I have a strong inclination to post something reflective as we say goodbye to 2022 and look towards 2023.
And this time, it’s different. Not novel, but different.
For me anyway. Because for the last few years, it’s been a variety of sentiments from me when it comes to looking towards the new year.
“Happy New Whatever-You-Want-It-To-Be!”
“It’s ok to not be excited.”
“Tomorrow is just another day.”
The last few years my feelings towards New Years and all the promise and opportunity it embodies have kinda fallen flat for me. I’ve been very easy come, easy go. Make the new year/month/week/day, what you will.
I’ve fallen on many hard times in recent years, so much so that my hope and faith have been completely tested… and restored, once again.
Because you see, this year was different. I got what I wanted, in a BIG way.
Life can have so many ups and downs. It is a guessing game and you never can know what is around the corner. It keeps you humble: amazing and uplifted one time, frustrating and despondent the next.
That’s why sometimes it can be very hard to look forward to a ‘new year, new you’ promise, when nothing has really been promising for you at all recently… the last few months… the last few years.
Trust me, I know. I have been there. I have a daily gratitude blog, and I think perhaps one of my major lessons was learning to find something ever so small to be grateful for when I was secretly hurting so much inside, for so long.
I don’t have the answers to life.
Sometimes, you get what you want.
Sometimes, you get what you want, after a really, really, long time.
Sometimes you don’t get what you want at all.
Sometimes you get presented an entirely new path, and realise this was the one meant for you all along.
Something that helped me surprisingly, was music. 🎶🎵
I found solace and comfort in words that touched and moved me to tears with their profound insight, love and strength and sense of hope that matched my own.
Words that spoke of difficulty and heartache, but that presented a sense of… “let’s see.”
One such song was Guns n’ Roses Patience.
This was a key theme of mine as we were in quite possibly the hardest and most uncertain struggle of our lives… trying for another baby.
I can’t pretend everything was alright. It wasn’t. I was upset and cried a lot. I shut myself off from people. I grew very uncertain about everything, questioned life, my existence, my past actions, the future, my body… EVERYTHING.
I put on a smiling face and went into social situations tentatively, praying that no one would ask or make a joke with some insensitive second baby comment… sometimes I was lucky.
Many times I wasn’t.
The only thing I knew how to do, was get by, moment by moment.
Day by day.
Month by month.
And that’s how many several years passed before our miracle happened. 🙏
So from someone who’s been there, and done that, I have some thoughts as we enter the new year…
It’s not so much about “smash out your top 5 goals!” or “keep consistent, chip away every day.”
It’s to think about what you really want. If in your heart of hearts there is something you want, a goal you wish to achieve, question, do you really want it, that bad?
If so, keep going. Keep your mind and heart open to new experiences, people, things, as any one of them, or a combination, may just be the key to getting what you want. Try not to listen to others, this will confuse you. Learn the lesson yourself.
You don’t know where the answer, the breakthrough will lie. It may lie on the first day of the new year. It may lie somewhere far down the track. It may lie, in Winter.
You just don’t know. Try not to guess or assume too much.
If you discover you really don’t know if you want what you want… letting go can be the most liberating experience. It takes great strength to say, ‘hold on, I’ve had enough. This is not for me.’
Remember you are in charge. You can decide to let go, and then decide you want to hold on to hope! Or you can hold on some more, and then say, I’m done, I’m finished.
Patience, overall, is key. It is the worst answer I know, and I know because I didn’t feel patient, I didn’t want to be patient anymore, but I had no choice in the matter.
I did it step by step. Moment by moment. Day by day. And I got there. I’m here. 🙏
I have one more thought for the New Year… so many people focus on the body and exercising more… saving up and travelling more… learning a new skill to move to a better life path… and while these are all good and honourable pursuits, here’s a different one for you.
Training your mind, so you can be a better YOU.
In amongst all these big, momentous things happening for me this year, something else clicked in my life.
It was something truly unexpected, and yet if I hadn’t been open to it, it never would have entered my life.
Learning from the past and deciding to try and be a better person is a valid and very honest goal that all should aspire to, at many points in their life.
I do question though… did I learn, and allow forgiveness into my life because other things were falling into place? Was it because I was in a happier state, that allowed me the strength to not only see the good in my life, but in others?
Quite possibly. My reflections remain…
Try to better your mind.
That is it. No time frame. No “let’s be consistent every day with this” bullshit. Know that some days you will fall down, others you will climb the mountain.
It’s all part of the journey.
As you head into 2023, know only this… anything can happen, at any time.
And sometimes, nothing will happen, no matter how hard you try.
Just do what you can, if you want to, if it feels right.
So, yay! I reached a milestone with my blog the other week…
My other blog.
Carcrashgratitude to be precise. This blog that I created, birthed from my parent blog, this smikg.com, has now amassed over 500 followers.
519 to be exact, as of this writing. 😁😁
And it’s great! My offshoot blog has almost doubled the followers of my original writing blog, and I COULDN’T BE HAPPIER.
And why? Because gratitude, that’s why.
I just wanted to write and celebrate my little win, my ‘happy progression’ as it were, but also speak to you about how I came to be here, and place some perspective, some thoughts on this experience, and maybe even offer some advice for some of you who may be starting out…
So how have I managed to exceed the number of followers with my second blog when it arrived on the scene two years after my first one?
Consistency is key. I blog every single day about an item of gratitude. Looking at my latest title, you will see that it’s at 1887 days of consistency.
That’s 1887 days of gratitude in a row. If I said it was easy, I would be LYING. I’ve almost given up many times, and all those hard times was when life got really, really hard. But I was proving something to myself, more than anything else.
So, I’m still here.
2. Second. Photos help A LOT. I can’t tell you how often a well-placed photo gives me more likes.
Clearly, I don’t do it for the likes. We’ll come back to this one in a moment. But people are a visual species, and seeing something, even if it isn’t your photo (the Pexels free photos option via WordPress is great) encourages a person to click on your post sooner. The photo tells them the story, before your post does.
Also, food photos tend to be really popular. Just saying for any would-be chefs.
3. Don’t just follow for the sake of getting likes back, please. That is so trite. Be original for goodness sakes.
Just be honest. I think we’re all immune and desensitised to commonplace, fence-sitting ideas and thoughts. Be yourself. No one else will be.
4. I haven’t overly promoted myself in all this time. I haven’t promoted myself, really at all. In the WordPress world, I’ve liked blogs that I genuinely like, and let the blog grow organically from that.
Just remember… I have been doing this carcrashgratitude blog for 5 years now. So 500 followers in 5 years, is really not much…
That’s about 100 a year. Less than 10 a month. Of course more recently my reach has grown exponentially, but we are talking averages.
5. Why don’t I care about followers? Well let’s be honest, I do, kind of, because it means that people are appreciating what I’m saying and my words are having an impact. So that, I care for, greatly.
But if you are a writer, you are going to write, because you love writing. It’s something in you, and no matter how much you write and you write and you write, you will never ever get it out.
The writing bug that is.
Therefore, people clicking like or follow, is just the icing on the cake, the sugary sweet, superficial stuff.
It’s not the bread, the carb, the density of the cake. The whole piece that just took you hours to bake and get out of the oven.
So, if you’re a writer and just starting out, keep going. You’ll be glad you did.
If you just wanna join the ride, my carcrashgratitude blog can be found here,with a little story about how it all came to be, here.
And yes I am being cheeky and all self-promoting, I’ve done that before too,here.
Ha ha ha. Now I am being too much.
Anyway, thanks for joining me on this ride.
