Archive for July, 2014

4 Simple Steps to Happiness

July 26, 2014

It’s nice to see the amount of people doing positivity posts on FB – looking at the good things in their lives. It seems a good thing to be doing, especially at the moment when so many terrible things have been happening. It is time to count our blessings and search for simple ways to be happy. Here are a few simple steps into happiness, this lovely sunny Saturday as we embrace the summer school holidays.

Music – the impact of music on mood is widely known – from its affect on soothing babies and children to firing up head-bangers. Today I have a few songs that are guaranteed to make you happy:

Happy by Pharrell Williams (Of course!)

Waterloo by Abba

Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears (drive to it)

Love is in the Air by John Paul Young (always makes me feel happy)

Beautiful Day by U2

Echo Beach by Martha and the Muffins (my personal favourite song ever)

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Smells – also known for their impact on your mood. Try these out:

Freshly mown grass

Smelly dog

Chlorine from the swimming pool

Your young baby’s head

Scented candles

The world after its rained

Fresh brewed coffee – especially early in the morning

 

Do something simple but satisfying

A walk in the park – move that body, every day it makes you feel so much better

Baking for others – the smell of baking is also mood elevating

Cleaning your home so it sparkles and shines and becomes a haven of tranquillity

Completing any task – a puzzle, a task for work

Have a long bath with loads of bubbles and nice smelly stuff

Reading – of course!!

 

Appreciate what you have – so many have lost so much lately, look around you and see what you have, look at it, hold it close to your heart and treasure what you have.

Family who love you

Friends who care about you

Work that pays your bills and sustains your ‘real’ life

A safe home to enjoy

A peaceful place to live

Be aware of what you have, of how precious it is and how easy it is to find and hold happiness and positivity to your life. (Images courtesy Private Collection)

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Who Do You Hate Now (that Michael Gove has gone)?

July 19, 2014

Hate is a powerful emotion, as powerful as love, possibly as destructive as love, but without the power to heal and redeem us. So, dear friends, what do you do when someone you hate is no longer there, when the figure of all your negativity, your anger and frustration with your world is gone? To wit, what do we do now Michael Gove is no longer running Education in the UK?

It’s easy to see why Cameron has removed him. In the end Gove was too divisive, too antagonistic, too easy to hate and blame. It was a powerful move, bust him down to Chief Whip, losing more money than many of us earn in a year from his salary, before he got locked in the loo. The Gove haters amongst us could not have hoped for more. If ever there was confirmation that Karma existed here it was.

The man who had spat vitriol and bile at teachers for the last four years, who had marched through his agenda for change with nary a thought for students, or parents, or schools or consequences had got his come-uppance. Indeed the viral world was full of rejoicing. Which was fair enough. And it was made even sweeter when his silly wife revealed how betrayed the Goves really were, how terribly ripped off they felt. Altogether now, ahhh…

Gove:guardian

But now, who do we hate? Gove may be gone but his policies remain alive and afloat, if only for now. We have a clean-skin replacement, a woman and a mother, Nicky Morgan. So a clear attempt to soften the voters, despite her stance on gay marriage and being a corporate lawyer, deep in the bosom of acquisitions and asset stripping (watch this space). But she talked about stopping all the Tory hate-speak. She seems to be the face of reconciliation – not someone teachers or unions or the Labour Party will be able to vent their spleens about. We can expect soft words and perhaps some lessening of the reforming zeal.

Cameron may be a fool and an idiot and an awful lot of other useless things but the removal of such a hate figure as Gove seems to be a very smart move: it takes the wind out of a flotilla of sails. It seems it will beach the opposition, as Tristram Hunt has done little but criticise Gove, not his policies.

We need to hate. Sadly it is one of mankind’s uglier traits, along with anger and jealousy – all emotions that do very little for you, as an individual or nation. Is not the Middle East conflict based on hatred going back years? Is not the current War on Terror between the West and Islam similarly about hate?

Do you remember when the Berlin Wall came down? I was in Alice Springs, it was my first appointment as Head of English, I was pregnant, young and saw the world as full of possibility. The Wall coming down seemed to be an act of hope: the end of the Cold War, the beginning of peace between the West and the Eastern Bloc, the end of the Red Terror.

But how long did we survive without an enemy, without someone to hate? 1990 when the Wall came down to 2001 when the Twin Towers came down (Albeit with the Gulf War in between). Just over ten years – not very long, not long at all. Once again we live in a world driven by hate, by the need to have an enemy.

