I have been writing today while listening to music, something I haven’t done for a while. While unemployed, I’ve cut back on luxuries, which included streaming subscriptions, so it’s been less enjoyable to listen to music as it’s interrupted by adverts. However, I now put up with them as a necessary evil.
So I was writing and stopping to stare out of our skylight, kind of vacantly. Suddenly an airplane appeared between two black phone wires and hung there as if suspended. It moved slowly across my eyeline and I felt like there was an invisible thread, connecting me directly to all those people far away in that tiny plane. It was strange how a two-dimensional view suddenly became so layered. The plane traveled along the wires and then it was gone, past the windowsill and out of my sight and the view was flat again.
I’ve gotten into the habit of writing a journal, which I began when travelling and after some encouragement from my Dad (who is always right about such things).
Often, what I write is basically a stream of consciousness. Sometimes the words veer abruptly from wittering about pancakes into blasts of worried sentences that seem to come out of nowhere, stuff I’m clearly anxious about, but didn’t know I was until it poured out. I also often write down quotes from books or people that strike me as interesting, or inspirational.
I find I usually have no recollection of the words when I go back and read them again- it’s like it pours out of the brain and onto the page. This is probably why I find writing a journal helpful; it’s like the mental equivalent of unclogging a blocked sink.
However, it also means that revisiting the journal becomes strangely enjoyable. I rediscover whole parts of my life I literally forgot I lived through, and it feels like my life as a whole gets bigger and fuller as a result of refreshing those memories. I can’t believe how many trips I’ve been on when I wasn’t journaling that have almost totally disappeared from my mind. I spent an entire year living in Thailand once, and my recollections are pretty limited to vague impressions of yellow t-shirts, shopping malls, children with identical haircuts, brightly lit beach parties, and myself wandering around some empty streets drinking iced coffee out of a plastic bag. It makes me sad to think about what I’ve lost.
I was reminded of this topic by writing in my last post about the fact that I now (unlike younger me), have no problem telling people who get in my personal space when I’m on my own in a public place to please leave me alone, if needed.
There’s an experience I recently had that has stuck with me. I was in a Spanish airport last Autumn, returning from a holiday. Opposite me in the airport lounge was a young woman, about 17. She was sitting quietly minding her own business with earphones in, when Sportsbag Guy (circa: 35) sidled up to her- from the other side of the airport- clearly on a pretext.
So, everyone, sorry for the delay in producing Part 2 of this post. My life suddenly became full to the brim with the task of moving (from a largish 2 bedroom house with a garden) into a smallish flat, with all the associated hassles that entails. Including: fighting our ex-landlady for our owed deposit, and speaking to lots of call centres to change addresses and pay ‘transfer fees’ for our insurance and so forth (grrr). Yes, there was a spreadsheet. Yes, it was colour coded. No, it was not fun.
Plus, given the reduced space, my partner and I have had to fairly drastically reduce our stuff. Basically what this process looks like is me saying brightly while holding up various items (mostly his, if I’m honest): “What about this? Does it….. SPARK JOY?” and being met with a raised eyebrow, a muttered ‘Fuck off’, and a rapidly disappearing back. (Life lesson: Don’t try and KonMari your life partner’s CD collection.) I’m currently typing this sitting surrounded by the ‘things we have to get rid of’ pile, which despite all the stress, is satisfyingly big.
Anyway… I was talking about happiness.
In my last post, I examined the factors that I thought I might have contributed to a feeling of joy I experienced on a recent overseas trip. I was focusing, then, on what I’d added to my life that might have contributed.
But I think it’s just as important to look at what I took away– what wasn’t there on that trip, that created space for happiness to thrive. Here’s a brief list of the biggies I’ve come up with.
Last week, I talked about identifying ‘happiness ingredients’- the things that I think led to me waking up happy every day while on a recent overseas trip. What, of those ingredients, can I salvage for my life here in the UK? It’s important to me that I work this out, because I’m unemployed, and I need to start building my working life from scratch- I want that life to be a better one.
As an exercise, I wanted to think through in more detail the trip- which was a volunteering placement on an organic farm/homestead. I wanted to identify what I added to my normal life during my stay that hadn’t been there before, as well as examining what I took away from it, to see if it gets me any closer to understanding what happiness is for me.
Here’s the list of what I added, first of all (I’ll look at the stuff I removed from my life, in a future post).
I got up at 8am when my partner left for work. “Have a good day.” he said, brightly. “I will”, I responded, equally brightly, then spent a good five minutes looking at the wedding photos of someone I haven’t spoken to in six years on Facebook.
I rolled out my yoga mat and did some yoga in my pyjamas. I alternated between trying to breathe slowly and regularly… and accidentally forgetting and holding my breath in for minutes at a time (while I replayed a conversation in my head with our letting agent, who is infuriating by the way). STOP. AGH. BE IN THE MOMENT. BREATHE.
I finished yoga and stared at the ceiling, thinking about different recipes for risotto, until my bare feet got cold and I remembered I had to actually get up off the floor if I wanted my day to continue. While NOT getting up off the floor would result in me being found lying on the living room floor by my partner when he returned after work several hours later. He would be startled by a limp ‘hello’ emerging from somewhere in the gloom, the room having darkened around me in the hours that had elapsed. It’s a scenario that seems unlikely but I can’t quite discount. This thought, luckily, jolts me up off the floor.
“Highlighting and contouring are two crafty li’l tricks that you can use to enhance your bone structure and make it look like you’re constantly under the most flattering movie lighting possible. Even if you’re not going to an event, it’s fun to experiment with elements of ~drama~ in your makeup. Let’s get to it!
I mean, we all know this isn’t happening today. Or ever. Right?