Thursday, December 18, 2014

24 hours (by Rob Cloete)

Guest Post: Rob Cloete

Rob is made of that stuff that doesn't break. The stuff that can push through. And he does it all with a smile and a glint in his eye. When you hear that Rob is doing a charity drive where he is running on a track, the concept of per lap sponsorship takes on a whole new level of meaning. He told me he kept an informal style in his post, but as an accountant and stickler for structure, you will notice the appropriate laps. This is certainly a friend I will be calling on as I progress along my running journey. Rob, you are a machine.



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24 hours
by Rob Cloete

I am heartened. I awake without the searing back spasms that have beset me over the past few weeks, causing my demeanour at times to resemble one of John Cleese's sillier walks. The many sessions of acupuncture have alleviated my "change-of-use" injury, a consequence of repeatedly lifting my newborn son at awkward angles out of his bed and bath. The absence of injury assumes added importance as I carefully hoist a laden backpack over my shoulders and cradle a foldable table under my arm. Soon I will run for 24 hours around a track.


I am hopeful. I have little right to be. My training has fallen far short of my ambitions. Following a bus ride and protracted walk (for my chosen sport is more honest than glamorous, more dogged than diva), I find myself in a clearing, in the forest, with my wife and four-month-old baby. We pray. For my safety and that of my fellow competitors. For the children on whose behalf I will persevere despite nagging reservations and a sense that the extensive waiting list reflects would-be competitors more deserving of a starting number than me.

I am humbled. I am one of forty five competitors (deliberately limited, permitting each runner to have a "base" next to the 400 metre track). The organisers have produced a book containing short form CVs for each athlete. I am one of the youngest and least experienced in the field. I have not engaged in mental visualisation. I painstakingly prepared my clothing, equipment and nutrition. I feel it was the least I could do. Inevitably, the enormity of this undertaking starts to sink in. For the first time in my life, I see my name on a leaderboard.

I am haste-less. After four hours, I'm few from last. Three hours earlier, a hareful hopeful took selfies next to his name atop the leaderboard, enjoying his fleeting status while it lasted. Within five hours, a bell rings loudly, prompting loud cheers and applause from all present. Geoff Oliver has broken the 30 kilometre world record for over-80s. Clichés aside, an achievement just to make it to the starting line. Horst Preisler is here. He's 78 years old and has run more marathons than anyone who's ever lived: over 1,700. He was 39 after his first.

I am halfway. Midnight approaches and precipitates one of the race's more exciting interludes: another four hour milestone, meaning another change of direction. A lap race comes with the benefits of a flat course and undemanding navigation. The compromise is monotony. Fellow competitors, enthusiastic volunteers and a personal human lapcounter and cheerleader do much to dispel this. Alternating between running clockwise and counterclockwise around the track is a welcome change of perspective and timely reminder of progress.

I am hurting. My progress has been measured and my pacing painstaking. I have eaten regularly, imbibed caffeine regularly, changed clothes and shoes regularly and, well, been regular. I hear the bellowing crescendo of hoarse heaving befalling a runner who's been less fortunate than I have. I admire his tenacity: he's been afflicted almost since the start. Horst is shuffling but progressing. Geoff shatters another age record. None of us sleep and none of us will until this is over. Our decision is made easier by the rising sun. I smilingly grimace.

I am hobbling. My running style, if not my pace, is reminiscent of the great Czech runner, Emil Zátopek, who, when asked about his awkward running style and tortured expression, remarked, "Well, it's not gymnastics or ice-skating, you know". My left elbow is jammed into my ribs (a side strain from waving to my lap counter) reminiscent of Haile Gebrselassie, who cradled his books running to and from school in his formative years. My gait is further enhanced by extensive, excruciating chafe. Rudely, wryly, a Johnny Cash song comes to mind.

I am happy. I reach my 100 mile goal and complete almost 32 further laps. My generous sponsors, particularly those paying on a per-lap basis (and especially those paying ever more per lap following each key milestone) are getting more than they bargained for. The two children's charities, the beneficiaries of my efforts will receive more money than I realistically anticipated they might. Geoff has broken seven world records. Horst has run more than fifty miles. The thunderous chunderer, too, has persevered where a dozen others haven't.

