Tag Archives: happy

Shoulda Woulda Coulda

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Hello, you lovely thing!  How goes the world with you?

It is very tempting to look back on certain life situations with regret, annoyance or even anger.  We have all been known to look at past mistakes and wish that we had behaved differently, or that the outcome of certain circumstances had been different.  I am actually a big fan of regret as a motivator, but I think that our main mistake in these cases is a failure to look forwards.  Yeah, ok, we messed up – but it’s not the end of the world.  We can always do better next time.

Previous errors or foul-ups can be broken down into three productive facets, which (shockingly enough) are based on the “shoulda woulda coulda” principle.  We should have behaved in a certain way; we knew we probably would behave in another and next time we could behave in a third way.  For example, I should have gone to bed early last night because I’m off to catch a train very early today; I knew I probably would stay out chatting to my sister for ages; next time I have an early start I could make the effort to get to bed at a reasonable time.

The idea behind this little trio of approaches is to give ourselves a break and admit that, yes, we may not have handled a situation to the best of our ability, but we can always improve.  Just because you mess up once doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to do so over and over again.

For example: the last time you found out that your ex met someone new, you probably knew that you should have deleted them from your phone and Facebook.  You knew that you would get annoyed and rope your friends in to bitch about it with you, but next time you could not even notice it because you’re so busy being happy and successful without the ex.  Just a thought.

Or you might find that when a colleague lets you down or annoys you, you know you should talk to them calmly about it; being British you will probably smile with ice-cold politeness at them, but next time you could ask them what on earth is going on.  It could equally be that you should only stay out for one drink; you knew you would get stuck having a second or third, and next time you could just say no entirely.

Here’s the most important one: when we say we’re going to have a good time, we should, we would and we absolutely could just have a really bloody good time.  We are so susceptible to getting caught up in our own heads and worrying about the mechanics and the “well, you know what happened last time I wore this dress/drank red wine/went to that person’s house”.  Get rid of all of those associations and just enjoy yourself.

I really hope that this post has made some kind of sense.  I’m very tired right now…basically, I think you should enjoy your life.  Don’t get hung up on previous faux pas.  If you know what you should have done, will probably do and could do to get the best possible outcome, then you’re pretty much good to go.

Well, I’m off to Edinburgh.  You have an inordinately joyful Wednesday.

Here Comes the Sun

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Good morning and a very merry Monday to you, dear reader.  How was your weekend?

In the grand tradition of Brits overdoing it on the first day of sunshine, I have some very fetching sunburn on my back.  In the equally grand tradition of Brits just after the first day of sunshine, I crossly insisted that I hadn’t been in the sun for very long, and that I “shouldn’t” be this red.  That’s right.  I am so British that I subconsciously imagine a system of justice behind the weather.

Tomato-complexion aside, the sunshine has a lovely effect on lots of things.  I think that there are a few which deserve a bit more attention:

  • The most average-looking places look like movie set locations.  For example, I am not a huge fan of South London, but Kennington yesterday was a delightful sight.  After the new writing night I skidaddled down to a pub by the river for a friend’s birthday, and found my lot on a rooftop terrace.  This would have been fairly glitzy for us on a normal day, but in the sunshine it felt like an industry party in LA, darling.   (Except that we had wine and cupcakes, not champagne and cigars.  Close enough, right?)
  • You feel so much more zen.  It’s probably a combination of things: cloudless skies remind us of infinity, lying on the grass makes us feel more at one with nature and being warm in general makes us a bit sleepy.  I mean, philosophical.
  • Life becomes a window shopping trip.  This might be more for girls than guys, but I love seeing what kind of sandals, sunglasses and pretty summer dresses people turn out in when the temperature gets above 22 degrees.  Also, people are happier and more confident in their nice summer clothes, so if you really like someone’s outfit you can actually ask them where it’s from, and not get a standard “stranger danger” glare.
  • Sunglasses make everyone look amazing.  I really don’t know what it is about sunglasses, but everyone looks really, really good in them.  I have no idea of the psychology behind this (especially given that eyes are meant to be the windows to the soul and therefore pretty important in attraction, surely), but sunglasses make everyone look like rock stars.
  • Sunglasses make everyone feel better.  This one is fairly obvious given the last point: when we know we look good, we feel good.  Instant confidence from something as simple as a pair of glasses is one of the weirdest and loveliest side-effects of weather like this.  Also, sunglasses of different tints and hues give people unique perspectives: for instance, my friend Rob’s sunglasses are a brown-ish colour.  More than once yesterday we were treated to the exclamation “Everything looks like a photograph from the seventies!” I don’t know why that made Rob so happy, but it did, and who are we to judge?
  • Ice cream trucks are everywhere.  Creepy and perturbing music aside, ice cream trucks are essentially vehicles of joy, and their purpose is to deliver deliciousness to all and sundry in a given postcode area.

