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Not Good Or Bad

If you do a lot of reading about mindfulness (which I obviously do), one of the concepts you will inevitably stumble across is the idea that we label all our experiences. Something happens and we think "this is amazing!" and then something else happens and we think "this is really bad." 

But this is just our brain telling us stories. 

The other day I planned to work from home and I was so looking forward to it. It was one of the last days I would be working from home for a while, because I was just about to start my new job and I knew that I would have to be in the office all the time for at least the first few months, while I got up to speed.

I was looking forward to throwing on jeans and not worrying about how I looked. Wearing my old glasses. Not having to wear shoes. And also the peace and quiet of being absolutely alone.

And then. My computer failed to turn on properly. I couldn't even get the home screen, so our I.T. help people from wherever-they-are-in-the-world couldn't even connect to the computer to help me out. The guy on the other end of the phone asked me, "how quickly can you get into the office?" 

I sighed. 

I was so irritated and annoyed -- this was so bad, I thought. The worst. But then, because I've read like a million books and blogs on mindfulness, I stopped myself. This just was. I took a deep breath and got ready to go into work. 

Miraculously I made a conscious choice not to be annoyed, not to label what had happened. And a funny thing happened. I enjoyed the late trip into work. The train and tube weren't crowded. I had a conversation with the man who sold me my coffee about keep cups and when someone came into the shop looking for a job, I remembered I had seen a notice at a pub looking to hire staff and told him about it. 

Also, I found out that day that a good friend of mine was very close to losing his battle with cancer. I ended up going to see him at the hospital that very evening. And I can't say for sure, of course, but I don't know if I would have made it there that day if I had been working from home. 

But what I do know for sure is that I made a choice that morning. I made a choice not to label my day as bad, and it made all the difference. 

So next time you find yourself labeling something good or bad, try this. After you say it, add "maybe" to the end. Because maybe, just maybe, you will find out that you do have a choice on how you perceive, and then experience, your life.

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Photo credit: michaelmueller410 Flockenblume via photopin (license)

Crushing The Diet Mentality

I have a new post on Balanced Being which discusses how Intuitive Eating saved my relationship with food. To have a read, click here.

Having Kittens, Full of Beans

One of my favorite British expressions is "having kittens". This means being edgy, worked up, agitated, and I suppose most equivalent to the more well-known expression "cat on a hot tin roof".

Another favorite British expression of mine is "full of beans". If I remember -- and I am starting to forget -- I think most Americans would use this phrase with a child to say they are being silly. Whereas in the U.K. it means, full of energy, excited and animated.

I bring up these two expressions because I believe the English language is in dire need of a new word -- or perhaps a new expression altogether. Because don't you think that a common state of human emotion is a combination of these two?

My most recent news is that I'm going to be changing roles at work. I am staying within the same company, but mind you, I've been working in my division for nine years now, with a lot of the same people for all that time. And overall I've been very happy doing what I've been doing and working with some really amazing folks.

But I need a change. And I am genuinely excited about the new opportunity. So I guess you could say that I am full of beans. But I am also having kittens.

And it's very often that these two emotions go together -- I suppose in the sometimes used "nervous excitement". Ask anyone who's about to have a new baby how they're feeling and they usually say something like: Excited! And terrified!

People, let's come up with a new word. I feel like this is an emotional state that gets shortchanged in the English language. We need to recognize this frenzied state as a legitimate one that we have to deal with over and over again in our lives. Because, although it's a cliche, it's true: the only constant is change.

The only ones I could come up with were terrible:
  • Excitified (excited + terrified)
  • Edgivated (edgy + elevated)

Maybe my lovely readers can think of something better. In the meantime, I guess I'll have to live with saying I'm nervously excited. Or full of beans, but having kittens.

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Radio Days

Over the summer I divulged my curiosity about reading via audio books in How To Read.

Enamored with the fact that I can listen to podcasts while I walk around London or sit on the train while staring out the window, I was determined to try the concept of reading books this way. 

I thought, what better time to try this than during our Epic American Trip? I signed up for Audible's free month's trial and downloaded one of the books on my 2016 personal reading list (State of Wonder by Ann Patchett if you're curious). 

I was flying to the States on my own before the Hub, so I was surprised to find listening to a book very pleasant in the early hours on my own at Heathrow airport. I sipped my latte and sat in an armchair at one of the cafes as someone read me a story. It was also very good for filling all the "downtime" of being at an airport, such as queuing (lining) up to board.

Later on during our trip I was also excited to listen to the book on the bus from Chicago to Wisconsin (yes, we took a bus from one state to another). This was where I found out about the downside of listening to an audio book: it put me right to sleep. And then I would wake up and not know where I had fallen asleep. For the rest of the trip I didn't really listen to the book (I read a short non-fiction book on my Kindle app on my phone). I never started the paperback I had brought. 

When we returned to London, I wasn't really convinced about how I would really use audio books in my usual routine. I cancelled my subscription. However, when I bought my book club book for September -- Burmese Days by George Orwell -- Amazon offered me the option of getting the audio book for only GBP1 extra. I thought, why not? I had heard about how you could switch back and forth between the text version and the audio as the items would be synced. 

And I discovered something ground-breaking. Because I was so behind on everything when we got back from our trip, I was really rushed for time to finish the novel. I started reading it and realized I was never going to finish in the just over a week I had left. The problem: I was having trouble getting into it. And then I switched to audio. Miraculously, because it was a more passive activity, it got me into the book. I was hooked. So then I switched back to text (I can read a lot faster than someone can read out loud, as most of us can) and finished the book a day before the meeting.

This was a shock for most of my fellow bookclubbers. I am notorious for finishing the book on the tube on the way to our meeting. 

I am planning to start doing this a lot. Buying the audio along with the text just gives me that extra optionality to switch back and forth on whatever makes more sense . Clever, clever sales strategy Amazon. I have been taken in. 

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