Tag Archives: bad mood

What will you be grateful for today?

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?

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AWOL: Personality, good mood, and ability to focus

Making a scary lion face at temples in Cambodia

I’m not sure what’s happened to my personality this week, but I don’t like it. Sure, the week started with some sort of stomach bug or food poisoning that had me throwing up or curled up in bed moaning most of Monday night, but it’s now Friday. I’m mostly over it. There’s no call to find myself sighing with exasperation every time I have to get up in the middle of the night. Or annoyed when Mum decides to take it into her head to unstack the dishwasher at 7am and wakes me up after I’ve been up too late reading (I know, right in her own home, what was she thinking??). Or seemingly unable to find the motivation to tackle the normal sorts of tasks that need doing – work on consultancy, draft proposal to go to publishers next month, do pregnancy yoga or go for a walk, refer to list marked “To Do Before Baby” and do something, anything.

I have managed to stay away from the chocolate that Mum thinks she’s effectively hidden underneath the lettuce in the bottom drawer of the fridge – but that’s mostly because whenever I think of it I just can’t be bothered to get up and get any.

Even when I have been in a semi-decent mood this week I’ve been vague. Very vague.

On Tuesday night Dad hopped on a plane to go to South Sudan for a month to finish his own consultancy (because Dad has technically been retired for 7 years now and this is the sort of thing retired people do, apparently). So on Wednesday I set out with Mum to do something useful – namely, to help her with the grocery shopping since otherwise she would have to do it by herself.

I think within three minutes of us walking into the store she wished she was doing it by herself.

I’ve been here three weeks now and this was the first time I’d braved the grocery store. At least I didn’t find myself overwhelmed by the tidal wave of confusion and angst that can strike when you abruptly encounter an over-abundance of choice after spending months doing your shopping in a store approximately the size of a bedroom. No, but I was rather happily dazed by it all. I wandered around the fruit section, touching stuff and reading all the descriptive labels above the seven different types of apples with great fascination. When I finally got around to rejoining Mum there were already 20 or so items in the cart. I put in my contributions – an eggplant and rhubarb (neither of which were on the list) – with triumph.

“What are those for?” my mother asked.

“Oh,” I said. “The eggplant is just so pretty and purple, I can use it in something. And we can’t get rhubarb in Laos. I can make a crumble.”

Mum decided that a more directive approach in relation to my “helping” might be in order.

“Go to the next aisle and pick out the yogurt you want,” she instructed.

I did – two types. At least that was on the list. But I also picked out fresh pasta, parmesan cheese, malted milk power (for biscuits I’d suddenly decided I wanted to make), and oats.

The next time Mum and I crossed paths she tried another tack.

“You can push the trolley,” she said.

And I did, until I left it in the middle of the baking aisle to look for cocoa.

“My handbag and wallet are sitting on the seat of that trolley,” Mum reminded me when she turned the corner and saw this state of affairs.

“It’s right there,” I said, waving down the aisle. “I can see it if something happens.”

Mum did not look convinced. She retook possession of the trolley and, probably desperate by now, made her biggest strategic mistake of the afternoon. She sent me to the end aisle to look for frozen berries for the rhubarb crumble I had envisioned. And what stood between me and the end aisle? That’s right… the ice cream freezers.

I was happily engrossed in checking out the ingredients in hazelnut gelato when I heard my name being called commandingly from the end of the aisle. When I looked up Mum was pointing sternly behind me, at the berries.

I never did get my hazelnut gelato, but I also don’t think I got anything else that was actually on the list except yogurt. And I was so exhausted by the whole expedition that I also never got around to making my rhubarb crumble, or doing much of anything that night, actually, except watching TV and feeling sorry for myself that Mike was not here to rub my aching back and fetch me chocolate.

Yes, much of the week has been spent like this – seesawing between vague and unreasonably pissy. Really. I’m sure Mum is just relishing all this extra mother and daughter time we’re having now that Dad’s back in Sudan. Really.

But today is a new day. Today is a new day. Today is a new day. And I might even make a crumble.