Is there someone in your life you need to hate? Do you need to have an enemy, are you in a constant state of war? Are you spending your time and energy in negativity, in hating someone that probably doesn’t know or care? Yes, we hate our bosses, our parents, our partners, former lovers, devious friends. But do we need to? Is our hatred of them simply hatred of something in ourselves?

Abbott:news.com.au

Life is too short to hate. Hatred has no up-side. It depletes you, makes you bitter, nasty, twisted. It takes time and effort to hate, time and effort you should be putting to better use. Rejoice that Gove has gone. Be pleased you no longer have to hate someone you didn’t know, who didn’t care, but who has got what he deserved. And you know what, he’d have got his Karmic punch without you (and me) hating him as much as we have. Now go and be positive somewhere else in your life and do not look for another object of hate to waste your life on.

But if you’re lost without Gove, remember there’s always Tony Abbott, equally offensive, arrogant and stupid. (Images: Michael Gove – The Guardian; Tony Abbott – News.com.au)

3 Steps to Happiness

July 12, 2014

How goes the happiness quest? Have you been practising little moments of happiness, noticing the lovely and finding the joy in the world? It is a tricky quest, so let’s remind ourselves of how we can manage it.

 

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Happiness is not the destination, it is the journey and it is within all of us – we just have to believe that and dig deep. I know in an adversarial world this can be hard to accept at times. Yet again it’s been a rugged world out there – nationally we’ve been on strike, the UK government has gone into bile overload; Tony Abbot continues to embarrass and outrage in equal amounts; parts of the world continue to explode and we try and recover from the shock of Rolf Harris. And of course, our own personal struggles and challenges continue, doing their best to drown us and mire us in misery.

There’s a bit of buzz about happiness this weekend in the papers and on Radio 2 yesterday, there were three simple things were meant to make us happy.

1.Finding unexpected money

2. The sunset/sunrise

3. I forget, but think it was having a laugh – we’ll go with that!

 

 

My happiness revolves around my family, writing and reading, eating (I count entertaining here) and sleeping – that’s my three big happiness-makers. But in an interesting twist I read that you should not rely on others, on external things to make you happy, you must find it in yourself. If you rely on others for happiness what happens when they let you down, or leave you?

 

 

True happiness needs to be built on your own ability to make happiness, to accept that you have control over your emotions; that you control how you feel. So, think about the following and pick three that work for you

*If you believe you deserve to be happy you will be

*If you look for happiness you will find it – not everyone finds their family a bundle of joy, if you do you are blessed and will be happy

*If you take notice of the small moments they will build into larger moments, more sustainable moments – so when you wake on Saturday morning and the sun is shining and it’s a work free day and you feel a surge of happy make sure you do something that keeps that feeling bubbling along

*If you keep away from toxic environments and people it will help you – these things can eat you alive, draining any hope of happiness

*If you find something to do that makes you happy then try to do it as often as possible – the gym or exercise can be like this, writing is for me, buy flowers once a week: the list is endless

*If you have special places that make you happy, you should go there too – a walk in the woods, a stroll by the sea – the beach and the water always do it for me!

 

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You can learn to be happy. You aren’t here to be miserable and sad, it is a waste of a life. As a happy person you will be a better person, more productive, more alive and more able to make the world a better place – and it needs to be!! Do your bit in your little part of the world to make it better – BE Happy.

 

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What are your three steps to happiness, what are you doing this weekend to make yourself happy, to make the world a better place? (Images courtesy Private Collection)

Rolf Harris: When Celebrities Fail

July 5, 2014

Australia’s PM, Tony Abbot ‘is gutted’. The rest of us are shocked and appalled, but mostly we’re disappointed. How can this happen, how can someone we think we know, whom we’ve known all our lives turn out to be a criminal? How did Rolf Harris fool so many of us for so long?

Yes, he’s not the only one. But sometimes the fall of particular celebrities hits home harder. Jimmy Savile doesn’t mean much to me or most Australians, nor does the jailing of Andy Coulson for the phone hacking. Oscar Pistorius means little to me – I think he’s guilty as sin and hiding behind his celebrity status. But Rolf Harris, one of our iconic Ozzie blokes, a battler done good? Well, yes, that hits home. There is a sense of being personally let down as well as being disgusted by his behaviour, by his abuse of power and the deliberate use of his celebrity status.

Rolf bbc

What is it about celebrities when they fall from grace that is so compelling to us? Why do we follow certain stories with a passion?

Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong were kings of their respective worlds. Both excellent sportsmen but more than that, they were such good guys. Lance and his cancer, and his foundation to help others. Tiger and his pristine, guy next door, all round good bloke image. Both were rich trading on their sporting prowess and their carefully crafted public image. We admired them, we looked up to them and we believed the image. We did not know the substance. So, when the substance emerged – well, exploded in Tiger’s case – the world was aghast. Just as with Rolf, we were shocked – it can’t be true. Not Tiger. Lance’s fall from grace took a lot longer, had a much uglier side to it. But when the scale of his cheating finally emerged it was breath-taking – the lengths he had gone to to shut people down, to kill the truth of his life.

Both men had large secrets that they went to elaborate lengths to hide from the public and many around them. They seemed to believe they were above it all, that they were both different and the same. Tiger Woods famously wanted to be left alone like a normal man cheating on his wife. But he wasn’t an ordinary man cheating on his wife. Lance Armstrong didn’t really think he was cheating because everyone else was. It took both celebrities some time to accept that they were in the wrong: that they were cheats and liars.

Tiger wiki

Rolf Harris, and many others, traded on his celebrity, lived in a milieu that seems to allow behaviour that is not appropriate. Perhaps it was the times, perhaps it was the company he kept, perhaps he is just a misguided old man who shouldn’t be going to jail…

But the problem with some celebrities is that they hide behind their status, use their status and the power from that status to behave badly. Does something happen to their moral compass when they become famous, or was there something faulty in them in the first place that pushed them to become famous and enabled their faults to have full reign?

We should be in no doubt that while celebrities seem to be like us, they are in fact nothing like us. Their trick is that they seem to be, which encourages us to connect to them, to buy their products, see their movies, follow their lives, which increases their power, status and wealth. But they live in different circles, they do not work as we do, struggle as we do. Gwyneth Paltrow doesn’t get divorced, she ‘consciously uncouples’.

Fame and wealth make you different to your fans, your followers. It has to, otherwise why would it be so attractive? Being famous is one of those things we can all aspire to. It’s not accident that many of the big names in the world of sport and entertainment came from humble origins and have such big fan-bases – Tom Cruise, David Beckham, Johnny Farnham and Rolf Harris.

Whether they like it or not, their rags to riches stories resonate for us. It means we can too, if we work hard and have enough talent. It’s also why we admire them: we understand their struggle and we appreciate how hard it was for them to climb their stairways to heaven. Thus when they fall we are crushed. Somehow their journey has been our journey. Their successes ours and therefore their failures ours. We know them, that’s the point of being a fan, a follower – we have a special relationship – albeit incredibly one-sided, but as important for some people as their every day relationships.

So, when they let us down, as David Beckham did a few years ago with his affair and Tom Cruise embarrassed us on the couch with Oprah, and now Rolf Harris, we feel personally affronted. We didn’t know them at all.

No, we don’t know them, we know a version of them, the one they want the world to see. What hides beneath none of us really know. We see the product, the manufactured entity; the version sent out into the world, not the one that lives at home. Rolf Harris’ wife and daughter tell a sad tale of a man they hardly saw, didn’t really know, who saved the cheerful daftness for others, not them. He was away from home at key times, didn’t recognise his wife and new baby, was somewhat self absorbed. His letter of contrition to the family of the friend of his daughter is pathetically about himself, not his sorrow for the damage to her or her family.

So, this weekend another celebrity has fallen. Rolf Harris sits in jail, notionally for 5 years and 9 months. His family sit somewhere, broken and shamed. His victims have some justice. He is 84, my father’s age. Should he be in jail for crimes from over twenty years ago? Yes, justice has to happen and be seen to happen – war criminals from WW2 were pursued and jailed in their 80’s many years after their heinous crimes.

Will Rolf Harris be rehabilitated in the public eye, will we forgive him after he’s done his time? Will we do what we normally do with celebrities and forgive them once they’ve been publically humiliated and punished and sought our forgiveness? I have my doubts. Perhaps finally we are sick of celebrities and their extreme behaviour, their lack of contrition, lack of shame for what they have done, only sorry because they have been found out. Perhaps we are tired of their duplicity, being something they very much aren’t.

brad-guardian

So, look to your favourite celebrity. Are you sure they’re all they seem to be? Are Brad and Ange as solid as we think? Are they as nice as we think – like us only infinitely more beautiful and rich, or is there some dark secret waiting to find air, to be exposed… (Images: Rolf Harris, BBC; Tiger Woods, Wikipedia; Brad & Ange, Guardian)

*For a more in depth consideration of the Rolf Harris story read this article by Peter Conrad from The Monthly – ttps://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2014/july/1404178677/peter-conrad/inside-strange-world-rolf-harris