Have a sensational Monday.

Deliver Us to Temptation

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Good morning, you gorgeous creature!  How was your bank holiday weekend?

Today I’d like to have a chat about temptation and what it means to each of us.  To a married person it might mean avoiding the temptation to flirt with an attractive stranger; to a student it could be staying home to revise on a Saturday night.  To a lot of Londoners it’s deciding not to push tourists down the escalators, and for pretty much everyone it’s not kicking your television in when Simon Cowell makes an appearance on it.

Being tempted in any sense is a bit of an ordeal, because it combines two juxtaposing things: the opportunity to have something that we want, and the anticipation of impending doom.  It’s lovely to imagine obtaining something that would make us happy, but the key is to remember that that happiness would only be fleeting.  The person on a strict diet is only happy for as long as takes to consume a doughnut, and the recovering alcoholic who falls off the wagon will only have their hangover as a souvenir of the fun times.  Greatness comes before a fall, look before you leap and bad things come to those who just can’t wait.

The key to successfully defeating temptation is, bizarrely, not to avoid it.  Repeatedly facing temptation makes us better at seeing it for what it is: a very temporary sensation that would have catastrophic effects in the long run.  Not many people have the clear-sightedness to see past the moment of temptation, but the more times we come up against these moments, the better we become at looking beyond them.  George Bernard Shaw said, “virtue is insufficient temptation”, but I think virtue is actually temptation that got bored and was eventually forced to leave us alone.  We won’t become people we are proud of by avoiding the things that could ruin us: we become those people by standing up to our demons and saying “bog off, demons.  I’ve got better things to do.”

Speaking of which, have a glorious Tuesday.  I hope you tick lots of things off your to do list.

Songs for When You’re Sad

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Good morning, reader!  How’s your Thursday so far?  Yeah, same here.

What is the one thing that can make you feel better when you’re low?  The answer varies from person to person, but I think we can all agree that certain songs always put a smile on our faces.  This is tricky to do accounting for everyone’s different tastes, but here are some songs that I definitely recommend listening to if you find yourself flagging a bit (we’re nearly there, but it’s STILL not Friday), and need cheering up.  YouTube links are in the titles:

1) The Middle – Jimmy Eat World
This is a great song for people who are feeling a bit stuck or lost.  The song itself is upbeat and rocky (I should apologise now for the fact that I have no idea how to describe music, by the way), and the lyrics are encouraging.  An all-round excellent motivator for anyone who feels victimised at work, left out by their friends, out of the loop or just fed up.

2) I’m Not Crying – Flight of the Conchords
This is for anyone on the verge of tears.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t know or watch Flight of the Conchords (although you really should check them out).  The reason that this song works so well for when you’re upset is that it covers all bases: its tone is melancholy and appropriate to your mood, but the lyrics are so funny that you end up laughing at your own sadness.  Any time that I’ve been crying or upset and listened to this, I’ve immediately felt better.  It’s like the Pro Plus of uplifting music.

3) Send Me On My Way – Rusted Root
This one’s just common sense by now, surely?  Alright, none of us know the words, but does that really matter?  It’s been a firm favourite since childhood thanks to Matilda and Ice Age, and it’s still got an irresistible cheer factor now.  I defy you to be unhappy while listening to this tune.

4) Every Little Thing – Delirious?
This is a song by a Christian band (don’t knock ’em til you’ve heard ’em), and it has been making me feel better about life since I was fifteen.  It’s actually more of a cathartic tune than an immediate happy-maker, but its message is very simple: everything is going to be alright.  And it is, you know.

5) Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da – The Beatles
Really?  Out of every Beatles song ever, I’ve gone for this one?  Yep.  Two reasons: firstly, it’s got some cracking lines: “Desmond says to Molly ‘girl, I like your face'” which is just brilliant, and b) during recording Paul McCartney  sang the lyrics wrong at the end, implying that Desmond and Molly Jones are actually a gay couple, which you can hear them all trying not to giggle at.  I think it’s very sweet that they kept and used that recording, because the song is just a cute little love story – who cares if it’s about a gay couple or a straight one?

6) This Too Shall Pass – Ok Go
Cracking, cheerful song and, as always from Ok Go, an insanely amazing video.  In fact, any of their videos will do the trick.

7) You Should Be Dancing – Bee Gees
You know, you SHOULD be dancing.  Forget your troubles and have a boogie, I guarantee you’ll feel better.

