The Glad Game

If you don’t know what the Glad Game is, then, despite my best efforts to coerce you into watching it, you have obviously managed to avoid the 1960’s film Pollyanna starring Hayley Mills. 

Pollyanna

Depending on your point of view, it’s either about a little girl who’s so full of positivity that she wins the hearts of a grumpy town of misanthropes, or it’s about an obnoxious little brat who thinks servants should be grateful for Sundays and old ladies should be constantly sewing quilts for charity instead of lazing around on their death beds.  

My feelings about Pollyanna are somewhere between those two, but the moral of the story is spot on; if you’re thankful for the good stuff in your life it makes you happier. 

Be Glad

It’s SO important in life to be thankful and glad – I know that sounds like something a vicar would say, with deadly halitosis and dandruff, haunting your school assembly, but bear with me.  It’s important because it’s guaranteed to bring you happiness in this life rather than necessarily redemption in the next.

Plenty of psychological studies back this up (if you can be arsed to Google them) but it really is just plain common sense; if you regularly remind yourself of the good things in your life, you will be happier because you’ll be more likely to remember them during tougher times. 

Simples

It does sound simple doesn’t it?  In that respect it’s a bit like “I just won’t eat cake this week and then I’ll be thin”  …aaand I think we all know how that usually works out in practice.   

It’s easy to be glad about all the great stuff in your life when things are going well.

It’s less easy when they’re not going so well. 

Unfortunately it’s when things are not going so well that it is most useful to remember the things you are thankful for.  Try to think of them every day to effectively “rote” learn the joy in your life, so that those memories are there waiting to pop forward when you need them. 

Some people list what they are thankful for in the form of prayers, some write it in a diary, others repeat it silently to themselves during meditation.  There is no right or wrong way.  Strike that.  Remembering how weird we can all be, I’ll specify, don’t shout them out loud as you walk down the street.  That’s definitely frowned upon.

Gratitude Club 

Here’s three easy rules; list what you’re thankful for, do so regularly, talk about things you are grateful for whenever you can.  Basically, it’s the opposite of Fight Club.  

What happens if you don’t?  Well, you turn into a Kardashian.  What?  No, of course that’s NOT a good thing!  Alright, better example, you’ll turn into one of those people who leave book reviews that start “This was the worst experience of my life-“   Those people either have some kind of reading-triggered PTSD or they’ve led seriously charmed lives.

Now that might look like I’m bitter about a bad book review – I haven’t written a book yet so if anything, it’s a pre-emptive strike, but I have read a lot of book reviews (because I leave book reviews and I’m nosey). 

Life really is in the details.  Celebrate and cherish all the details you enjoy, and in return they’ll keep you going through the tough times.

P.s.  This is not advice for people with serious conditions like Depression.  When in the grip of such things, reality shifts, and they may be unable to access positive memories, even if staring at a list of them on a piece of paper.  If someone seems ungrateful, be kind, they may be going through things you can’t see. 

 

Wildly Cautious

With one parent whose attitude to life is incredibly wild (Grandad El Paso) and another who is fairly cautious (Grandma Tiny-Face) you might expect that Auntie Kate and I would be at least a little wild.

In actual fact, Kate and I would be better described instead as “wildly cautious”.  We take caution TO THE EXTREME!  There are very few people, even very few health and safety officials, that are wilder about being cautious than we are.  We are COMPLETELY 100% risk averse.

In our defence I’d like to give some examples of the parenting we experienced, so that you can at least understand where these wild levels of caution began.  Also, as I still don’t have the balance right yet, there’s a pretty strong chance that you’re going to grow up with some “issues” in that area.  I’m not saying explaining it will help, but hey, who doesn’t love a good origin story?

Holy Toledo 

I think we’ll start with a Grandad El Paso story because, well, there are so very many of those to choose from.  First, our trip to Devon when I was five and Kate was around three.   

It was a long journey from the Midlands, but with Grandad driving our Triumph Toledo at speeds ordinarily only achieved by jet planes, and with the same level of care and attention as the Dukes of Hazzard escaping the law, if anything, it felt even longer. 

Flattenin’ The Hills

We reached the steep and windy roads of Devon in record time, powered by Grandad’s competitive nature, and seemingly inexhaustible levels of anger.  As the car skidded around tight bends, atop steep hills, my “fear of heights” (or as I like to call it, my fear of death) kicked in rather strongly.

Grandad, annoyed by my constant whimpering and occasional screams, pulled the car over, and calmly explained why there was no reason to be afraid, promising he would drive slower to put me at ease.   

No of course he didn’t, that’s what a “normal” parent would have done.  What Grandad DID, was on the largest STEEPEST hill he could find, he drove straight off the road, skidding down the almost vertical drop, in an, admittedly impressive, handbrake turn, until we finally came to “rest” at a fortunately-positioned tree.  I shall never forget his reassuring words:-

Pre-Empting Trauma

Now, Grandma Tiny-Face, as I’m sure you’ll know from the way she flouts use-by dates, is not overly cautious.  However she is a big fan of pre-empting trauma.

To be fair to her, despite Grandad’s best efforts, she did a pretty decent job of keeping us alive.  …Which brings me neatly around to the way Grandad often mistook homeless people for a reliable source of childcare.

 

I realise, from my proof-reader’s sharp intake of breath here, that this looks like quite a dangerous situation, even to people who aren’t as risk averse as I am.  However, I want to reassure you that he was indeed back in under 3 hours as promised, and the homeless people we met were very kind, offering us sweets and drinks, only some of which were alcoholic, so you know, no harm no foul. 