To quote a masterful genius…
“We are gathered here today, to get through this thing called LIFE.”
So either you love Christmas carols, or you HATE them.
People get so passionate when it comes to the festive tunes. You’re either hitting the high notes with Mariah and wailing “All I want for Christmas, is YOOOOUUUUUU!” or throwing a stocking at the stereo when the song comes on the radio for the 3rd time that day… and there are still weeks before Santa arrives.
The first step is honesty here: you are not going to love every single song in the world, so why do you expect the same from Christmas carols? I love Christmas songs and yet there are many I hit skip on my compilation Christmas albums.
The trick is, knowing which songs to go for. There are daggy and possibly I’ll even say it, bad Christmas songs, just as there are amazing and happy and moving and bouncing Christmas songs.
And this is where I present my list to you – the definitive, MASSIVE and all-encompassing Christmas song playlist that will keep everyone from your 6 year-old child to your 80 year-old granny happy and joyful joyful come December 25th.
Here it goes…
First off the bat, let’s get the festive playlist started with –
“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” – Andy Williams.
Oh God, I hear this in shopping centres and I just want to hug someone, really I do. It’s a classic and uplifting tune, and gets you right in that Christmas frame of mind.
The best line?:
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you be of good cheer…”
Ha! Nothing like someone telling you to be happy that gets you pissed right off! If that doesn’t cheer you yet, let’s move on to some…
Oh, yes. ♥ No good Christmas song list would dare to omit a Buble Christmas tune!
He is a Christmas legend! He does Christmas specials!
I have a couple to note from him but let’s start with
“It’s Beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”
It’s a magical song with hints of whimsical Hollywood, and who can forget lines like –
“And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again.”
Next is Buble’s version of “Santa Baby.”
I preface this by saying that I’ve never really liked the Santa Baby song… anyone’s version. I’ve always found it weird that someone will be singing to Santa in what sounds like such a suggestive and sexual way…
Guys, he is like your grandad. That is just gross. 😖
But Buble, a bloke, does his own manly take on it. It has a touch of swing and cheek, and with plenty of hilarious lines like –
“Santa pally, I want a yacht and really that’s not, a lot
I’ve been a sweetie all year…”
It’s definitely worth a listen.
The last one I’ll mention FOR NOW (yes more Buble is coming so if you’re a fan you’re in for a real treat) is his own Christmas song, “Cold December Night.”
It’s got the traditional bells jangling but still has a real contemporary feel to it, while still retaining that Christmas ‘I want you home’ vibe that so many songs encapsulate.
“Stockings are hung with care
The children sleep with one eye open
Now there’s more than toys at stake
‘Cause I’m older now, but not done hoping.”
We’re going to move on now, to another Christmas legend.
Yep. You know it.
How the hell am I meant to write a Christmas song list without mentioning the most commercially successfully penned Christmas song of the last few generations?
It’s, M-A-R-I-A-H. 🤩
Don’t leave! Stay with me please you’ll be glad you did.
I’m going to start with a song you wouldn’t have guessed I would…
“Oh Holy Night.”
This song is something else. Her rendition is classic Mariah, and if you don’t get goosebumps while listening to her high note in the first half, well there is something wrong with you.
From her album, go to 1:39.
Another version. Go to 2:00.
And if you’re still not sure listen to this live piece at 1:41… and then the end of the song.
“Oh night… DIVVVVIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNEEEEEEE.”
Excuse me while I wipe away my tears. 😭
Okay I’ve gathered myself now.
There you go. LIVE my friends. And so much later after it’s first release and listen to that voice!
So clean, so fresh. Wham bam thank you maam. She proves there why she is worth $320 million as of this writing.
Now, I move to the predictable piece.
Bear with me.
“All I Want for Christmas is You.”
You gotta admit, it is a catchy tune. And an awfully clever one. Did you know it took all of 15 minutes for Mariah and her co-songwriter to pen for her 1994 holiday album Merry Christmas? And it continues to amass huge royalties for her all over the world.
It is the 12th biggest selling single ever, of all time as of 2019 (read that, EVER) and because of the layering of multiple music influences within the song, is considered in part by many music critics as the reason for its international success.
Sure it’s overplayed… but personally I love it.
“I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas is you.”
I mean the film clip is cute but also a bit cringe-worthy what with Santa (her ex Tommy Mottola) picking her up in the snow… ugh I just can’t. That whole “Santa Baby” thing rears its head and makes me uncomfy all over again.
Because of the upbeat tempo, sounds of bells ringing and Mariah hugging the dog and throwing snow in the air, it’s easy to miss the serious meaning of the song. But if you break it down and look at it on paper, you will see it actually is very simple, yet has a lot of depth.
Or… you can just hear it in a different version.
Insert Buble, again 🙂
Michael Buble does an amazing version of this song. It is soooo different – no high piercing notes, no fast beats. In his version all the words sound different yet are exactly the same, and subsequently come forth with more meaning. I for one LOVE the start of his:
“I don’t want a lot for Christmas
There is just one thing I need
I don’t care about those presents
Underneath the Christmas tree
I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
You know that all I want for Christmas is you.”
How serious, how solemn… how sweet. There is more of a sombre tone to this one, and though I love Mariah’s classic and catchy version, I have a really soft spot for this one too.
I bet you might just be thinking of Mariah a bit differently now.
Okay, you can breathe easy, the Mariah mentions are over…
It wouldn’t be a Christmas list without a ‘Christmas special’ mention, and this one is a festive musical combination that will KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF…
Brace yourself – Buble and Mariah together.
Singing “ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU.”
OKAY I LIED! Last one I promise.
Okay now we are truly done.
I’m going to try make the parentals and grandparents happy with this next lot.
We need to go back a long way so that they can rediscover the yester-years and be all teary-eyed in memory, right? Who else can do it better than Bing Crosby (coincidentally the 1st – FIRST! – biggest selling single of all time).
It has that classic old-world feel like all good black and white movies do, and the throwback to the good ol’ days is captured in the line –
“I’m dreaming of a White Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know.”
A couple more golden oldies:
Frank’s “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”
And Elvis’ voice was made for “Blue Christmas.” This live version with Martina McBride is fabulous, and just watch the over-excitable girls in the audience about to wet themselves.
BA HA HA. Great film clip.
A couple of slow crooning ones sure, so now we’ll inject some much-needed contemporary pop to the playlist.
We all know her as the blonde-cropped, eye-covering contemporary power-belting Aussie superstar voice that has taken over Hollywood with her distinctive voice and song-writing prowess.
I can only be talking about Sia.
I didn’t know what to expect when her Christmas album came out years ago, but being fans Hubbie and I quickly snapped it up.
Everyday is Christmas features all original songs co-written by the Adelaide native. It’s huge to consider since most Christmas albums are predominantly retakes of old classics… Mariah Carey has 3 original tracks… Buble has 1…
Sia has 10 novel tracks.
They are true to Sia style and contemporary, some almost to the point that they may not traditionally sound like Christmas songs at all. She does the upbeat songs as well as the slow and melancholic ones, and two songs that show this spectrum perfectly are the slow and oddly romantic-sounding “Snowman”…
And the sing-a-long favourite “Ho Ho Ho.”
Even baby girl loves this one, so a big tick in the contemporary and also child-friendly department.
I also must mention the very sweet song “Puppies are Forever”…
“Puppies are forever, not just for Christmas
‘Cause they’re so cute and fluffy with shiny coats
But will you love ’em when they’re old and slow?”
Awww. What a sweet yet really serious message. Sia is a dog fan so no real surprise in that song. She has done brilliantly in creating a very different Christmas album, with her her intention for the album reportingly being that she felt there weren’t many Christmas songs around that she liked to listen to… so she made them up, of course.