The literal back spasms have gone. Figurative twinges of ambition replace them. I come eleventh. I am hungry.


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In writing a blog about several topics in which I admit to being a complete beginner, I am going to have to rely heavily on the people I am writing for who cumulatively know most of what I am likely to learn already. I would love it if some of you found the time to write a guest post on the subject of happiness or learning. The framework I use for thinking about these things is what I call the '5 + 2 points' which includes proper (1) exercise, (2) breathing, (3) diet, (4) relaxation, (5) positive thinking & meditation, (+1) relationships, (+2) flow. Naturally if you would like to write about something that you think I have missed, I would love to include that too. If you are up to doing something more practical, it would be awesome if you did a 100 hour project and I am happy to do the writing based on our chats if that is how you roll. Email me at trevorjohnblack@gmail.com





Ueber Alles. Uber Everything.

Nassim Taleb takes an interesting approach in his books. He directly insults, on a regular basis, the people who are reading his books. He knows a bit about who buys and reads what he writes and he says openly that they are the people who he is complaining about. He 'jokes' and tries to make it clear. As in... I am talking to you. The person reading this. He says you will laugh and think he is talking about someone else. Another MBA. He then proceeds to point out, with jibes, what he thinks are the likely holes in your thinking. Most readers will read this and think he is talking about someone else. It is difficult for us to self evaluate but we are quite good at seeing gaps in other peoples thinking. That is why feedback is useful. Painful to take, but useful.

    


Taleb's books are fascinating and I will definitely talk about them at some stage. One of my biggest frustrations is our faulty definition of risk. This is partly the theme of his first book 'Fooled by Randomness'. Without basic training in statistics, many people can get fooled by seeing random things happen which they think aren't random. We look for patterns and can make really bad decisions based on stories which simply have no evidence. His second book 'The Black Swan' talks about how things you can't see, control, and largely can't prepare for can be a really big deal. He also says we waste a lot of our time planning around 'noise', i.e. things that aren't important, and don't act in the right way for things that are. In 'Anti-fragile' he argues that by avoiding good noise or rather good stress, we set ourselves up for big falls. Strong things benefit from stress rather than falling apart. So as a theme for all three books, he is saying that we focus on the wrong things. I agree with that, and enjoy the way he describes some difficult concepts (although I don't agree with everything he says). I am not sure I would want him at a dinner party though. He would likely insult most of the people very quickly. Perhaps if the dinner party was with Richard Dawkins and Russell Brand and I could just sit back and watch the fireworks discussion going on. That would be good fun.

I will take a leaf out of his book(s) and talk directly to you though. Part of what I am trying to do with this blog is get people talking. We moan about Social Media and how it works but the truth is no one controls Social Media. We do. If it isn't working there is absolutely no one to point the finger at. The founders of Twitter had no idea what it would morph into. It is still morphing. We get to choose how to do that. The same thing is happening to lots of other things. They are being ubered. Ueber Alles. Uber everything. But as Will Wilkinson says, perhaps Uber for the proletariat. Social media is whatever we want it to be as long as we are brave enough to speak. If we can get over the Picasso Problem and realise things aren't for marks, there is no teacher waiting to correct us, there is no bully waiting to tease us, and people want to hear our story we can make things what we want.

So I am talking directly to you. Yes, the person reading this. I want you to write a Guest Post of about 500 words on anything that you think is interesting. I write about happiness and learning as a framework, but that is all it is. A framework. Thinking of happiness in categories like exercise, diet, breathing, relaxation, positive thinking, relationships, flow and learning just helps me keep a little focus and cover as many bases as I can. I don't claim any expertise though other than some experience at looking at complex things and trying to get to the bottom of what matters. To strip out Taleb noise. I write mainly for and to the people I know, so if you want to have a cup of coffee, I can write up the post for you. I may not have seen you in years, but I am still talking to you. I have lost contact with lots of awesome people and would rather write for friends, old and new, than random people. If like Rob, a limerick is the way to get started - do that. If you want to send me stream of consciousness to work into a post, do that. Best case, you start a blog of your own. It is tough to get people reading it if you don't write regularly, but I can solve that problem for you and we can pick a guest post when you have something you think needs a bigger audience for a conversation.

