Tag Archives: optimism

Bye Bye, Bag End

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Hello, you lovely thing.  Are you excited about your weekend?

This post is one that I’ve been avoiding for a while, because I think it’s going to be pretty difficult to write.  The subject matter makes me want to cry and stamp my feet, so do bear with me.  If I start getting hysterical just throw a biscuit at me or something.

At the end of this month, Ash and I will be vacating our beloved flat.  We’ve been living in Bag End for a year, and we’ve had an amazing time here.  We have had lots of lovely friends round to visit, hosted parties that defy the (minuscule) proportions of the floor space, danced around the kitchen to cheesy music, spilled coffee everywhere , had heart to hearts in the middle of the night and eaten unholy amounts of cheese.  It’s been bloody brilliant.

When we leave Bag End Ash will be moving home to save up for her trip to New York, and I will be moving to South London with one of my sisters.  Both of these are excellent and exciting things, but they are big changes.  I freaking hate changes.

Change is difficult for a lot of people to cope with because it involves uncertainty, which is something that humans are not wired to cope with very well.  We fear things like death and the dark because they represent obscurity: we have no way of knowing what they contain.  It’s the same with big changes.  How on earth can we be happy about them when we don’t know what they’ll entail?

It also comes down to a control and participation issue.  When we voluntarily make decisions that affect change, we can be happy because we’ve elected them.  Booking trips abroad, starting a new job and getting into relationships all fall into this category.  Being forced into change by other people’s decisions or circumstances beyond our control creates the opposite feeling: why should we have to participate in changes that we never wanted?  Why should we be forced into changing jobs, moving house or changing our relationship status?  If I may paraphrase William Ernest Henley’s poem slightly: “I am the master of my Facebook profile; I am the captain of my post code.”

I have realised that the trick to dealing with unwanted change is to look at it as an adventure rather than a crisis.  Bilbo Baggins didn’t want to leave Bag End any more than I do, but he went on to have a very jolly time.  (You know, except for the orcs and the massive spiders and stealing treasure from a dragon and everything.)  If we are never forced out of our comfort zones we never get to explore who we are or challenge ourselves, and both of those are very important things to do.

The other thing is that if we choose to look at enforced life changes in a negative way, it won’t affect any of the outcomes.  When we choose resentment over optimism we are only hurting ourselves.  Universal justice, fate, God or whatever life-affecting force you believe in probably doesn’t respond to sulking.

With that in mind, I’m going to start packing up my stuff.  I am choosing to look at this as an opportunity to re-alphabetise my books (which may sound like a pretty tremulous silver lining, but that kind of thing genuinely matters to me, because I’m a nerd).  Have a glorious weekend.

The Upsides to Unfair Truths

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Good morning, and happy Thursday to you!  I hope you are feeling very well-rested today.

I’m a very lucky girl.  Yesterday I got to spend a sunny afternoon in a kids’ playground, chatting to my lovely mates and escorting my friend’s eighteen-month-old son on his (many, many – seriously, millions of) excursions down the climbing frame slide.  Apparently, some things are not made boring by relentless repetition.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if we grown ups still found utter delight in something as simple as going down a slide?

I think that one of the reasons we don’t necessarily have the same capacity for joy as a toddler in a playground is that we know something the little ones don’t: life is full of hard truths.  Here are a few of the most annoying/inconvenient/unfair, each with a little optimistic upside to help us recapture some joy:

Television Shows End
I feel very sad for the people who watch Community, which I hear was cancelled recently.  It sucks to fall in love with a show, invest in the characters, get emotionally involved with the storyline and then discover that the big, bad L.A. producers don’t agree with you.  How very dare they.  The upside here is that new shows come out all the time: when Friends ended, nobody could have predicted that something as fun as How I Met Your Mother was on its way from the same brains.  So don’t panic, Community fans: you never know what’s around the corner (of the television executives’ board room table).

Justice is Unfair
Bad people hardly ever get what’s coming to them, terrible things happen to the loveliest people, and the theoretically just concept “freedom of speech” means that the BNP Youth are allowed to upload horrible campaign messages to YouTube.  We just can’t win.  the upside to this is that our instinctive “that’s not fair” reaction leads us to have interesting debates, learn lessons from bad situations and work out which horrible people to avoid in future.