Definitely a worthy Christmas album to have in your jolly itinerary.
While we’re on the subject of those making up their own songs, let’s go back in time to my teen years and re-introduce Hanson.
What? Don’t they sing Mmm Bop? Yes well that and a bazillion other tunes being prolific song writers still to this day. They have two Christmas albums (WOAH!) but it’s their first release from back in the day that many 30-somethings (emphasis, ‘somethings’) will remember to this day.
Their musical influences come from the 50s and 60s and incorporate that classic soulful and rock and roll feel, so it is no surprise that their album Snowed In shows this in spades. (Ha, my first pun!)
They have three original songs here, and two I need to make mention of – the slow “Christmas Time”
“Everybody needs a little loving, around Christmas time
Somehow you got to know you’re going to be alright…”
And the rock and roll and boppy “Everybody knows the Claus”
But they also do great renditions, and “Merry Christmas Baby” is just one of those throwbacks that pays homage to the original in a new way, really well.
While we’re in my teen genre, we need to make mention of some groups and artists that have done really daggy and soppy brilliant Christmas songs.
We’ll start with one of my teen fave’s, and sing along to Nsync’s “I Don’t Wanna Spend One More Christmas Without You”…
“This is the time of year, when we learn to give
And the greatest gift, is learning to forgive…”
Sage words, especially from a guy with frosted tips.👱♂️
You can’t kill me, I’m a fan whose seen him at every Aussie concert! But this is such a 90s crooner… oh man.
Next up on the sickening boyband Christmas list is Backstreet Boys:
With “Christmas time.” Did you hear that lengthy “ooohhhh” at the start of the song from Brian?
Yep. Classic Christmas material.
(Am I meant to be laughing at these songs or convincing you that they’re awesome?)
Last on the so-bad-it’s-actually-good-or-is-it series of past teen songs is Britney’s “My Only Wish (This Year)”
Oh God did you hear the opening “oh yeah yeah?” Must be a 90s thing!
“‘Cause I have been so good, so good this year
Can’t be alone, under the mistletoe
He’s all I want and a big red bow.”
Wait, what? What has the bow? 💝
Moving on now… to GREATNESS.
The saddest yet perhaps one of the best Christmas songs of all time, the one that you just love to belt it out to, well…
“Last Christmas.” Another novel song idea, God this is so good. George is literally singing about being stood up, but he does it in the best 80s way, the way Wham! knew how to do so well… and the song continues to transcend genres and decades to this day and be awesome.
“Once bitten and twice shy
I keep my distance, but you still catch my eye
Tell me baby, do you recognise me?
Well it’s been a year, it doesn’t surprise me
(whispers) Merry Christmas…”
What an amazing song. Extra special points go out to this one because our beloved George passed away on Christmas day. Therefore he is forever immortalised in Christmas, for so many reasons.
Since we’re on the sad theme let’s also go serious for a moment with another powerful 80s festive tune – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
Here’s a fun fact for you… Do you know Bono from U2 did not want to sing the infamous line –
“Well tonight thank God it’s them, instead of you!” –
referring to the poor and starving people dying in Ethiopia. But the brainchild behind the multi-artist collaboration to raise money for the famine, Bob Geldof, told Bono that he had to sing it, as it would mean so much more coming from him.
The rest is history, and the group of fifteen or so artists and groups came together and continue to make history, with proceeds of the song apparently still continuing to help people and charities in need all over the world.
Ain’t that a good idea. Buy the single and help someone starving. Merry Christmas to both of you.
And our final sombre look at Christmas comes from another kind of UK legend… John Lennon.
“Happy Xmas (War is Over)” also often referred to as So this is Christmas, interestingly maintains a real festive feel what with the bells ringing and choir kicking in at the chorus, and of course then there is the whole “Have a very Merry Christmas” message throughout. But John injects his own brand of world self-awareness with –
“And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong…”
The final lines tell us the real point behind his message “War is over, if you want it.” John was trying to save the world, with one Christmas song at a time. If you like to ponder the meaning of life and Christmas festivities then this is the song for you.
A bit of 70s you fancy perhaps? Listen to the music in the Jackson 5 version of “The Little Drummer Boy.”
All those beating drums! Well you’d expect nothing less in a song about… drums. Young Michael’s voice is so high and youthful, and this rendition is still a classic what with the increasing urgency of tone as the song moves towards the end.
And, we are nearing the end!Almost there. I told you this was a comprehensive list.
I’ve covered the old-school teens (those now, ahem, ’30-somethings’) but now I’m going to move to some artists that today’s youth will appreciate.
Chuck a couple of these on your spotify and watch their ears perk up.
Justin Bieber’s “Mistletoe.”
“With you, shawty with you…” Oh God I have to laugh. Not shorty, but shawty.
But the best line?
“The wise men followed the star
The way I followed my heart…”
Let’s move on now to some Arianna, and having heard this a few times it’s actually okay…
“Santa Tell Me” captures the Christmas teen vibe perfectly, what with oversized sweaters and a sleepover with girlfriends in her bed and the Christmas bells ringing in the background to the pop beat… perfect.
A recent addition to the contemporary genre is Taylor Swift’s “Christmas Tree Farm.” It starts off with a massive touch of classic Hollywood and blends into a festive Christmas melody to flashbacks of Taylor as a baby growing up at Christmas time… on a Christmas Tree Farm. So nostalgia is therefore definitely present. (Ha, second daggy pun!)
I’m going to keep going downwards in age and give you something to make the little tikes happy, yes? Why Christmas is mostly about them, what with Santa and presents and reindeer and being on the good list… so remember to include them when planning your music list.
I’m going to give you two classic Aussie bands that have given us two catchy and can’t-stop-singing-them songs.
(ALERT! CATCHY TUNE ALERT! CATCHY TUNE ALERT!)
The awfully catchy (I mean really catchy) “Santa Claus is coming” by popular kid’s group High-5.
Listen to this once with your child, and well… you’ll hear it a billion more times. Both on your stereo and then IN YOUR HEAD FOREVER. You’ve been warned.
(But you also want to keep them happy, so… )
“Santa Claus is coming, Santa Claus is coming
Santa Claus is coming, Santa Claus is coming…
SANTA CLAUS IS COMING! SANTA CLAUS IS COMING!”
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The next one is from the most iconic Australian kids group of all time, who have even gained huge international acclaim and fans.
It’s The Wiggles! (baby girl’s fave!) with “Go Santa Go!”
There is a skit at the beginning of this clip if you need context, you know, to work out who these Wiggly people are… but go to 2:33 if you just want the song. The Wiggles actually have a load of Christmas songs, novel ones too, but this is a terrific one as it’s repetitive, easy for the kids to sing and dance along to as well with those Danny Zuko Greased Lightning type moves…
I’m going to throw a spanner in the works for the next one and add a Christmas parody…
Aren’t all Christmas songs parodies I hear you ask? Calm down I’m joking. If you’ve read this far clearly you are a closet Christmas lover.
I heard this at baby girl’s school Christmas concert, and well, staying in theme with Aussie kids groups, this is an Aussie kids song all about our type of Christmas:
How funny! “Aussie Jingle Bells” is so hilariously outback, that you can’t not smile at lines like –
“Jingle Bells Jingle Bells
Christmas time is beaut
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a rusty Holden Ute.”
OH! Ha ha. The vision that accompanies the song in the film clip, though overdone is actually also spot on for an Aussie Christmas, which I love.
