Monday 13 May 2024

Happiness remains elusive

Disclaimer: this post was written in December 2023, and scheduled for future posting. Its contents may no longer be accurate or appropriate.

Way back in 2013, when I was clearly short of things to blog about, I wrote twice (here and here) about Alex Quick's book 102 Free Things To Do - inspiring ideas for a better life and how I intended to try the suggestions therein to see if life did indeed get better. At the last update, in December 2017, I identified 43 that I had done (green), three that I would never do (red)...and the other 56 were up for grabs. Anyway, here's an update, as at December 2023 - newly done are bold (with explanatory notes in italics):

  1. Go out and look at the stars
  2. Keep a diary - but only one sentence a day
  3. Meter your energy use with a smart meter (but I quickly got bored of doing so)
  4. Give up your car
  5. Get up earlier
  6. Sketch your relatives - it's better than photos
  7. Treasure your precious human body
  8. Go on an archeological dig
  9. Write a letter to your future self
  10. Don't confuse affluence with well-being
  11. Memorise a poem
  12. Ask a child for advice
  13. Take part in a police line-up
  14. Give up craving for recognition (and be admired for it)
  15. Notice when things have improved
  16. Go on holiday without leaving your bedroom
  17. Practice random acts of kindness (and, if time permits, senseless acts of beauty)
  18. Climb a mountain
  19. Turn your house into a restaurant
  20. Start a film society
  21. Remember that making mistakes is part of being human
  22. See the sun rise and set on a single summer's day
  23. Get fit without joining a gym (I got in great shape for LEJOG in 2021 ... but am currently back in awful shape)
  24. Sit still until you see wildlife emerge
  25. Contact a friend you haven't spoken to for years
  26. Go cloud-spotting
  27. Learn to meditate
  28. Volunteer for something
  29. Spend a day and night in a forest
  30. Cherish older people
  31. Reconsider your career
  32. Enlarge your comfort zone
  33. Achieve your ideal weight (as above, this was when training for LEJOG ... am overweight again now)
  34. Learn how to talk to strangers in public
  35. Visit Project Gutenberg
  36. Gather a meal from the wild
  37. Learn another language (if Japanese on Duolingo counts)
  38. Invent a language
  39. Pretend you are a valet for humanity
  40. Go busking
  41. Start a book in which to record things that have really, really made you laugh
  42. Go somewhere outdoors that is very silent
  43. Make Christmas presents for your whole family one year
  44. Give something up
  45. Cheer up lonely men in public places
  46. Swap your CDs
  47. Adopt or invent a personal motto
  48. Support your local eccentric
  49. Become a freegan
  50. Swim in the sea
  51. Get to know your neighbours
  1. Act without expecting anything back
  2. Deliver meals on wheels (sort of, and a one-off)
  3. Look for glue
  4. Send a message in a bottle
  5. Have an eco-friendly bonfire
  6. Attempt a world record
  7. Walk in the rain
  8. Give away free trees
  9. Do a sponsored parachute/bungee jump (I used to think this was still on the cards, but now accept my stomach for such lunacy has gone)
  10. Perform
  11. Cycle 100 miles in a day
  12. Serenade someone
  13. Reflect on something you're grateful for
  14. Cook and eat a nine-course meal
  15. Write a love letter
  16. Create a lair
  17. Notice beauty
  18. Let go of emotional pain
  19. Write down your parents' or grandparents' stories
  20. Look at your day-to-day concerns from the point of view of five years from now
  21. Fan the flames of desire
  22. Contemplate imperfection and impermanence as forms of beauty (after a conversation with a writer friend)
  23. Join a gardening scheme where only your labour is required
  24. Laugh in the face of death
  25. Train your memory
  26. Accept the full catastrophe
  27. Write the first sentence of a novel
  28. Cherish solitude (Sister Wendy does) (realised I always have)
  29. Get your friends to sponsor you to go to Spain and celebrate La Tomatina
  30. Embarrass your children/teenagers (sadly and more frequently)
  31. Work a room
  32. Confront people politely
  33. Learn a trick
  34. Be a representative of your country, in your country
  35. Try lucid dreaming
  36. Come to terms with ageing
  37. Be a bookcrosser
  38. Teach a child something fun
  39. Make your gratitude less perfunctory
  40. Give away your superfluous possessions
  41. Grow huge sunflowers
  42. Smile
  43. Go bell-ringing
  44. Form a debating club
  45. Take your shoes off and walk in the dew on a sunny morning
  46. Dress up
  47. Give up your TV
  48. Be 'Lord' for a day
  49. Write fewer emails and more letters
  50. Don't expect that things will be different in Tenerife
  51. Find out what's happening near you and join in

So, now 51 done, halfway there... but also back up to four nevers. So am I happier?

No, of course not. I'm still the same cantankerous, miserable old sod I've always been. Important to remember, though, that not being happier isn't the same as being sadder, or even sad. Though of course I am that too, at times. Who knows, by the time this post goes live in May, perhaps I'll have ticked off a few more on the list and reached nirvana ... but don't hold your breath.

Meanwhile ... are you happy? What makes that so? Maybe I'll build your answers into my own, real-world "how to be happier" list some time. Until then, here's the obvious brilliant song from the much-missed Mark Hollis and Talk Talk:

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  1. I have twice taken part in police line-ups (#13). You can have my spare if you want.

    1. Cheers ;) But did it in any way make your life better, as the Quick book postulates?

  2. Just looked back and saw my comments from 2017 (had completely forgotten about them and isn't it weird when you read something back that you wrote and don't recall it?!) Anyway I guess I still stand by that. Will continue to do some of those things naturally anyway, think about doing some of the others, cringe at a fair few too - and hope I won't (nor you) have to "laugh in the face of death" any time soon. And I'm not too sure about cheering up lonely men in public places, last time I did that it got me into all sorts of trouble....
    Thankfully it's nearly always the most simple stuff which makes me happy. Watching ants is a favourite - one to add to the list?!

    1. I've been thinking about the list most of the day...

  3. I'm not going to answer your Am I Happy? question, but I do want to take issue with some of your responses as I think you're being harsh on yourself.

    I'm pretty sure you've done 52, 64 and 93 if you're honest with yourself. (93 might be harder to admit if it spoils the image.) I'm also sure that at some point in your life you will have looked for glue. And 69 - you will have done this over and over. It doesn't say "all emotional pain", but part of life is to let go of certain bits of pain as we go along.

    Not sure 87 is possible and 45 will probably get you arrested.

    1. All good points, Rol, certainly on the 102 objectives as listed here. The book goes into more detail about each, and I've judged myself on those more detailed descriptions. Because of course I've smiled, and looked for glue, and all the others. Just not in the way the book describes. Although having said that, it's a very long time since I read the book, so am having to rely on memory now.

      Mrs Amusements once did 45 without getting arrested. She paid for his tea and cake. And no, I wasn't the old man in question, he was a total stranger!

      I wonder if the only way to do 87 is to accept that it will, inevitably, be a bit crap?

    2. Lovely comment from Rol.

    3. It really is.

      I do need to work on my letting go of emotional pain, though, I don't think I do this as well as Rol hopes. I think I hide it, but it always stands ready to pop out at the most unexpected times.

    4. Although a painful process, have you tried writing it all down, indulging in every thought, event, every connected feeling you have (but not for anyone else to read) as a way to let it go?