happiness

Sensory Prevention Factor 30 Plus

Sensory Prevention Factor 30 Plus

Usually, summer - or at the very least spring - is running my psyche. But, occasionally, perhaps a little like Persephone descending into The Underworld for her allotted time with Hades, I can't help but let winter into my thoughts, and Cerberus, in his guise as the black dog of depression, manages to slip his leash. Thankfully, I am learning to get him under control, and make my way back to sunnier climes and blue skies of a happy soul.

But some people - well, for them, winter is a way of living, rather than just days on a calendar. Cold is ingrained in their personalities; it's almost as though they don't want to step into the sunlight for fear they may be burnt by happiness. Instead, they slap on Sensory Protection Factor 30 Plus, and allow the ice to become a part of their makeup, right down to the bone.

Tally-Ho, Yippety-Dip & Zing Zang Spillip

Four be the things I am wiser to know: Idleness, sorrow, a friend, and a foe. Four be the things I’d been better without: Love, curiosity, freckles, and doubt. Three be the things I shall never attain: Envy, content, and sufficient champagne. Three be the things I shall have till I die: Laughter and hope and a sock in the eye.
— Dorothy Parker, The Complete Poems of Dorothy Parker

There will no doubt be a wealth of blog posts, articles and features coming out today and tomorrow on what a fabtastic year 2014 has been and the amazing things we have to look forward to in the year to come, starting with the obligatory resolutions to drink less, eat less and generally behave less atrociously than we have for the past 365 days.

As I have recently watched my cat prove to be a more popular author than myself, I am not precisely filled with the spirit of the New Year's Eve Fairy. As for resolutions... meh. They last approximately a week, the fridge is filled with enough fruit and roughage to kill fifteen elephants, and then the urge to grease me up Lunch Lady Doris kicks in, an emergency run for hot chips is made, and a blackened mass of dead carrots is scraped out of the vegetable container two months later.

Forgive my cynicism. Again, coping with the fact that people are calling for a cat to take over my blog.

2014 has held significant challenges. It hasn't, despite General Melchett's indecipherable excitement, been all Flossy the Rabbit pie and Château Lafite. Dear friends and loved ones have suffered craptacular things. Sadness has been a very big part of the year, and unfortunately 2015 is going to hold some of the same for The Man Who Vaguely Resembles David Tennant and myself.

On the other hand, or apparently, as it is soon to be known, paw, there is great joy on the horizon. Osky, The Man, and myself all get to celebrate something pretty spesh early in the new year. Who knows? That pretentious puss may even be a flower cat, simply because I know how much he'd hate it.

I hope you have a wonderful year to come, and to help you along, here are my Anti-Resolutions for 2015. May you live by them, and love, laugh and have fun and make a difference by them. I certainly intend to, and I'll have a lot more time to do so, because I won't have to dedicate time to writing anymore.

See how you go trying to type by yourself, Spy Cat.

The 'Be Resolute In Your Anti-Resolutions' List of 2015:

  1. Drink GOOD champagne. All the time. It's beneficial to your health. Promise.

  2. Tell the people you love that you love them. Don't hold back.

  3. Get a pet. Look after that pet. Hug that pet.

  4. Stand up and make a difference, whether it's to your community or your country.

  5. Care about grammar!

  6. Don't take yourself so seriously. Seriously. 

  7. Repeat number 2. It's really, really important. Because they won't always be there, and you should appreciate their worth.

It's not a big list. They aren't stupid resolutions, because you know what? They aren't things that you know in your heart are going to be non-deliverable after a finite period. You can resolve to live in a way that gives you and the people around you joy, and these things definitely do that. Love. Hug. Give your pet a hand on the keyboard as they become a bestseller. Laugh, mainly at yourself. Care about your grammar. Give a damn about the quality of what you throw down your throat.

Happy New Year.

Tally-ho, pip pip and Bernard's quite possibly your uncle.

