So, here’s an interesting thing.
I had a couple of rough years in a row – 2015 and 2016 in particular. It felt like, I had a bad year, followed by a REALLY bad year, followed by another bad year. I kept getting to New Year’s Eve, and when I looked back all I could remember were the awful things even though lots of good stuff happened in those years as well.
(This, I am told is normal – we are programmed to remember bad things more strongly that good things, to the point that it completely negates all the good things. This is why people who were happily married for 10 years before a bad year or a nasty break up will tend to only remember the bad parts when they look back on their marriage/relationship, or why people who suffer a traumatic event will forget all the good things that may have come before it. A brilliant day out at the beach, where everything is wonderful and which finishes with the death of your pet when you get home will soon become a sad memory, and the fact that you had an entirely great day is tainted with that sad memory from the last hour of the day, so that next time you go to the beach you’ll probably remember the death of your pet not the great time you had at the beach). This is apparently just how our brains work.
But recently, I’ve been feeling really happy.
Not just “Oh my god, something utterly amazing is about to happen in my life” happiness (though that is no doubt part of it as well).And I’m not just saying it in a smug, “how awesome is my life?” kind of way.
But the last few weeks/months I’ve felt happy, calm, content, and just keep finding myself grinning and enjoying myself for no reason. A few weeks ago, it was grey and rainy and generally pretty grim, and I just couldn’t stop grinning from ear to ear all the way home. I was listening to a great new song, and could barely stop myself from dancing home instead of just walking.
Now, it’s possible that my latest course of B12 tablets have restored my natural brain function over the last few months and that this is in fact how happy I’m supposed to feel all the time (one of the symptoms of B12 deficiency includes “low mood”). So it’s possible my happiness levels had actually run super-low while I was busy not noticing and that I’m suddenly aware of them now that they are back up to normal.
However I don’t think that’s it.
Obviously it could be the excitement and thrill of my imminent motherhood, which is of course the most incredible and amazing thing that’s ever happened to me. But I don’t think that’s it either.
I think it’s because I started a happiness journal a couple of years ago, and I think it is genuinely really helping me.
A friend recommended it to me a while ago, the idea is that at the end of every day (or every few days whenever you remember), you write down on a piece of paper something good that happened that day, or something that made you smile and you stick it in a jar. Even if something AWFUL happened that day, you don’t write that thing down, you only capture positive things. The awful things you will probably remember anyway, as we are programmed to do that, but reinforcing the good, happy moments will gradually help to overwrite some of the bad. At the end of the year you will have a jar packed full of happy memories to look back on. My friend did it for a year and said she felt much more cheerful and optimistic about life by doing it. (I started mine in a jar but now I just use a regular notebook).
In general, I’ve always been a fairly happy and optimistic person anyway. But in 2015, I had a rough time being gaslighted by a senior manager in Iraq, then I came home and my sister was diagnosed with cancer, then in 2016 while my sister was doing chemotherapy my stepmother passed away, and then Brexit happened and Trump happened and Jo Cox was brutally murdered and I just felt like the world was ending. I used to listen to Radio 4 in the morning before getting up but it was making me feel so depressed that it ruined the rest of my day, before I had even got up so I had to switch to a light music station in the mornings instead.
So I decided in 2017 to try a happiness journal. And while 2017 wasn’t a great year, it was certainly better by comparison. And I didn’t feel quite so awful looking back on it than I had in previous years. In 2018 I continued to do it (and it’s also lovely to look back on a list of positive things from your year, and helps me to be more grateful for all my amazing friends and family who make me smile so often). Again, lots of bad things also happened in 2018, like our massive restructure at work, job insecurity and so on, but I didn’t get to the end of the year and only remember those things.
So I have felt in general my sense of emotional wellbeing strengthen and grow over the last couple of years (obviously I still have ups and downs, I’m still human!). But this year in particular, I’ve felt happy. Really happy. Not just because of the adoption, though that has obviously helped, and not just my re-balanced B12, though that probably helps too. But I’ve noticed I’m able to find joy in everyday things, and THAT is a really magical thing. I’ve been grinning and feeling so happy about my gorgeous roses in full bloom, which are AMAZING this year. I was grinning and dancing home in the rain because I discovered a new song that I loved and couldn’t keep the joy in! I love love love my pottery classes, and being creative. I love spending time with my friends, catching up and giggling and watching bad movies. I notice beautiful flowers as I am walking home, or a spectacular sunset, and so on.
I suppose you might call it mindfulness, but being able to find joy in little everyday things, and consciously notice it has made me a happier person. I have felt calm and happy and joyous more often than not this year, in spite of a few ups and downs.
And on top of all that, 2019 has been an INCREDIBLY lucky year for me, and particularly June.
In general, 2019 was the year that I was matched with my gorgeous little girl, and the year that my dad was able to give me a chunk of money to help me with that. It was also the year I was able to buy 100% of Casa de Maya, (with a mortgage, but I’ve bought out the shares from the housing association which was a huge achievement!).
And then in June, this happened.
First, my premium bond matured. I’ve had it since December 1981, so I assume it was a Christmas present for my first Christmas. I won £20 which was nice! Also it felt a lot like a Monopoly win – I hadn’t really thought that it happened in real life!
Then, on the 18th June, on a Tuesday, I won the lottery. Not a lot (£3.60 to be exact) but it’s always nice to win! On Thursday 20th June, my matching panel approved my adoption match and I won the lottery again (metaphorically) in getting my little girl. THEN on Friday 21st June, I won the actual lottery again! (£2.70 this time).
Seriously, what are the chances of winning the lottery twice in the same week? They must be miniscule!
I can’t help wondering if it’s all my good karma hitting me at once, or if it’s just a weirdly lucky year for me so far. Or if I have simply reframed it into a fantastic year in my mind through practice, mindfulness or my happiness journal. But it feels nice to have such a positive outlook after several fairly tough years in a row.
And, yes, obviously I’m also feeling pretty damn smug about it all too!
And as I am now in the final days of preparing for my little girl to come home, and getting so excited about being a mum, I have also been incredibly moved by how much love and support has been sent to me from all my friends and family. In the last 2 weeks I have been sent amazing thoughtful messages from all around the world, offering support, kind words of advice and to be there to listen at 2am if I need it, or to go and buy me milk or give me a break when I am at my wit’s end. Not only from close friends and family, but even colleagues or acquaintances I hardly know have been sending me lovely thoughtful messages of support.
I feel so lucky to have such a vast number of amazing people in my life. I really do believe it takes a village to raise a child, and my village is pretty damn amazing. I feel deeply loved and cherished and supported just at the moment, and yes, frankly, very mushy and emotional about all the love, so sorry for all the gushing. (Honestly, doesn’t people banging on about how amazing their life is make you just want to puke?). So, yeah, sorry about that.
*strolls off grinning