I chatted to Mike over breakfast for a good 45 minutes this morning. In one respect, at least, this three-hour time difference serves us well. Mike can get up at 6am (or, often, before) and make coffee and get breakfast. I am up at 9am having just finished mine, and we both at the same level of “awakedness” and being ready to embrace the day. Consequently, we have much more substantial conversations over a virtual breakfast table when we’re separated by the equator than we do when we’re living in the same house.
At home our morning routine for the past six months has involved Mike bringing a plate of fruit and a cup of tea up with him when he re-enters our bedroom to shower and get ready for work at 7am. I work on waking up while he’s in the shower, and our conversation usually consists of little more than me telling him about anything wacky I dreamed about the night before and asking him what he has planned for the day while he’s getting dressed.
No, wait, sometimes Mike also looks at me sharing my fresh mango with Zulu (who has been sitting patiently by the side of the bed waiting for just this moment) and shakes his head. Then Mike tells Zulu that he’s the luckiest dog in Laos and better nourished than many of the country’s children. Sadly – even though that little mutt’s diet consists mostly of dog food, fruit, empty yogurt containers, and the odd piece of cheese – this last statement is probably true.
Today, however, Mike and I covered all sorts of substantial topics in the early morning hours – recent allegations of deceptive marketing practices by Nestle of infant formula to mothers in Laos, boundaries in committed relationships around spending time alone with people of the opposite gender, and the more prosaic how we are both faring on this fine Tuesday morning.
“I don’t know,” I said, when Mike asked that last question. “I haven’t figured out yet what sort of day this is going to be.”
“What do you mean?” Mike asked.
“Well, every day is different at the moment,” I said. “Yesterday was a great day. We saw whales out to sea during breakfast. I had coffee with a friend in Lennox and spent too much money buying gourmet ice cream to bring home (purely as a present for my hard working mama, of course). There was a lovely sunset. I was happy. But two days ago many of these things also happened and I was definitely not happy. So every day is a bit of a puzzle at the moment mood-wise and I haven’t yet figured out which way today is going to swing.”
“Well, I command you to make today a good day by banishing negative thinking,” Mike said.
“You command me?” I said.
“Yes,” Mike said, flashing the particularly guileless and genuine grin I often see when he knows full well that he’s tap dancing on thin ice. “Because I am your husband and when I decree things then it’s your job to make them happen.”
Mike usually only says things like this when he’s safely out of striking distance – whatever else he might be, he’s not dumb.
“So, what are three things you are going to be grateful for today?” he asked while I was still glaring at him via skype video and flirting with the notion of playing right into his hands by rising to the bait.
“That’s changing the game,” I said. “The positive psychology exercise is to identify three good things that have already happened that day and their causes.”
“I’m a game-changer,” he said. “So, three things…?”
“OK,” I said, thinking about the upcoming day. “Tash is coming tonight to stay for five nights!”
“Good one,” Mike said, sighing only a little at the thought of missing out on that fun. “What else?”
“I can see trees tossing in the breeze out of every window,” I said. “Whether it’s cloudy or sunny, rainy or clear, it’s so beautiful up here.”
“And number three?” Mike asked.
I had a third one, I know I did, but now (a whole two hours later) I cannot for the life of me remember what it was. Never mind, now that I’ve started thinking about it there are plenty of things I could tack onto that list – not least of which is the fact that there are two cartons of gourmet ice cream in the freezer.
All the positive thinking and gratitude exercises in the world wont ensure a decent mood, of course, but they are one good place to start. What about you? What helps get your day off to a good start? What three things will you be grateful for today?