Photo courtesy of James Cartwright over at our very fave Southsea Salon, The Peace Cafe
This post is for Paris, who - after last night's Caravan Gallery launch of their unflinchingly fantastic Is Britain Great 2 (I was still waxing lyrical about the first one) bemoaned the loss of The Daily AND complained I never write about him, so here I am, killing two birds with one stone.
[For info: if I was really to kill two birds with one stone, I'd go for Celine Dion, one hell of a knock-out, skull bounce ricochet, and then Jordan.]
Paris was right - it has been ages since I was here and excuses I have none. I've been devoting my attention to getting back into the swing of working for a living again following several months travelling in South East Asia (see Que Sera Sarah).
This has taken more of my time and energy than I had expected because the '9 to silly o'clock' of freelancing is much harder than I remember. This is, in part, because a lot has changed for me since I went/while I was there and in part because as a result of those changes, I'm gradually reassessing what I want from what I what I do. In fact, I'm trying to make what I do the same as what I want, and what I want the same as what makes me happy.
Still with me? Good, because happiness is a lot harder than I thought.
You see, it's easy to be happy when you're travelling (notwithstanding plane delays, incomprehensible systems of public transport and compulsory testing for swine flu). Travelling life is as The Parker once said, a medley of extemporanea. Rise in the morning, go and see new, beautiful, awe-inspiring things, eat great food, meet people and sleep with the peacefulness of the truly enlightened (Repeat for duration of trip). For three months, my daily life was intense and at the extremes, running from terror to euphoria with the speed of an Olympian athlete and I have never been so consistently happy in my life.
And from consistent happiness came an amazing sense of freedom. Not just freedom of movement in the travelling sense, but freedom to be myself - after all, who cares about making a fool of yourself, making mistakes or making a mess when you're on the other side of the world?
For one thing, you're really unlikely to see most of these people again, so you can wear the egg on your face like L'oreal. But for another, the investment I had made in the whole trip - not just financially, but professionally, in the risk of losing my clients while I was gone, and personally, in the potential for failure - made it imperative that I not miss opportunities to DO everything, SEE everything, BE THERE for every moment.
So suffice to say, I learnt a lot. And, while travelling, (this one's for you, Paris) I couldn't help but wonder why I couldn't be this person - this fearless, confident, outrageously happy, creative and peaceful-even-in-sadness, stress or terror-Me - back home.
And although I loved travelling, gradually the desire to test the theory, and the growing belief that I could BE this ME at home, was what brought me home.
So here I am, living the dream with a set of simpler rules for life:
- Be here now,
- Be Me,
- Be Loved.
If it ain't one of these Big 4, I'm not doing it.
It's not always easy and it's not always fun.
Very often it brings me face to face with the self-constraining habits that have led to so much unhappiness in the past, namely: living in the future or the past, pretending to be someone else, hating myself and judging - or worse, blaming - others, and not allowing others close to me).
But it is rewarding, it is flying by the seat of my lacy pants, and it is working.
I'm going out more, meeting new people. I'm spending more time with the people I love. I achieve more. And FINALLY I'm working on a novel, with the help of those amazing folks over at NaNoWriMo.
Because being responsible for your own happiness is the key to success, even when you fail. And asking that first question, What makes me happy? is the best starting point I've found yet.
But you can't do it alone. I haven't.
As well as friends and family, there are people living their dreams right now, all over the world. They'll tell you it's not easy, either, but if asked the question - Is it worth it? - all would give you a resounding Yes, if not a resounding, Well, Duh. Obviously.
If you need some inspiration, I'd recommend a trip to Cambodia, but if that's out of the question, try some WorldwideWonderWeb inspiration instead:
Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project is not only inspiring, but a vital source of practical tips and hints for all things Pursuit of Happiness.
The freshly discovered Ally Jade's 52 week project tells its own amazing story about the role of creativity in helping us to Just Be Ourselves.
Some of my current fave great indie mags and fresh new entrepreneurs show us the value of pursuing - at all costs, with great patience and endless dedication - That Big Idea. Check out: Noir et Blanc, Yeah, and Knock Back.
If your big idea needs some practical assistance, subscribe to Lateral Action for a weekly dose of kick-up-the-arse inspiration that never fails to inspire - both practically and creatively.....
....and don't forget to check out founder Mark McGuiness' site, the beautifully named, Wishful Thinking while you're at it. ESPECIALLY if 'finding the time' is one of your number one excuses for putting off the things that make you happy, or could. His free (yes, my brethren, I said FREE) e-book Time Management for Creative People will change your life, if you let it.
But if you like your inspiration a bit sharper around the edges, you have to, Have To, HAVE TO find any excuse to lose some unregrettable hours in the Gaping Void of Hugh MacLeod - where healthy, honest to Betsy, hard truths come in cubes.
I'll let you know how my own yellow brick road to happiness - both personal and professional - goes. And in the meantime, why not let me know what makes you happy, and what your rules for happiness might be?
You never know where it might lead. Or maybe you do...