8) The song that reminds you of your best friend
This one has no YouTube link (obviously), but it’s probably the best song on the list.  You might recall from this post that my lovely friend Becca introduced me to lots of very good music when we were at university together.  Whenever a song comes on that reminds me of her, I think about how brilliant she is and how much fun we’ve had together.  So go and find the song that does the same thing for you and your best friend, and then if you’re still feeling sad, give them a call.  That’s what best friends are for.

Have the best Thursday since records began.

Let It Go (or Drop it Like it’s Hot, if You Prefer)

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Happy Friday, everyone!  Did you know that on this day in 1958 Grace Kelly gave birth to Prince Albert of Monaco?  Me neither.

As you may already know from previous blog posts, the songs from the film Frozen have been very popular in my flat of late.  The sound of my house mate wandering around singing “do you wanna build a snowman?” has become pretty normal background noise.  The other song from the film that’s had a lot of attention (and not just in our bizarre little household) is Let it Go, which was made unbelievably creepy by this kid on YouTube.  I like the song (film version, not scary children’s choir version) because it has such a simple message: let go of things that are not good for your well-being.  Fair enough.  It seems like very basic common sense, but how easy is it to actually do?  And how many of us are holding on to things that we shouldn’t?

So to round up a week of fairly self-help focused blog posts, here are some things that I think we should all let go of:

1) The Unfinished Argument
The comedian Ed Byrne talks about obsessing over things he wished he’d said in arguments that happened eighteen months ago.  The routine  strikes a chord with people because it taps into a problem that lots of us have, i.e. Post-Argument Eloquence Syndrome.  You can be left spluttering or even speechless by someone’s cutting words in the middle of a row, but hours or even days later the perfect witty response will come to you, unbidden, and usually when it’s far too late to do anything about it.  It’s frustrating that our brains don’t work fast enough to make us the Oscar Wilde of every argument, but there’s nothing we can do about it.  in the long run, it’s probably better that we can’t think of the ultimate put-down when we would have used it.  It probably makes us nicer people (even though it’s not by choice).

2) The One Who Won’t Go Away
A lot of people have an ex whom they always think of as “the one who got away”, who invariably won’t go away in terms of your thoughts and feelings.  I hate to perpetuate a cliché, but honestly, if it’s meant to be – or rather, if getting back together will ever be right for both of you – then it will probably happen.  Your job is to crack on with being a fabulous human being.  It’s not even a case of waiting for that other person; it’s about accepting that things are not what they were, and trying to move on.  Don’t try to get them out of your head just for the sake of it: get them out of your head so that you can concentrate on other things.  There’s a lot of cool stuff to think about, you know.  Like what you would call your pet dragon if you had one.  (Mine would be called Jiminy Billy Bob, and you have to ask why then we can’t be friends.)

3) Bottle It
We’ve talked about this fairly recently: you are the only person who lies awake regretting stupid things you’ve said or done.  No one who loves you or cares about you thinks about inebriated errors you’ve made or silly things you’ve said while sober: they think about nice things you’ve done for them, or times you’ve made them laugh.  I am terrible for thinking about stuff I wish I hadn’t said or done (especially after one too many ciders), but it’s not going to do anyone any good.  You and I will just have to trust that our friends still love us, and that maybe in future we can avoid drunk dialling by turning our phones off at the start of a night out.  Or, you know, by drinking less…but who am I to tell you how to wind down of an evening?

4) Opportunities Wasted
Because so many of my friends work on a freelance basis as actors, writers and suchlike, I have a lot of conversations about ‘perfect’ opportunities that they are dying to grab hold of: casting briefs that seem to have been written for them, directing placements at that brilliant fringe theatre or writing workshops with their literary idol.  We apply for these things in feverish hope that this will be the key turning point in our meandering careers, that this one thing will open doors for us and make us better practitioners, and if we don’t get them we are bitterly disappointed.  That opportunity would have been perfect for us.  Sigh.  I am no stranger to the deflated feeling that comes with professional rejection, but I don’t think that the chances we miss out on were quite right for us in the first place.  On a pretty basic level, why would you want to work for someone who hasn’t got the common sense to accept an application from someone as brilliant as you?  Don’t worry about it.  There will be other jobs and projects.