We’re going to stay with the Aussie theme as we head into the final stretch. Why wouldn’t I mention some amazing performers that we have, who make Christmas that much more amazing with their own special versions of classic Christmas songs…
Like two incredible and iconic performers, singing together, Olivia Newton John and John Farnham.
“Baby, it’s Cold Outside.”
Why it took so long for these two to pair up I don’t know, but this song with all the to-ing and fro-ing beautifully represents their voices and the playfulness of this festive tune.
“I wish I knew how (your eyes are like starlight now)
To break this spell (I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell)…”
I think it’s a charming and cheeky song that honestly, people got all riled up over nothing a while ago.
It’s Christmas people!
Every year I watch the TV carols on Christmas Eve, and the one star who has come into his own performing there time after time is the former Australian Idol winner and great Anthony Callea.
A reality TV winner? On this list?
WAIT. You have not heard him. Included here is the international “Ave Maria,” but if you’re from my generation (so old now) you may remember him tearing down the roof with this rendition of “The Prayer” on Aus Idol, which led to him subsequently winning that season.
He’s gone on to sing that song at carols over the years and he is just AH-MAY-ZING. Search for that song if you like song and then listen to this Christmas melody below. You’ll see why he’s become a staples at the carols and a star in his own right.
Staying on the carols bandwagon, and maybe I am being awfully self-indulgent by naming performers that I feel a soft spot for, but Marina Prior has been a serious carols regular for as long as I can remember, from my childhood. The opera singer has a voice of an angel, and well, you get why she gets to sing “Silent Night” here:
This is one of my favourite traditional Christmas songs. Yes, it’s slow, but as I’ve displayed in this list, just as there is an artist for each age group, so is there a time of day when you should play certain songs. And this one winds up the festive day perfectly.
And also, this list. Because I present to you the final song, and we come full circle by coming back to…
The song I’m ending on is the target of a lot of jokes and misspellings out there, such as –
FOR LEASE NAVIDAD
FLEECE NAVIDAD, and
THE LEASE NOBBY DOT? 🤔
It’s obviously “Feliz Navidad” which roughly translated means Merry Christmas in Spanish for any people who still don’t know it.
Buble does the most beautiful duet with Thalia in this Christmas special below, and when he sings in Spanish it comes across effortlessly… his Spanish wife would be proud. 🙂
And with that, I end this MASSIVE (I told you) Christmas song list. I haven’t even started to scratch the surface of all the great Christmas songs out there, but this is a great starter and will keep you and your family and friends jolly and merry on Christmas Day.
And to that I say –
“I want to wish you a Merry Christmas,
I want to wish you a Merry Christmas,
I want to wish you a Merry Christmas from the bottom, of my heart.”
Christmas has always been one of my most favourite times of the year. There are carols, festive movies, everything is red, green, gold and sparkly, and let’s face it, by December Melbourne weather is starting to show us some decent warmth.
Holidays are near, and LOVE IS ALL AROUND.
I know and I feel that to be true. But I’ve been thinking a lot about another group of people.
It’s the time of year where people start talking about a fresh start, a new beginning. More so now because we’re not just entering a new year next year, but we’re entering a new DECADE.
People don’t just get together and celebrate Christmas work parties and KK catch ups with friends… celebrations occur. The end of the year brings good news in work and school results, people use the timing of festive happiness to celebrate and bring forth happy news from other areas in their life…
All in all, this December I am seeing a lot of good news stories.
And I LOVE it.
But there are not all who love it.
And by that I mean that they are not loving anything, nothing at all.
I feel particularly this year for the people who are struggling.
There are people in hospital who don’t know how they are going to get through the month, relying on machines to help them live… let alone wasting time thinking of what New Year goals they are going to break in the second week of January.
There are people who are missing loved ones that have departed. This Christmas may be the first for them without someone they love, and seeing Christmas cards in stores and Hallmark moments being broadcast all around as the ideal Christmas with the perfect family, would make this such a hard time.
Then there are those that are estranged from family, and that all too common question “Where do you celebrate Christmas?” makes it almost a disappointment to speak that they aren’t spending it with family. Having people nosy into your personal business, isn’t the merriest of feelings.
The approaching new year also makes you reflect, and often people don’t like what they discover. Looking back at the year that has passed can make one feel like a disappointment if they feel they haven’t achieved what they set out to… the absence of a goal or achievement can be hard to swallow, and a bitter reminder that a year has been lost. Looking forward to a new year then can be overwhelming, and a fresh start mentality is difficult to focus on and is far from their mind.
This year, I am really feeling for all those who are struggling.
I am not a professional, and I don’t know what to do in every difficult situation… but as a person who has gone through hard times, I can offer some personal advice…
Take every moment at a time. Don’t look too much into the future and worry about what’s to come. Just focus on doing the best you can at this point in time with what you have.
Focus simply, on gratitude. Focus on the little things, and on what you DO have. Think about the roof over your head, the comfortable bed that you sleep in, and that person who calls you because they love you. These are the things worth thinking about. These are the things that matter.
Stay off social media. Reading other people’s ‘highlight’ reels is not going to help. A word of caution: if you find yourself comparing your life against someone else’s, remember that what someone posts is just one moment in time, and it provides absolutely no backstory or context of actual reality. Most of the time these repetitive highlight reels come from serial posters, who require self-gratification in the form of constant likes and comments… that is, they are suffering for some reason and need their ego inadvertently stroked to make themselves feel better… They need the attention constantly on them or else they risk suffering a meltdown.
Feel proud that you have beautiful things that you could share, but you don’t. It’s called self-command and privacy.
And as much as I do love this festive season… this too shall pass. It all does. Just hold on. Hold on knowing that like one of my favourite quotes:
“Good times and bad times have one thing in common, they never last forever.”
Don’t be disheartened by this quote. Feel humbled you are able to grace this earth.
I hope you have a great festive season, and just remember… moment by moment.
Look in the mirror and LAUGH at yourself. I dare you not to smile.
Look out the window. Dream.
Take 3, slow deep breaths. Do it now.
Make a date.
Schedule girl time. Or boy time. Whatever tickles your fancy.
Go to the beach. Go to the forest. Go to the mountains. Connect with Mother Nature.
Put yourself in another environment. So if you are depressed at home, go out. If you are depressed at work, well… go out. Take a sickie. Yes I am saying take a sickie (then maybe think about finding another job if you are depressed more often than not).
Watch something you love. An old tv series, movie, youtube comedy clip… put on that which makes you smile.
Sit under a tree.
Take a nap. Some shut-eye really can bring you clarity.
Meditate. Sit in silence and try to quiet your mind. Or let it wander. See where it leads you. Don’t get worked up over what pops up – just observe.
Stretch. Do some yoga. There’s nothing like concentrating on the breath that takes you into a different zone.
Write it out. Have you ever done free-journalling? Sit with a piece of paper and get it all out, don’t stop for 5 minutes and keep the hand moving and the words flowing with whatever crap random shitty unusual scary thoughts come out of your head. When your 5 minutes is up, burn the paper.
Go for a walk. Around the neighbourhood… around the shopping centre. Whatever. Walk aimlessly, and let your feet lead you.
Talk to someone. A partner, friend, family member, colleague… even your cat. You think stroking their fur doesn’t help? You clearly don’t have a pet.
Take concerted time out to make yourself happy each and every day. Make it a priority, write it on your to-do list, make it a MUST, just like eating, sleeping and hygiene are in your day-to-day.
Drink water. A lot of it. Our bodies are made up of between 50-75% water, so we need this vital substance to keep us sane and moving.