In An Unguarded Moment

T_1_front
cookie monsterOur most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.

— John Fitzgerald Kennedy

 

It occurred to me this morning that I hadn't written a gratitude post in literally months. It hasn't been deliberate; there is quite a bit in my life that I am grateful for. By the same token, there are quite large chunks of craptacularity which I would like to throw into a vortex (or at a certain misogynistic Herald Sun columnist - same thing really) and which I find it hard to feel grateful for at all.

I realise that this is rapidly sounding like an ingratitude post but it isn't. I just need to state, for the record, that things aren't necessarily rosy.

Which is why it's all the more important to be grateful for the everyday bits of bliss.

It's the unguarded moments, the 'sneak up on you and hug you' good things that happen which we need to learn to appreciate more.

Today is an incredibly hard day for my family. The aforementioned craptacularity is in full swing, and it is't going to de-craptacularise any time soon. Which gives me ten - a hundred - times the reasons to appreciate what is great about my life. For a start, I am still kicking, which was dubious at a few stages last year. So yay for that. But this post isn't about the big showstopping, Oscar-worthy reasons to count your blessings.

It's about being grateful for someone you love coming into the room and dancing around, being silly and making faces at you whilst you're being incredibly serious and professional on the phone, using that voice you NEVER use in real life. You know the one; your 'yup, yup, I can totally see where you're coming from' voice.

It's hard to maintain that when someone is crossing their eyes at you and sticking out their tongue.

Have some gratitude for that chance to laugh when there is terror and pain ahead.

Be grateful for some silliness with a friend. Chances are, they might be having a bit of a rough day too - so pull them out of it. It may be at the expense of someone else, but if said someone else is a fairly unpleasant individual and also has very bad grooming standards, then I have no issues with using them as a comedic prop.

Sneak the snorts in. Find the common link. Summon up some sunshine for each other. Enjoy the perfect little moments which come out of nowhere and feel like a butterfly kiss.

Don't try too hard to create a perfect moment mind you. They don't exist if you manufacture them. A perfect moment is a moment that just happens. If you are smart, you will realise that every moment of every day in which you are not actively miserable or in horrendous emotional or physical pain is perfect.

Why?

Because despite the fact that you may be a bit glum, or things aren't going right at work, or you've had a bit of an argy-bargy with the boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/dad/whatever floats your boat, think on this:

In this moment, this perfect, perfect moment...

You are alive. You are here. You have the chance of happiness just around the corner.

From heartbeat to heartbeat.

So make the most of every one of them.

And realise, in gratitude, despite the black clouds which are just over the horizon - that if you are as lucky as I am - there is always someone who is willing to hold that metaphorical umbrella for you.

Even if it's just by dancing into the room with their eyes crossed.

Snort.

Gilding The Lily

Gilding The Lily

Not to be all 'vanity, thy name is woman' about things, but I felt really, really great. REALLY great. And after a few weeks which I think can only be described as the bottom of the cat's tray of life, this was a moment in time which was not an ego boost, but just a little bit of hedonistic joy that, like a party, didn't hurt nobody, and made me feel special. 

In Vino Veritas

“We were not a hugging people. In terms of emotional comfort it was our belief that no amount of physical contact could match the healing powers of a well made cocktail.”

— David Sedaris, Naked

Last night was spent doing one (or I suppose it's two) of my favourite things. Stuffing my face, in the best possible company, with cheese and salami and fruit and pretty much anything that's yum to eat - and drinking truly exceptionally good wine. 

I make no excuses for liking booze. Because I do. A well-made martini can make me smile like a Cheshire Cat, and feel as though I am at one of Jay Gatsby's soirées and I am just about to glimpse the host himself.  A good wine is a joy. A great wine - that's just bliss in a glass. And my penchant for champagne is no secret to either anyone who knows me or in fact most of the Western world.