Ok, even though this goes against every single one of my instincts, and mental scars from childhood, I need to tell you, DON’T be wildly cautious like me.  For the love of God don’t be as crazy with risk-taking as Grandad, but don’t be like me either.

The Dalai Lama said “Great love and great achievements involve great risks” and unfortunately he’s right.  You can’t get the most out of life without taking at least a few anxiety-inducing risks. 

Bearing in mind that I consider going to a different branch of the same supermarket a risk, at eighteen I still said yes when Daddy asked me to marry him – even though everyone else said we were too young, and one of my friends had helpfully declared him to be “too handsome for me”.   

Daddy and I have been together for 26 years now and, although I don’t like to say this too often, he’s pretty bloody brilliant still, and marrying him is one of my favourite big decisions ever. 

You two are obviously my other favourite big decisions.  Pregnancy and childbirth aren’t fun for ladies (or indeed for anyone in the vicinity).  You go through all that discomfort, then intense prolonged pain, with absolutely no guarantees of what the outcome will be. 

You can’t know if your baby will be healthy, how long you’ll have them in your life for, or indeed whether they will grow up to write a blog about what a terrible parent you were, but for me you’ll always be two of the best risky ventures I ever embarked upon.  

 

 

Comparisons Are For Catalogues

Don’t treat yourself like a catalogue item.  You are the only one of you, 100% unique, and you cannot be a better or worse you than anyone else.  Never compare.

Some people are better at Maths, some people are better at French, some people are better at being fun to be around.  Everyone has their own “super-powers” and usually their own corresponding version of kryptonite. 

My “kryptonite”, as you already know, is anything that requires working-memory.  My super-powers are a positive attitude, a high shame threshold, and I never give up.  …Well, I hardly ever give up, ok I sometimes give up; did I mention my positive attitude? 

Sometimes it can look and feel like everyone else has better super-powers than you, but remember the wise words of Rob Lowe:-

Rob Lowe is a brilliant actor, gorgeous to look at and now, as it turns out, wise as well.  He seems perfect.  He has lots of super-powers, just not the one for avoiding sex scandals – although that was a long time ago so I imagine he’s acquired it now from experience.

People are a lot like Clark Kent; they show you only what they want you to see.  Clarke Kent is hiding X-Ray vision and the power of flight, whereas your friend Kelly on Facebook, with the giant hot-tub and weekly parties, is hiding crippling debt, minor incontinence and the ability to ignore mounting high-level problems.

We All Have Super-Powers

Everyone, no matter how similar they seem, is unique.  Each and every one of us have our own superpowers.  Even that guy off X-Factor, who appears to have no discernible talent at all; yes, even Simon Cowell has super-powers – making money from that nonsense for a start. 

It can sometimes take a while to work out what your super-powers are, perhaps they need a bit of practice to develop, or perhaps they are the kind that only become apparent as you get older, but trust me they are there. 

Learn as much as you can about the stuff you enjoy, practice the stuff you love every day.  Learn about things that hold your interest, not simply what you’re told to learn for a test.  Be the you that YOU want to be and your super-powers will show up when you’re ready.

A quick note for Thing Two, one of your current super-powers is an extra-loud voice – I hope one-day you’ll learn to use this power for good.  …One of my super-powers is hope in the face of adversity.

Be Kind and Still Kick-Ass

Now this might seem a bit rich coming from someone who has ostensibly set up this blog to slag off family members, but it’s secondary purpose was always to impart important advice, so here goes; be kind and you can still kick ass.

Being kind increases the amount of good in the world.  If you learn nothing else from Star Wars (which would be sacrilege by the way, because it’s full of useful lessons) at least learn that empowering the good side of the force really does mess things up for the bad guys. 

We have done our best as parents to shelter you from the true horrors of the world, so it might come as a bit of a surprise to find out that the world isn’t always a kind place.  In all honesty, it’s actually a bit unpleasant sometimes. 

Many people are going through traumas you aren’t aware of because they don’t talk about them.  If you are kind to as many people as possible, even those who appear grumpy and rude, you will be helping people through tough times without even realising it.   

Now I’m not talking Secret-Millionaire-level kind – we don’t have anywhere near the funding for that (unless McDonalds straws and odd socks ever become legal tender) simply a kind word or a gesture, here and there, is enough to turn someone’s day around and power up ‘The Force’.  Simply telling people why you think they are fantastic will do it.

Still Kick-Ass When Necessary

Being kind doesn’t mean being a pushover.  The kindest people I know are also the strongest people I know. 

Daddy is super-kind to almost everyone he meets, but God help anyone that drops litter in front of him, …or forgets to say please or thank you. 

I have a lovely colleague at work, who goes out of her way to help customers and colleagues alike.  Always friendly and kind, she’s a dainty, petite, softly-spoken Diana Prince most of the time, but if you try to occupy the meeting room that she has already booked, she will Wonder Woman your ass out of there before you can splutter “Blue-sky thinking”.

Auntie Kate is always helping out other people, running errands for them, looking after their kids, but if you were to say, take her T-shirt without asking, and wear it in front of her whilst dancing around her singing “I-got-your-t-shirt, I-got-your-t-shirt”, I can promise you, she’ll break your God-damn nose. 

I probably did deserve that one though, with hindsight. 

…Perhaps, I should have been kind instead.