Broadcasting is over. Let's start a conversation.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Conversation

Group tags don't carry a lot of information now that that we can talk, read, write and are empowered. We still want to be part of groups, but they are living organisms that evolve with the times. A little like the way Steven Pinker describes the evolution of English in 'The Sense of Style'. There is no central committee that controls English. Those who put together dictionaries do it as an aid to writers. They survey the very best to see how they are writing and how things are changing. 'Silly went from "blessed" to "pious" to "innocent" to "pitiable" to "feeble" to today's "foolish".' What is more important than how the word should be understood is how the word is understood. If the writers aim is to communicate clearly, pedantically sticking to rules that don't represent usage is not helpful. The writers may be the ones surveyed, but the readers are very much a part of the evolution of the language.


It is for that reason that I am getting more and more careful in ever answering a question about who I am with a tag. As soon as you do, it can shut off the conversation. A hot topic question often avoided in polite company would be 'Do you believe in God?'. I am happy to have a conversation about this, but I would start by delving into what you mean by the question. I am almost 100% certain that our use of the word will be different. What I would hope is that the evolving story that makes sense to me would be useful to you and yours to me. It is the closing off of discussion and the use of divisive language that bothers me. To emphasise their point, some groups will use emotive terms to emphasise just how against something they are. They may even explicitly identify themselves as anti-[enter horrible nasty other group]. When I hear this, I just assume they are talking to themselves. I have no examples of occasions where attack has been a useful strategy in changing someone's mind. Stirring anger is very useful to rally the troops, but only when that anger is directed elsewhere.

How is this connected to talking/reading/writing/empowerment? Well, before the printing press someone had to tell us what we believed. Groups were clearly defined by the handful of the literate. Slowly we realised that the world is more fuzzy. Our stories are more fuzzy. They evolve. The handful of people who cling to a previously defined static story forget that words don't mean anything without the context provided by the listener. Words are a stab at the truth. Imperfect without the other arts. They make no sense without seeing how people interact, dance, paint, sing, love and laugh.

Democratising Thought: Early Wooden Printing Press

Social media is taking it to the next level. Not only are we literate but 'broadcast' is dying. No longer does a small group craft a message which becomes what everyone hears. Wikipedia long ago replaced the World Book as the primary starting point when looking up facts because things are always changing. I get very excited by all this stuff. We don't need groups labels as anything other than a starting point for a conversation.

The Great Lie (by Peter Ruddock)

Guest Post: Peter Ruddock

Like Eddie Izzard, my middle name could be danger. But it is John. A few years ago the feminist in me decided that my approach to surnames had something lacking. So I started following my theory which I describe in 'Mr. and Mrs. Bill Clinton'  and regularly use my matriarchal surname as well... hence Trevor Ruddock Black. Names are important and I love being connected in that way to my Mom's clan. One of my favourite favourites is my cousin Pete Ruddock. I can still remember clearly him engrossing us with tales and silly stories as kids. I love this guy. I particularly remember him regularly including the Spanish Armadillo in his adventures. Pete has gone on to be a teacher and I am sure he keeps his classes highly entertained. When I asked him to do a guest post, I discovered he has a blog too. Check out http://vaporsinthewind.com/. Pete is a wonderful wit, and I hope you enjoy his thoughts on happiness as much as I did.

Pete amongst the Ruddock clan - he is the one in orange

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The Great Lie
by Peter Ruddock

One of the greatest lies of modern times is that happiness, like the Holy Grail, can be sought and -with the right formula, of course - found. Much of popular culture consists of some type of attempt to lure us into chasing the elusive rainbow of happiness, with promises of a pot of whatever we consider to be gold waiting at the end, if only we manage to crack the code.