In other words, if you are ever at a loss for a present with me, stick a bottle of Veuve in front of my nose (or a nice Pouilly-Fumé, I'm a reasonable girl) and I will pretty much be your friend if not for life, at least until I need another bottle of vino.

Feel free to add a gift voucher for shoes. I'm a simple girl. Bribery works. 

But there is the flip side of the cork.  

Alcohol is a depressant. It makes people do incredibly craptacular things to other people. Just like any other addiction, if you don't have a kill switch when it comes to consuming it, it can take over your life and cause untold misery.  

I don't say this to be an equally big depressant. I am just acknowledging that not only is alcohol hours of fun for the (in theory) 18+ members of the family, it's an issue for a hell of a lot of people and I don't discount that. 

Back however to my personal obsession with the grapeful dead.  

I have spoken before about why champagne is just so amazing. (Answer: it's champagne. QED.) But what makes wine tick? Why is it such an important part of the dinner ritual? The choosing, the matching... what is it about that glass of sauv blanc at the end of a really, really yuck day? 

This is what it is for me at least. 

With dinner, it's all a part of enjoying the process. It's part of the fun! I personally don't care about matching reds with red meat, blah blah blah - if you are not committing the atrocity of drinking botrytis semillon with a steak then fill your boots, drink whatever the hell you like. If you are with someone who enjoys wine, then the discussion adds to the enjoyment of the meal... you can be wine wankers together safe in the knowledge you are not judging each other. 

As for that glug at dusk? 

That's easy. 

It's an 'AAAAAAAAAARGGHHHHHHH!!!' in a glass. 

Cheers. 

Oh Happy Day

“Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle. It’s a feeling inside that can hardly be contained.”

— Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full Of Sky

I was sitting last night, feeling mildly - actually, really, really stuffed after a very big work week - and having a thoughtful glass of wine, as one does - and I realised something tremendous.

I was happy.

Not content, not 'yep, life's good' - but really happy.

But it wasn't because of my own life (not that I am complaining about that).

It was because so many great things seem to be happening in the lives of those I care about - and for many of them, it comes after a period of darkness, or yuck, or in some cases true tragedy.

And the more I sat there and thought about the things that were happening in their lives, the more it made me smile, until I felt like giving a big 'yippee', which would have made my fellow building dwellers think I had gone even more mad and scared the local wildlife out of their feathers, but so be it.

It was, as Ren and Stimpy would have said, a Happy Happy Joy Joy moment. And we need to be massively grateful for them, because life is generally pretty dreary and joy is in short supply.

I realise this may sound too twee for words, but seriously - we get so wrapped up in whether we ourselves are happy or unhappy that at times, we tend not to celebrate our friends and families' exciting moments in a way that does them justice. I am not talking about hiring a blimp or skywriting 'CONGRATULATIONS ON TURNING 38 AND THREE QUARTERS' across Sydney, mind you - I am just saying when there's something big going down, let them know how fantastic you think it is. Take time out from your own blather and bullshit for just a moment and say 'Squee!' Or, in the immortal words of Babe the Pig, 'la, la, la!'

Well, maybe not 'Squee' if you're not a total dork like me, but you get my drift.

Joy is love of life. It is a soul enriching feeling. It makes your heart sing, and your feet want to do a little dance.

And the best thing about feeling joyous because someone else is happy?

It's unselfish. It's not about you, or your ego, or how good you are - it's simply about being thankful that all is good in the world of those who deserve it most - the people who hold you up when you are close to falling.

And that's something that deserves a whole lot of gratitude.

SQUEEEEEEEEEE!!!

 

Love The One You're With

“He leans over and takes her hand. With the other he touches her face. ‘You your best thing, Sethe. You are.’ His holding fingers are holding hers.

‘Me? Me?”

— Toni Morrison, Beloved

It has been yet another rough week in the world of grumps and glum a.k.a. KateLand. I hate admitting this; I hate saying out loud 'yup, things are currently craptacular'. But allowing oneself to be vulnerable is something which we all need to do. If we don't, that internal balloon gets to popping point… and what is the result? Stress, anger and an awful lot of tears, and not the 'I needed to have a cry' tears, but great big 'I can't stop' sobs which are not healthy.