5) The Artist Previously Known As
You are not who you were ten years ago.  You are not who you were three years ago, or last month, or when you woke up this morning.  We change in tiny, seemingly inconsequential ways every time we feel or experience anything, and that’s something to be happy about.  You know when someone says something odd like “tomorrow will be a better day”?  (How do they know, by the way?  Do they have some kind of prescience that surpasses the freakish knowledge of television weather forecasters?  Very suspicious.)  It’s not tomorrow that’s going to different, or better: it’s you.  In a way, I miss being sixteen and having the time of my life at sixth form (and working my bum off for my A Levels, of course).  I know for certain that I miss being eighteen and feeling like an independent adult for the first time, and being twenty-one and discovering how much I loved directing.  I am not any of those versions of me anymore, and although it would be lovely to keep hold of the good times, we have to trust that the person we are now is all the better for having adapted.

Have a lovely day.  Maybe treat yourself to a take away coffee or something.  What the hell, you deserve it.

All the Small Things

Good afternoon, lovely reader!  I hope you’re enjoying your weekend so far.

Today’s blog starts with some wise words from a fairly well-known American dude by the name of Abraham Lincoln: “Folks are generally about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”

I usually have very little patience with trite little sayings like that, but I am (begrudgingly) forced to admit that Abe might have a point.  Obviously there are enormous, life-defining factors that shape a person’s happiness: upbringing, career, love life and so on.  But there is a spectacular amount of joy to be taken from the tiniest things in life, and I think we should pay closer attention to them.  They might not fix all of our problems or make us wealthier/more attractive/more talented, but these tiny injections of joy can add up to generally higher happiness levels.

Here are some of my favourite examples:

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1) When the Tubes Align
There are many reasons to get cross with the London Underground, but there are also several things to love about it.  Firstly, have you ever arrived on a platform exactly as your train pulls in to the station?  It’s like you SUMMONED THE TRAIN.  Also, standing in just the right spot so that the doors open precisely in front of you.  That’s a win right there.

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2) Overheard Conversations
The sensation of overhearing a snippet of someone else’s conversation as they walk past in the opposite direction is always entertaining, because they’re out of context and you can have fun imagining how on earth the chatter went in that direction.  For example , I overheard a girl on the phone to someone the other day, and as I walked past her I heard this: “So I turn to him and go ‘no’, and he goes, ‘what about the sausages?’ and I’m like…”  I will never find out what she replied to this unfortunate chap, but imagining it amused me for several minutes afterwards.

3) Childish Food
This morning my house mate and I went to Asda and we found THIS:2014-03-01 12.34.35

Behold: the inexplicably red elixir of my childhood!  I haven’t had this for about fifteen years, and I am daintily sipping a glass of it as I type.  As an adult I shouldn’t still enjoy drinking an undoubtedly mental numbers of additives, but I do.  A lot of our childhood pleasures were simple and attainable, and there is nothing wrong with revisiting some of them as a grumpy grown up.

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4) Anthem for Doomed Youth
Speaking of nostalgia, going back and listening to those songs that you and your friends loved as teenagers is an incredibly simple way to make yourself happy, even if it’s just for a few minutes.  As you may have gathered from the title of this blog, my generation’s anthem is probably the aforementioned Blink 182 song, although other contenders include Song 2 by Blur and Last Train Home by Lost Prophets (well, this is awkward…let’s move on).

5) New Friends
Stumbling across an episode of Friends that you’ve never seen before is THE DREAM.  It’s such a tiny thing, but on some fundamental level it reminds us that there is still mystery and adventure in the world, and that even stories you think are long-since over can still surprise you.  I might be reading slightly too much into it, but the point stands that something routine – and let’s be honest, Friends has been on television non-stop for over a decade – can still bring you unexpected joy.

I hope that you’re having a deliriously happy Saturday.  If you’re not, other contenders for the top 5 list included blowing bubbles and watching popcorn pop, so give those a try.

Stuff I’m Definitely Going to Teach My Kids

Hello, reader!  I hope you know that by getting this far on a Monday you are a champion.  Mondays are rubbish, and you are clearly owning this one already.  Good for you.

Yesterday I wrote a blog about stuff we the mid-twenties team are too old to do now, and my house mate Ash wrote a brilliant response about stuff she knows she shouldn’t do, but still does: take a look at it here.  Ash and I both have birthdays around the corner, which could explain why we have ageing and childhood on our minds.  As Ash points out in her blog post, when you’re younger your birthdays are milestones of opportunity – you can drive now, you can drink now, you can drink in America now – but as the milestones go by you start to look back and see what you can’t (or shouldn’t) do anymore.

It might seem a bit rich for two girls in their mid-twenties to make grand, tragic statements about the perils of ageing, so my apologies to anyone who thinks that we’re drama queens.  I can only defend us by saying that a) we are so recently past the last “good” milestone that we are still adjusting to the idea of birthdays being bad, and b) we are drama queens.  We have our own tiaras and everything.