Feelings Make No Sense
You can know what you love or hate about a person – their sense of humour, their attitude, their hair style – but you can never know exactly why you feel that way about them.  We fall in love with the least suitable suitors, and we cannot bring ourselves to fancy the people with the best emotional prospects.  The upside here is that the lack of logic makes love more exciting, romantic, weird and wonderful.  Wouldn’t it be horrible (albeit slightly more convenient) if a physical trait plus a personality characteristic automatically equalled love?  We’re not robots.

Life is Short
Scratch that: time is short.  I mean, it’s Thursday already; how did that happen?!  As we get older time seems to go by faster, and our to do lists get longer instead of shorter.  We forget to text people back, we miss birthday parties and there is always at least one household task that we’re just never going to get around to.  (Mine is hoovering the stairs.  It just isn’t going to happen.)  Here is our upside: the diem is ours to carpe.  Go on that holiday, take up that hobby and tell that person how you feel about them.  Go on, I dare you.

Wasps Exist
I can’t think of an upside to this one.  Sorry.  Wasps are just mean.

Have a brilliant Thursday.  I hope that this day goes down in your personal history as Unbelievably Delicious Dinner Day.

Time is of the (Vanilla) Essence

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Good morning, you lovely thing!  How’s your week going so far?

If you’ve read my blog post about deadlines you will already know that I think working towards deadlines can be very good for us, but that we should have faith in the idea that opportunities don’t just come around once.  This post was similarly positive in tone, and dealt with the idea that we can afford to wait for the opportune moment.  Having made these fairly optimistic assertions, I would now like to talk about the slightly more frustrating side of things: the best laid plans of mice, men and mortgage brokers can be utterly scuppered by bad timing.  Good timing is like a ticket to your dream gig: you know some people have managed to get hold of it, but your best endeavours haven’t got you anywhere.  Sadly, there is no eBay equivalent for those of us who can’t seem to time things correctly.

In many cases, timing is problematic because it isn’t something we can entirely control.  Your best friend’s birthday party inevitably falls the night before your big job interview, and the season finale of your favourite television show is always showing when you’ve got a hefty essay due in.  In my house, we tend realise that we’ve run out of vanilla essence three minutes after Asda closes on the evening before some kind of cake-centred event.  (For the record, almost all of mine and Ash’s social interactions revolve around cake, and we are not ashamed.)

Currently, timing is just being a bit inconsiderate: I somehow managed to get ill just before today’s recording of Pointless.  This is an absolute pain in the sinuses, but I have two very good reasons not to let this bother me:

1) I have an incredibly compassionate flat mate who is very good at taking care of sickies, and who is unfailingly sympathetic when all I can muster by way of conversation is a feeble “uuuuuurgh my face hurts”.  Everyone should have an Ash in their lives, especially one who always has Olbas oil and vapour rub.

2) Pretty much everyone I know is ill at the moment, and we all know that lurgy loves company.

That’s the main point, isn’t it?  The worst feeling in the world is not necessarily going through something difficult, but feeling that you’re going through it alone.  Bad things don’t necessarily come in threes, but they definitely come in large numbers.  Sometimes it seems that we have stumbled across a school trip of bad news, and the little gits have taken over our mental landscapes with their lunch boxes of doom.  It isn’t necessarily encouraging per se that all of our friends get ill at the same time, that lots of couples break up within a few weeks of each other and that everyone seems to be in a bad mood on the same day, but our problems are so much easier to deal with when we realise that our loved ones understand them.  In many cases, their experiences of your situation will qualify them to offer you good advice, lots of empathy and, where necessary, decongestants.

Have a truly marvellous Thursday.  You deserve it.

Jack Sparrow Knows His Stuff

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Good morning, you fabulous creature!  How’s your bank holiday weekend treating you so far?

Today I’d like to talk to you about something that I think worries all of us: timing.  It’s the secret of good comedy, good cooking and a happy social life, and sometimes it completely eludes us.

