Laughter – The Best Medicine

Take time out to have a giggle today…

There is no better cure for a bad or sad mood than laughter. Not just a little giggle but hard to breathe laughter which is a bit like having an emotional cleanse. It’s hard not to feel better after a convulsion of hysterical laughter. Think of that feeling when you suddenly find something amuses you to the point of no return: breath comes in short pants, you double up and totally lose it. You straighten up then convulse again and again, tears streaming down your face. Sometimes you remember the moment for ages afterwards. Laughter should be a daily ritual for us all – a feel good factor to help us through the day, but sometimes spontaneous laughter eludes us. Stress hormones, depression, boredom and many other factors tip us into a mood that makes it impossible to feel jolly. I was feeling this dark mood today until I reminded myself of some funny experiences I’ve had in the past. Sometimes what sets us off along the path to possible hysteria may not be anywhere near as funny to someone else. Sometimes they are ‘you had to be there’ moments and indeed when you try to recount a funny story to someone some of the mirth gets lost along the way, but just for fun this week I want to write a few true stories that hopefully may amuse you .

For some reason some of the amusing things that have happened to me concerns cats. I don’t have a cat now but in the past we have had two. Both totally full of character and both typically eccentric like our family. Let me introduce them:

Jim : The most handsome Ginger Tom. Looked like a cat who should have been cast in a production of Garfield The Movie. Used to share his lunch with a Magpie. Prone to explosive diarrhoea which usually peppered the kitchen walls.

Fred : Black and white. Very fluffy with a bushy tail. Scared of his own shadow, adorable. Always walked into a room sideways. Had his own giant cat bed (the family sofa which he would let you sit on occasionally). Took a morning constitutional walk the same time every day always following the same route.

Jim’s story.

One morning I felt some foreboding as a letter fell onto the mat bearing the logo of the local Veterinary Surgery. That could only mean one thing: Jim’s annual vaccination was due. This may not sound too worrying, but for a cat who had a morbid dislike of cat baskets this posed quite a problem. Somehow we had to attend. I am not normally a  deranged woman but I have to say on this occasion sensible reasoning went out of the window on the appointed day, and for reasons best known to myself I decided to take the cat in the car sitting on my lap whilst I persuaded my husband to drive. Jim, sensing adventure, started getting restless and began to knead his paws on my thighs before exploring the interior of the car and then climbing on to my back. It did not bode well. As we drew up outside the vet’s surgery the receptionist looked from the window, perturbed to see us arriving in such an unusual fashion. But there was no going back. We had come this far and WE WERE GOING IN. But first we had to get out of the car without Jim making a quick getaway . Good-naturedly, Jim allowed me to clamp him tightly to my chest and I manoeuvred the two of us out of the car and made for the entrance to the surgery. Thinking all was going well and this was a doddle, we entered the waiting room. Unfortunately , a sense of unease followed as we eyed the full waiting room. Here before us was a total menagerie of birds, rabbits, dogs, cats, hamsters and even a (hopefully) docile python coiled up in a glass case. Their owners looked at us with a mixture of sympathy and pity and started muttering among themselves. I was aware that Jim was beginning to struggle in my arms , even for a relatively placid cat this was way too much temptation tinged with a dose of fear. The receptionist looked at us with something close to horror and walked firmly to the clinical room. I heard her announcing to the young vet that there was a woman and a possibly wild cat in reception that had better be seen. (Or maybe it was a wild woman with a cat – I can’t remember which way round we were announced). A harassed looking veterinary surgeon emerged and, after apologising profusely to the packed waiting room for letting us jump the queue – ushered us in. More mumbling and raised voices ensued and the snake rather alarmingly uncoiled, raising its head and poking out its forked tongue in protest. A parrot in the corner then ruffled its feathers, its owner looking embarrassed as it was distinctly heard to squawk ‘bloody hell, bloody hell!’ Once we were inside the surgery it was suggested we get on with the vaccination as quickly as possible. The vet grabbed Jim in no uncertain terms by the scruff of the neck to plunge the needle in and the job was done. ‘Mrs H’ said the poor harassed chap, ‘I don’t think I need to tell you that bringing a cat along unsecured like this is not a good idea.’ I apologised profusely and totally agreed, promising never to attend again with a loose cat. He showed me out . Grimly, the receptionist handed me a cardboard cat box and demanded I put Jim inside. With a shriek, Jim broke loose from my arms and made for the door. Luckily the snake’s owner was a retired rugby player and caught him in an admirable tackle . Wailing and much flying of fur followed. We tried to edge Jim towards to box whilst holding him in a vice-like grip. He struggled free again and jumped on top of the box, purring smugly as if on a winners’ podium. The receptionist had had enough. She approached, flapping a towel, which she deftly wrapped him in in one fell swoop and unceremoniously bundled him into the box. I paid up and slunk out, the box moving and tilting at dangerous angles, muffled yowls of cat indignation emanating from within. In the car I viewed my reflection with horror . My hair was on end and ginger cat hair coated my pink lip gloss most unbecomingly. My hands were shaking and I gripped the the sides of my seat tightly to steady myself as my speechless husband drove us home. Back at the cottage I let Jim out of the dreaded box, whereupon he looked at me accusingly, leaped off and didn’t return for three days.