Today I have decided to take a more positive approach about this loss-of-childhood thing: I have thought about what kind of childhood I will want my kids to have, and what kind of lessons I most want them to learn.

1) How to Bake
My mum is wonderful for many reasons, but I think one of my favourite things about her is that she taught us all how to bake.  I can whip up a sponge cake in half an hour (including cooking time.  That’s right.  Don’t hate me ’cause you ain’t me) because many years ago my mum took the time to show me, and to have fun with her daughter as well as teach her a great life skill.  Baking is one of the few loopholes that allows grown-ups to behave like kids: you can make a mess, you can make incredibly unhealthy but yummy food, and you can decorate the crap out of said food with glitter and icing.
Baking also results in being able to feed people nice things.  It’s probably the Irish genes coming through, but I love making people birthday cakes, biscuits and what have you.  Ash (who is, if anything, even more obsessed with baking than I am) would agree with me that one of the greatest joys in life is giving people cake.  Such a simple activity results in so much joy.  I want my children to have fun learning to bake, and to spend the rest of their lives using that skill to make themselves and other people happy.

2) Creativity is a Super Power
Speaking of my mum and baking, I have to take this opportunity to say that the woman makes INCREDIBLE cakes.  Kids’ cakes, wedding cakes, beautiful cupcakes arranged in a weird tower thingy: you name it, she can do it.  Look at these:600133_10151800790980083_1127455735_n photo (5)646_112469255082_353_n

The woman made a DINOSAUR CAKE, for crying out loud.  That is the closest thing to a super power that anyone could have, in my opinion.  She passed her amazing artistic abilities down to us in varying degrees, but the most active artist among us is my brother, who paints stuff like this:

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It makes me sick that he can paint so well, and I can’t even draw stick people.  These are just two examples of the kind of creativity that makes my jaw drop, but my life is full of people who excel at singing, acting, writing, dancing and all manner of other things.  I want my children to understand that having a creative outlet is a wonderful thing that allows you to process all kinds of thoughts, emotions and impulses, and that creativity in others is something to love and respect.  Which leads me neatly onto my next lesson…

3) Respect
This is a big one, and it covers all sorts of things.  If I ever have a daughter, I want her to respect herself.  I want her to ignore global media’s insistence that women are supposed to be as thin, tall and beautiful as possible.  If I have a son, I want him to respect himself too.  I want him to shun masculine stereotypes and just be himself, not what society tells him to be.  I want my kids to respect their family, their friends and their colleagues.  I hope that my children will understand from an early age that it is not acceptable to take their stress out on other people, and that every person they meet deserves to be spoken to politely and listened to attentively.  They will say “please” and “thank you”, they will not judge others based on race, religion, sexual preference or appearance, and I’ll be damned if they ever do the unthinkable and jump a queue.

4) Learning is for Life, not just for Christmas
My family is full of people who learn like it’s going out of fashion.  As far as I’m concerned, my maternal grandfather knew everything there was to know, and he instilled a passion in me for knowledge and understanding.  Similarly, I have absolutely no idea how my dad’s head can contain all of the information that it does, or how he has had the time to acquire so much knowledge.  My eldest sister is passionate about travel, and she loves exploring far-away places and learning about their cultures.  This also ties in with my genetic predisposition to read everything I can, which I sincerely hope my children inherit.  Life is a long and fascinating process of discovery, and I want my kids to love learning.  Curiosity may have killed the cat, but wanting to understand the world we live in is a wonderful trait, and I prefer dogs to cats anyway.

5) Passion
If my genes are anything to go by, my children will be stubborn, impulsive and in all likelihood addicted to coffee by the time they’re sixteen.  They will probably be very sociable and prone to excessive sarcasm.  That’s all fine.  They will also, I hope, have dreams and ambitions.  I want them to have the commitment and energy to pursue their passions, and to encourage others to do the same.  I also want them to love people whole-heartedly, and to avoid the commitment-phobic, “we don’t want to put a label on it”, casual relationships that dominate my generation.  I don’t know how things will have changed in the dating world by the time my kids are of age to fancy people, but if they have the self-respect and ability to love that I want them to, then they will know better than to accept sub-standard relationships and undefined entanglements.  If that fails, then hopefully the future father of my children will have a shovel at the ready to discourage would-be unsuitable suitors.

There are loads of other little bits and pieces that I want to teach my children, such as how to ride a bicycle and where babies come from, but these five lessons represent my future parenting priorities.  I also realise that this blog has essentially been a vehicle for me to extol the virtues of my lovely family, but I don’t think that’s surprising given that they are the people who shaped my childhood.  I owe them a lot, and I can’t wait for my future children to meet them.

Have a cracking Monday!