Finding joy in a hopeless place

Here’s a sentence I never thought I would write. Eight months ago I saw something in a public toilet that really inspired me to alter my perspective. I know this sounds weird... bear with me.
It was a stinking hot New York day and being an antipodean girl I needed sand between my toes and a seabreeze licking my face. I took the F train to Coney Island (spoiler alert: not an actual island) and headed to the beach. I’d ducked into a toilet block to change into my bikini when I noticed this was no ordinary public facility. 

On the walls were framed photos of children, a framed print saying FAMILY and a wall clock. On another wall were wall hangings, ornaments and other bric-a-brac items you’d expect to see at your great aunty’s house when you pop around for a cuppa. Outside – which I hadn’t noticed when I’d walked in - were lovingly nurtured pot plants draped in organza and cheery-coloured fabric. Someone – and I think we can assume this was not a council-funded exercise – had taken it upon themselves to decorate this toilet block so it looked like their living room. As a result, it felt warm and welcoming, and a space you want to treat with respect. You felt honoured to be there and wanted to linger. 
I was amazed by how this woman’s dedication had transformed this space. I mean, this is literally a place where people go to dispose of human waste, yet she had made it feel cosy and uplifting. Yes, it was a little odd to see someone’s personal photos in a toilet block. But also, kind of comforting. Perhaps this is what Rihanna was singing about when she found love in a hopeless place (lol).
The reason this inspired me was that it made me realise that if it’s possible to change the energy of a public toilet, it’s possible for me to do the same with the contents of my head. And if I can do that, I can make room for even more love and light in my life.
A lot of spiritual teachers talk about the power of the mind when it comes to changing our lives. This is something I’ve sometimes struggled with, as it often feels like my mind is in control of me, rather than the other way around. It’s all well and good to think positive when life is tickling along nicely, but when everything turns to custard, I find my resolve crumbling. What I’m realising more and more is that acceptance is as important as positivity. What I mean by that is it’s OK to accept a bad day instead of fighting desperately to pretend it’s something more rosy (so long as I don’t take it out on others). But when it comes to the beating-myself-up, nothing-ever-goes-right-for-me, I’m-never-going-to-get-what-I-want thought patterns, I can definitely change the energy of that space.

Finding joy amid the darkness is one of our greatest challenges as humans. But with open hearts and, ideally, open minds, it is always possible.

Words with friends, and with yourself

Scrabble letters spelling W-O-R-D-S

Words are hugely important to me. (I know that sounds ridiculously obvious, but bear with me – I am going somewhere with this.) Not only are words my currency (I’m a writer by trade), they’re my vehicle for interpreting the world. I’ve worked with a lot of designers who are primarily visual – they see the world in colours and shapes. Me, my frame of reference is words, both spoken and written.
I’m starting to understand more and more how the words I use, internally and externally, are creating my world more than they are reflecting it. Today I read an intriguing scientific study which found that all languages skew towards the use of happy words. The author notes: “This confirms the 1969 Pollyanna Hypothesis that there is a universal human tendency to ‘look on and talk about the bright side of life.’”

Ridiculously cheerful woman with cup of tea
What this means is that we’ve been given the tools to be predominantly upbeat, optimistic people. Which is not to say that we should be happy *all* the time – you’re unlikely to want to bust out your biggest smile when someone rear-ends your car – but that the path of least resistance is to be positive, overall, even in the face of adversity. However, if you actually start to think about the types of sentences you utter on the reg, you’ll probably find – as I have – that they are predominantly negative. Oh.
Aaaaaaaand research also shows that even looking at a negative word for a few seconds is enough to release stress chemicals in your brain. Sad face.
The more I practice mindfulness, the more aware I am of the frequency that negative words pass through my brain and my lips. I’m making a habit of reshaping those. I’m not saying I’m ever going to be able to eliminate negativity completely – hello, I live in the real world! – but I think the more often I can reframe my mindset, the better. As noted in a previous post, the law of attraction means negative words and thoughts draw negative experiences into my world. Ain’t nobody got time for that shit.
Worth thinking about, right?