LIFE · THE ART OF HAPPINESS

The World’s Kindest Problems

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Give thanks for the life you were born into.

If you’re reading this, you can be pretty happy in this moment, knowing you’ll go to sleep tonight, safe and warm in your bed. – Knowing your loved ones are safe, your children are not malnourished, and you’re unlikely to run out of clean water tomorrow.

I had a small yet powerful semi-epiphany on a walk home from Maia’s nursery this week.

Maybe I’ve been glancing through the papers too much or watching the news too intensely but I realised, wholeheartedly; that I – we – are some of the luckiest, most fortunate, most privileged people IN THE WORLD. 

Everyone knows this, but we don’t really think anything of it. Some of us do, some of us pray for those less fortunate, some of us give a great deal to charity, some volunteer, some spend their lives working for life-changing organisations.

Others, go through life only thinking of themselves. Others complain that their house isn’t big enough, that they don’t earn enough money, that their son isn’t doing well enough in school.

We live in a strange world.

Of course our complaints and “problems” are relative to the lives we live.

Children are homeless, cold, starving. Families are being murdered for having mobile phones. The sheer horror of what goes on in parts of the world – too many parts – is too graphic and unthinkable to even write on this seemingly – most of the time – quite lighthearted and happy blog.

I realised, it’s not all about me, I have to see the bigger picture, I have to include the world in my prayers each night.

Each night, I sit for a few minutes and just write about some of the good parts of my day, what I’m grateful for, and what I did to work towards my goals. I rarely think of “The world”. I don’t pray for Syrian children, because I don’t see what good it will do. But that day I thought, well what harm would it do, and maybe one day, when Maia’s a little older, I will do something more proactive, I will volunteer for some charity, I will travel and help in some orphanage, I will do something.

“I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

From The Book of Good Cheer : A Little Bundle of Cheery Thoughts (1909) by Edwin Osgood Grover

But for now, all I can do is write and pray, in the hope my words will make others think, that they are so much luckier than they’ve ever really realised, and that all their problems, may be problems – not finding a job, not affording a car, not seeing their boyfriend in over a month – but they are the world’s kindest problems.  – In a hierarchy of problems, they’re the best sort you can have.

I do not write this to belittle people’s problems. Or to make people feel stupid or guilty. (We’re human; and complaining, letting off steam, having a good rant about the dickhead at work who gave you a headache all afternoon – this is all very much necessary.)

You and I didn’t cause poverty or invent guns. There is nothing you or I could do today or this week to stop terrorism or feed the hungry or house the 60 million + displaced people.

I write this, to remind you to take a moment to appreciate your life, for all its imperfections, all it’s tangled messiness and confusion and frustrations and craziness and dramas.

Seeing images of blood stained nurseries and wastelands that families would have once called home made me think about the country and area we live in.

I’ve never felt more thankful to be where I am.

I sometimes look around my quiet boring neighbourhood and think  “Ah I wish I lived in the city, I wish I lived in London where everything’s happening, so much going on…I wish I wasn’t single. I wish I had a degree, a double bed, a MacBook, a better sewing machine, better skin, more time to read. I wish I didn’t wince at the price every time I bought Maia a new pair of shoes…”

Why do we always want more? Why are we never quite satisfied, why is our satisfaction so temporary?

We joke using the phrase “first world problems”  but deep down we all know how lucky we are and I don’t think I’ll ever make that joke again because it hurts a little now.

Your £200 new boots are hurting your baby toes? Chipped a nail? Missed your waxing appointment?…Awh babe…..

We may live in one world physically, but in truth, we live in two. And they couldn’t be more different.  We’re thousands of miles from the horrors, but we might as well be light years, because most probably spares a thought each day, but will never actually do anything to help. But many will, and this thought gives me hope. Some will take action, and it’s these people that will change the world. If only by a fraction.

I walked home with Maia that day and took in everything on a very different level.
Our walk home is, to most, rather ordinary; roads, houses, trees, the usual – no spectacular views.

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It all looks ordinary, but it’s really not.

