I have decided that while I could simply find a way to cope with life here, it would be much better to find a way to be not unhappy. It would be much better to end each day reflecting on a day well spent than to just flop on the lounge, gin and tonic in hand, thinking, ‘well, phew, that’s another day down only xxx to go’.* It would be much better to feel satisfied than to simply survive. What a waste of life it would be, I have decided, if I were to settle for coping when, if I just put some effort in, life could be much more.
Knowing as I now do (remember, I’ve read every self help book published in the last ten years) that we slip into (bad) habits easily and spend a lot of time rethinking the same negative thoughts that we had the day before and the day before that and the day before that, I spent a bit of time identifying the flashpoints in my day. Those points where I just lose it, and blame everything that is wrong on the world around me and am able, very quickly, to convince myself that if only I did not live here then everything would be okay.**
One such flashpoint is the drive to the gym. Many mornings, not every, but many, I drop the lads at school, the mister at work if he’s not already there, then drive to the gym, do my class, then drive home again. These drives involve all manner of negative thinking on my part as I respond to those around me. Now, driving, she isn’t my thing at the best of times, but here that is multiplied by one gazillion and living here, there really isn’t much choice but to drive.
One of the reasons I dislike it so much here is that, for me, the culture clash is, without a doubt, played out on the roads. Of course there are different ways of driving, because we’ve all learnt to drive in very different environments from Pakistan to Sweden. I can cope with that, and I have tried to remember eldest lad’s wise words. But it doesn’t work, and I get myself into a right righteous tizz about the excessive speed, and the headlights of the car behind being flashed at me, and the turning from three lanes across and the complete ignoring of the lanes in the roundabouts. I make gross cultural judgements, based on one interaction with one individual, which is something I do not like to do, and that means I get mad at myself, and that means I am feeling bad about the people around me and bad about myself. Any spiritual and mental benefits that I get from the exercise are well-gone by the time I’m back at the dining table drinking my coffee and reading the paper (another flashpoint, but we can deal with that tomorrow).
What is my solution to this flashpoint? How do I change my attitude to this? I decided to do something that I have never done before.
Yes, indeed. I know I’ve lost at least half of you now (and all of my friends who are thinking, oh, bloody hell, what’s she going to be like next time we see her, she’s really starting to be a fairly high maintenance friend), but do bear with me for just one paragraph more.
With Abu Dhabi classics on the radio, I repeated to myself, over and over again, ‘I am clear and focused, I am calm and relaxed’. I repeated some other things, but I think that would be over-sharing – I mean, you know, there’s only so much of your ridiculous side you want the internet to know, right?
Anyway, when I arrived at the gym, I realised it had worked. Not because I was feeling calm, relaxed, clear or focused, but because I’d just spent fifteen minutes laughing at myself. Which is way better than spending fifteen minutes getting worked up at the attitude of some dude who really doesn’t give a shit about you or your opinion.
*here, I hesitate to publicly define the remaining amount of time on account of you-know-what
**please to be noting, this is not something I got out of a self-help book, this is something I have figured out all for myself…any day now and imma gonna have my own show, and you are all invited, and there will be special giveaway under your chair, not sure what that might be, but trust me, it’ll be great