Category Archives: Happiness

One Little Spark

Robin Williams

This probably isn’t the first post you’ve read about the passing of Robin Williams, and my guess is it won’t be the last. But it will be the first and last you read here.

I’m not one for celebrity and apart from Princess Diana, I don’t think I’ve ever cried at the passing of a famous person, no matter how much I enjoyed their films/music/art.

Until today.

When I heard about Robin Williams’ death, I spent 20 minutes scrolling through news and social media sites, fixed my kids some morning tea, closed the door to my office and I cried my eyes out.

I’ve been trying to put my finger on why for the better part of the day, and I’m still not sure.

I think part of it is my own experience with depression and the fact that I’m in a bit of a down phase. But there’s also just an acute sadness that a brilliant spark has gone out.

I don’t know of anyone my age who grew up without regular viewings of Robin Williams in Mrs Doubtfire or Hook. (“Ru-fi-ooooooooooo!”) At the heart of these movies, and many others, was a playfulness and the desire to stay in a childlike joy. The underlying message: “Don’t take things too seriously, whatever you do.”

There will be much talk about mental health today, as a result of this great actor’s apparent suicide, and I hope with all my heart that these discussions help tear down the walls of stigma and silence that surround depression and other mental illnesses. God knows they need to come down, too many people are going under.

But maybe we can keep space for that childlike joy too. The mischievous grin, the glee in a well-placed one-liner, the joy of a middle-aged man dressed up as an elderly lady, the unbridled delight in a Neverland food fight.

After all, as Peter Benning put it at the end of Hook:

To live… to live would be an awfully big adventure.

When we can, I think we should live that adventure with as much childlike joy as we can.

there you are, peter.

RIP, Robin Williams.

Your Best Year Yet (and a Giveaway) – CLOSED

Your Best Year Yet >> An amazing little book by Kelly Exeter
We all have a story to tell.

Some stories are more interesting than others, some are darker, some are funnier, but all of them are worthy.

Sometimes we like to fool ourselves in thinking our stories are completely unique. Our struggles are new. Our downfalls, our weaknesses or our trials have never before been felt to this degree.

I’ve often felt like this, but the reality is it’s not true.

So many of the struggles we have are common. The circumstances, the names and the locations may differ, but the battles are shared amongst many. And that’s what I was struck with last weekend when I opened Kelly Exeter’s wonderful new book, Your Best Year Yet – 7 simple ways to shift your thinking and take charge of your life.

“Meanwhile, I was trying to be a good mum to my little baby, a good wife to my husband, a good friend, sibling, daughter, person – you know the drill…

“Life felt completely out of control and before long my mental and physical health started to deteriorate.”

That was me. That story right there is mine.

Turns out it was also Kelly’s. It may also have been yours, or perhaps it still is.

My point is, you aren’t alone in your struggles just as I wasn’t in mine (even if it felt like it). I only wish I had Kelly’s words to fall back on in the days where I struggled to get through to bed time without losing my mind.

“The only person who should get to write the story of your life is you. So start shaping a narrative around the person you want to be, not the person other people think you are.”

At its heart, this book is about rethinking your life and how you are choosing to live it. It’s not about simplifying as such, but it provides very simple, very do-able guidelines for rethinking habits, happiness, decision-making and time management. I found myself nodding along excitedly more than once while reading, and, I’m not going to lie, there might have been a fistpump or two.

Blueprint to your best year yet

Kelly and I really jive on this stuff, and I believe you’ll get a lot out of Your Best Year Yet. Which brings me to the exciting news - I have 5 copies of this wonderful book to give away!   Thanks so much for entering. The competition has now closed and winners have been notified. 

Simply leave a comment below and you’ll go into the draw to win a copy of Your Best Year Yet. This competition is open to everyone, just be sure to include your email address when leaving your comment.

(Entries close Monday 4th August 11:59pm AEST, and I will email the winners within 24 hours).

Good luck!

Enough

What is enough?

I’ve been struggling with the idea of enough. (Am I enough? Do I do enough?) And rather than rehash my thoughts on this same idea, I wanted to resurrect an old post where I ask, “What is enough?”

Interestingly, it was first published almost exactly a year ago. Turns out that my natural seasonal rhythm lends itself to quieter, introspective winters!