The houses, the roads, the trees –  some people might never see a sight like this.
The sky- as blue as it is this evening, doesn’t look like this for everyone in the world. Some people will only ever see grey, smoke, smog.

Some will never notice the stars or see a full moon.

Some will never walk through crunchy leaves, let their children roll around on the grass in the Summer or see the colours change in Autumn.

Some might never get to walk safely down a footpath or come home at night to their front door to enter a warm house.

I began to see things differently. – Even grateful for the lampposts that lit my way home.

*I know, I’m going cooky, but these thoughts only made me feel lighter, clearer, and like I had some sort of responsibility to use my position of privilege to do something, anything.

I was suddenly so overwhelming grateful for my boring little road. -My quiet little road full of pristine gardens, polished cars and the knowledge that our lovely postman will come again tomorrow – as he does without fail every single day. My life was like a children’s cartoon for God’s sake. There are people in the world who will never receive a letter through the post, or even learn how to read. Their lives are like horror films only lifelong.

You see images on the news, in the papers, of towns, cities,  – wastelands –  where people, children live; treacherous places, war zones, where people are killed everyday, not to mention the millions displaced after trying to escape.

Then I look around and think the most dangerous thing about this normal, ordinary, quite boring neighbourhood, is, well, cars.

Cars.

Not terrorists, not bombs or guns or disease or FGM or starvation or the cold .

Cars.

My biggest worry is getting hit by a car crossing the street, which is a valid concern, but not exactly a fear. It’s pretty much in my control. I’m in control of my life, and my daughter’s safety for the most part. And I can’t bring myself to think of all the mothers who don’t have this feeling of control.

As Maia fell asleep in her pushchair I did think:

“How peaceful does she look? We’ll arrive home, I’ll put a warm blanket over her and start making her dinner *yup, naptime pre-bedtime, I roll with it and deal with the consequential 10pm bedtime later..*, and she’ll be safe, under our roof, her only challenges being to eat her broccoli and brush her teeth. – Not scavenge for food, not hide from men with guns, not walk miles for shelter. Just listen to her Mother lecture her on why its important she brush her teeth and eat her greens.” 

I decided I was never going to take my “ordinary” life for granted ever again. – Or moan to myself in my head every time I had to go to Tesco or put up the laundry. – Because there are men and women in this world who would be thrilled to own washing machine, or be able to buy fruit and vegetables for their growing children.

I decided I was going to thank the universe/God/whatever you want to call that higher power that may or may not exist – every single day for the country I was born in, – the opportunities I have -and the family I was born into. –  Because my parents have always taught me to be appreciative, to give thanks, and to not take life for granted. I’ll always remember my mother’s words Oh you should be lucky that you have______…”  –  accompanied with tales of her childhood, like washing clothes down by the river at weekends.

I found myself sitting in a mountain of gratitude, and thoughts that had never really hit home before. What kind of miracle had to happen for me to be so lucky?

What can I do? What’s in my power? How different would the world be if more people did what was in their power? How do some people sleep at night?

And a more pressing question that crosses my mind daily…

And why aren’t the rich and powerful doing MORE?

Once I began on the bigger questions, I couldn’t really stop.

Oxfam reported this year that the 62 richest billionaires own as much wealth as the poorer half of the world’s population. I can’t think about this sort of fact for too long without being consumed with sadness and anger. There are people in places of power not doing what they can, that don’t feel the need to, which to me is really quite tragic. Yes they worked hard, yes they may deserve their fair share of money and luxuries, but also, whilst purchasing your third yacht; maybe you could use your position of power, use your platform for good? 

No ONE individual or even family needs billions of dollars. – Because they’re only going to invest in other multi-million dollar companies. The thought of making the rich richer and the poor poorer is infuriating and yet its happening more and more everyday.

But that’s a whole other blog post.

This one was on gratitude, so I’ll round it up.

Be grateful for the little things, like the cinema and nail polish, for the big things like family, friendship and love, for the necessities like food and shelter and for your problems like mortgages and getting a visa.

Give thanks everyday.

Say a prayer for refugees, sponsor, donate, and do the little thing that might make a difference.

Do something,
it will always be better than nothing.

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