Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Cloud Nine Makes a Decision

Revolutionary idea: today* (5th March) I decided to be happy.

(Or should that be: I decided to decide to be happy.)

(A bit like when I was 17 and I sort of decided to 'decide' that I was 'pretty'.  Enough people had said this about me (like, 2 people) in situations which made me think that I could just believe that this was objectively true. I cannot describe how nice it feels when you make the decision that you are not going to be relentlessly negative about yourself and your looks anymore, and that you're just going to accept a compliment and make that compliment part of your story. But that's another story for another day.) Today's resolution: I decide that I am happy.

That morning, I was mentally composing a letter to an internet agony aunt (Dear so-and-so: I'm feeling low. I don't have a 'real job'. I'm nearly 35 and I don't have all the things....) - and was going over my arsenal of tricks to keep the freaking out at bay (Self-help book!... Affirmations!... Turn the negative into a positive!... Flip it round!... 'I'm so stressed about not having a job = I'm so excited not to have a boring job!'... Visualise success!... and so on). In the evening I went for a late swim, repeating nice things to myself in my head as I swam back and forth. I felt better. All of a sudden, the thought just popped into my head: I decide to be happy. I decide to be excited about everything.

(Day to day, I'm pretty happy. I wander around smiling to myself and find myself feeling pretty damn happy about things like a whiff of fresh air, a flower growing somewhere, a nice cup of tea. Sometimes I think about the things I'm trying to do - my 'portfolio career', as it's been described - and I get excited about the endless possibilities of everything.

Then other times (like the times when someone mentions mortgages, or when you accidentally agree to split a huge bill when you only had a starter, I feel sad and I think but how, how can I be happy when there is THIS...)

And then, this week, I just thought: is it like that thing where you literally DECIDE that you are happy, and it's true because you make it true?...

I'm doing a 30-day challenge, found in an old magazine, which is actually about developing business ideas and making stuff, but I might throw this one in: I decide to be happy. I am going to make a conscious effort to be happy more often - deliberately, consciously, unapologetically.

Will report back and let you know how it's going.


*those words were written 'today' when 'today' was 5th March. That's now technically 'yesterday', but I decided to keep the wording, because those are nice words to have in your head. Today I decide to be happy. 

Monday, 5 March 2018

Quote of the Day

'...There's always more work to be done, always something unfinished. But take a moment every now and again to look back at what you HAVE accomplished. What you see might be a pleasant surprise.'

(Thank you unknown commenter on an internet thread!... Love you!...)

CN xx

Saturday, 10 February 2018

"I call it a breakdown, my therapist called it a spiritual awakening': TED Talk on ''Vulnerability'

Not much new stuff to say, except that I happened to just now find and re-watch the Brene Brown talk on 'Vulnerability' online (thank you, lovely blogger who embedded the link in your blog for me to find - in your lovely blog where I have pleasurably been spending my time)

Love Brene Brown, especially when she makes her joke about the 'spiritual awakening'. Lol.

Things I took away from her talk (which I knew already, from previously visiting her talk and from the ton of self-help books I read in those dreary final months of PhD-writing just to talk myself back in from the ledge): daring to show your 'excruciating vulnerability' is good for you.

- People who have 'a sense of worthiness, a strong sense of love and belonging' are 'people who BELIEVE they are worthy of love and belonging'

- This takes 'courage'; Brene Brown defines 'courage' as being able to 'tell the story of who you are with your whole heart; tell the story of how you are imperfect'.

- 'Let go of who you think you should be in order to be who you are.' (In my case: 'should be' - better, more put-together, more successful, properly employed after PhD, earning better money. Instead, I 'am': precariously employed, not putting PhD to any use, earning not-so-great-money [which I immediately spend], no conventional trappings of success to speak of despite good education and every possible material advantage under the sun...)

- 'Embrace vulnerability... What makes me vulnerable makes me beautiful'. (does it?...)

- 'Let ourselves be seen' (I certainly have done, a little bit, on this blog, except that I hide from you all behind my anonymity, obviously. But I did lift a little corner of my soul on here.)

- And she says there are a few other things we must do if we want to be like the people in her research who turned out to have the strong sense of worthiness: and these include 'to love with our whole hearts even though there's no guarantee', 'to practice gratitude and joy', and 'to believe we are enough.'(FYI I have a reminder in my phone that goes off on a certain day and tells me 'You are enough.' But that's another story.)

So I'm listening to this whole talk again, and it's just as relevant as it was whenever it was that I heard it before, and I'm jotting down these snippets from it, and somewhere in my head I have had a voice that's going 'I'd like to write my blog again... really want to write blog again...' - so here you go. Today's post is old wisdom from the internet.

(So this is currently my story: I have a PhD. Since finishing my PhD I have not found a good job. I offer nothing, can give my partner or future children nothing, except my own sense of wonder, and fun, and kindness, and the handful of things I do well, and the joy I take in the everyday. I can cook them dinner and listen to them and I can make them laugh, and help them find their keys; that's about all. I've always thought - been convinced, even - that 'this is just temporary' and 'one day I will have a great career' and 'one day I will definitely earn a ton of money' and 'just give me a chance and I will show you that I can be the nice, compassionate, fun, loving person you know me to be AND I am also going to be very famous and earn a shit-ton of money which we will enjoy together. Any area of life in which I currently fall short WILL all get straightened out, for sure!'... What if this is all there is? What if embracing the 'that's all there is' is the only way to not hate it and not be forever dissatisfied with it?... If this is all there is, for the next year, five years, ten years, will you still want me and want to be with me?...)