Fred’s story.

You would think I had had enough of cat antics, but as luck would have it, soon it was necessary for Fred to pay the vet a visit. Sadly, he had been injured by another cat in a fight and needed some attention. Luckily he didn’t have such an aversion to cat baskets as his erstwhile friend Jim if he was enticed in with a treat. Fred’s problem was his nerves, and when he felt cornered he would go crazy. All started well and on entering the vet’s surgery I placed Fred on the table as asked. A slight hiss could be heard from Fred but nothing too untoward. The wound wasn’t serious and after inspection it was cleaned and sprayed with antibiotic spray. Another slight hiss ensued and I noticed Fred’s hair starting to go on end. However, we were nearly there so no panic. Then the vet spoke. ‘His nails are a bit long, I think I will just give them a little trim.’ I looked at him as if he was totally mad but said nothing. ‘Just hold him for me’ he instructed, approaching with clippers. ‘It won’t take a moment.’ Fred had other ideas. As the vet tried to steady and position his paws, he shrieked and leapt off the table, ricocheting off the walls as he tried to find a way out. Eventually, after flying past us at eye level, he ended up in the open store cupboard and could be heard crashing around the shelves. The vet sighed and went to catch him. Time passed. More crashing and wailing reverberated round the room. Eventually, the vet came back in, his white coat in shreds and his hands wrapped in towels. Fred was dangling from his grip by the scruff of his neck. Wordlessly he pushed him in the basket and shut the lid. Eventually his voice returned. ‘We will leave the nails’ he said and ushered us out with a sigh.

Post script – In all seriousness I do realise Jim’s story could have gone horribly wrong and I would never recommend taking an animal loose in a car etc. Jim was unharmed and lived a long and happy cat life, seemingly unscathed from his escapade with his foolhardy owner, but still…..

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It’s No Use Going Back to Yesterday…

How do we change the way we view the past….?

It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland.

I love the above quotation. It is so true and yet we often forget this and cause ourselves to churn over past mistakes or unforgotten slights from others. I wrote this post a year ago but I thought it worth repeating as I often forget to follow my own advice!

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Problems from our past are responsible for a lot of the anxieties we suffer from now. Reminders of unhappy memories from the past can come from all manner of things. Perhaps a familiar perfume floating on the air, or a few bars of half remembered music from long ago is enough to have you catapulted back to a situation you would prefer to forget. At times like this it’s a good idea to stop and remind yourself that those days are in the past and although you may wish you could erase them, you can’t. You cannot change them either. You may not realise it but you can learn from those painful memories, even just by becoming a more understanding and empathetic person to others. Ask yourself if the memories are genuinely as bad as you feel they are. Can you try to look back and view them as an outsider and make an objective judgement? If you know it was something completely traumatic, have you ever talked it through with anyone? Until you release the pain and trauma you felt you may have difficulty moving on. Consider talking to a counsellor if this is the case. If you were badly hurt or abused in some way, remember that none of that was your fault. None. You didn’t deserve to be treated badly; you deserve to be loved. I don’t think many of us can totally stop ourselves from delving into the past in darker moments. We may say to ourselves: ‘If this hadn’t happened I wouldn’t be feeling like this now’ or ‘if I had acted differently/ taken the job/ moved here instead of there’ none of this would have happened and my life would be better.’ But how do you know that for sure? We can always find situations and people to blame for how we feel now. Perhaps there IS someone to blame or someone who treated you unfairly but that doesn’t bring a solution. The solution lies in forgiveness and moving on. You are a different person now and what happened or whatever choices you made in the past are just that. In the past. But you are here now and have a chance to move forward and be who you wish to be. No one can hurt you if you don’t let them but you hurt yourself if you cannot let go of past grievances. Buddha says: ‘Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die’. There is hardly a person on earth who doesn’t have some sort of mental scars from the past and maybe that is where a lot of the problems in our world stem from. If we can’t show forgiveness and love our brothers and sisters at home and all around the world then troubles occur and escalate. No one is perfect and our upbringing came from those who were doing the best they could from what they themselves had learned along the way.

Past Mistakes

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.’    

 Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Wouldn’t we all like to have the above attitude!

I think most of us have made mistakes in our past. But however unpleasant these mistakes may seem, it’s a part of life that we need to learn from, accept and eventually get over. As we know deep down, the past is the past and no amount of thinking and worry will change that. If we acknowledge the past is outside of our control, we can more easily let go of these mistakes and stop beating ourselves up over them. Of course, it is completely natural to feel bad now and then. Guilt, anxiety and depression over past events can serve a positive function in our lives as long as we don’t get too attached to these feelings. Think of these feelings as part of a learning process – a prompt for us to make make amends or to try to avoid old pitfalls so we don’t make the same mistakes again. However, we don’t want to wallow in negative emotions. The main thing is not to let them dictate our lives as that is when these emotions become unhelpful.

