Saturday, 14 January 2012

On happiness

I came across this article in the Independent yesterday. It intrigued me. Partly because I was having a miserable evening, and in the middle of something like that, I'll pick up and try anything that presents itself, claiming an answer.
The title is a bit odd: 'How to be happy: Gretchen Rubin's guide to everyday contentment'.
Are they the same thing? Some of the happiest times in my life (like now) have been the least comfortable, and I certainly have not been 'content'. I've been walking, climbing, scratching at walls, clambering under thorny thickets (like now).
So I view her lists as guides to comfort rather than 'happiness' (the way I define the term), and when I see it like that, I can bring myself to try.
It made a difference. In the middle of an uncomfortable time, to follow her 'one hour' list:
1. Go for a short walk, or pace: Pacing makes me nervous. So I wrapped up and went for a walk in the sun to get some curry from the curryman at the Saturday market (sold out. Grrr.)
2. Reach out to friends: Check. I sent emails and skype messages and asked my mum to ring.
3. Rid yourself of a nagging task: I am the queen of nagging task drama. It's absurd. I am shortly to send off a scanned ticket to someone who's been expecting it for 2 months. I haven't sent it yet because although the ticket is lying on top of my scanner which is lying 1 foot away from my hands, there's a pile on papers on top of the scanner. Yep. That's all that stopped me.
4. Clear your desk - As soon as I finish this post. So that I can clear away the papers on top of the scanner...
5. Lay the groundwork for future fun: Done. I'm going to a garden some way outside town tomorrow - I checked opening hours and bus routes and planned my boots.
6. Act happy: I remember being told this by a favourite aunt when I was 10 and miserable. I still have not managed to take this advice. But yes - if you can't help the big thing that is eating you, and there's plenty else to grin about, fine, I'll grin.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Outside: January night and a beautiful sky. Once in a while, I see people walk quickly by down the dimly lit street, head down, hoods up. Take away the 21st century crotch-hugging jeans and I imagine it's exactly like people walking around hundreds of years ago. Hooded Robin Hoods or cut-throats.

Inside, I've put my back out sitting at my laptop all weekend. Deadlines. One week into the new year and the work week has finally dragged me out of my harmonious New Year weekend and straight into a panicky tailspin of deadlines, research proposals, research projects and a sickening sense that I could work all day and all night and not make so much as a dent in the load.
This is something that I need to get my head around, and soon. During the thesis, I was entirely comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable sitting in a chair until my back hurt, feeling stressed about deadlines and living on toast. Is one meant to graduate from this when one graduates into full-fledged academia?

For now, it's probably enough that when I sit down to work all my cells and all my senses magically snap into place and I entirely fall into its arms willingly, peacefully and happily. As long as that keeps happening, I guess I have breathing space in which to craft a happy way to be.