt he’d made the wrong move coming here. I felt truly welcomed by this and other positive responses. It was encouraging that others share my belief that children should enjoy the freedom of a night in the garden.  It is such a dream spot, under the willow tree by the brook.  I had it in mind that all the boys would treasure such an experience. Especially being woken by a snuffling badger – how rare that must be these days!  Perhaps it was selfish of me.

On a minor note, I hope you will not be offended by a positive suggestion.  I generally find it helpful, in unexpected meetings, to offer a positive greeting before any grievances are unleashed to those clearly unknowing of a situation. Luckily I am fairly perceptive and was able to perceive how aggrieved you were by your face and gesticulations.  Not everyone is so fortunate, and others less sensitive might have felt threatened by the unusual volume .  I do apologise for my response, but I was caught off-guard by your assertion that placing a tyre swing under the tree has brought ‘undersirables’ to the area.

I’m relieved that, like me, other residents haven’t noticed any such types around.  This is puzzling as unlike you my balcony overlooks the tree.  I have been pleased on 3 occasions to see families on the swing (once with the grandparents taking photos) and I did once see two men who I mistook for the tree surgeons. It turned out one had brought his friend to see the spot, as he had fished there frequently as a boy and loved it so much, which was nice. I am sure you were trying not to worry me but If you do see more ‘undesirable’ types, I would consider it a neighbourly gesture if you could warn me.  Meanwhile I am sure you are right that they are being drawn by the swing, although it’s not visible until you’re under the canopy, and so I will of course remove it.

This is such a lovely secluded spot and my boys regularly remark on how lucky we are.  I had thought it a positive thing to encourage my children to enjoy the tree and the wildlife it brings.  We all share such a delight when the heron visits.  I hadn’t considered that locating a swing wouldn’t be a good idea, but perhaps they should just watch the squirrels from the balcony in future.

I do hope we can continue to maintain a good relationship and put this behind us.  Do feel free to say ‘hello’ any time.

Warm regards, Jane

PS I had considered putting a table and chairs under the tree for residents to share tea and a chat.  Would this be a bad idea, do you think?

 

Grrrrr 🙂


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The business of humanity

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There’s nothing quite like a successful person with a genuine smile to cheer the spirits.  I really enjoy seeing my perceptions and assumptions challenged in any area, but around money and wealth in particular. I was hard-wired to view wealth as the product of capitalist evil.

Encountering people who have created wealth whilst endeavouring to operate their business with integrity and genuine desire for betterment inspires me.  This list could apply to any one of us in any degree of interaction, and should.

Hats off to Richard and his smiley face.


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It’s in the name

Next month my passport’s up for renewal. The question is this; do I make a straightforward renewal in my married name, or revert to my maiden name?

This wouldn’t be an issue at all if

a) I’d stayed married

b) I hadn’t taken my husbands surname or

c) it didn’t matter. But here we are.

I guess that

a) was ultimately my decision (I never should have gone there, though I loved him to bits).

b) also my decision, though long deliberated over. My guiding thought here was having the same name as my children, who already had their father’s name.  Goodness, we complicate things.

c) in a way doesn’t matter, because who I am remains unchanged no matter what name I answer to. But having adopted authenticity as my guiding principle, it kind of does. I was given a name at birth. That is my name. But to change back requires an immense rigmarole, affecting all my accounts and trappings.

I’ve no preference to either. They’re both fairly standard, get-on-with-it kind of names. Very practical.  My married name’s longer, so my signature drops off the planet at the end, which my first never did.  There was a directness, a vibrancy, in a short surname that I liked. Only two syllables in the entire name, which is as punchy as you can get. It irked when I was young, but now that simplicity appeals.

If I had my ex’s attributed name, things might be different.

My ex likes his coffee.  A lot.  He likes it particularly hot, so walks backwards and forwards to the counter in cafés getting it re-steamed.  This earned him the honorary title ‘Walks with Fresh Cup’, which is poetic for an expensive habit that became less poetic over time.

Thinking about it, I could have been Jane-who-walks-with-walks-with-Fresh-Cup once we married.  You’d walk tall with a name like that, but it would be harder to fit on the signature line. Logically, post divorce I’d be Jane-who-used-to-walk-with-walk-with-Fresh-Cup, which doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue but is certainly memorable.  Not a name to mess with.

I’m digressing.

Its a mystery to me why the Western world pays so little deference or creativity to names.  It wasn’t always thus.  Not so long ago we had names like Constance, Faith and Grace. Names that spoke gravity and purpose. In Africa I met a fabulous dynamic young woman whose parents had the foresight to name her Independence. She was that, personified.

Oh to have a glorious name like Crazy Horse, Wind-in-the-Face or Touch the Clouds. Who wouldn’t follow a name like that?  A name that would lead a Chief to glory, despite himself.  A name to live up to.   A guiding light.

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Western names are veiled, and unless you’re royalty or somesuch (Lord Louis Mountbatten springs to mind, though there are better examples).  I swear they do it to keep us down.  (No aspirations for you, my girl; Plain Jane will suffice).

Jane has Hebrew roots and means ‘God is gracious’, which is rather lovely and reflects a sense of cerebral gratitude. But you’d never know, unless I wore it on a T shirt. We just don’t seem to be that interested in our names.  So how can we grow into them?

When my first son was born, I wanted to call him Clay.  A name that was rooted, grounded.  Something about this new being inside me seemed to need anchoring.  But the resistance around me was palpable.  Clay was not to be.