Being vulnerable and letting people in is important. It's something that I have to work on very hard. I am extremely bad at letting people help me. I am not sure whether it's because I see asking for help as some kind of defeat, or whether I am just a stubborn cow, but putting my hand up and saying 'I am not coping' is vastly difficult. 

I know I am not alone in this.

I also think that a part of it is perhaps thinking I am not worthy of being helped.

Again, I know I am not alone in this.

To some degree, most of us dislike ourselves. There are some happy go lucky souls out there who saunter through life without any kind of self-doubt - always secure in themselves and their place in society and the world. They have a confidence in their own ability which borders almost on arrogance; but it isn't, and it isn't ego either. They simply don't have any kind of 'I'm no good' feelings running through their veins. 

At times, I envy them. To have that kind of blasé bliss - wow. For a week, a month or two - yay. It would be great. But if I really stop and nut it out, I come to a different conclusion.

Whilst I don't want to doubt my likeability on a daily basis, I do want to question whether my actions affect the wellbeing of others. I want to make sure that the way I behave is of good consequence. I want to make sure that what I am doing means I can sleep well at night.

While I want to love other people - the most important person in my world to love, I have figured out, is the person I spend twenty four hours a day with.

Me.

And part of loving yourself is being loveable. That means being loveable in your own head. If you can't go to sleeps with yourself - how can you go to sleeps with someone else?

This week has been an eye opener in many ways. I have found out that I can reach out for help, and that people are there to answer that call. That it doesn't make me weak. And more importantly, I have found out something else about myself.

I heart me.

And I am prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure I keep doing so. This means being strong, and self-assured, and independent - but it also means letting down the walls occasionally. It means allowing people to help you. It also means taking responsibility for yourself - and part of that responsibility is saying 'no that isn't acceptable to me' or 'yes, that is acceptable, and I am going to run with this and seize happiness with both hands'.

Even if the path to happiness - and responsibility, and most of all, self love - involves breaking out a box of tissues and having a weep every now and then.

Love yourself.

At the end of the day, you're stuck with you.

For life.

The Bright Side Of The Road

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”

— Marcus Tullius Cicero

I was thinking late last night that I hadn't written a gratitude post for a while. And I have a confession to make. Whilst there have been some fairly big things that I have wanted to get off my chest in the last few posts, and which weren't suited to the attitude of gratitude - and boy, has that resulted in a few hiccups - there has been another reason for a slight reduction in the ratio of thankfulness.

I haven't actually been feeling very grateful for much at all.

I think, to put it plainly, that I have been having a violent attack of a well known disease of the twenty first century. There are a lot of sufferers out there - although sufferers is perhaps a misnomer. Malingerers is probably a better word for it.

To be blunt, I have been feeling sorry for myself. Having a fit of FirstWorldItis. Things have been going wrong. Laptops acting up. Banks stuffing me around. Telstra (shudder) messing with my ADSL. Health not - well, not crash hot, although that perhaps is a fair whinge in small doses at least. Really bad sleeps. Sebastian Vettel winning the Bahrain Grand Prix (again). And a few other things which I had best not talk about because this will simply become a diatribe rather than what it is supposed to be, which is a post about positivity rather than the reverse.

Then I woke up this morning in my comfy bed. And I looked out my window at the view of the sunrise, which I am lucky enough to do, and realised something.

I realised I am lucky enough to wake up in my comfy bed and look out my window at the view of the sunrise.

And felt like slapping myself around the head for all the negative and dark sulks that I had allowed to take over for the last little while, because so many people don't have that privilege. So many people.

