A really quick one just to say that all good. Yesterday and today I did the full shebang – meditate, exercise, check bank balances (not good), planned my days (and stuck to plans), didn’t drink and all around got A LOT DONE. Seriously, this no-boozing business does wonders for my productivity. I feel like my brain has gone from this:
Right, OK. Here we go – it’s time to sit up straight and concentrate. We’re about to become HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE. Oh yes.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey (once described as the American Socrates) is one of those self-help classics (20 million copies sold in 38 languages) that most people know the name of but nobody has actually read. At least not past chapter one.
I’ve had this book for nearly ten years and have never got past the first few pages of the 300 page textbook – even though I’ve tried a couple of times. Every time I try my eyes just slip right off the page and into a deep meditation about what to eat for dinner. Or how spotty I am. Or whether I should sell some dresses on Ebay. It makes me the very opposite of Highly Effective.
Last year mum made a vanilla and strawberry cake for my sister’s birthday.
I carried it from Surrey to my sister’s place in East London, via two trains and a bus. Mum didn’t have a tupperware container big enough for it so it was on a plate and there was some strange net thing put over it, the kind of thing that you put over food when it’s outside on a summer’s day. Something to stop the flies.
This made travelling in rush hour pretty challenging – I kept thinking someone was going to bump into the cake and send it flying but they didn’t. Rush hour that evening was like no other rush hour I’ve ever experienced. People smiled at me, people moved out of my way, people even chatted; ‘That looks nice,’ they’d say, looking at the cake. Their face would soften. The hard, tired, determined, ‘I hate life’ look most us adopt on tubes would melt.
It was really weird. It was like everyone become human again.
I’ve been thinking a lot about vulnerability and how nearly two years ago it changed me life.
In the last post I gave you a lot of back-story about being sick throughout my twenties. I hated putting up that post. I felt exposed, embarrassed and like everybody would be judging me. I have always felt that getting sick is a huge weakness, something to be ashamed of.
I experienced what Brene Brown calls a ‘vulnerability hangover’ – which is where you cringe about what you’ve just shared. You want to run away and pretend it didn’t happen. It was like when you say something stupid in front of a guy and just the memory of it makes you feel hot and sick weeks later.
Anyway, no doubt I’m heading for another vulnerability hangover but I’m going to finish the back-story…
Wow, thank you so much for all the lovely comments yesterday. It was a good day and with your encouragement I let myself be properly happy.
Every time a ‘Who do you think you are?, this is all going to go wrong, you shouldn’t have told people’ voice came into my head I told myself that this is an old pattern of thinking and that it’s not being big-headed to celebrate and share good news.
In our house the worst thing you could ever be is ‘full of yourself’ (a very Irish thing) but while modesty is charming to a point, if we don’t celebrate the good stuff, what is the point of life? The other oft-repeated phrase in our house was ‘Pride goes before a fall….’ so I always associate rare moments of being proud with the dread that something bad is going to happen. But apparently that’s normal.
I wrote a bit about this yesterday but Brene says that one of the most terrifying emotions we have is joy.
She says: ‘How many of us have thought, “Work’s going well. Good relationship with my partner. Holy crap, something bad’s going to happen.” So what is that? It’s when we lose our tolerance for vulnerability. It’s when joy becomes foreboding. We think, “I’m not gonna soften into this moment because I’m scared it’s going to be taken away. We dress rehearse tragedy to beat vulnerability to the punch.’
It’s nearly midnight on a Friday night and I’m at my mum’s watching junk on Netflix and hating myself. I’ve spent the last week going through three shoe boxes of receipts dating back 18 months. All my spending habits there in black and white, on faded, scrunched up slips of paper.
When I cried my way through February, my month of Money, A Love Story, I vowed to change my ways and I did a bit but not enough. I got stuck into the Secret and figured that ‘abundant thoughts’ would translate into an abundant bank balance. They didn’t. Then there was two months of rejection therapy which made me so miserable I took to drink. Which is expensive. Then lovely trips to Italy with F**K It.
A couple of months ago I said F**K It to something quite major and I didn’t tell you about it because I worried I’d made a big mistake. I was worried that it was a sure sign that self-help had made me crazy.
In April I was offered a book deal and I turned it down.
I was offered something that I’ve dreamt of my whole life and said ‘No, thanks.’
Well I’m back from my F**K It week and I don’t know what to say except it’s been emotional. Much more than I was expecting. I thought the week would involve standing in the sun shouting ‘F**K It’ with a bunch of strangers and then maybe doing some sort of embarrassing dancing. And maybe some tree-hugging.
As it turned out there was no dancing and only one tiny little bit of shouting, right on the last day. There wasn’t even much swearing, actually. In fact it was more deep and beautiful than boisterous and funny (the tone of the book) and that’s a good thing. Although I did hug a tree – but that was for a laugh. The tree did not laugh back, which is a relief.