A couple of weeks ago, I decided not to write a blog post. Specifically, I decided not to write a blog post about how I was feeling a bit low, a bit tired, a bit worn down and overwhelmed. I'd had a busy time at work, added to a good few nights spent sleeping on a children's ward (don't fret - everything's fine, now, and no-one was terribly at risk anyhow).
Instead, I took lots of books out of the library. These books were about Happiness, and Getting On With Things, and Sorting Out My Life. And I put them in piles on my bedside table and down the side of the sofa and renewed them a couple of times but the mere fact of their presence in the house just didn't seem to be doing me any good.
Then, during an afternoon selling items for work at a fairly quiet Christmas market, I got my chance to read. I liked this book especially: You Can Be Happy, by Professor Daniel Freeman and Jason Freeman. It's not my first book about happiness, and I was almost put off happiness altogether by Gretchen Ruben's book a couple of years ago, where she spent an awful lot of time doing what sounded like admin (tackling tasks, sending emails, ordering stuff) and then unforgiveably giving up drinking. So this was a pleasant relief:
"We're not suggesting you adopt... a spartan lifestyle. Food and drink and two of life's great pleasures."Okay, then. I made lots of notes. I underlined the phrase 'fairly modest change'. I wrote words like 'avocado' and 'new activities' and 'deep satisfaction' and 'delight' and 'oily fish'. I came up with a list of what seemed at the time to be achievable goals.
The next morning I woke up 15 minutes early, did yoga, and went downstairs to prepare a Gwyneth Paltrow recipe - a Kale, Apple and Ginger smoothie. I love Gwyneth. Gywneth had a migraine once so she changed her whole diet completely and wrote a huge book about it. On reflection, she perhaps isn't the best guru for someone attempting fairly modest change.
Did Gwyneth's husband suggest that she was not all there? Did Gwyneth find herself, ten minutes after drinking her smoothie, trying to pack sandwiches whilst shouting at a grumpy teenager, with boxes of couscous falling on her head whilst she searched in cupboards to find the raisins? No. Did Gwyneth discover that getting up at 6.30am in order to make time for a new activity actually meant that she no longer had time or energy to empty the dishwasher?
In her book The Happiness Project, Gretchen Ruben comes up with a number of Secrets of Adulthood, ranging from the practical - 'Soap and water removes most stains' to the more obscure - 'The opposite of a great truth is also true'.
I present to you my Secret of Adulthood.
"Never make decisions about what you can achieve when you have more than the usual amount of spare time."