Instead we called him Jasper (I discovered later it’s a common name for a dog), considering that it held a certain dignity.  And yes, we could envisage it on the side of his briefcase.  He could be a solicitor with a name like that. Or a musician.  Whatever his life holds, Jasper will deal with it bravely.  He has that in him.  A nobility.  It’s in his name.

The thing with names, I’m learning, is they are just the beginning.  We absorb them, and they can bring us forward in the world, but ultimately our actions, our being, can surpass them.  Whichever surname I go with (I could lump them together, but it seems a little OTT for someone who advocates simplicity) will be just fine.  My job is to be the best that I can be, and lead my life the best I can, whatever my name might be.

And quite honestly, I could do without the added paperwork.


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Who’s captain?

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Take yourself back, Jack. Go ahead.  I’m with you all the way. But were you really stolen? Or did you give yourself away?

We can all blame others, because that’s what we’re used to. Sometimes too easily.  I’ve done it.

It’s your life. Take charge. Keep being yourself, always. If you’re not being truly yourself things will get dodgy.  

Look out. Look left, look right, look straight ahead.  Whichever direction you can.  But always ask; Am I being myself? The quicker you notice, the faster you can rectify. Be you. Always. And learn to notice when you’re not.

And when you’re not, get yourself back.  Awesomely and with pride for doing it.  But don’t blame anyone, just learn the lesson.


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30 secrets for starters..

here's a secret..

here’s a secret..

Occasionally it helps to write things down. These are reminders.

  1. Find out who you are.
  2. Say thank you. And mean it.
  3. Parents are just people in disguise.
  4. Giving is really important.
  5. It’s up to you. No excuses.
  6. Ask. Learn. Be smart.
  7. Redefine problems.  There are challenges, obstacles, blocks, surmountables, learning curves, new experiences, growth curves, different viewpoints.. all these are positives. Choose one of these instead of a problem.  Much nicer.
  8. Friends are family you’ve chosen yourself.  Let them know you value them.
  9. Expect more from yourself than from others.
  10. Grace is seriously underrated.
  11. Think big.
  12. Learn when to shut up.
  13. Don’t wait for others. Get on with it.
  14. Exercise is key. Walk to the shops.
  15. Your mum was right about food. Eat well.
  16. You are really, really amazing. Honestly.
  17. There’s always help.
  18. Asking for advice is a good move. But you don’t have to act on it.
  19. Look people in the eye and smile.
  20. You have one mouth and two ears. Use them in that proportion.
  21. There’s always a way.
  22. Don’t wait for others to invite you. Call them.
  23. Everything’s connected.
  24. Learn the difference between belief and focussing.
  25. Staying in bed solves nothing.
  26. Go one step at a time, all the time.
  27. Think first (your actions might bite you on the bum one day)
  28. Other people notice.
  29. Greetings are important.
  30. So are goodbyes.

That’s just a few. Do share yours.


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Humble thoughts and honest reflections

Bertrand Russell.  Now there’s a man.  From the days when people thought, and other people listened, and changes were made because what those people said made sense, and had vision.

Bertrand Russell

Yesterday I was pondering on my own actions, delving to see where the roots of them lay.

Here’s the picture;

I’ve been pre-occupied with trying to pay off my mortgage (does this ring a bell?) but there’s a pay-off with that. Making lump-sum early payments is a prudent way of safeguarding my family’s finances.  If I pay it early, that puts me in a better position to help my children’s transition to adulthood. Especially if interest rates increase.  From many angles (I won’t bore you) it makes sense.

There’s a big however, though.

Unsurprisingly, it means a financial shortfall in the here-and-now.  And there’s the dilemma. Because that money could facilitate opportunities and experience that could formulate memories for my children.  Not big things.  Not trips to Disneyland, not ‘tick list’ stuff, but things that feel right, like a trip in a campervan.  Things that I always felt, as a parent, I would want to give to my children.

It’s not rocket-science.

And I wondered; have I been following this path of simplicity too far? Have I become an addict of abstinence? Has what I set out to achieve become somehow inverted?  Where is the tipping point between simplicity and slavery?

It was at this point that I read this quote:

Conscious self-denial leaves a man self-absorbed and vividly aware of what he has sacrificed; in consequence it fails often of its immediate object and almost always of its ultimate purpose.

What is needed is not self-denial, but that kind of direction of interest outward which will lead sponteneously and naturally to the same acts that a person absorbed in the pursuit of his own virtue could only perform by means of conscious self-denial.

(Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness).

Perhaps I’ve been trying too hard.  Perhaps the time has come to rest a bit, to play a little.  Time to step back from worrying over the future, and get on with the present.  Before it’s gone, and there’s no time left to make memories with.  Less in, and more out. Perhaps it’s not so much about identifying a plan, but the feel of what I’m hoping to achieve, and making all my actions resonate with that. Now that would be a plan worth having.

 

 


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Sunday morning reflections; the world in your coffee cup

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Fear less, hope more;

Eat less, chew more;

Talk less, say more:

Love more, and all good things will be yours

 

This, apparently, is a Swedish proverb. The gentleness and directness of it appealed to me.

Simplicity.  

Notice the smallness in your actions. Feel the beauty in the mundane. Open yourself to the positive and invite it in. Recognise what is truly good.

Happy Sunday everyone.  Enjoy your cuppa 🙂