How to be happy even if you're English

what is happiness and how to get it


2 Comments

Being your own Great Aunt Vi

Have you ever done that thing when you cheat on the cleaning?  I mean when you’re mopping the floor and there’s a bit (under the table, or in the corner, or under that tangle of flexes) where you think ‘really? Is that necessary?’. That thing.

You pause, and consider; who is this for, exactly? Is it for me, for my family’s cleanliness and health, for the joy of being super-shiny and lovely? Or is it because my mum, or Great Aunt Vi (long since deceased) would disapprove and I can FEEL their disapproval of a job Not Done Well and I will never sleep, knowing the shame of my inner slovenliness.

Do you know that feeling?  I do. People pay me to clean their floors, so I should know better. But still the temptation to skimp arises because, frankly, it’s dull and tiring work. I had that same feeling today.  And as before (I confess, I have these sinful thoughts recurrently) I reminded myself of the story of Jake’s work experience.

Jake is lovely. He’s a darling. He’s creative and funny, warm and entertaining. But aged 16, he wasn’t the worlds best contributor at home. And that, dear reader, is why 16 year olds go on work experience. It’s also why I wasn’t surprised. It went thus:

Me: How was your day?

Jake: Good and quite fun really. We had a laugh and then he went off for a bit and asked me to sweep the leaves. I got bored and laid down and fell asleep. I woke up when I heard his van and picked up the broom but I don’t know if he saw me. Hopefully it looked like I was working.

It’s a small story but resonant. And there was I, this morning, mopping and revisiting the same conundrum; Do I make it look like I have been working or do I (and this is a mature grown up thinking) actually cover that extra few inches with the mop (ergo, work)? Do I adopt the teenage work shy approach, or do I get on with it and hold my head up high?

Because that’s the crux – holding your head high. Setting your standards by the highest markers around you, not the lowest. Being your own Great Aunt Vi. And of course I did the job properly, as always, and as I knew I would even as I approached the conundrum. The Vi in me wins; not because I want to be virtuous, but because cheating just doesn’t sit well. And there’s a neurotic part of me that wouldn’t want to be caught out with a hidden camera.

Job completed, I sat down with my book. I’m reading ‘Moranthology’ by Caitlin Moran. I’m on the bit where she talks about what it’s like to be 35% famous; about how being recognised by people, just a bit, leads her to be nicer – to compliment, or encourage, or acknowledge. She’s noble enough to recognise it’s not pure altruism, more a fear of what others might say about her. The more visible you are, the more it matters how you act. Like Superman; with great power comes great responsibility.

I bet Superman had a Great Aunt Vi.


2 Comments

this is a truth

4ef3186dd66ec4d4060f5fa037969063

All my life I’ve had the uncomfortable feeling that I never really knew what was going on.

Instead of  dissipating, (which I hoped/ expected to be the case), the further I progress along the mortal coil, the more this observation holds.  In fact there’s a recognition of such massive complexities around me that any given situation seems so far beyond comprehension or opinion as to be almost out the other side.

The enormities of my un-knowing have reached so far that I stopped watching the news several years ago.  Now it seems radio too is so steeped in judgement that all I pick up is the judgement itself, and not the content.  So again, I reach for the ‘off’ button.

Conversation on current affairs sees me backing into corners.  Asked for an opinion, all I can offer is ‘it’s more complicated than that’.  Because I know it is.  There are truths, more truths, individual and collective truths.  And all the feeding and steering in between, that we participate in and strengthen with each opinion voiced.

I’m conscious that this could sound like an anti-propaganda rant; an anti-them, us-against-the-state stream of bitterness.  But it’s not that.

I’m looking at the judgement we seem to enjoy so greatly.

How would it look if our urgency to express an opinion, to belong in a camp of thought, to be on this side or that, wasn’t such a driving force?  I’ll bet the content of articles on our news programmes would change.  It seems to me that each news article exists primarily to create judgement, to generate strong feeling.  And I suspect that without this driving force, the programmes might disappear altogether.  I wonder.

My son is saturating himself with history.  He knows so much about world war 2.  More, and differently, I suspect, than those who participated in much of it.  How confusing that must be to them.  We talk about war crimes.  We discuss judgement, and punishment.  The need people have to punish for a crime committed in a different time, a different place, an altogether different set up, that we really can’t comprehend, in the here and now.

I wonder about that.

I wonder if the reason we object so strongly call so vehemently, isn’t purely the fight to have one’s opinions venerated and accepted.  And if it has anything at all to do with the crime itself.

I hear there’s a Buddhist philosophy of ‘no blame’.

I like that.  No blame.  If we removed blame, what are we left with?  A little empathy, perhaps, some compassion, an effort to understand, to deal with, to mend, learn, and grow?  Is that really so scary?

I don’t know.  I know less and less.  But it’s worth considering.

Namaste.


2 Comments

More ‘out’ than ‘in’

Some days things hurt a bit.

On those days it’s good to look out the window , beyond yourself.

.c0f10aaf4702586e810ffa841757cf37

Knowing yourself is a really good thing. If you don’t know and accept who you are, you can’t move forward. Knowing yourself is one of the key things needed to be happy. you can’t be authentic if you don’t know who you are.

That doesn’t mean you have to stay being that definition. We’re not static beings, and we need to grow. Personal growth is a key element of happiness too.

But just as it’s good to know yourself, too much looking inward can tie us in knots. In can isolate us, and we’re social beings. It can distort our perspective. Writers and musicians are highly prone to depression, and it’s easy to see why. We need to watch out.

Watch out, not in.

When we’re preoccupied with not receiving enough, we need to exercise our own giving. When we’re focussed on being poor, we could be grateful for what we have. You know the story. Turn it round. Get outside. See real people around you. Let the grumpy faces be a lesson and the smiling ones inspiration. Exercise your own smile. Practice your outness.

You’ll be glad you did.


Leave a comment

Who’s captain?

2434325371

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.


Leave a comment

Smoke, mirrors and the short path to happiness

f74be568380ca3b822d4d5f0b5cb5849

Seeing this reminded me of a study published years ago.  When asked what they would change about their appearance, over and again people really only wanted to change minor things; the line of their nose, a freckle, hair texture.  In all, despite our general perception that people were unhappy with their appearance they were in fact quite happy.  Their self-image was familiar and reassuring. They felt ok. They were happy.

We might be fed too much by the media. There might be fashions of body type. We might feel undertanned. But things pass and trends change. Ultimately, our faces and bodies tell our stories. That pleases us. We are confirmed.

For most of us, the vision of true happiness is only a small shift away; a slightly better car, another bedroom, a more interesting view.  On the whole, we are happy with our lot. Especially if we have friends or family around us.

My hair’s never behaved itself, but when I look back at old photos I’m surprised at how good it looked. A reminder that today’s less-than-perfect present will one day provide glossy nostalgia. Sometimes it takes the passage of time to reveal the perfection of the present.

Perhaps in time I’ll reconcile that understanding, and learn to sustain the art of mindful awareness.

True happiness isn’t far away. Just a blink of the mind’s eye. Just a smile in the mirror, and maybe at a pinch a short trip to Paris.

😉