Looking for the Holy Grail

We forget that the dreams they are selling are not designed to facilitate the consumers' journeys to fulfilment, but rather to line the pockets of the constructors of those dreams. The plethora of self-help books that promise fool-proof paths to financial success, or an exercise-free way to lose useless weight (lop your head off, is my suggestion), or one easy step to finding true love, or that encourage you to embrace the inner turtle of mental health - are all really about the same thing: milking the gullible.

And we lap it all up. We redesign our lives to accommodate the recommendations of whichever self-proclaimed guru wrote the book/hosted the video/spoke at the staff team-building day (conveniently bringing boxloads of his latest 34-cd box set at a once-off discounted special price, only because your company has been so supportive of him), and when it doesn't work as we naively expected it to, we are actually (touchingly) surprised. But we don't blame the salesman; instead, we berate ourselves for not following the programme correctly.

And all the while Common Sense is sitting in the corner, shaking her head. She know what should have been obvious to us all along: happiness - like the partner of the sock that went into the washing machine and never came out, or the lyrics to the tune that has been swimming in your head all day, and which are always just out of reach, on the tip of your tongue - can never be found when you actively seek it. You can only ever glimpse it when it catches you by surprise as you are focusing on something else entirely.


Happiness is transient. Like a butterfly, it alights briefly on the flower of your life, delighting momentarily, and then is gone. But what we demand of Happiness is something more durable. And that is why the Pursuit of Happiness can never be successful. Happiness is fleeting by nature.Contentment, fulfilment - now those are altogether different. Happiness is dependent on external circumstances; fulfilment is determined by internal choices. I think we have them confused. What we are really looking for is fulfilment, not happiness.

Fulfilment can, I believe, only be found through an expression of interdependence in working toward a vision larger than any individual life. Fulfilment realises that - to use a Biblical analogy - we are a body. If I am the best eye that I can be, the whole body is better for it, but even if I am the best eye I can be, I am diminished if my legs or hands are useless. We can find fulfilment when we are both courageous enough to embrace the enormity of our individual potential and humble enough to realise our limitations; when we combine others' greatness with our own to strive for an impossible dream.

And that's the difference. The Pursuit of Happiness tells us that as long as we are all the eye we can be, that is enough. Maybe we just need to learn to see more clearly.

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In writing a blog about several topics in which I admit to being a complete beginner, I am going to have to rely heavily on the people I am writing for who cumulatively know most of what I am likely to learn already. I would love it if some of you found the time to write a guest post on the subject of happiness or learning. The framework I use for thinking about these things is what I call the '5 + 2 points' which includes proper (1) exercise, (2) breathing, (3) diet, (4) relaxation, (5) positive thinking & meditation, (+1) relationships, (+2) flow. Naturally if you would like to write about something that you think I have missed, I would love to include that too. If you are up to doing something more practical, it would be awesome if you did a 100 hour project and I am happy to do the writing based on our chats if that is how you roll. Email me at trevorjohnblack@gmail.com

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Triumvirate of Yumminess

We are creatures of habit. We have a few favourite things and often we can get a lot of pleasure by going back to them. To avoid things going off (I really hate tossing globby milk down the sink and stale bread into the bin), I tend to live fairly hand to mouth. Since branded stores have taken over convenience stores in the UK, things actually cost the same as the main shops and so it isn't a luxury to just pop into a small shop. So that's what I do. This isn't all good though because I am less good at planning what I eat since my elephant is doing the shopping. I shop when hungry. This means my fridge if very sparse, which is also a good thing since I don't tend to snack. It is not a good thing when the hungry elephant feels hard done by and enters the Sainsbury's. Almost on autopilot, I don't even grab a basket. I typically just grab three things - a curry, a juice and a white chocolate magnum icecream. 



The most cunning diet I have heard of allows you to eat whatever you want. The catch is you have to set up a whatsapp group with a few willing friends and you have to send a pic of whatever you eat. So just before you eat the chocolate filled doughnut, you send through a snap. Then you feel like another... but... and the embarrassment sets in. I have never tried this approach since I the only people who would really want to participate in receiving the pictures would be those involved.