Here are some tips to help you move forward:

Remember that everyone makes mistakes at times and you are no different.

Most of the time you have tried your best.

Honesty helps – admit it if you’ve made a mistake and learn from it.

Focus on now.

Life is always unfolding and changing – no single event can dictate what you do for the rest of your life.

Your past has shaped you to become who you are now but your future actions will shape who you can be in the future.

 

I try and remember this: If there is something lurking in the darkness, shine a light on it, deal with it and then move on. Then you are safe to turn the light off again.

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Why Do We Keep Up Appearances? Be Yourself and Feel Better…

Do you ever feel a bit like Eeyore?

Do you ever feel as though you are the only one in your circle or tribe that has dark times? Times when you struggle to put one foot in front of the other; you feel bad and you don’t even know why sometimes, or you are feeling low and worries and anxious feelings creep in? These are often the times when you look around you and see everyone’s else supposedly getting on with life – skipping around looking like they don’t have a care in the world. You may look upon them with feelings tinged with envy because they appear to have everything sorted out. But do they really?

During my counselling years, one of the most striking features about some clients I worked with was how terrifically well they appeared to be coping. Smart appearance; good fitness regime; holding down a career and running a home: it could have been easy to imagine such people didn’t have a care in the world. And maybe that’s what their family and friends thought too. And yet when the person began to open up during their sessions I would often find that behind the smart facade was someone suffering deeply, and feeling alone in their distress. Often, they were the sort of people who didn’t want to burden their families  – maybe other issues were going on which they didn’t want to add to, or maybe they just didn’t want to appear vulnerable. The trouble with keeping up appearances though, is that stress can gradually build over time and feelings of isolation can keep growing.

One of my mantras in life is ‘never assume anything’, and this actually stands me in good stead in many ways. I’ve learned over the years that virtually everyone we meet in life has had moments when they feel like escaping from the world; getting under the duvet for twenty four hours or setting off down the road like Dick Whittington, carrying nothing more than a few belongings tied in knotted handkerchief on the end of a stick and with just a faithful cat for company.

Most of us are lucky to have good friends and yet how many times do we really open up and tell them how we really feel. If you are like me, the normal stock reply you give to most questions about how you are doing is ‘I’m good thanks’. None of us want to be a burden with our woes and none of us want to appear negative or grumpy. And of course, being positive and upbeat is a really good way to be and plays a part in lifting our spirits and can help change our outlook. But there are times when we can really benefit from being honest and getting something out in the open; and we can also find that we gain much more insight into another person’s feelings and behaviour. To show a friend or loved one that we trust them with our feelings is showing them how much we value them too. We don’t want to be glad to hear other people have been through bad times but it does help us when we hear someone’s personal story – to hear how they overcame their fears or adversity and found light at the end of the tunnel – and even transformation – for what can be more encouraging than that? And if we recount our worries and someone says “ It’s okay, I’ve been there – here’s my thoughts which might help” – it can feel literally like a trouble shared is a trouble halved as the saying goes.

This ‘opening up’ to people takes time. I find it much easier to give than to receive in all areas of my life. I love sharing gifts and know too, the importance of giving out kindness and being generous in all ways, not just financially. Sometimes, even when we seek help professionally (which I would advise if you really can’t seem to cope) and we are paying for counselling services – we may still struggle to look right and still try and maintain a good front because it is so ingrained in us to do so. Why is it hard to ask for kindness, advice or attention? We need to remember that there are good and loving people out there who would love to help given the chance.

Another point to remember is this: you may feel totally fed up with your story; your particular angst and worry. You may think no one will be interested in hearing it, or you may fear they will think you are daft. If you have been overtly anxious you will be tired –  (trust me, anxiety is the most tiring emotion in the world), but to the person you talk to, this is a new story; one to be viewed with fresh eyes, from a new angle and a new perspective. I doub’t very much if there is a person who wouldn’t want to reach out to you and be kind, to take on the privilege of helping you feel better. And if you do come across someone who isn’t on your wave length, don’t take it personally. They may be suffering too and not in the right place to help. For now, they are not ‘your’ person but I promise you, your person is out there.

Think about Eeyore. He was grumpy and he was miserable but his friends knew he had a good and loving heart.

    ‘One awesome thing about Eeyore is that even though he is clinically depressed, he still gets invited to participate in adventures and shenanigans with all of his friends. What is amazing is that they never expect him to pretend to feel happy, they never leave him behind or ask him to change, THEY JUST SHOW HIM LOVE.’

I hope you are in a good place, but if you are not, reach out to someone today, even in a small way. Open your heart a little. Let in a little beam of light as you lift the corner of the duvet. And remember –  Dick Whittington may have been in dire straights when he walked off into the distance but he eventually found good fortune and became the Mayor of London! You may not wish to be Mayor (or you may but that’s another story!) but you CAN change things.

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