I’ve been thinking about a woman I know – let’s call her Linda. Linda is a talented and potentially interesting woman; she is creative and has an unusual history. But I avoid her as much as I possibly can. Why? Because, frankly, Linda is a misery. Sure, she has problems: who doesn’t? I know I have. But Linda is unhappy. I don’t know what has caused her to be this way: I don’t mind listening now and again, but when a person’s conversation consists of nothing but problems, compassion fatigue sets in.
Linda lives in the same town as me, and whenever we meet she takes the opportunity to tell me how much she hates it. I don’t hate it, and I’ve told her so: I’ve been here about six months and in that time I’ve got to know Quakers, church people, Labour party members and others on the Left; folk clubs, beer clubs and cinema clubs. I’ve got involved with stuff: and that’s the key. I know some people find integration harder than others, but if all you do is sit around and feel sorry for yourself, you are bound to feel miserable. If misery is at the forefront of your mind, it will affect your interactions; and if your conversation consists of nothing but misery, other people will start to steer clear.
Yes, positive thinking has its drawbacks, though it can help; but better than positive thought is positive action. Do something: get involved with projects, interact with people, especially those worse off than you. There’s nothing like a visit Sound Cafe for putting my own problems into perspective; there’s nothing like hearing about refugees for helping me to value everything I have. We all have something to be thankful for – and at the risk of sounding like ‘Thought for the Day,’ every night I think about the good things that have happened during that day. It’s a good practice when you wake up, too…
So don’t be like Linda. Be like Manny after he’s swallowed The Little Book of Calm:
It’s 15 minutes in.