Yes, Life Is Unfair – So Be Grateful

gratitude

 

It’s a strange contrast. Last night I watched a documentary on ‘The Virgin Killer’ , British born Elliot Roger, who went on a killing spree in America earlier this year. He videoed himself moaning about life being unfair before ending the chances of so many others from experiencing both life and fairness. What struck me was the sense of entitlement that he had – that because he wasn’t getting the sex, the women, exactly what he wanted, life was both unbearable and unfair.

The documentary talked of his ‘privilege’ – affluence, status, education. He didn’t see it, and focussed on what he thought was lacking in his life. Life isn’t fair, he complained.

I can recognise that, after going through a period of difficulty following my surgery. I’ve spent too much time ruminating on what isn’t, what’s missing, what’s unfair. I’ve only recently learned how close I came to dying. So, everything else is a bonus at the moment. I live in a world where food, water, sanitation is all easy to come by and whereby, largely, I’m untroubled directly by war, violence and poverty.

It doesn’t always feel like that, particularly when I focus on insecurities, mistakes, weaknesses… myself. It’s been a trying time, both for me and for those who have been supporting me. We all thought I was doing well – 5 months back at work, back in my own flat, driving, fit and healthy (kind of).

But good news can also be difficult. A friend of someone I know commented that it was almost a relief to know that things can be difficult for someone else. We get taunted and lured by the notion of ‘happiness’ that we lose the value of pain, loss – even unhappiness.  The rain as well as the sunshine.

I’ve been trying not to beat myself up for feeling low, or for recognising that life can feel unfair.

But it’s also so much more than that. So, as a discipline, I’ve started to listen to some advice I often give to clients or family and friends. It’s very fashionable now in ‘mindfulness’ circles. People used to talk about keeping a ‘Book Of Blessings’, a term which I felt uncomfortable with because of vague religious connotations. Another term is simply ‘gratitude’.  I noticed that a Facebook friend had taken to posting about things that made her happy and fulfilled. Even reading her posts made me feel a little warmer, a little less jaded. It also gave me some insight into what she found important in life – not the sex, status and privilege that had so preoccupied Elliot Roger. But simple acts, expressions, and experiences of humanity. An awareness of the present.

So  I started to try it out for myself. Over the last week or so, I’ve made a point at the end of the day of using social media to reflect on what I feel grateful for from the day. It’s been about family, friends, some bare necessities that I’ve taken time to notice and been grateful for. It’s also meant that I look for those things, throughout the day and as I experience them. Sitting with family, friends, and recognising ‘I’m grateful just for this moment right now.’ It’s given me a bank of happy memories from the day.

For a long while, I’ve been having difficulty sleeping, and I’ve been missing my dreams. The last couple of nights I’ve been dreaming again.

I encourage you to try it, and see how much difference it can make. You’ll thank me for it, I’m sure.

And, by the way,  thanks for reading…

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Smash The Goddam Mirror!

When it comes to happiness, I’m not often going to be quoting either ex-Conseravtive MP Gyles Brandreth or indeeed the xenohpobic and misery inducing Daily Mail, but a change is as good as a rest. I’m intrigued by one of Gyles’s ‘secrets to happiness’  from his recently published book and article in ‘Fe-Mail’ (get it – because the Mail is, of course a men’s paper when it comes to important things like news and sport, but likes to cater for the lovely ladies every now and then) .
‘Happiness’ sells, because who doesn’t want to be happy? My own philosophy (Lukas’s secret to happiness, and you get it  free…for what it’s worth, as I’m a notoriously gloomy old queen) is that it’s a journey rather than a destination, and that we alone are responsible for our own happiness. So I’m surprised how challenged I feel by one of the most simple of Gyles’s ‘secrets’ – to ‘smash the mirror’. That is, not to be so self-absorbed, to ensure we don’t spend so much time thinking about ourselves. .To avoid becoming self-obsessed. Avoid introspection. I work as a counsellor, so much of my training has been about self-reflection and ‘self awareness’, but perhaps this does as much harm as it does good? Living on my own, writing, (even blogging) means constantly over-thinking and questioning. Gyles quotes advice given to Prince Edward from  Prince Philip ( another two first and last mentions)

‘One of his best pieces of advice he gives to everybody is talk about everything else, don’t talk about yourself, nobody’s interested in you.’

He’s right. I’m not remotely interested in Prince Philip. Harry, on the other hand… The mirror I all too often look  has a harsh light on it, dazzlingly bright and unforgiving, banishing all the interesting or more complex and complicated shadows. Sometimes, it’s akin to a fairground Hall Of Mirrors, distorting but also fascinating. And wherever you look, there’s a mirror – walking past a window, or near a puddle, who isn’t tempted to look at oneself, or criticism from others.

I grew up in the  1980s, which  were defined by self-absorption and the rise of consumerism, the individualism of the ‘Me’ generation. Counselling as a profession is often (quite rightly) criticised for its own strategy of naval-gazing. Communication, counselling and even flirting courses I’ve been on ,have often posed the challenge of just sitting and listening to someone else for five minutes, without speaking yourself or interrupting them.

Michael Jackson famously sang of The Man In The Mirror. As a teenager, I played the ‘Mirror Man’ in an alternative version of ‘Snow White. There was a lot of tin foil and  lots of sequins involved, which I have to admit I adored. I spent ages looking at myself, as a mirror, in the mirror.

But as of now, I’m smashing mirrors, and not worrying about ‘bad luck’. And then I’ll work on Gyles’s secret Number Two – being a leaf on a tree. This happiness thing can’t be too hard, can it?  Not if Gyles Brandreth has mastered it.

And anyway, enough of me – how are you doing?