St Francis Bay freelance journalist Beth Cooper Howell takes a look at the other side of life in Woman on Top, her weekly lifestyle column for The Herald
Penny and I often share inspirational e-mails – those ones cynical people fob off as platitudes or ‘hippy nonsense’ because the world doesn’t reward people for smiling and waving, does it?
Or doesn’t it?
Let me tell you, after running a mental marathon this week as part of my newfound ‘big, bold, better me’ campaign, I am now utterly convinced that magic exists.
I don’t know how it works, or why, but it’s not something we’re being taught at varsity or the go-for-jugular corporate environment.
Ja, you say, but bad things happen to good people no matter how much they give to charity, or spend their time being nice, or avoiding negative thoughts. If magic exists, then where the hell is it?
What I’ve found is that you don’t have to understand how it works to make it happen. And that the big things you want will probably miraculously appear at some point – but only when you sweat, in a good way, the small stuff.
You’ll probably find as well that what you thought would make you happy, really doesn’t. And that’s where the magic happens.
Penny sent me a story about ‘living in the moment’. It goes something like this: women tend to put off what gives us a moment of joy or bliss because it’s not in the schedule, or undeserved or doesn’t fit in with the routine we’ve created in order to earn enough money or bag the best soulmate or achieve the right body, which are the things we think we want.
And when we don’t have them, we aspire to them. But in the process of looking ahead, our ‘sleep when you’re dead’ attitude is having an opposite attraction effect. We’re so busy eyeing the summit, that we’re ignoring the coffee and rest stops on the way.
There’s the anecdote about the serial dieter on the Titanic who refused to eat the chef’s cream dessert because she was afraid of getting fat on the cruise. Or the mom who kept promising to dance in the rain with her daughter ‘soon’, only to find that the girl had grown up overnight and didn’t want to get wet.
The secret to getting up and having a passably happy day is as simple and exhausting as busting a butt cheek at gym. It takes practice, but earns results.
Ever the guinea pig, I tried one of the tricks for 24 hours. Briefly, I had to step outside of my brain – which is a very nervous, obsessively complicated and essentially feminine thing – and observe my thoughts over a set period.
Blow me down with a feather. I had no idea what a nasty, nit-picking, whiny rat bag of a twit I was.
Between leaving the driveway and returning with two kids and shopping, I had sworn (silently – I’m not quite out of control yet) at three cars, noted a friend’s snubby attitude, misinterpreted my youngest’s tantrum (he was tired and hungry, not masterminding a plot to collapse the universe) and fleetingly concluded that I was a career failure, for no good reason.
The twist was that I also had to find something good in every single person or situation.
It’s funny when you do that because every brick-carrying, fume-belching truck will pull in front of you then; kids will projectile vomit; husbands will schedule meetings at bath-time.
But that’s the thing about magic, see. Every single time I didn’t blow up, tickled my children randomly and learned how to say ‘I love you’ in Italian just because, I was adding to my personal happiness investment.
Instead of wasting my ‘okay’ time worrying about avoiding ‘bad’ times or aspiring towards ‘better’ times, I was filling my mental love bucket.
And this means that brick-carrying, fume-belching trucks don’t bug me as much. Not while I’m eating doughnuts while driving, anyway.