As you know, I’m currently in Paris and I’m doing a Random Act of Joy ‘Rosbif’ style. I look forward to sharing it with you next week, but as it’s the last Thursday in the month, today’s Act of Joy is sending the second Make Me Joyful care package. Hoorah!
Last month I had lots of fun packing the box for my lovely lady in Washington State and I’m curious to see where this month’s parcel ends up.
As usual, it’s full of joyful treats and there may be some little extras from Paris too…
Because the Make Me Joyful tombola didn’t fit in my suitcase together with my mini-break outfits (woefully inappropriate for the glacial weather, alas) I shall draw the lucky winner this evening.
So, if you want to be included then please sign up here:
Yesterday I noticed a particularly harried Mother on the Victoria line. She had two rambunctious young sons, too many bags and a baby who was starting to cry. As her boys pin-balled through the carriage and her baby’s plaintive wails reached eye-watering volume she turned to me, shook her head and rolled her eyes.
I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. I feared similar eye-rolling might be construed as criticism and I didn’t want to provoke an ‘I can despair at my children but you most certainly can’t’ attack. So I did my best eyebrows raised, corner of the mouth stretched face which made me look a little like Cherie Blair, but hopefully conveyed solidarity.
It’s half-term at the moment which means that there are probably lots of parents who are feeling similarly harassed. Parents who adore their children but who might well benefit from an hour to themselves in silence with a good book and a bottle of gin. I’d like to say that my Random Act of Joy for this week was providing free babysitting to facilitate such silence, but I think offering to take the children of strangers is typically frowned upon. Instead, I went to the epicentre of parental stress and I took the darkest chocolate I could find.
Yes, ladies and gentleman, I braved London’s largest toyshop. At lunchtime. During half-term. Manic doesn’t describe it.
Big toyshops are pretty damn scary. Not only do you have the chaos of hundreds of children jacked up on sugar and lust for toys, you also have to be hyper vigilant so you don’t get knocked out by a demonstration glider and deal with the ever-present threat that you might decide it’s a good idea to skip the rent and buy a life-sized stuffed camel instead. Wits must be kept about you.
Obviously loitering in a toyshop without children and with a camera in hand is not a particularly good idea either so I quickly found an accomplice for my Random Act of Joy and I left before I could purchase that 8″ camel.
Hopefully whoever finds my package will have a moment of pause in a busy day. A moment of adult chocolate pleasure before returning to the joy of their family. And if any children happen upon it, hopefully they have the good sense not to eat sweets from strangers and they’ll give it to their parents instead.
Do you ever refuse to think about achieving something really fabulous because you’re scared that by doing so, you’ll tempt fate and end up with nothing? Or have you ever chattered excitedly about a potential new love or a great new job and then locked down the conversation midway with the words “but I don’t want to jinx it”?
Yes? Me too.
There’s a theory of self-preservation that if we don’t think about something we really want then we’re more likely to get it and if we stop ourselves from imagining it coming true, we won’t be so upset if it doesn’t. It seems logical but is it?
When we own up to really wanting something (even if just to ourselves) we feel vulnerable. There’s a fear that once the expression of hope or desire is out there then if the results don’t materialise we’ll feel the disappointment more keenly. Better to pretend that it’s not important, downplay our thoughts and keep our imagination tightly bound. If the fates reward us, brilliant. We can congratulate ourselves for not screwing it up by getting ahead of ourselves. If we lose out then it doesn’t matter anyway because we’d never let ourselves hope it could happen at all.
Living safe. Living small.
But this way of thinking isn’t living safe. By confining our thoughts to the downside we get the worst of both worlds: feeling miserable as we worry about the good thing not happening and then feeling miserable when the good thing doesn’t happen. It’s pointless.
What would happen if we allowed ourselves to indulge in the excitement of getting the lucky break, meeting the new love, or achieving the secret dream? Fear of jinxing be gone! Such pleasurable thoughts not only feel good, they help create the results we want. Thoughts really do become things.
Of course, it’s easy to be cynical. It’s safer not to lean into new ideas where there’s a risk of being wrong. In the days before I let myself realise how miserable I was; when my brave face was so brittle that I feared even the smallest false hope would break me, I remember deciding that it would be nice to believe in such things but I wouldn’t take the chance. I couldn’t risk having faith in anything, even though faith was exactly the risk I needed to take.
I’ve changed a lot since then and my belief in the power of positive thinking is firmly entrenched. I thought nothing, therefore, of a throwaway comment to my favourite sceptic that I’d “fixed my dishwasher with good thoughts” after a few days of it not working. He was bemused. Faith is fabulous, but when faced with a cynic, a little proof can be marvellous too. With my whole philosophy (and £2) riding on it, I created the Cressperiment.
The challenge was simple. I’d put an equal measure of cress seeds in three pots with the same access to light and water but I’d think about them all very differently:
Pot #1 Love, praise and sweet thinking. These gorgeous little seeds got some serious sugar.
Pot #2 Sorry, which pot? These guys were studiously ignored.
Pot #3 The cress spawn of Satan. These worthless, barren seeds received nothing but hateful, negative trash talk. And they deserved it.
Given my inability to keep anything green alive, there was a strong chance that all the seeds would die, but die they did not. And the results?
In third place: Indifference kills. Any attention is better than none as the seeds who were ignored sadly show.
In second place: The bullied and belittled cress did better than I expected despite my most evil efforts. These masochistic little seeds may have grown but they were weaker, patchier and not particularly strong.
In first place: Positive thoughts rock! Telling these little seeds that they would grow up lush, thick and tall resulted in exactly that. Hoorah!
The Cressperiment may not satisfy the rigours of the scientific community or even the rigours of my dearest cynic (who still owes me £2) but it’s a clear reminder that our words to and our thoughts about ourselves matter. Let’s not jinx ourselves by playing ‘safe’. Let’s celebrate our successes to make them materialise and let’s take action as if things will always go our way.
Any good positive thoughts proof? Let me know in the comments below.