Pursuing Happiness…

The Pursuit of Happiness

I am currently reading Ruth Whippman’s book The Pursuit of Happiness (and how it’s making us anxious) and although I haven’t quite reached the end yet I’m finding it fascinating. As a former Happiness Project disciple I have begun to feel thoroughly de-constructed. A pin has most definitely been unceremoniously jabbed into my little Americanised bubble. I say Americanised, but only half of me seems to be have been converted.

Several times throughout the book Whippman points out the marked difference between the British psyche and that of our Atlantic cousins – the former deeply entrenched in *reality* – with a heavy dose of ‘this is all a bit rubbish’ bubbling under the surface, whilst the latter remain perkily upbeat, optimistic and outwardly positive at all times. She remarks on the way in which us Brits have been involved in a huge sea change towards the American way (citing the changes she’s noticed in the things her British friends share on Facebook these days and the fact that we have also been enraptured by the idea of happiness as a goal we can achieve through activities like yoga, meditation and mindfulness).

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What I learned this weekend

Woodland gardens

For the first time in quite a few weeks I spent the weekend alone. I say alone – actually, child-free. It seems to have crept up on me, this little oasis of free time, to the extent that I’ve found myself completely without a plan. Being without a plan kind of unnerves me, I have to say.

So what did I do with myself? It feels like I have done very little and again that feels like a bad thing.

I took myself for a coffee and went and treated myself to a Pepperberry clothes shop and bought a dress which actually fits.

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Finding time to get some perspective

positivityMy aim in life is always to be as zen as I possibly can, take things calmly in my stride and be the voice of reason. Just lately, however, I have had a really hard time maintaining that feeling of inner peace and reason. Certain parts of my life have been really hard to handle, hard to get my head around, but in the back of my mind, like the buzzing of a dying wasp, is this really strong sense that I need to count my blessings.

The trouble with counting blessings is that you kind of need to have the headspace to step back from the damaging central core of what’s going on right now in order to be able to make that list. I feel like I’ve been getting into a negative downwards spiral which is exacerbated by feeling over-whelmed by the exhausting nature of full on parental responsibility.

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When things go wrong

90 per cent attitude

I’ll admit right at the outset, I’ve never had a serious illness to contend with and neither have any of my nearest and dearest (although last year my dad was treated for a type of cancer relatively common to older men but it was caught early, completely eliminated and never caused him any real suffering.) However we all go through hard times in our lives for one reason or another and these times test us – they test us to the very core of our being. The question is: how do we react and respond to the challenges we face?

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Back to basics

yin yangIsn’t it true that we all have the innate tendency to over-complicate things? I had to nod along in agreement when I read Sara’s recent posts about simplifying her life in 2016 – I think it’s something we could all benefit from.

I look at something like a machine, a computer, a page of code, and it is frighteningly mystifying in what seems a very complex string of gobblydegook – but gobblydegook that a few properly clever people understand. Then I think back to a course I took as part of a degree in Information Studies and I remember what I learned about binary – that every single piece of information in cyberspace is nothing more than a series of ones and zeroes. There is either something or there is nothing; a presence or an absence; light, darkness.

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An inspirational journey

ridiculously amazingI saw a clip on the news the other day about an 18 year old who has been dubbed ‘The Coupon Kid’. Apparently he writes under that moniker for the Moneysavingexpert website but he hit the news lately for doing the most unlikely of journeys, travelling back to his home in Essex from a meeting in Sheffield via Berlin to save money. He saved about £8 to be precise hence the attention grabbing headline which kind of implies an undertone of *crazy penny-pinching nutter*, however, seeing him talking on Sky news I was massively infected by his joie de vivre and un-doubted passion for both travel and living, not just within his means, but almost in spite of our crappy economic reality – sticking two fingers up, if you will, to George Osborne. He talked about getting to visit a city he’d always wanted to see and being able to wander around and take in all the sights for seven hours.

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Friendship: when your children grow apart

Baby group flyerWhen JJ was a baby I very quickly realised that sitting around the house on my own all day long was not an option. Fortunately my health visitor put me on to the local Sure Start centre, initially as a place to go for baby weigh-ins. There I heard about the ‘First Friends’ group – a place to go for 90 minutes on a Friday morning, lay your baby down with 16 or so others and drink a cup of tea while discussing the joys of cracked nipples, sleepless nights and debate the relative pros and cons of getting high on gas and air.

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Picture Book Philosophy 101

Snail and the Whale snail

Did anyone see that episode of The Apprentice (UK 2015) during which the candidates were tasked with creating children’s picture books (in a day) and then flogging off as many as possible? It was interesting to see what they came up with. There was one candidate – Sam – who hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that the best picture books convey a message.

Julia Donaldson is one particular children’s author who does this exceptionally well, and as her fame and sales prove people love a message. We are well versed in The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom but recently my sister (who is a teaching assistant) gave us a pile of her books which I was not so familiar with.

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The Softplay Diaries: Lord of the Flies

Savage softplay

Every Friday afternoon since JJ was about 2 we have been meeting up with one or two of his (and my) NCT friends at one softplay or another. This initially seemed like a good idea the day we realised that we could no longer meet up round each others houses for tea and cake  for fear of having a mob of mental toddlers trashing everything that we held dear.

Over the years it has been a mixed bag. The more sensible amongst us dropped out of the equation the day big school kicked in for fear of ensuing tiredness later on – the kind that might lead to unhealthy amounts of gin being administered (to us, not them) – but the rest of us ploughed on, aware of the fact that this is the one guaranteed time in our weeks when we can connect, let off steam and get, well, tea and sympathy essentially, whilst keeping one eye on the giant, multi-coloured, insecure padded cell out of which a small child is occasionally ejected, sometimes attached to an enormous yellow triangle or launching random ball pit missiles at a younger sibling.

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Take me to church?

A church in the trees

I’ve been thinking a lot about religion and the lack of it recently. In fact so much so that my YouTube page is now littered with clips from the likes of Christopher Hitchens, Stephen Fry, Richard Dawkins, Tim Minchin and even Eddie Izzard.

I hate to have to drag her into it again but I was reminded by Jenny over at Unremarkable Files that the post she wrote in 2015 which went viral was called “Why I make my children go to church”. Essentially Jenny’s post argues that “parents have a moral obligation to teach their children whatever belief system they think is right”. Within the post and the comments below it many religions are referenced from Jenny’s own Mormonism to Judaism, from Islam to Buddhism.

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