——

As a parent, friend, sister, daughter and wife I struggle with the notion of enough.

Do I play with the kids enough?
Am I healthy enough?
Do I call my sisters enough?
Have I been a good enough friend?
Is it enough to be content?
Am I trying hard enough?
Am I attractive enough?
Do I give enough?
Do I care enough?

Enough – not too little, not too much. Just… enough.

After struggling with the idea for a very long time – never feeling good enough, never satisfied, never entirely content – I’ve started to frame the idea of ‘enough’ in a different way. And can I tell you, it’s helping me find some much-needed perspective.

Much like the idea of tilting – where we willingly throw things off-balance and tilt in the direction life requires – I wondered if we could view the idea of ‘enough’ as a long-term notion, rather than something we need to achieve every day?

I think we can. And I think we should.

But what does that look like in real life?

Do I play with the kids enough?” Maybe not today, but sometimes clothes need to be washed, emails returned, toilets cleaned and phonecalls made. On the other hand, do I feel good in my gut when I ask if I’ve played with them enough over the past six months? Yes.

Am I trying hard enough?” Some days, I phone it in. And on those days, I am lacking. But, again, over the past 6 months? 2 years? 10 years? Yes, I try hard enough.

There are peaks and troughs, mountains and valleys for everything in life. Sometimes we feel that we are enough, other times we are filled with doubt. I think that’s simply being human. But reframing the idea this way has shown me that enough really IS enough.

But what about when it isn’t enough?

When you ask yourself the question, “Am I doing enough over time?” and the answer is silence. Or worse, when the answer is a pang.

What do you do then?

When that pang reverberates in my gut I know I need to pull up and listen. I know I need to make a change, or ask a different question.

Do I call my best friend enough?” PANG. No. Pay attention and make a change.

Have we made enough time to unplug on the weekends?” PANG. No. What can we do differently?

Am I present enough when I do play with the kids?” PANG. No. How can I change my approach?

My aim, in turning the idea of enough upside down, is to be mindful and intentional about what I’m choosing to do. Instead of being carried away by panic and regret and frustration at not being enough every day.

Essentially that means if I haven’t played with the kids enough, there’d better be a good reason. If I haven’t called my best friend enough, again, show me a good reason.

It’s a matter of listening to your instincts, your gut, and that little voice inside your head that when given a longer view of things suddenly becomes quite wise.

“Relax. You’ve done enough over time. That counts,” it says.

I think it’s time to listen.

 

 

 

The world doesn’t owe you a room with a view.

The world doesn't owe you a room with a view

Reading the travel section of the Sunday paper is one of my favourite little pleasures. It’s relaxing and inspiring and the perfect amount of fuel for my wanderlust fire.

Not last week though.

Last Sunday I came across a brief interview with a high-profile Australian fashion designer, where she was asked for her best travel tips, experiences and recommendations. And, frankly, it pissed me off.

Having travelled a bit during my 32 years, I understand we all have different ideas on what makes a good holiday (camping, resort, tropics or adventure?), how best to travel (car, bus, plane or boat?) and what constitutes a necessity (hair straightener, running water, French champagne or a comfortable hammock?)

We’re all different, I get that. But in this interview, the respondent gave an answer that irked me beyond a mere difference of opinions. In fact, it made me despair.

She was asked: “What’s your best tip for getting the most out of a holiday?”

Immediately I could think of a hundred ways to answer:

  • Be open to new experiences
  • Stay in the one place for a while and live like locals
  • Pack your sense of humour, sunglasses and a good book
  • Eat local foods
  • Avoid souvenir shops
  • Wander
  • Get off the tourist trail occasionally
  • Stay in locally owned/operated accommodation
  • Turn off your phone
  • Put the camera down

But her response? (Paraphrased, as the paper got recycled and I can’t find the interview online):

“Act like a first-class person. Walk in to the hotel and make them believe that you are, in fact, worthy of special treatment. Even if the accommodation you are given is perfectly acceptable, act a little disappointed. Suggest that the room you saw online was a little bigger, or had a balcony, or enjoyed a better view. More often than not you will be upgraded or moved to a better room.”

This entitled point of view is one of the things I believe to be wrong with the world.

