Friday, 23 May 2014

Happiness in Groningen

7am Terschelling Quayside
I took the above photo on a winter's morn at a freezing 7am on the island of Terschelling. I was setting out to find a room in Groningen, a whole list of places to see lined up for the day. I didn't find a place that time; nor the next trip, but when I finally found where I'm living now (my lovely attic room) I hadn't even been inside it. I loved the photos online, really liked the folks renting it out, but the door up to the room was locked, the current tenant away for Christmas. (And not like 'away' in another city, but 'away' in another country!) I made the decision to take the room based solely on my gut reaction, and as usual, I'm really glad I did. It was the beginning of another wonderful adventure.

I've added the quote to the photo because it has been playing on my mind all week. I've thought and thought about it, because it so matches my current state of mind. Which is to say, I'm so happy all the time I'm fit to burst!

To say I'm often overwhelmed by my happiness would not be exaggerating. Sometimes, I think a person has to reach the bottom of themselves: to be so low and unhappy that they see precisely what they never want to be, and race towards the light once more. Perhaps you cannot have one without the other. At the end of the day, we are only ever faced with ourselves, don't you think?

Why am I so happy? Well, I believe it is through learning how to be content. I might even go so far as to say this is an age thing. We must learn how to be content - it isn't necessarily an easy thing everyone can automatically do. Self acceptance and self perception go with this.

There are times that the sceptic in me peers around the corners of this happiness and wonders can it really last? Isn't this just a false feeling that is setting me up for an even greater fall? I think these are fears we all face, and it is the mindset that we choose that is our deciding factor. This is not to say I wake up each day bouncing off the walls; nor am I always patient or forgiving. However, I made a concious decision to be sure of my mindset. Positive thinking: no negative energy here! After leaving England I made a pact with myself that there would be no more whinging - it is MY life, so I'd be do something about it if it wasn't going as I'd planned. (Certainly easier said than done, but surprising effective once achieved). You see, I came to the sudden realisation that if I wasn't willing to get up and change things, then there probably wasn't much point in complaining.

 Anyway, to come back to the quote above, I realised that it is a constant feeling of thankfulness that puts me in this happy state. My life isn't perfect, naturally, but as I say, I am learning contentedness. I am thankful for each day on this earth. I wake up each morning eager (ok, maybe only after my first cup of Earl Grey...); I make a point to consistently do things I enjoy and approach things that frighten me with enthusiasm. Teaching is tough some days - fifteen or more pairs of eyes all staring at you is not exactly easy on the nerves; or playing my music in pubs full of people that may or may not be interested to hear a folk song - ab.so.lute.ly terrifying. And I love it. I feel so alive, and by doing these things that challenge me I can feel myself growing and learning each day. I sit and write for hours on end until my eyes ache; I read books or watch films that I enjoy; I go out and speak a different language and make mistakes that I can laugh about; I meet people from all around the world on a daily basis. And finally, at the end of the day, I look forward to going to bed to sleep the untroubled sleep of one fulfilled.

My days are fulfilling, I think it is safe to say. I am not bragging here, please believe me - I am merely trying to point out that by changing my mindset to think positively, be inquisitive, be willing to say yes to things that frighten me, and to be willing to laugh at myself at times has made me into this happy person. I'm thankful for the small things, from the way people say hi on the street, to the way the beer tastes on really hot days, to the way my hair curls when I come in from the rain. I love walking through the city and hearing humanity around me; I love the long light of summer and the stories I hear from the people I meet. I enjoy living in a country where English is not the first language. I take pleasure and enjoyment in everything I do - I live with purpose. I love myself and the life I have chosen to lead as it brings me such joy. Because, honestly, what the hell's the point otherwise?

Thankfulness and gratefulness are separate in my book: I always feel gratefulness comes with strings attached, whereas thankfulness is more like being aware and appreciative. I see the world in a different way when I'm thankful. A friend said to me the other week how nice it was that I could say so honestly that I was happy - that it in turn made her happy! Positive energy is more powerful than we know. These days, when negative energy starts to fly, I run like a scalded cat. (Now there's an image).

I cannot tell you what to do, I can only share what has been a most eye opening experience for me. By embracing a positive mindset and not allowing myself to feel guilty any longer for being happy, I feel I can live well. I could go on for ages about this subject; it is something I have become passionate about because I have felt the effects of what being content with oneself can bring about. We are all wonderful, amazing people with an incredible capacity for love and kindness. It is staggering when you think about it. What did Ghandi say? "Be the change you want to see in the world." Exactly.

Live happily, live truly, and most of all, live true to yourself!