I am also not a fan of diets that aren't sustainable. I would like to eat more healthily, but I don't want to set myself up on a pedestal where I am racked with feelings of self pity every time I look at what everyone else is eating. Food is a great pleasure in life and I don't want to deprive myself of that. My plan is to get into cooking and more specifically, to make a hobby of vegetarian cooking. If I can cook awesome meals that I look forward to and just happen to be healthy, I can wean myself off those ridiculously yummy tikka masala curries.

The trick will be that whatever I learn will need to be as easy as my triumvirate of yumminess. I know eating well is an important part of happiness. I know there are issues with factory farming that mean we should eat significantly less meat. Eating is one of the most stubborn habits to change and it isn't logic that is in control. Food brings comfort. It rewards. It triggers memories. It binds relationships. Changing your diet while keeping the good bits needs the most cunning of cunning strategic plans.


Carry On Plodding (by Simone Schmid)

Guest Post: Simone Schmid

I met Simone at the wedding of one of my best buddies. Richie and I have been friends for more than 25 years and he married Simone's sister Dani. I am hoping I will get to introduce guest posts from all the Schmids at some stage... the third sibling is Mike. They are a special family. Amongst other things, Simone is an engineer, an artist, an (almost) a brewer. She is determined, smart, silly and creative. She also happened to take on the epic 90km Comrades marathon and her story is the stuff that makes this one of the most special races in the world.

Jason, Me, Dani & Richie, Simone, Josey
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Carry On Plodding
By Simone Schmid

I have always been a runner (a sprinter though). Up until three years ago I had never run more than 5km. Then my brother Mike ran the Two Oceans half marathon, and described how amazing it was, so I decided I would run it the following year. That's how it started, joining the Chiltern Athletics Club in September 2011, to train for my first half. I have always wanted to run Comrades, but I never actually thought I would get there. Being a sprinter it was just too much to imagine. But once you run your first half the bug bites you and so I planned on running Comrades at some stage, just not for the next few years. Then last year (2013), while watching my fellow club runners go past me in Westville on their way up the hill I could not help but feel that I was really missing out, and so badly wanted to be out there with them. So come September 1st I entered.

The Running Schmids and a Richie

In preparation for Comrades I came across two articles that had a big impact on me, and always seem to be able to get me choked up. The first is actually the route description by Tim Noakes (from Hillcrest to Durban) and the second was Don Oliver's Final Tips. Tim Noakes also said 'I know why this is all necessary, what common bond unites all Comrades runners. It is the need to look for the mountains in life. Skill, you see, is not our requirement, nor has your race got anything to do with winning or losing. These are the spoils of other lesser games, unable to transport you to the places we have been.'


Comrades is a crazy day, but what a day it is. Everyone will give you advice, some is good, some not so much. But you have to figure out what works for you. I did a lot of my training with shin splints, strapped up. And to get through the amount of mileage for the training without furthering my injuries my bio told me to take it really slow. All my training was done between 6.5 and 7 min/km, and unfortunately you become very set in a pace. So a lot of the runners at my club didn't think I would cover the distance in the given cut-off times. And I was worried about that as well. At the end of Feb I did my first marathon, and my qualifier, the Maritzburg marathon. Wow!!! Your first marathon hits you hard, so be ready. From 33km my legs felt like bags of cement. Anyway I got it done in 4:53ish I think (you need to do a 42km in under 5hr to qualify). But February is still early days. So you carry on plodding.

Then you get to April and the training becomes intense. You are doing 80-100km a week (generally 50km a weekend). You live, eat and sleep running. And you start mentally preparing yourself for the day. The long run happens about 6 weeks before race day. I joined with Hillcrest Villagers for this and we ran from Collegian Harriers (in Maritzburg), down to Hillcrest, so 57km of the Comrades route. My long run went really well, I wasn't nauseous at all, I ate a fair amount of food along the way, I could have a Gu gel every hour and Coke at every table. I got to the halfway mark in 5hr10 which was bang on target. And my legs felt fresh at the end, like I had maybe run a 10km, no injuries playing up. So after that I was pretty confident, and with the time I did I worked out I could've done a 10:30 Comrades.

