A reality check

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 12.12.00I’ve just been reading about the migrant shipwreck which has killed hundreds of African and Bangladeshi migrants trying to escape war and poverty.

In today’s paper rescuers describe a ‘cemetery in the sea’, while yesterday one of the survivors told how hundreds perished because they were locked up below deck ‘like rats in a cage’.

It’s hellish. Whatever your views on immigration, what happened to those people – fellow human beings – is hellish. And heartbreaking.

For the last year I have not been keeping up with the news.

In self-help land the news is frowned upon. It’s a source of negativity and misery. It will bring you down. Better to walk around the block repeating affirmations or read a book about the Power of Positive Thinking than engage in the messy, ugly, cruel, unfair real world.

And in some ways I agree. We live in a world addicted to the latest disaster as it unfolds on 24 hour news. There can be a kind of thrill we experience when we read about the latest shocking crime, political scandal or war report.

We can feed on it, in a way.  We dwell on the negative.

And yet denying the real world – in all its messiness and tragedy – as I have done, for the last year, does not seem enlightened either. It seems like denial and selfishness, actually.

Something else that the guy who came up to me on the street said to me has really stuck.

When he told me that I had to stop being so negative, he also said – and this was said without any meanness on his part – ‘There are people who have really bad situations to deal with.’

He didn’t follow it up with – ‘You should be grateful for what you’ve got’ or ‘Get over yourself you self-indulgent cow’ (thought that have been in my head all year).

He just said: ‘There are people who have really bad situations to deal with.’ And left it at that.

He was, of course, right.

I was brought up, believe it if not, to count my blessings. My mum is someone who goes to bed every night and no matter what is happening, will think of all the millions of people who are in worse situations than her. She is the least self-indulgent person I know.

My dad, who knows what poverty is in a way that I have never experienced, always told us that we were so lucky to be in England with its welfare state.  ‘You’ll never go hungry and you’ll aways have a roof over your head,’ he said.

As it is, I am far from poor, hungry and homeless.

As an educated, white, middle class woman, with an able body and an able brain, I have pretty much won the lottery. The world is at my feet.

I have nothing to worry about. I am more fortunate than 99.99 per cent of the world.

I wake up every morning and there is food in the fridge and light coming in the windows. I go to bed at night after a hot bath and I lie under a lovely fluffy duvet. For all stupid coughs and colds, I have my health. I can walk. I can dance. I have a family who, for all its faults, is still there for each other. I have clever, interesting, funny friends who love me. I have travelled. I have built a career far beyond my expectations.

I am beyond blessed.

So why have I have put myself through all this questioning and self-helping – when I have so much? Would a ‘Count your blessings and Just get on with it’ approach have actually done me more good than the amount of thinking about myself that I’ve done?

In some ways, yes.

There have been many times this year when I have well and truly disappeared up my own arsehole. I have indulged in what is really Olympic level ruminating – which according to the dictionary is ‘the compulsively focused attention on the symptoms of one’s distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions.’

Shock horror, ruminating doesn’t really help. It makes you pretty crazy and depressed.

I have been a nightmare to be around – to quote my sister ‘Can we please have a conversation that doesn’t turn into a therapy session?!’

I have been intense. Slightly unhinged at times.

And yet. I regret nothing.

I’ve done a level of soul searching and truth facing that some people avoid their whole lives – and I really hope this will make me a better person. Not just for my own sake but for the sake of my friends, family and the world at large.

I am immensely proud of what I’ve done. I think it’s brave.

But enough is enough. I’m really ready to stop thinking about myself, for a while at least.

I will be doing a couple of Louise Hay posts because I think it’s a brilliant book and I have actually been doing the affirmations while walking around the park – but it doesn’t feel right today.

Which brings me back to the news and why I’m going to start watching it again.

To quote my wise stranger on the street: ‘There are people who have really bad situations to deal with.’

While it can be depressing to dwell on that fact, it’s what you do with the information that matters. Can you do something to help others? Can you donate your time or money? Can you do local fundraising?

Or can you make the world a bit better by being kind and friendly to everyone you encounter? Can you keep your head up on those days when you’ve missed your train, feel fat and tired and smile at a stranger for whom your smile might be the only warm, good thing to happen to them that day?

Or can you make the office a better place just not moaning or bitching? Can you really listen to a friend even though she is boring you to tears on the phone and there’s something you really want to watch on the telly? Can you be patient with your kids/parents – even when they drive you F**King crazy?

That’s not to say you have to be a saint or think of others all the time – heaven forbid!- but sometimes it’s what’s right. And actually usually it makes you feel much better.

That’s what I’ll be thinking about today – not myself… finally!! ha, ha!



PS It’s official – I’m a big hippie now.  Oh well, F**K it…

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