It might surprise you to learn that I very much enjoy the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, even though Keira Knightley features quite heavily in it.  (My only explanation for this anomaly is that she spends most of the film being slapped by pirates or made to walk the plank, so maybe that’s why I’m ok with it.)  Anyway, despite being pretty infuriating, Jack Sparrow is an incredibly compelling character – which is probably helped by the fact that he’s portrayed by the wonderful Johnny Depp – who came out with a line that I think we could all learn from: “Wait for the opportune moment.”

I think that a lot of us live in fear of timing things badly.  We hate to miss out on anything, and the idea of a lost opportunity is horrifying.  In many cases we are just plain impatient.  Friends as young as twenty-two talk to me about not wanting to have regrets on their death bed, which is understandable (if a little morbid at their age).  That’s why we sometimes stay out longer than we mean to, or go to that party that we know we won’t enjoy.  It’s why we apply for all kinds of jobs, regardless of whether they’re the right ones, and why we travel all over the world.  We want to know everything, see everything and miss out on nothing.  That’s a lot to ask of ourselves.

Of course we should take opportunities, but I think that we should take them out of joy and optimism rather than fear of regret.  Grabbing everything that comes your way can be incredibly rewarding, but it might not leave you much time to stop and appreciate where you are.

We don’t have to do everything right now.  We don’t have to achieve all of our life goals right this second, and we don’t need to have done everything we ever wanted to do by the end of the week.  Watch this – Bill Bailey knows what I’m talking about.

Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely think that you should pursue your passion, go to the places you’re curious about and live life to the full, but don’t worry so much.  What’s the point of rushing around taking all of life’s chances if you’re not stopping to enjoy them?

Take it from someone who has a history of rushing into doing and saying things at the wrong moment: you’ve got time.  Wait for the opportune moment.  If you think you’ve missed one, don’t panic.  There will be another one along very soon.

Have a brilliant Saturday!  Maybe treat yourself to the posh coffee today.  Why not?  You deserve it.

Pointless Preparation

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Hello, dear reader!  How are you getting on?

I admit that I’m a control freak (although we prefer the term “relaxationally challenged”).  It probably explains why I like directing so much, and why I enjoyed being the social secretary of a drama society when I was at university.  I like to know where I’m going, what I’m doing and when.  Unfortunately I’m not very organised, so despite my best intentions I very rarely have a clue what on earth is going on.

This weekend is a perfect example.  I have to be in several different places over the course of a few days, and I have not yet figured out transport, timings or how much clothing to pack.  (While we’re at it, what the heck have I done with my suitcase?)  One of the places I have to be is a television studio in Elstree, because tomorrow Ash and I will finally be going on Pointless.

I am, if I may use the common parlance, pooing myself a bit.  I know that this brilliant opportunity has been on the cards for a while, but because there were so many dates that Ash and I couldn’t do I sort of convinced myself that it wasn’t really going to happen.  Except now it is.  Oh crap.  I mean, oh good.

In this situation the only control I have is over my last-minute revision.  I should be poring over a map of the world learning all the countries that border Germany, or finding lists of obscure films featuring Sandra Bullock.  I will probably do both of those things later.  This morning my plan is to write this blog, dye my roots and find my favourite nail varnish.  I have never been one for sensible prioritising (or being able to find suitcases, apparently).

I think that a lot of people have this problem: when we are worried about something, we deliberately under-prepare for it so that we can always claim “well, I didn’t try very hard” if we fail.  It’s a philosophy that got me a very mixed bag of GCSE results, but given that I am knocking on twenty-five I should probably have grown out of that approach by now.

It’s a bit late at this stage to do any serious learning, but I promise I will try.  It might be too late to change my personality and become sensible, well-prepared and knowledgeable, but at times like this we have to stay optimistic.  You never know what you can achieve if you try, even just a little bit.

Ash and I have to be at the studio appallingly early tomorrow, so I will update you lovely people on our progress when we’ve finished recording.  Wish us luck!

Have a fantastic Thursday.

P.S. Ash just called me to tell that the Piccadilly line is on fire.  This does not bode well…