Finally, remember to keep things in perspective.At our core we are made up of atoms. Energy, air, and yet in human form all we see is hard matter. Think of all those who have come before us. Think of the future generations who will follow. Imagine the Universe. Imagine God. Just imagine Mother Nature if that is what you please.
And then see yourself as this tiny little invisible dot on the world map that is living an existence in amongst all of the shared past, present and future histories of anyone who has ever passed a breath.
Sure, you matter.We all do. But how much do your problems hold weight?
If they still hold you down, speak to a professional. But if they seem pointless and irrelevant, take a deep breath and put up the music.
How do inspirational quotes make you feel? Happy? Elated? Like you can take on the world?
Our modern world is consumed with the notion of happiness – obtaining it, being it, and revelling in it. Often the pursuit of it however, becomes a journey littered with insecurity, frustration, and disappointment.
That is because of this very real and true fact: a full, adventurous and passionate life, will also undoubtedly come with its fair share of trouble and difficulty, challenge and sadness. In many cases, equal to any experiences of ‘happiness.’
We spend so much of our time trying to be happy, that this can often make us more depressed. Suppressing our normal day-to-day feelings and ignoring the root of our dis-ease, can cause us more harm than good, delaying the emotions that will inevitably surface at a later point in time.
I am not saying that trying to be of an optimistic disposition is a quality you shouldn’t try to adhere to and live by. It is certainly a better headspace to be in, and learning to be happy in a very consumeristic world riddled with technological issues and social media problems, old-age tests of character and identity involving family and friends, petty fights, injustices of race and class and sexual orientation and gender… well, finding a simple thing to be grateful for, such as something beautiful your daughter said to you, it can be the one thing that saves you in an otherwise upsetting and disappointing day.
I keep an online gratitude blog. Not to promote my profile, send a false image of myself out into the world, or even to pretend all is right in my life. It is not.
And even though I practice gratitude every day, I am by no means exceptionally skilled or a master of my craft. In the words of Dicky Fox in one of my most favourite of movies, Jerry Maguire…
“I’ve failed as much as I’ve succeeded.”
On that note, back to inspiring quotes. I love to read them, see them, put them up on my walls… hell, I even have a daily calendar that gives me a new quote to ponder every day.
Sometimes they speak to me, and other times they don’t. Today’s one jumped out at me in a very real way:
And then later on social media, I saw another that triggered some sad tags of my heart.
Translated from Croatian, it reads
“Don’t give up if it’s hard. Give up if it’s not important.”
Both of these quotes, though uplifting, have a certain degree of realism and ‘life is scary’ knocked into them, enough to keep you humble, yet also lift your head towards the clouds and give you Hope.
Well then, how do those quotes compare to this more positive one?
How did you feel reading each? Did you feel better reading the cheerier, latter quote? Or did the ones with a real sense of everyday life grab you more? Is it purely based upon experiences and life circumstance, or do you think we are bound to feel better about ourselves when reading a more realistic quote, as opposed to a super-happy one that we feel forced to be like? Something that we are meant to aspire to, even if on that particular day, we may be better off just staring off into the sunset with sadness in our eyes?
Something to consider.
Oh, and because I can…
And that my friends, is a quote that makes me feel GREAT.
Why do we do it? We feel that we need an expressive, emotional outlet.
We have a story to tell.
We want to engage with others.
We want people to feel, how we have, when we have read a life-changing book.
We just have to. We just have to get it down, and out of our heads.
That’s some of the reasons why we write.
Have you ever questioned though, what you write?
I did. Yesterday, and quite a few times last week.
Because yesterday, I was at a funeral. It was heartbreaking. There is nothing as humbling and life prioritising, as when you are seeing somebody laid to rest, long before they are due.
Leaving a wife behind. Leaving young children behind.
Just days ago a family member of Hubbie’s recounted how her own Dad lost his Father, when he was only 10.
I remember thinking “shit. Death has been unfairly happening for centuries. It has been unfairly happening FOREVER.”
And it will continue to. UNFAIRLY. HAPPEN. FOREVER.
It’s something we can’t escape. And when faced with questions of life and death, with our subsequent inevitable mortality, and how we should spend our life, making the absolute most of it, I kept thinking of what I love doing, and how I like spending my time…
Where I put my energies, and how I am making a difference.
And that’s where the insecurities began.
Maybe I should be writing about incurable terminal illnesses. Maybe I should be promoting the lack of funding, and urging people to donate, for medical authorities to put more money into research and funding and preventative measures.
Maybe I should be exploiting the child sex trafficking trade, highlighting to the world how absolutely disgusting and soul-wrenching this inexplicable market is. Maybe I should be going to these places and trying to take the kids off the street, shaming the dealers and screaming abuse at them for all to hear, and all to see.
Maybe I should be writing about violence against women. I sure as hell have mentioned it before, but maybe I need to write a book about it. Maybe I need to track down victims and gain statements in order to name and shame the perpetrators, and expose it for the world to see, so the instigators are prevented from repeating their offences, and so that future perpetrators can gain some kind of insight into why it is NOT OKAY TO ABUSE WOMEN.
Or maybe I need to be writing about politics. I mean, Trump. Australian issues. Refugees. Supporting our own farmers and flood victims, versus supporting the unfortunate in disadvantaged countries. I mean, who should be helped? Our own, or people in other countries? Aren’t those abroad also, our own? Isn’t that our human privilege, to be able to help others less fortunate? Or do we just worry about our own backyard?
And yet, what have I been writing about? What have I been pouring all my energies into the last several years?
Why, young adult fiction. Teenage fun, teenage issues. Coming of age stuff. Also, a blog or two, about food, books, and life as we move through it.
Not very life-changing is it?
I stood there in the freezing cold yesterday, pondering all this as a man’s body was lowered into the ground. His life was over. We had seen him only months ago, and there appeared to be so much promise, so much hope for his future. He would beat the bastard disease.
But instead, now, there was nothing. Just memories and a hyphen.
Nothing makes you question life and what you do with it, quite like the death of someone. It provides a warning, an alarm bell, for all those still around to witness it.
No one knows why death happens unfairly. Is it the absence of luck? Is it fate? Is it God? Or is it something greater, or comparatively, something worse… in fact, NOTHING AT ALL?
Could it be just nothing? We’re all just a step away from death, and if we are lucky enough to avoid it all our lives, we have done well???
I don’t know. I spent my time yesterday thinking of why I do, what I do, and I came to this conclusion…
I love to do,what I do. I do it because it makes me happy. I don’t spend hours researching and analysing, trying to change the minds of the authorities and the mass media, trying to sway them to change.
Sometimes an issue will grab me, and I WILL speak out. But my writing is done for my own enjoyment. It’s my own personal brand of therapy. I have to get the words out, the thoughts that stew in me. Whether it is my personal words for my blogs, all the things I like and dislike, what I am appreciate of, and what foods I like to eat and books I like to read, I do it for ME.
If anyone else gains anything from my writings, from my insights, then that is GREAT. That is something special.
As for my fiction… that is also done for my own purposes. My own entertainment. I like the story I see in my head, and I just have to get it out. If the only person who ever reads it are my kids, and they go “Mum that was pretty cool” well, WOO HOO. That is awesome. Of course I will try over the years to try get other people to see it… but at the end of the day, if the only people who see it are me, myself and I, and even if my kids never ever read a word I write… well I don’t deny, I might be a bit sad about that. But it won’t stop me doing what I’m doing. Because what I’m doing is for me and me alone, and no one else. I will gain the satisfaction of knowing that I produced that… and I will be pretty darn happy.
