I can’t believe I’m actually admitting this….but I love housework! Making things neat and tidy makes me so happy – tidy house, tidy mind! I feel so much better when everything is clean and tidy and I like feeling like I have been productive and accomplished something. I also find it quite therapeutic doing my cleaning while I’m watching something on the telly, just having time to myself and pottering around. I like being busy and I’m not very good at sitting still for too long so I have no problem wandering around the flat having a little tidy up while I watch my programmes! Also, from a very stereotypical and sexist point of view (now I really can’t believe I’m admitting this!), doing the housework makes me feel like I’m being a good wife. My husband does an equal share of everything at home and would never suggest that doing the housework is my responsibility, but it makes me happy to feel like I’m looking after our little home and keeping it looking nice for us (I know, send me back to the 1950’s with my pinny and my vacuum and just tell me to stop talking….). There you have it, a genuine source of happiness found in an unlikely place!
Since my last blog post and everyone’s amazing positivity and support something strange has happened. I have felt an overwhelming lightness and happiness that I’ve never really felt before. I feel free and as if nothing in the world can bring me down. I literally feel like you could throw anything at me and I’d be like “oh right, ok”, which is so not how I usually am! Usually I am little miss stressy and everything bothers me but not the last couple of weeks!
I tried to put my feelings into words and although it’s not really a poem here are my thoughts :
Happiness is the arms of friendship wrapped around me
It’s a grin so wide your face hurts
Happiness is confidence and laughter
It is a carnival of noise and colour
Happiness walks taller with a spring in its step
It is a celebration of fireworks
Happiness wants to shout from the rooftops
It is sparkly, loud and comfortable
Happiness is a riot of vivid colours.
It is right up in the clouds and carefree
Long may Happiness last;
Hugs are fab. I love hugs! I love the spontaneity of someone rushing up and throwing their arms around you. Or the ones you ask for. And the ones where someone just scoops up your sadness and turns it into laughter. Hugs are warm, comforting, familiar, and safe. I’m lucky, I work with children and get dozens of hugs a day. What the children don’t realise is that when they come and ask for a hug and I give one, they are also doing me a favour too! However, I’m also lucky enough to work with colleagues who understand my hugging needs! And this morning I was greeted with many Happy Hump Day Hugs. So here I am passing them on. If you are in need of a hug, here is one for you … catch!
My best friend is amazing. She is one of the few people in the world who truly “gets” me. And she always seems to know exactly what to say. We laugh, at the stupidest things – and go on laughing way after it’s funny. We go on road trips and sing, badly and loudly, to the cheesiest music. We gossip over pizza. We cuddle up under a blanket and watch property shows – planning our houses for when we have money… We shop and spend more money than we have. But it’s more than that. Without my best friend I probably wouldn’t be here today. She is my absolute rock. She has seen me at my lowest of low points and still stayed by my side. She has held my hand and let me cry and patiently reassured me when my anxious paranoia kicks in. She has firmly told me that “giving up is not an option”. And I listen to her when I can’t listen to myself. She always seems to know the right words to say, when to be serious and when to have a joke. She hugs me and reassures me and loves me unconditionally. And I can never fully put into words how much she means to me. Happiness comes from spending time with people who truly love you for who you are – just like she does for me.
Children can be so honestly kind in a way that I think adults struggle with because to us it all seems a bit over the top – we’ve learnt to tone it down and not show too much emotion (something I have not learnt to do very well yet!). As a teacher I have moments every day where a child says or does something with such open honesty that it knocks you back for a second while you realise that they’re not being sarcastic or manipulative or cheeky, they’re just telling you how it is from the kindness of their hearts. Examples include:
“You know how when you love someone a lot you try to show them how much you love them by making them things or writing them a card, but it’s never enough to show them just how much you love them? Well that’s how I feel about you.”
“I wish we had school at the weekends so that I could see you every day.”
“You’re like a rare, bright star – you shine brighter than the others.”
“It doesn’t matter where you are, I still love you.”
These children have so much love and kindness inside that they just want to let it out – they’re not bound by social conventions and the British stiff upper lip, they just want to tell the people that are important to them how much they love them. It makes me so happy that children are free to do that – and to hear them speaking to each other with such kindness is heart warming. I often see posts on Facebook from taken aback parents whose children have written them a kind message, done something kind or said something kind and it’s just lovely to see that it happens everywhere! There really is nothing like the kindness of a child to make you stop for a second and feel warmed by their love and compassion. I’ll leave you with one more example that put a huge smile on my face (after I had stopped crying!)