Come Comrades day and it all fell apart right from the beginning. Firstly I set my watch on laps I think, but didn't want to reset it, so I didn't actually know what my current pace was. I was also nauseous from very early on, and couldn't get my Gu down and couldn't even handle Coke, so I wasn't replacing my energy. I carried on plodding, but my quads started getting very tight 30km in, not sure why, and have never had that issue before, but it made the remaining 60km very trying. So I fell off the pace I was meant to do very early, only getting to halfway at 5hr43, so it is really amazing I finished at all.



And then I started getting emotional from around Hillcrest. I just wanted to go home. I was tired, and in so much pain. I was lacking energy and probably getting dehydrated, because I was too nauseous to eat and drink. But the running club guys and my parents kept popping up all over the place and cheering me on, so I plodded. Fields Hill arrived, and I was in such pain I even struggled to walk down it, it is so steep and so cambered, it kills your legs. So that whole thing about "the desire to quit comes but once..." is not always true, I had it most of the last 30km. I got to the top of Cowies and saw some Chiltern supporters, and asked them if they knew where my parents were in Westville, I wanted to go home, I couldn't go the last 15km. They got me running again and phone my parents to tell them I was on my way but wanted to quit, but I was still doing ok. I got to my parents by Jan Hofmeyer and said I wanted to go home... and I just remember my mom saying to me "Are you really sure you don't want to finish this" And I couldn't say yes, so I carried on.

By this stage I knew my time was very close, and I still had the cut-off at the bottom of 45th to make before the last stretch to the finish. Somehow my parents managed to pop up all over the place from Westville to the finish and that kept me going. I finally go into town, and the crowd was incredible, the streets were packed with people cheering, and about 2km from the finish I spotted my parents again, and they started running on the pavement next to me, and cheering, and suddenly I could hear the stadium, and I managed to dig deep and as soon as you hit that grass you feel like you are running on air, and somehow you manage to smile...



It is the most emotional and physically draining day you can imagine, but so special at the same time.

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In writing a blog about several topics in which I admit to being a complete beginner, I am going to have to rely heavily on the people I am writing for who cumulatively know most of what I am likely to learn already. I would love it if some of you found the time to write a guest post on the subject of happiness or learning. The framework I use for thinking about these things is what I call the '5 + 2 points' which includes proper (1) exercise, (2) breathing, (3) diet, (4) relaxation, (5) positive thinking & meditation, (+1) relationships, (+2) flow. Naturally if you would like to write about something that you think I have missed, I would love to include that too. If you are up to doing something more practical, it would be awesome if you did a 100 hour project and I am happy to do the writing based on our chats if that is how you roll. Email me at trevorjohnblack@gmail.com


Monday, December 15, 2014

Passionate Speaking

People aren't nasty. Some are, but those skebengas are a rounding error. One of the biggest fears people have is public speaking. This is a great example of where we think people are thinking things they aren't thinking. Usually when you have an audience of people listening to you, they really aren't trying to shoot you down. We want to enjoy ourselves and when we listen to someone speak, we look for reasons to enjoy it. Perhaps our fears come from school orals. Little kids standing up in front of other kids and doing talks when they are nervous. Now you may have already started finding holes in my story... people aren't nasty but sometimes kids are horrendous. They haven't learnt yet that no one really likes a bully. At some point even the nastiest of kids learns that it is more fun for everyone if you play nice.

My favourite TED talk is one of the first I watched. What Ken Robinson does so well is that it is just a conversation. His voice is the same voice you would imagine him using if you were sitting having a cup of coffee together. So you feel like that is what is happening. Now he is a witty Brit, and does have a way of telling stories. But mostly, he is calm. He is in control of his breath and the focus is on the content. The best way to become a great communicator is to really know and be passionate about what you are speaking about. This shines through in his talk. He really believes that we can do a better job of finding the magic that makes people tick. We all feel passionately about something, and it is rather sad that we don't tend to talk, write or share because we are worried about what people will think about our ability.

Perhaps the trick is to write or talk like you are with someone you trust. When your voice switches to school oral mode the fear may have kicked in. You forget that actually people want to hear what you are passionate about.