This person is privileged enough to be travelling to far-off, beautiful places, but that is not enough. She has decided that, as a “first-class person” (what does that even mean?!) she deserves more. The hotel room is not enough. She deserves a bigger one. The plane seat is not enough. She deserves a first-class one. The experience of travel or relaxation or pampering or adventure is not enough. She deserves BETTER. Merely because she is there and she is important, dammit.

I don’t have an issue with asking politely for a change – particularly if it’s warranted.  But pretending that what you’re offered is not good enough (even if it’s perfectly amazing) simply to see if you can get better? Yeah, I have a problem with that.

So let’s say this person is granted their Special Snowflake Status and upgraded to the Presidential Suite (nothing less than the best, naturally)… what then? Suddenly they believe they really are a First Class Person. After that, they want more. They want better. They believe that simply because an upgrade was granted this time, they’re entitled to the same treatment always and forever.

Suddenly, things that used to be perfectly acceptable become less-than. And the merry-go-round of better and more and new and shiny spins ever faster. Perhaps the experiences stop mattering as much as the status. Because really, when you’re looking for more or better or nicer or shinier, how can you really appreciate anything at all? You’re obsessed with bettering your situation. And for what? The status of saying you did?

Gee. Sounds like fun.

Now let’s say this person is not granted their Special Snowflake Status and cannot be accommodated in the Presidential Suite (on account of the President in situ). The mere fact that they believe themselves worthy of special treatment means they will likely be offended at the rejection. So now, not only do they not get the First Class Person treatment, but they are also dissatisfied with the original accommodation. Nothing is good enough now, because they’ve been jilted.

How is this relaxing? How is this getting the most out of your travel experiences?

And what’s more, how is this attitude of entitlement allowing any of us to experience the most of life? The most of what is happening right in front of us?

If we’re constantly comparing lives with others, how can we feel content with our own?

If we’re relentlessly pursuing more, better, shinier, newer, how can we be grateful for what we do have?

If we make the mistake of believing our needs are more important than those of others, how can we live with compassion and generosity and equality?

If we believe we should be treated as First Class People, how can we explain to our children that we are no better than someone else?

We can’t.

The world doesn’t owe you a room with a view.

Be grateful. Enjoy what you have. Soak up the experiences. And if you see someone else swanning about, believing the universe owes them a room with a bigger bathroom and newer sheets? Let them have at it. A worldview of entitlement is its own reward.

Instead, allow your world to become an altogether more beautiful, generous, rewarding place by simply being grateful, present and conscious. I believe that to be its own reward too.

 

Delight

True delight is in the finding out rather than the knowing.

Bushwalks are one of our favourite activities on the weekend.

We pack bags full of the essentials – water, snacks and suncream, dinosaurs, hand-drawn maps and chocolate – and head out to the national park.

What I love most about these excursions – even more than the exercise and the appreciation of nature we’re getting – is the tiny moments of delight they afford us.

We notice the bugs skimming across the lagoon surface, the pink algae and the birdsong. We spot flowers and rock formations and animal tracks. Things that are always there but rarely seen simply because we’re moving too fast.

Finding delight

When we go on a bushwalk we try to make it leisurely. We stop (a lot). And while sometimes I miss the feeling of getting my blood up and hiking fast up the inclines, it seems that we’ve become pioneers of the Slow (Walking) Movement.

And really? It’s a delightful way to view the world. You don’t need to be bushwalking or exploring or doing anything out of the ordinary at all, because delightful moments surround us everywhere, if we’re willing to slow down for a moment and look for them.

  • a water droplet on the bus window
  • street art
  • a flower growing through a crack in the footpath
  • the swoop of a bird high in the sky
  • clouds
  • a young couple holding hands
  • a reflection of sunset in an office building’s windows
  • a brief sniff of the ocean air
  • a snowflake
  • a cat curled up in your lap
  • the first leaves of a seedling pushing through the soil
  • the smell of rain on the dirt
  • a sleeping child’s breath
  • fingerprints
  • a mushroom growing out of leaf litter

Some people think of delight in the same way they think of love. If you go actively looking for it, it will elude you. I disagree wholeheartedly.

If you are open to beauty, if you are open to the possibility of delight, if you go searching for it, you will discover that it actually surrounds us at every moment. It may not look like you’d expected. It may not feel the way you imagined. It may not be the cookie cutter version of delight or joy or beauty. But it will be there. Just allow yourself to be included and you will find it.

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