Happiness landmarks are those turning points in your life where something happens that gives you a long lasting boost of happiness. A bit like drinking a double espresso, or downing a shot of Berocca, or driving in to a turbo boost on Super Mario Kart….anyway, finding Zumba has definitely been a happiness landmark for me. I can’t even remember how I first heard about Zumba, but my friend and I decided to go along to a class one evening and we instantly loved it – the music was full of energy and while the moves definitely gave us a work out, we really enjoyed dancing along to the music and had a great time together. From that first class we ended up visiting more classes with different instructors and as time went on, we came up with our own ideals for a perfect Zumba class. I couldn’t believe it when my friend then decided to turn our ideas in to a reality and trained to be an instructor herself! I loved her classes so much – the music was perfect, the moves were perfect and we built up our own Zumba family of members. Then last year another crazy thing happened…my friend had to close the class temporarily while she was on maternity leave and in a moment of madness I decided to train as an instructor myself so that I could cover for her! I had no idea then that it would snowball the way that it has – I absolutely love being an instructor, I now have my own Zumba Kids Jr. class and I’m adding a Zumba Toning class to my timetable after my training in February. Zumba makes me feel so happy, the music, the moves and the people that I get to see every week really give me a boost and put a big smile on my face. I look forward to every class and I have so much fun every time – seeing other people enjoying the class too certainly gives me an extra boost of happiness and confidence, knowing that they have chosen to come back each week is definitely a compliment! I can’t wait for my friend to come back and teach her class because we have so much fun together, but I am also grateful for the opportunity to experience the other side of Zumba because it’s opened up a huge source of happiness that will last a long time!
Feeling proud is such a funny emotion – whilst you feel an overwhelming happiness for someone, it’s almost as if internally you feel happy for yourself too, as if you are taking credit for someone’s achievements just by being associated with them, sharing their success. My friend Rosie is an INCREDIBLE artist and I am so proud of her I could just burst – I tell everyone that my friend is an artist and I’ve been to her exhibitions and one of them was in London don’t you know…. yet I am not remotely artistic and her talent has absolutely nothing to do with me. Seeing her artwork brings a smile to my face, usually because her humble nature makes her sheepishly slide her sketchbook towards me, and when my jaw drops in amazement she chuckles and looks at her lap. That’s talent right there – artwork that speaks for itself without any need for inflation from the artist. I, however, am not like that at all so I’ve included a few pieces of her work below for you to enjoy and I’ll shout from the rooftops about how good it is. She’s also been chosen as the artist of the month by Outside In – pop over and read her interview!
One of my greatest honours is being given the title Auntie Karen to this gorgeous one. I’m an only child so I was never going to be an Auntie by rights. I can’t remember exactly when Ruby’s mum asked me but I know I welled up when I accepted the title. I can still remember the first time Ruby actually called me Auntie herself. It was in August 2012 when she would have been three and three quarters. Ruby and her mum had come to visit the Brownies on our annual pack holiday, we’d been out for the day and we were all just having a rest before dinner. Ruby was toddling around the house still full of energy and loving spending time with the ‘big girls’. There was the usual hubbub of noise in the house – inevitable with 20 odd children there! Then, across all the noise came another voice “Auntie Taren” (the ‘K’ sound came later!). Yes I admit I welled up (again).
Nothing makes me a prouder Auntie than having Ruby at Rainbows and now Brownies with me. And I still get a lump in my throat when those words come above the rest “Auntie Karen”. Ruby is eight now and is definitely growing up fast – she is beautiful, affectionate, clever and also determined, stubborn and certainly has a mind of her own! She drives me mad at times! But I love her immeasurably and she is a source of many many happy memories.
I’m not going to lie – these last couple of weeks have been TOUGH for so many reasons. The kind of tough where you can feel yourself starting to wallow in self pity because nothing is going right and everything feels like a constant uphill struggle (if you ask my mum I’m a bit of a pro at wallowing in self pity so read in to that what you will!). The last couple of weeks have had me concentrating on just putting one foot in front of the other, getting through the next hour, next part of the day, next part of the week. Sometimes that’s what’s needed and if that’s what gets you through the hard times then so be it. Unfortunately, while I was busy doing that I wasn’t finding the time or the inclination to write blog posts. I wasn’t noticing the happiness around me because frankly nothing felt particularly happy, I could taint anything good with a burst of negativity and that was that. But now that I am feeling more on an even keel I can definitely say that I have noticed sparks of light around me over the last couple of weeks. At work we pride ourselves on being a family and that has never stood out more to me than it has this last week or so. I’ve had so many colleagues asking how I am, listening to my worries, texting me to see if I’m ok, offering kind words of encouragement, hugs, cups of tea, tissues, and giving up their time to cover my work for a bit. Now that I look back on it, it is honestly overwhelming how wonderful they all are. When I think about them it brings a smile to my face and I hope they realise how much they have made the last couple of weeks bearable. Although I can’t say it was a happy little moment at the time, now I certainly feel a little flicker of happiness in my tummy to know that people care about me enough to offer me a candle in the darkness.
This is one of my favourite photographs from a fabulous day spent at Whipsnade Zoo last summer. Giraffes are one of my favourite animals too. There is so much about them that makes me smile. The grace as they move slowly but deliberately around, contrasting with the power and speed that they have when they need it. I have been lucky enough to hand feed a giraffe and they truly are gentle giants. It’s hard not to be in awe of something whose head completely fills your car window and whose tongue is as long as your forearm, yet whose touch is so gentle and delicate. I love everything about them: from their slightly awkward angular head, to their unique coat patterns and the fuzzy little bristly mane. They have a certain humour about them too – as if whoever created them was having a joke that day. Why else would they have a coat pattern that looks as if they are wearing knee-length socks or a funny little not quite tail with a hairy bit on the end! If you didn’t have a sense of humour, why would you create an animal that can’t reach the ground without standing like this…!