I have been having a bit of a roller-coaster ride lately. Maybe some sort of cross between a mid(ish)-life crisis, a reaction to the frankly depressing year we’ve had as a family, or just a general “awakening”, but whatever is going on it’s giving me energy, optimism and enthusiasm. It’s also giving me a bit of a realisation that actually, it’s not such a bad thing to be me after all.

In this spirit I’m reading a lot of philosophy and psychology and self-help-sort-of-things, and two merit Special Mentions.

First up is the book, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I LOVE THIS BOOK. Gretchen writes about her experience over the course of a year trying to bring more happiness into her life. It’s not a ‘how to be happy’ book, it’s very firmly about HER story and what SHE did but to be honest, she could be me. So many times reading it I thought “Yes, that is exactly what I do” or just “That’s me!”, so many of her suggestions I actually took on board for myself. I hugely recommend the book, as well as Gretchen’s website which is here.

Next year I’m starting my own Happiness Project which I’m going to blog about. Since it’s mid-December now I’m going to use time between Christmas preparations to think about what I’m going to do and January seems like a good time to start!

I finished reading the Happiness Project on Friday and have been mulling things over; then today I got the latest issue of Psychologies magazine. I’ve started getting this regularly over the past few months, tearing out articles that really tugged at me and putting them into a scrap-file. This month’s focus was on having more fun and coming on top of the high that The Happiness Project left me on, it couldn’t have been more perfectly timed.

One of the suggestions (actually, in both The Happiness Project and Psychologies) was to think of things I used to do for fun as a child and see if I can’t do them now. What a brilliant idea! There’s a quote from CS Lewis (a brilliantly quotable man) saying “When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” It’s so true, and it’s something I had in a small way acknowledged in reading more and more books for children and young adults – although that can be rationalised as a ‘career development activity’ too, really. But no more – I’m going to have more fun, dammit!

These are some of the things I used to do as a child for fun:

  • dress up – in anything. It’s amazing what kind of costume you can make from tucking up and arranging old sheets and curtains. Curtains, actually, are especially good as you can get some lovely fabrics. I had a dark green velvet one which became variously a queen’s dress, a ball gown or a mediaeval maiden. Not to mention being spread on the floor as a forest/garden/meadow.
  • dolls. mostly paper actually – I did have several ‘real’ dolls, both baby and Barbie-type, but paper dolls were a special kind of magic. Either cutting them out of catalogues or drawing them myself or (a real treat) those ones in comics where you got the doll wearing a vest and knickers and two or three outfits with tabs that folded around to hold them on. I’m actually heaving a happy sigh just thinking about them.
  • skipping
  • bubbles
  • puzzles! I used to get a bumper book of puzzles, especially wordsearches, to take with me on the ferry when we went on holiday every summer and it was such a treat.
  • reading.
  • reading.
  • more reading. (It’s amazing actually when I look at what I like doing NOW for fun, how much revolves around books. Thinking ahead, I realised lately that one of my real ambitions is to run a centre for children’s books. Ya never know!)
  • music – on our old, battered piano; one of several recorders I owned; a tortured violin (major parenting points to my parents for putting up with THAT)…
  • curling up in small, enclosed spaces. I actually used to squeeze in behind the hot water tank. Or a small cupboard. Or the space behind my bunk bed (one of those with a desk and wardrobe under the bed). Or folding the sofa bed into a box and getting in the middle. I was rather odd, when I come to think about it…
  • making things with paper. I already mentioned the dolls but I also tried origami, making paper furniture for my dolls, making envelopes. Someone once bought me a book of paper boxes that you pressed out of the pages and folded and slotted together. And one year my dad got me a huge pile of Discovery  magazines which was a real treasure trove; as well as all the facts on a random range of subjects, many of them had hardly been touched and still had the cardboard models to make. I LOVED doing those.
So part of my Happiness Project will be do rediscover some of these hobbies from my childhood and HAVING FUN. And I might just start now… *goes off to hunt for paper and scissors*