When I lived in London I didn’t know I was sad until I felt happy again. It was cold outside and so I mostly stayed inside. Then one day the sun would come out, I would open my eyes and surprise myself by getting out of bed with an unusual vigour. I was having a good day because Mother Nature was smiling. It wasn’t Groundhog Day – I wasn’t stuck. Today I was free.
We are all creatures and we like our creature comforts. Even though those comforts—the habits we cling to for better or worse—are sometimes not actually serving us or leading us to be better, feel better or experience happiness and joy in our lives. Yet still, we are creatures and we love our habits; give us a routine and we will repeat it. Sometimes all it really takes is just for us to take notice of them.
Sometimes when I found myself stuck, mostly on one of those special ray-of-sunshine days, I found ways to break out. Some days I threw on a nice warm jacket and if I was mindful enough, made sure I had a giant bag to throw it in later (because I at least know myself well enough to know that after one block I will be sweating, even in the 15 degree weather). I would force myself to step outside and would walk and walk and walk.
Sometimes I even remembered to throw my trusty Frommer’s A to Z in there, just to see if there was anything worth locating – but mostly just in case I got a little too lost. Getting lost was actually the point! In every city, in every country I have ever visited, I have purposefully (and yes, sometimes not purposefully) gotten lost.
Here’s a piece of advice in case I never get around to writing that piece on travel tips: tip #1 is get lost! You’re welcome! On these particular lost afternoons, if I was lucky I would happen upon a park with a body of water. There was always a comfy piece of earth to throw myself on while I collapsed to watch ducks, small humans and dogs frolicking – the triumvirate of joy; how could I possibly not smile?! Then inevitably, they would mock me, the lush London trees: “We’ll be here tomorrow…where will you find yourself?” There is so much wisdom waiting in leaves, but you won’t hear it from your bedroom, office or other habitual den.
Sometimes I’d hop on a bus and just sit, see how far my one pound could get me. How far from home could this red chariot full of odd princesses and extra loud princes take me? How many times would my patience be tested? How many lessons would I learn? Where should I get off?
On these days I found the strength to find out that actually every second I spent shivering I could instead spend seeing! Seeing everything differently.
I think we all need to start looking…more.
I am not suggesting that you are cold, like I was. For me, my prison manifested in one way, but aren’t we are all stuck in freezers of our own sometimes? All we really need to do is notice that thawing isn’t really as hard as we might think. The hardest part is actually the easiest part and it is your first step: recognise that you are trapping yourself. Often, we don’t even know we are doing it. It’s like autopilot. But sometimes it might be useful to look at ourselves without any of our usual excuses for our bad habits and patterns. Then you will see that these habits aren’t just part of who you are. They are what is stopping you from being everything you could be and enjoying life to the fullest. Notice them. See them for what they really are. See yourself.
So get up. Get yourself outside. Find some ducks (preferably non-curried and breathing) and see what it feels like to not do what you always do.