This is not supposed to sound Polly-Anna-ish. I am not trying to be saintlike - goodness knows I am more on the side of the devils than the angels when it comes down to it, and realistically quite cheerfully so. They seem to have more fun without the shame attached, plus devil costumes are way sexier at Hallowe'en. But I do know this - and I am speaking for everyone I know, and for everyone who I believe reads this blog; if we, as intelligent, educated individuals, hold our gratitude inside ourselves, or indeed don't acknowledge everything that is good in our lives, and instead focus on the black and dark and dreary, then we may as well not bother going forward. Because we have so much - so very, very much - and we take it for granted 98% of the time.

Every person has crap to deal with. Often it is a case of same crap, different day.

But.

When you woke up this morning, were you waking up in a bed? Yes. Did you get to look out at a sunrise, or at least at the sky? I'd say so. Did you have technology at your fingertips, and food to eat, and coffee to prop your brain and your eyelids open, and a shower to shock yourself into sensibility with?

Then you are on the sunny side of the street.

And the very bright side of the road.

And life in its entirety is something to be truly grateful for. No matter what. This is something I am going to endeavour to carry with me today, and tomorrow, and the day after that. Because no doubt FirstWorldItis will strike again soon, and I will need a reminder of this morning's sunrise.

And my very comfy bed.

Not Waving, But Drowning

Inigo Montoya: I donna suppose you could speed things up?
Man in Black: If you’re in such a hurry, you could lower a rope or a tree branch or find something useful to do.
Inigo Montoya: I could do that. I have some rope up here, but I do not think you would accept my help, since I am only waiting around to kill you.
Man in Black: That does put a damper on our relationship.

— The Princess Bride

This may seem initially like a very depressing post, and nothing at all to do with gratitude, or even shoes for that matter (and when shoes aren't helping it means it's a bloody great beast of a black dog kind of day). And you would be right in some ways. It isn't a happy, marshmallow-filled, fluffy bunny kind of entry. But that's OK. Because sometimes, life just isn't like that - which is one of the reasons why I write about shoes some of the time (see Heel Thyself for background on that one).

I have been having what I tend to term a Long Dark Teatime of The Soul, or as I also call it, A Need To Give Myself A Good Slap Around The Head And Sort Myself Out. I am aware that the latter is not a technical psychiatric or psychological term, and quite possibly is actually frowned upon in said circles, but it tends to work for me most of the time. And one of the ways I deliver said Slap is to write down what is wrong - and also what is right. Having now done that, things are seeming to make a lot more sense.

Nobody can be happy one hundred percent of the time. That would make them robots. But sometimes - well, sometimes the happiness quotient slips below the acceptable mark to a point where it's hard to get the energy to come back to the median point on the table. And this is where the Slap is so important - and also hard to deliver when one is physically and emotionally tired.

Please be aware that I don't go around physically hitting myself in the head - I may be depressed but I am not masochistic (those who have witnessed me wearing shoes that are vastly uncomfortable but incredibly gorgeous please hold their tongues. Oh - I just mentioned shoes - see, writing things down does help!).

What I am talking about with the Slap is recognising that something is wrong; that you are perhaps caught in the UnderToad of Life and are being swept out from the shore. That the frantic hand gestures are not a sign of buggerising around in the waves and having a good time but are actually a gesture for help.

This is where the gratitude comes in. And it takes two forms.

I am grateful that I have incredible people around me who both are close enough and intuitive enough to recognise when I am in fact flailing and coughing up salt water. They are supportive and empathetic without being sooky-la-la (which they know I can't stand above all else) and they reach out to grab me without my having to reach for them first. They are all incredibly busy people - some in massively stressful situations or even outright dangerous occupations - but they support me, and in the right way. And secondly - I am grateful to myself. Which sounds supremely egotistical I know; but once upon a time I would not have had the strength to admit I was going under the water; and would instead have just let it take me out to sea and ended up who knows where for who knows how long.

So you see, this is about gratitude. As it turned out, it was also a little bit about shoes.

Mostly though, it's about not going under.

Because the School of the Slap doesn't believe in that.