I don’t do it for others. That’s the key. That’s not to say I don’t help, or want to help others or other causes, and try to make a difference elsewhere when my heart cries out for it… but what I mean is I listen to the voice within me, and answer to that voice, that need, alone.
I don’t do things to make other people happy. I do it for me, first and foremost. And when you think about it, that’s the only person in this world you have to keep happy, right? Yourself. You have to keep yourself happy, yourself enriched, because YOU are the only person YOU have to answer to. You and You alone.
And if I’m doing these things, and they’re enriching my life, and making me happy, and filling me with joy – that’s enough, isn’t it? That’s a happy and fulfilled life. Writing about things that aren’t me… what is even the point of it? Who are you doing it for? Why are you doing it for others? It just doesn’t make sense.
Note that the above applies to EVERYTHING in life. If it’s not making you happy… well then find the thing that does, and do it RIGHT NOW.
Start today. We only have one life to live, and nothing is a guarantee. A quote from the author Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Big Magic is relevant now:
“You are worthy, dear one, regardless of the outcome. You will keep making your work, regardless of the outcome. You will keep sharing your work, regardless of the outcome. You were born to create, regardless of the outcome. You will never lose trust in the creative process, even when you don’t understand the outcome.”
The above eye-opener comes in July from Gretchen Rubin, over half-way into the author’s year-long project into happiness – how to get it, how to be it, and everything else associated with making your face turn into an upward curve.
It’s actually taken me way too long to write this review. I kept reading other books, and failed to update my notes on all my read books, making me fall way behind on my reviewing. I can’t give an explanation other than to say I was lazy/uninspired, and in relation to this particular book felt it much too hard due to the vast and confusing landscape of ‘happiness project.’
I purchased this book at the end of 2013, a limited edition one that was sold through the beautiful stationary store kikki.K. It came at a time in my life when there had been a huge amount of upheaval. I was in the store shopping for Christmas presents with an almost 4 month-old baby girl, following a year that had involved a major and distressing death in the immediate family, with then the subsequent birth of our daughter. With all the ups and downs, it was hard to imagine us ever being normal again. I was hopeful, as a glass-half-full gal always is – but it was so hard to envisage us living life to the full the way we used to. A book on happiness sparked my curiosity, and besides, I was always drawn to self-help type books. We can all improve ourselves.
I was soon to discover that Rubin had divided the various paths to happiness (as she felt them to be), into 12 areas, and would allow herself to focus on one major aspect, with its various subdividing offshoots, each month. I thought, being so close to January, that I would go along on the project with her as she had done, and decided to read the chapters month by month, in so doing my own kind of year-long project analysis of my life. I wanted to take my time and think these concepts through.
This is the book I read during the span of 2014.
This was a project into happiness, but what I loved was that it gave an insight into human nature, the way we are as society, and gave me a good sense of who I really was via the questions it posed. The book was set up in 12 areas of happiness building – for example March was “Aim Higher!” with the ‘Work’ tag associated with it, and some of the goals she had outlined for that month were “enjoy the fun of failure,” “enjoy now” and “launch a blog.” (We’ll come back to that one later).
At first it seemed a little confusing, and as a novice into this field also somewhat bewildering. In her initial research into happiness, she discovered the personal principles that would help her to stay on track during her project, which also coincidentally turned out to be 12, which she called her ‘commandments.’ Then there were the ‘secrets of adulthood,’ the goofy things she had learnt over the years, and her ‘resolutions chart’ would help to keep her on track as she checked herself and her goals against it, month by month. All of this made me feel like the whole thing was awfully complicated and too-thought-out. I mean, if you want to be happy, identify the problem, figure out the solution, do the research, and go. I guess there wouldn’t have been much of a book if she had taken a simplistic approach, and also, I do empathise with the need for lists and ticking off items, as all avid-organisers and OCDers can attest to. But this was going to be one of many baffling (and awfully irritating) things about Rubin that bugged me.
Rubin’s sentiment for starting the project rang true for me. She didn’t think she was necessarily unhappy, but she did feel as if she should be happier and more appreciative of the life she led, following her lightbulb moment one day with the profound question “Is this really it?” singing out in the background.
From the get go, I immediately started to learn things and discover ways that would make my life easier, in turn making me happier. Organisation was key to happiness, with the obvious revelation that outer order does bring inner peace. This helped me to understand why I do always need to clean or sort before I start a project, because I feel scattered by things that are around and distracting me. I took on board two of her suggestions: the ‘one-minute rule’ and the ‘evening tidy up.’ The first one refers to tasks that should not be delayed if they can be done in less than one minute, and the latter is as it says, helping to give you a more relaxed and serene start to the following day, when all your crap is organised. This especially helps with kids I think, and it really made me realise that a lot of the jobs we often put off can be done quickly, when we can identify how long it will take to do it and then just do it. Take my current example of changing flat batteries in baby girl’s toys. All I really need to do is get her toys, turn them over, find out what kinds of batteries are required, go to the battery drawer and change them. That’s it. It won’t even take 5 minutes. Yet the act of putting it off will make this job seem like the hardest one yet, just by the fact of constantly delaying it.
Realistically though, we have to understand that some things will never be ticked off, and they will either be ongoing jobs or things that will create more jobs for us to do. This reminded me of an entry I read many, many years ago in Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff by Richard Carlson, where he said (and at the time it blew my world) that our ‘Inbox’ will never be empty. We’re constantly trying to get everything done, but it’s just not possible. Understanding and accepting this is one of the key things to calming down and stressing less.
I got many other ideas from Rubin, such as the ‘6 second hug,’ a hug that for that minimum time is enough to produce mood-boosting chemicals to promote bonding; having a simple thing like a candle in your office can give you a sense of peace and help you to work smarter; and when she wrote about creating traditions in the family to foster love, I couldn’t help but think of all the singing and dancing that we do with one another, as well as our special family ‘eskimo kisses’ where Hubbie, baby girl and I rub noses with one another.
In particular, one of her goals actually set me on my own journey, as just as she started her own blog in March, so too did I follow a couple of months later – bringing me to where I am today! For that I am utterly grateful for her ideas. She had come across to writing from originally clerking, and so I felt it was encouraging to me, since where she is, writing full-time, is where I want to go.
Writing related, she mentioned a self-publishing website where she was able to create a book out of the journal she kept of her daughters first 18 months. This definitely spiked my interest as I too have kept lengthy journals of the exact same thing, and also I would love to have a hard copy of my first blog which is still being (un)read out there in cyber space, as memory of my life and writings when I first started out in the blog forum.
There were so many nuggets of life and happiness wisdom that it was hard to keep up. Things like:
“Experts says that denying bad feelings intensifies them; acknowledging bad feelings allows good feelings to return.”
“Happy people don’t need to have fun… the absence of feeling bad isn’t enough to make you happy; you must strive to find sources of feeling good.”
You can gain happiness from tasks that actually don’t make you happy in the process: my recurring ones are writing and throwing parties. That was a puzzling, yet true, revelation. Also, there was the ‘arrival fallacy’ which is the assumption that when you arrive at a certain destination you’ll feel happy. What makes you happier though, is the anticipation of it (something I think often about and have touched on here). Usually reaching significant goals gives you more challenges and work (i.e. the ‘Inbox’ is never empty!) which is why it’s so important to take pleasure in the atmosphere of growth. That is the fun part.
The most challenging tasks, give you the most sense of reward and accomplishment. Harder, therefore = happier. Last year when I made up all the invitations for baby girl’s christening from scratch, little did I realise how much running around, work and preparation would be required. But when I finished the lot, boy was I proud of myself.
