Good surprises

As a self-declared catastrophist, I am always taken aback when good things happen.

There’s a steep hill below my parents’ holiday house in Donegal, my nemesis now, that holds something I’d never heard about in all my forty years. My dad has been seeking out an easy way down for me and others. Turns out it’s beside what was a house many years ago! And would only require two steps to get onto the beach!

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A storehouse

Of happiness. Do you have one?

This past while, life has been reduced to a bare, lonely existence of limited human interaction bound up with an abnormal level of anxiety. How can we keep trudging through it all? How do we find any richness in the life we’re living?

Or are we just surviving.

This week I have discovered that I have lost the capacity to sit quietly with a calm mind. Sitting on a stone on a beach in Donegal, I thought to myself, this is the perfect time to get your head in order.

I couldn’t do it.

Every evening this week I’ve been complaining at my husband as he studies because I cannot settle to anything other than repetitive conversation.

You could put it down to this covid time and the strange fatigue that comes with it. You’re probably right.

So, what to do? Methinks it’s time to seek out a storehouse. Not of beans or flour or face masks but of good, remembered things. I wrote this next bit a year ago and it resonates right now too:

‘I caught myself laughing at a funny memory a few days ago and it struck me: I’ve got to store up these things for the dark times. You know, those days when it’s hard to smile. I think I probably have enough stored to fill up my head for a fair while- good memories, remembered jokes, re-conjured pictures of my favourite places and people. It’s not much, but it might help a little.

If you’re alone sitting in a bland room, or lying in an MRI scanner as I will be on Wednesday, you’ve got to harness your memory and your imagination. I know that times of extreme stress drive everything out though. It all gets stripped down to trying to breathe in and out. But when the storm passes, your stockpiled good thoughts will come back.’

So here’s a little exercise for you: cast your mind back to a time when you were happy, or a joke that still makes you laugh out loud, or a song that helps you get to sleep (I do that a lot these nights). That’s the beginning of your happiness stash.

Go on, make your storehouse and jump right in. It will come in handy when you’re lonely, frightened or just plain bored.

And you know the best thing? You can add to it as much as you like and use it any time you like. You’re in control, and the only rule is, you can only have good stuff in there.

One more step

Or maybe a thousand.

I got one of those fancy step counting watches for my birthday at the start of the month. I was fully intending to ignore the number of steps my shaky legs could do but somehow, curiosity got the better of me. The first day I checked I knew the number would be terrible as it had been a hot one. But when the temperature dropped, I discovered that while I could never get near the 3000 target, I could break a thousand. It is never easy to do but somehow it’s been good for me to have a little achievement to aim for.

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