Weird title, but that’s how I would describe it. I mentioned in my first blog I had found the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin very helpful. It’s sort of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for people who would rather not see a therapist. I have mixed feelings about actual therapy. I have at least two close friends who have really benefitted from it, and I do think saying a thing out loud is cathartic, and often necessary. On the other hand, I believe – like my Mum does – that saying a thing out loud over and over again is just scratching at a wound, and talking about yourself a lot isn’t the best way to get out of your own head, put your problems in perspective, and take affirmative action to change them.
The idea behind The Happiness Project is simple, and goes something like this:
Think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.
For instance, one of the very basic ways I achieved the above was to write a list of the things in life that made me feel good, and to write a list of the things that made me feel bad. If I could, I completely cut out the things in life that were making me feel bad, for instance, a relationship. If it makes you feel bad, it’s not making you happy. It seems so obvious, but so many people use up their years on relationships that make them feel occasionally euphoric and generally shit. On the list of good things was, for example, Buffy. Gretchen suggests throwing yourself with abandon into what you love. In the past year, I have acquired a Sunnydale t-shirt, Yummy Sushi pajamas (debuting at a pajama party this Friday), and Netflix, so I can watch the whole series, over and over again, from wherever I am. It’s been worth it for this alone – apart from social commentary documentaries, the only things I have watched are BTVS and Wallander. Later this year, I’m going to a big Buffy event. If I’m still keeping up with the blog, I’ll yell you all about it.
Another thing I wrote on my ‘feeling good’ list was ‘Family & Friends’. I mentioned I run regular karaoke nights, and organized a women’s retreat in January. My Grandad always says human relationships are the most important thing in life, and I feel they are. This week was a lovely week for family, and I made sure to see my friend Romy, who ran for Green MP last election, and her children. It’s so much fun to see the kids, and even nicer that they know me now, and her son tells his Mum, ‘My friend Abby is coming round today’. With small kids I’m both really into playing, and then also pretty no-nonsense. You would think that would make someone less popular, but kids seem to appreciate it when an adult is firm (but not crazy firm) – because they know, in truth, that that big, scary person is on their side, and they feel more secure with you.
We also celebrated a 90th birthday in my family this week, with a big party. I spent lots of time with my brilliant cousins, playing bananagrams, talking politics, and getting angry about body image and their curriculum (they are all in school). We had another birthday too, with a lovely walk, pub grub, and presents. My Mum has always said when you’re feeling down you should do something for someone else. Creatively wrapping a bag of thoughtfully selected presents for someone you love, and organizing a day of surprises, has to be better for you than even the best therapy. I guess sometimes though, the problem is that you are too outwardly focused to sort out your own life, and that might not be solve-able with giftwrap.
On that note, the only difficult thing about my particular experience of human relationships (which I think many people share), is how to balance having them with the ‘feeling right’ portion of Gretchen’s statement and, particularly, the ‘atmosphere of growth’ bit. Right now, I don’t know where to live. I am quite happy where I am day-to-day, but I am not sure I can see the growth. I have lived in London, New York, and Los Angeles, and am now (mostly but not always) back at home. I have grown up in a remote, agricultural part of the UK. Farming has decimated the landscape. Everywhere you look is a field with a homogenous crop, and no wildlife. Investment is so much less than urban areas in Britain, and the roads are as bad as those I rode my bike over in Vietnam (I really want Top Gear to come here and try driving on them). I wouldn’t send my children to the secondary school I attended in a million years, which makes it difficult to think about raising children here. This is such an important issue. My friends with school age kids in the area currently either home school, or drive an hour each way every day to take their kids to a Steiner school.
I really like the people in my community, the cute villages and towns, the small businesses, and my family, who are still here, but I wish I lived either somewhere beautiful, mountainous, and still wild at the edges (something I love about living in Los Angeles), or somewhere with a little more to do. Ideally, I’d like to have both, either in two different places, or in a city like Los Angeles – the problem then being that I’d be a world away from my family. I am struggling to see how this balance can happen, and have given myself until September to figure it out, mainly because I want to concentrate on work, and because I am taking a class here that I am in love with, and want to see how that goes and how both the class, and work, pan out over the summer to affect my decision. By my next birthday, I’ll be living somewhere. On the ‘more to do’ note, it was so fun to be in London last week and have everyone around me talking about publishing, or filmmaking. It would be so great for our area if we had access to these cultural industries. Also another slight hiccup to our area: as much as I have never been focused on searching for a partner (more on that approach to love another time), it would probably be helpful if there were a plethora of young, available guys in the area to serendipitously bump into.