One of my ‘woah’ moments came when I read about the fear of failure. She said that to succeed more, we had to acknowledge that we would fail more. She calls it the ‘fun of failure’ to help counteract the dread she feels. But my favourite quote was when she referred to a friend of hers, who always says whenever crisis strikes
“this is the fun part!”
Kind of like yelling “plot twist!” when something in your life doesn’t go to plan. I LOVE IT.
However, I also discovered questions that I really didn’t find an answer to. For example, she spoke about a controversial topic – does money create happiness? Can more of it, really make you happier? This was very dependent on your experiences, and also how much you had in relation to people around you. I realised in reading that chapter that I love buying coffee out, and eating out (Food Reviews anyone?) and yet I didn’t get an answer as to why that might be. Did it make me feel good, knowing that I could buy food and drink? Was it the fact I didn’t have to make it myself? I’m still pondering that one.
And just as I couldn’t discover why I love to eat and drink out so much, so too did I struggle to work out the character behind Rubin. At first it was slightly unnerving to read her accounts of ALL the books she read on a regular basis. Early into the book she recounted at list 20 titles just on one page. Being an aspiring author, this made me totally jelly. Then with all the ongoing references to an endless amount of books and quotes, I couldn’t help but think that she planned the book really well, or just retained a stupid amount of information that I never could. For her sake, and being the organised being she is, I hope it is the former.
My love/hate with Gretchen had begun.
There were other moments that made me feel inefficient. She talked about reading a lot, as any author would, and one of her goals one month was to ‘read at whim,’ where she noted about a zillion different writers and topics. I remember thinking ‘she has two girls, right? And one of them is a year old? And she does this how?’
She wanted to read, so much more than she usually did, even though her main work centred around it… and yet she wanted more time to pursue her passions, she wanted to read more for enjoyment.
I found one explanation as to how she finds all that time to read when she said:
“We had plenty of money to do what we wanted.”
But I wanted to reach through the book and slap her when I read this, when she was taking on the challenge of writing an entire novel in the month of September:
“Writing the novel was a lot of work, but I had less trouble squeezing the writing into my day than I’d expected. Of course I had it easier than most people, since I was already a full-time writer, but even so, I had to scrimp on time otherwise spent reading newspaper and magazines, meeting people for coffee, reading for fun, or generally putting around. My blog posts became noticeably shorter.”
Did she want writers around the world to unite against her? Don’t rub salt into time-poor writers’ wounds, Gretchen.
However, my frustration with her reached boiling point when I discovered from page 255 onwards, that not only does Rubin have qualities very like a person in my life who infuriates me, but she was actually her. This was a rude shock and made me question how I could continue reading a book from someone who I didn’t have any time for in my life, let alone let them teach me about being happy. Pffft.
In this section she spoke of her realisation of interrupting others, pushing her opinions onto friends in the example of forcing clutter clearing onto them (gosh she sounds like a delight), as well as a party of other very unfavourable qualities: she was a topper – “You think you had a crazy morning, let me tell you about my morning;” she was a deflator – “You liked that movie? I thought it was kind of boring;” and she was belligerent, looking for ways to contradict what people said.
When she went on to say that her first instinct was to argue with people when a statement was made, I made the following colourful note:
‘Yes! That’s her! Why argue? Go and argue with yourself over how you’re a fucking moron. (Did she write this in secret?)’
I started to, through my new-found anger towards Rubin and resurgence of hatred towards that person in my life, discover snippets of happiness-inducing tasks in the book that could help me on my own path, and help me in dealing with my frustration at infuriating people such as this. The following two quotes made me feel better about myself, as I pondered and focused instead on my own private insecurities, and why people like Rubin and others made me angry the way that it did. Insight can be a wonderful thing.
“Enthusiasm is a form of social courage.”
“It is easy to be heavy; hard to be light. We nonjoyous types suck energy and cheer from the joyous ones: we rely on them to buoy us with their good spirit and to cushion our agitation and anxiety. At the same time, because of a dark element in human nature, we’re sometimes provoked to try to shake the enthusiastic, cheery folk out of their fog of illusion – to make them see that the play was stupid, the money was wasted, the meeting was pointless. Instead of shielding their joy, we blast it. Why is this? I have no idea. But that impulse is there.”
Critical people appear smarter, and gain superiority from their know-it-all attitudes – but there is nothing superior about putting another person down, no matter what form it comes in.
And then, Rubin was giving me advice. Rubin, so similar in character to that person in my life, was giving me advice on how to deal with a person, like her! She spoke of rumination, which was dwelling on slights, unpleasant encounters and sad events, which led to bad feelings and often depression for women particularly as they were more likely to ruminate. This discovery rang true for me, as often following a troubling encounter with someone (that person), a solo drive in to work, alone with my head, can be absolute hell. But the idea of an ‘area of refuge’ which she invented to avoid her tendency to brood, sounded like a brilliant idea. She decides to think of one of Churchill’s speeches, or something funny her husband has done. Although I haven’t had a proper think about how to implement this, it’s certainly a life-task I will be coming back to. It’s like I was meant to read it.
In accepting Rubin’s help, I actually came to realise there were things about her that I liked. For example, she admitted to her faults (and wrote about them for all to critique), something not many people could easily do. She was human, getting upset at her husband and children for everyday things, and had to accept defeat the way many people did, giving up on one of her goals, a gratitude notebook, because it started to feel forced.
Finally, one final thing tied us together and made me much more sympathetic towards her. Her crap handwriting. I too suffer from shithandwritingisis, and it was refreshing to learn she couldn’t write lyrical prose for 45 minutes in a beautiful journal every day, because she wouldn’t be able to read it afterwards! Ahh, kindred spirit.
And, after all that, there was this:
“I love writing, reading, research, note taking, analysis, and criticism….”
This only confirmed to me that I was doing, what I was meant to be doing. In my free time, it’s all about books, notes, reviews, writing… This is where I am meant to be. This is where I am happy.
Although some of the above were tasks I could implement into my everyday life, there were other passages I read, those kind of insane life-changing lightbulb ‘Aha!’ moments that left me with goosebumps I would never forget the feel of.
She told the story of a man who would take his sons out because they would wake early every morning and his wife wanted to sleep in. They gave up trying to convince them to go back to sleep, so the man let his wife sleep and took them out, he got coffee and then watched them play in the park before returning home for breakfast. Rubin said these days, the couple slept late, but the man’s memories of those days with his young boys are the clearest and happiest of that period.
Excuse me while I cry.
Following that story came the highly appropriate quote, and also one of her ‘splendid truths:’
“The days are long, but the years are short.”
This quote quite literally gives me chills. It has become one of my favourite sayings, and a bittersweet reminder of parenthood. It puts everything into perspective, at a time of my life when there are difficult days, when things feel so hard, when I just wish certain stages were over. It reminds me that nothing lasts forever, and only to look back on the last two and a half years to realise that. It’s a scary thought, and a hopeful one too. It puts me where I’m meant to be most importantly, which is in the present.
A second profound insight interestingly came from a reader on her blog, who wrote:
“One day – I was about 34 years old – it dawned on me: I can DO ANYTHING I want, but I can’t DO EVERYTHING I want. Life-changing.”
Hell yeah. We can’t do it all, though in the name of positive thinking, we should be able to. Just another thing to think about, and to remember to do things that make you happy, rather than trying to do everything, just because we can. Focus on those things that make you smile. I’m sitting her typing at my laptop while baby girl naps, but when I re-read this, I’ll feel good about my writing efforts (remember, greater challenge, greater reward).
