Sunday 22 September 2019

Brendan O'Connor: I really can't believe I'm spouting this claptrap

Brendan O'Connor: starting to change is the hardest part.
Brendan O'Connor: starting to change is the hardest part.
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

This is not the end, hopefully. But the beginning. A month is not enough, but it is enough to start. And starting to change is the hardest part. I was probably a bit simplistic to think that a whole new, fundamentally life-changing and personality-altering habit like smiling could be phased in properly in a month. But I have started.

The truth is there wasn't a lot to smile about in November. On the macro level or the micro level. It was a month of stress, bad news, cold chills and reminders of mortality, those distant rumbles of thunder at the picnic. And if I was able to smile some of the time through that, I can smile through anything.

Before, I may have smiled 10pc of the time, and really only when there was a strong stimulus. I was reactive in my smiling. I smiled back, I smiled if entertained.

I allowed others to set the mood and I just jumped on it. Now I am possibly smiling 15pc of the time. And that may not seem like a huge jump to you, but it is the quality that matters.

That extra 5pc is proactive smiling. That is initiating the smiling, rather than reacting to someone else's smiling. And learning to initiate has been the battle. Now that I have some taste of doing that, it should be easier to do it more. I have broken through the barrier to a different type of smiling, and that's the difficult bit.

I think I have learnt an important lesson this past month. And it's to do with positive and negative. I think I spend too much of my life grappling with the negative and trying to turn it around. But that doesn't work. All it really does is to give more energy to the negative things. The real trick is to ignore the negative things and just focus on the positive things.

It sounds a bit twee, I know, but it's true. If you keep giving more energy to the positive, you gradually ease out the negative. It's like some old Cherokee thing a friend of mine quotes about us all having a good wolf and a bad wolf in us. And the thing to do is not to feed the bad wolf and then he starves. And you feed the good wolf, and he grows inside you and takes over. Or instead of faffing around in the dark, wondering why it's so dark, and what can you do about it, just go and turn on the light, open the curtains. And the positive light automatically banishes the negative dark.

And smiling is one good way of turning on the light, feeding the good wolf, gravitating toward the positive.

Can you believe I'm spouting this nonsense?

This type of positivity claptrap is everything I'm against.

When I was young, we were brought up to slouch and look miserable and wear a long dark raincoat, and part of me never outgrew that. Smiling over nothing was for idiots and born-again Christians.

But at the end of the day, what do you want to be? Happy or right? I'm not saying I have been wrong all these years. But I am prepared to allow that it might be time for a new phase. Maybe change is indeed possible.

TIP: This is something I never thought I'd say but you know what? Smile. It might never happen. And even if it is happening, smile anyway, and it might make it feel a little bit better.

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