Happy thoughts

I spent much of my 40s thinking I would happy if …

I’d be happy if I had a swimming pool. I’d be happy if I had a new bathroom. I’d be happy if I went to Hawaii. I’d be happy if I bought a new outfit. I’d be happy if I had a new sofa. I’d be happy if I stopped working.

I got some of those things, but they didn’t make me happy. So I decided the problem was that I didn’t have all of them.

Some people eat their feelings, I shopped mine. Whenever I felt sad or anxious I’d buy things.

The kids and I had more clothes than we could ever wear, I was constantly packing up bags of barely used items and passing them on to others or jamming them in clothing bins.

It was a bit obscene.

When my husband left I was furious that he’d taken away what I thought I needed to be happy: money.

Suddenly I was a single mum forced to find another job to pay all the bills. How dare he do that to me?!

I was angry that I had to live in a cheap, unrenovated house on a busy road. I was angry that my bank balance constantly hovered around zero. I was angry that I had to shop at Kmart instead of Witchery.

It was soooooooo bloody unfair!

That anger stayed with me for a long time, until it slowly dawned on me that money wasn’t what I needed.

Oh, it’s great and I’d like to have more of it. But I’ve realised that a swimming pool isn’t the key to happiness … it’s just the key to extra chores.

I’ve discovered that I feel happy when I do simple things. If you’re a regular reader you’ll know what they are: walking with friends, swimming in the ocean, sipping a glass of wine with DD on his deck, watching the sun rise.

Most of them don’t cost a thing.

Of course, there are bucket list wishes that have price tag: exploring the South Island of New Zealand, seeing the Northern Lights, snorkelling in a garden of soft coral … and hopefully I’ll get there one day.

If I had a bit of extra dosh, I’d love to renovate my home so my French doors open onto a deck instead of a one-metre drop.

If I had a lot of dosh there’s a house on the headland at Newport Beach that I’d snap up.

But I’m not obsessed with any of those things. My happiness doesn’t depend on getting them.

I watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel the other day. Bored the youngest senseless, but I enjoyed it.

I was fascinated by Jean Ainslie’s behaviour – she was so bitter about being forced to retire to India with her husband after they lost their life savings to their daughter’s internet business.

Jean refuses to see any positives in her daily experiences, only negatives. And she’s pretty awful to her partner of 40 years in the process.

He finals cracks, shouting at her: “Look. Can you hear yourself? Can you? Do you have any idea what a terrible person you have become? All you give out is this endless negativity, a refusal to see any kind of light and joy, even when it’s staring you in the face, and a desperate need to squash any sign of happiness in me or… or… or… anyone else. It’s a wonder that I don’t fling myself at the first kind word or gesture that comes my way, but I don’t, ou… ou… ou… out of some sense of dried-up loyalty and respect, neither of which I ever bloody get in return.”

But his desperate plea doesn’t get through to Jean. The only thing that matters to her is going back to England and “not just getting on the plane, but getting on the plane and turning left” because “left” means she’s heading to First Class.

Douglas, on the other hand, has discovered that true happiness isn’t to be found in First Class, as luxurious as it might be. It’s about hope and love and being open to seeing the good in your life.

I used to be like Jean: closed to new experiences, closed to just about everything. Unlike her, I realised I could escape the shackles I’d locked myself into.

I’m not angry about my bank balance any more. I no longer curse my ex for reducing me to a single, small income household. I don’t focus on what I don’t have, I feel fortunate for what I do.

Yes, crappy stuff happens sometimes, but no one is immune to that. We all have our battles – mine are not special or unique.

When things get tough I remind myself that better days always come.

My glass is half full, not half empty.

And, while I’m usually only sipping a quaffer from it, that’s OK, because it’s who you share it with that really matters.

Song of the day: Madonna “Lucky star”

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