There was I poem I also came across that struck a particular cord with me, and thank God I googled it before re-posting it on facebook. It was an 18th century epitaph, those things you find on gravestones:
“Remember, friends, as you pass by,
As you are now so once was I.
As I am now, so you must be.
Prepare yourself to follow me.”
It is actually quite eerie, and yet when I first read it I found it to mean something else entirely. In line with my negative take on the saying ‘every dog has its day,’ I felt like it was a promise to those, that their day will come, that they will have hardships, and especially my friends without kids: ‘You will see how hard it is one day too.’ I don’t know why I am compelled to think like this, and why for a glass hall-full gal I am thinking on the negative side when it comes to this dog saying. I know that parenthood is hard, and I know that there are many out there, who like I was before kids, just don’t get it. I think, as weird as it sounds, I feel it’s comforting that I won’t be the only one in life with troubles and dramas. Sounds ridiculous, I know, as if no one has issues. We all do. But knowing you’re not alone, and other people will follow in your steps and have your problems, just as you will follow in other people’s steps and have their problems, makes me feel like we’re in this thing together.
“As you are now so once was I.”
I think whether you’re brimming with happiness and bouncing off of rainbows, or whether you’re staring at that second bottle of vodka with deep desire, we can ALL use this book. Sure, one can argue ‘Why the need to read about being happy, just BE happy!’ And I agree. There were many parts of the book when I just found the whole project a tad complicated, and her second ‘splendid truth:’
“One of the best ways to make myself happy is to make other people happy.
One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy myself.”
was a bit of a chicken/egg scenario and rattled my brain as I tried to logically work out which should come first and how they affect one another. But at the end of the day, as long as you can eat both the chicken and the egg, we don’t need to work anything out. Just as we don’t need to think too much about happiness – just be it. And if all that fails, fake it ‘til you make it and as Rubin says and does
“Act the way I want to feel.”
It doesn’t have to be so technical, but then again, whatever works for YOU. Rubin had her splendid truths, her commandments, and that helped her in her happiness project. At the end of the book she supplies additional info and tips on how to better your life and even start your own happiness project, just as she started her own book club too (something I seriously pondered, and still ponder today).
Rubin gave me a lot of inspiration, confirmed for me I was on the right path, and gave me lots of nifty tips and tricks, as well as self-learning, and that is a lot more than other books can say. She vowed to stop reading books she didn’t enjoy, and I too realised that I shouldn’t feel the need to read short stories or stories of sadness/loneliness/woe, no matter how acclaimed they are or how well they’re written. I thought in depth about my ‘True Rules,’ a term she coined for a collection of principles developed over time that help you to make decisions and set priorities. Where one of hers was “When making a choice about what to do, choose work,” I soon discovered one of mine were “There’s a reason for everything.”* And when a reader on her blog listed all the groups and clubs they had joined that year and all the amazing experiences that had come out of that choice, I couldn’t help but think with awe ‘Imagine all the friends and experiences you’ll miss out on by not doing anything?’
The Happiness Project is a must-read for all. Even if you don’t like Gretchen (as I can surely relate to, at times), you will love the ideas and insight into YOU that come out of this book. It’s a helpful guide to come back to time and time again.
As my sauce-splattered kikki.K wash cloth says:
Please let me know your thoughts on The Happiness Project in the comments below, I would love to discuss with you.
As wrecked as I now am, ironically from the happiness of the day, I felt it ever so important to share in the joy and express why and how today was a ‘good news day.’
Because you can never have too much positivity.
It all started when I drove in to work, and found a park, in a really busy area where it’s usually really hard to find a spot at that time of morning. Lucky Tick.
I picked up a coffee and got into work before starting time. Soon after I had my yearly performance review with my boss, and was very pleased to hear she was very happy with me. I was appreciated, and they were glad to have me back, even in a part-time role. It’s always nice to hear that you’re wanted and appreciated. Job satisfaction Tick and Tick.
I caught up with a friend, who was now in a serious relationship with the guy she had liked for about 2 years. Hearing of how well things were going for her, made me so happy. I love stories like that. People who are meant to be, ending up together. She thanked me for helping her not lose it over that time, and for helping her ‘persevere.’ Awww shucks. Love and Happiness Tick. Dreams DO come true. You CAN get the guy!
I then got a random phone call from a health care business on my side of town. A former work colleague had put me down as a referee on her resume, and the place she had recently applied to was calling to get the low down on her! Being the fantastic person that she is, it was no problem to speak highly of her, tell them I missed having someone like her around in my current workplace, and that she was a very happy, friendly, talkative, yet hard-working and loyal employee. I messaged her later today, and she said she got the job! She had been looking for so long, and for so long I had wished there was something I could do to help her. And unwittingly, I totally did!
Job and Friend Helping Tick!
Then I happened across a programme at work, pretty much based on the changing face of Australia and how we have become the nation we are today through our people and achievements. I was proud to again be witness to the remarkable feat Cathy Freeman achieved at the Sydney Olympics, when she ran the 400 metre sprint and won, under the intense pressure and scrutiny of the world. Seeing the vision of her excel and succeed, amidst such public and also personal pressure, of being in the position to realise her dreams and became an Olympic champion, was truly motivational and touching. Inspirational Tick.
A horribly bittersweet story came next, of the Australian team that were one of the countries that had partaken in ‘Operation Babylift,’ where in 1975 they tried to rescue babies from orphanages in South Vietnam as a result of the war at that time. Although most of the footage of this event was re-enacted, seeing the images and hearing the stories of the people who fought against terrifying odds to take sick, close to dying children on a plane, crying and scared and set out in cardboard boxes, and nurturing them until they set foot on Australian soil, was truly moving. I struggled with great difficulty to fight the sobs as I watched one scene, of a woman run towards the bus which was taking the Australian team with the orphaned babies to their ready bound-for-Australia plane, begging them to take her child.
Crying, and begging, for them to take her baby. She wanted her baby to be saved, to be safe, in light of the harsh and sad reality that she, her baby’s mother, may never come out of the war alive. She couldn’t come with them. Being a mother, this scene was incredibly hard to watch, and it was only a re-enactment. Albeit a true story, nonetheless.
The happy ending out of it all, is that all the crew and the orphaned babies made it back to Australia alive. In sum, approximately 3000 babies were saved as a result of ‘Operation Babylift.’ And seeing that many of the adopted babies had grown and had families of their own in this great country of ours, made me so happy, made me so bloody proud to be part of a country that was part of such an important humanitarian effort. I am so, so proud to be Australian. Heart-tugging and patriotic TICK, TICK, TICK.
And then on a completely different, and lighter note: I came home and found a save-the-date card had been sent to us for an upcoming wedding of a really old friend of mine. I love weddings, and you know life is good when you have great things to celebrate. Celebration Tick. Milk it when you can.
I shared my ‘good news day’ on facebook, and funnily have had cousins messaging me asking if I’m pregnant again. No, for the record, I’m not. I’m enjoying my red wine too much at the moment to be ready for that again. But it was lovely to hear from people on the other side of town, whether 30 minutes away, 60 minutes away, or on the other side of the world (as occurred when my cousin in Germany messaged me!) Family Tick.
It’s been a great day. It’s been a great Monday. Today has been somewhat of an exceptional example, yet I think the lesson here is that you can find good, no matter how small, in every day.
Helping other makes you happy.
Sharing with others makes you happy.
Being rewarded makes you happy.
I forgot the best part of the day. Laughing with baby girl on the couch, as I blew air into her face, and she exploded wet raspberries onto mine.
Motherly, Tick. 🙂
Life is good. Life is great. Let’s not forget that.