For some fantastic resources on presenting, check out PresentationZen.com.

 

Sugar and Spice (by Caron Angelbauer)

Guest Post: Caron Angelbauer


I met Caron in London through another friend, Tracy, but it turns out that my mother was actually her art teacher in high school. South Africans don't all know each other, this was a co-incidence. Caron is Managing Director at Starfish, studied Philosophy, and is into basically everything life has to offer posting beautiful evidence on Instagram. She is funny, witty and creative and has a wonderful perspective on what makes life tick. She writes magically and I am super chuffed to introduce hopefully the first many guest posts.

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Sugar and Spice
by Caron Angelbauer

Happiness is a butterfly flapping its beautiful paper thin wings - free, wild and uplifting. And then it's gone. So let's attempt to pin this beautiful butterfly in a photograph album.


Happiness is intrinsically subjective and unique for us all, with common flecks that overlap allowing funny bones to be tickled during comedy or cartoons. For me, happiness has morphed over my many years. I remember past lives of it being about learning how to swim, or Italian ice-cream on a hot day, stealing my brothers brand new bike/skateboard/radio controlled car and making them (and myself) do things they really shouldn't have done, success in sports- winning races, being part of a team working together to get that ball in a hoop or knock the hockey ball into the back of the net through to catching fish, the funfair or just standing on the coastline watching my feet sink deeper into the sand as waves crashed around my legs and pulled back out again. 


Later it was about getting lost in the music I loved at a number of clubs whilst pouring tequila down my throat until I was very wobbly afoot, learning how to drive and the independence of exiting school and starting university or just spending time with my wonderful and vastly eccentric friends and family... It was all about new experiences, jumping off a cliff into the sea, surfing, a first kiss with a guy I'd been eyeing for some time or spending time with my friends around a bonfire on a beach stoned out of my tiny little mind... through moving overseas to the UK and professional reward - throwing myself in the deep end and learning (fighting) to find success. Achievement = happiness.


Many years later with many lessons under my belt, I find myself looking for similar kinds of sugar but the volume of spice has definitely been turned up. 2014 has been one hell of a year. Its moved from being incredibly happy at the end of 2013 through to putting my house on the market, discovering my boyfriend had been cheating on me in every imaginable 21st century level of deception (and then some), falling completely out of love with my job, finding out I was pregnant and miscarrying within 6 weeks, discarding the dead weights in my world and finding a new world to live and work within. Sometimes we have all the puzzle pieces thrown in the air and need to see where they land. For me, the pieces are spelling happiness of a new order. Right now my happiness consists of discovering who I am again after such utter turmoil. Virtually every day provides a new revelation.... almost like learning to walk again. Rushing down a gorgeous slippery forest terrain on my bike with an ice cold crisp morning kissing my cheeks whilst my spaniel gallops beside me provides happiness. Working within a dynamic design industry surrounded by super intelligent people is a vast inspiration. Rediscovering international foods, music, design, art, sculpture, people and languages is the best medicine... but still, for me, my happiest place is tucking into bed at night with my cocker spaniel slipping in behind my knees with a contented sigh, and starting every day with that very same cocker spaniel flopping a fluffy paw on my shoulder and wagging her spritely tail. There is no need to rush for thrills anymore... it's the simple things in life that lifts the heart and spreads a joyous contented smile.





A photo posted by @mscaronangel on
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In writing a blog about several topics in which I admit to being a complete beginner, I am going to have to rely heavily on the people I am writing for who cumulatively know most of what I am likely to learn already. I would love it if some of you found the time to write a guest post on the subject of happiness or learning. The framework I use for thinking about these things is what I call the '5 + 2 points' which includes proper (1) exercise, (2) breathing, (3) diet, (4) relaxation, (5) positive thinking & meditation, (+1) relationships, (+2) flow. Naturally if you would like to write about something that you think I have missed, I would love to include that too. If you are up to doing something more practical, it would be awesome if you did a 100 hour project and I am happy to do the writing based on our chats if that is how you roll. Email me at trevorjohnblack@gmail.com