What the-?

Picture if you will, a ‘young’ family living in a hilly port town.  Fishing boats, container ships, street festivals, fish n’ chips, seagulls and southerlies. In love and loving it.  And one serious addiction – Convenience.  In the 21st century it comes in many forms: online shopping, mobile broadband, microwave meals and… owning your own car.  That’s our own particular habit.  And we’re going to try to break it.

Dramatis Personae

House of Davidson-Fox

  • Elizabeth, raised in the Falklands and Scotland, now a citizen of Aotearoa.  A non-driver.
  • Ciaran, a first generation New Zealander of Irish parents.  Bon vivant and Formula One fan.
  • Seraphine Lily Te Marama, (Bobbin, the Beast, the toddler) ‘gifted’ child of 21 months and counting.  Coming to grips with language, bipedalism and porridge.
  • Pickle ‘Fat Woo’ Pusstopher Jones, a stripy sofa tiger.
  • PJ9564 ‘Peej’, a red 1983 Toyota Sprinter hatchback, automatic for the people.

Lyttelton, a port town on Banks Peninsula, New Zealand linked to Christchurch by a 2km (OK, 1.945km) road tunnel.

Christchurch, a swampy satellite of Lyttelton.

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The power of gratitude

We’ve all had our priorities shifted here in Christchurch by recent events. Once the fact really sank in that we live in a place where any second, with absolutely no warning, the earth can rise up roaring under our feet and the walls come tumbling down, we had to accept certain realities, like ultimate lack of control, quite differently.

I mean, sure we can control our day to day realities up to a point, but the big things, the life and death stuff, that’s pretty much out of our hands. That’s the same for everyone, no matter where we live or what we do.

But there’s something we can control no matter what our personal situation. Our own response to life. This isn’t easy. In fact it’s probably the hardest thing of all. Often it feels easier to move mountains than control our own minds.

But here in Christchurch, when we feel so helpless in many ways, shifting our priorities to focus on the things we actually can have some small hope of controlling has been a very healthy thing for a lot of people I know.

I’ve been reading some interesting writing recently about how to grow wellbeing and happiness in our lives, and more specifically, the power of gratitude to increase happiness. I have a small daughter, so I’m particularly keen to teach her how she can nurture happiness in her own life. One thing many of these writers emphasise is how making a daily habit of stating things we are grateful for can create a sense of well being, and encourage the habit of savouring life.

Some people keep gratitude journals. And I am a stone cold sucker for nice stationery, so when I saw this puppy, well, the idea of keeping a book of things I am thankful for seemed all the more enticing.

But we as a family have chosen instead to go round the table at supper and ask each other what we are grateful for. Initially it felt contrived. Some days I struggled to think of anything I was thankful for. I was tired, I felt grumpy, work had been hard and I still had three hours of writing to do once I put the small person to bed. What had I got to be grateful for?

Well of course the answer in these situations is always, “so much, you self pitying twerp!”

As soon as I realised that, I begin to remember the good things, the little moments that illuminated a difficult day. I’m not talking about the bigger picture stuff, like the fact that here and now I am incredibly lucky just to have a job, a house and my family around me (although some days, believe me, when I say I feel grateful for these things, I really mean it). I’m thinking about the gilded instants that lift the whole. The moment when, walking home, the sun came out and the bellbirds started singing. The postcard that arrived from a friend. The hug that my daughter gave me when I picked her up from preschool. The little beautiful things. I’m grateful for them.

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