I also like a TED talk by a lady called Tracy who talks about embracing who you currently are in terms of 'marrying yourself'.  For richer for poorer, for better for worse...

Those are some of my thoughts today.

Happy weekend everyone!...


Saturday, 13 January 2018

Happy New Year!...

Dear Readers of this blog,


If you are finishing/ starting/ otherwise dealing with a PhD, I hope the coming year will bring more happiness, more pleasure at your own competence, and an increased sense of 'yes I can do this'.

I'm now off to watch some football, and thereby continue with an otherwise lazy Saturday; but I plan to come back and show my face on this blog more often in this coming year. (Today, for one thing, I have been thinking about my 'usefulness' in the world, and this blog is one of a few places where I have felt useful. Keep those comments and questions coming!...)

Here's to lots of nicely written PhDs and/ or nicely published BOOKS in 2018!...


Cloud Nine

Friday, 6 October 2017

For those of you who have just FINISHED A THESIS...


Here is a little blog post I wrote when I was musing on my own beautifully finished thesis, one sunny October, not so long ago.

(I added that quotation at the end just now, by the way.)



Happiness in academia

Lovely article which I read this morning:


In a nutshell:

 - Don't compare yourself with others; moderate your expectations; be kind to yourself, and practice self-compassion; don't be too concerned about getting that promotion, or loads of money; and meditation and 'savouring' [the moment] are very helpful.

(You heard it all here first.)


Dr Cloud Nine

Tuesday, 12 September 2017


I went to an amazing art exhibition recently, on a very famous artist. (You’ve probably heard of the guy; he goes by the name of Raphael.) (Erm… I’m sorry, I’ve got no idea why I’m being all patronising all of a sudden.)

If you stopped by the entrance of the exhibition, and you looked at their little timeline of important events in Raphael’s life, you would notice that Raphael’s year of birth was exactly 500 years before mine (here’s to everyone born in ’83!!!…) So I felt an instant affinity with Raphael. (He, too, would have been one of those ‘millennial’ types, like me. Or something. You know what I mean - he would have lived his life with similar milestones to mine, a turn of the century as he came of age, and so on…)

And then if you did some maths (which I did, and it always takes me a little bit of time), you worked out that… Raphael was only 37 when he died.

I am 34.

I stood there for a bit and considered this, and I thought to myself: … live as though you only have three years of your life left. This thought has occurred to me before, now and again: none of us know how much time we have left on this earth. I could be hit by a car tomorrow and my life as I know it could be over. I could get cancer tomorrow. Today might be the healthiest I’ll ever be. Today might be the happiest, richest, most carefree, most productive I will ever be. You just can’t know these things. So when people tape postcards to their fridge that say things like ‘Live as if this is all there is’ - this is what they mean. Live as if this is all there is. Live as if you only have three odd years left.

(The Barbara Sher book which I have mentioned on this blog before asks you exactly this question: ‘What would you do if you had six months to live?’)

This is all a bit tricky. On the one hand, we don’t know how much time there is left and we should live each day as though this is all there is. On the other hand, I am occasionally brought up short by the panicky thought: Oh my God I don’t have a retirement plan!… Oh my God, I haven’t got a pension!… That six-months-to-live question, whenever I consider it, always brings me tremendous clarity: I always know exactly what work I would desperately want to bring into the world if I suddenly found out that I have limited time to get my best work out there. And I know that, if I needed to, I would beg, hustle, be pushy, and never hesitate to draw on every single contact and advantage I have ever gained in my miserable little life, if I ever thought that this would help me achieve my goal. 

Interestingly, though, whenever i do this exercise, I always end it by thinking: but I CAN’T do that in real life, because if I did only have 6 months to live, then, d’you know what?… I wouldn’t have to worry about money. I would’t have to think about safety nets and paying bills and retirement plans and the future. I would only need to get by for six months. I could just plan to live off my savings, and sit down and do the work I want to do, and it wouldn’t matter if I got paid for it or not. It wouldn’t matter. And it does matter to me now, in real life, because I need to pay bills. And I need to think about the future. And so I find myself distracted by needing to look up occasionally, and accept paying jobs, and fill in job applications. And then I wonder why I’m not spending as much time as I should on my own important projects.

The eternal conundrum. Do I live as if this is all there is - ignore the I-don’t-have-a-pension voice, assume I might die at any moment, and just throw myself into living life in the now?… Or am I actually being very foolish if I do that, and will I look up in 20 years’ time and see all my friends comfortably moving on with their elegant lives, while I still have to scrabble round for low-paid contracts to survive?…

I don’t have an answer. And I don’t have any advice, either. (I don’t even know what is right for myself; let alone what anyone else should do…)

Anyway, I’m going to try to strike a balance. I once read an interview with an actress who was maybe in her fifties, sixties (forgive me, famous actress, for I can’t remember the exact things you said…) What I remember very clearly is that she said that she tries to live as though she were still 27. Whenever she is offered an opportunity, or a challenge, that might make her think ‘I’m too old; I can’t do that; I should have done that years ago, now it's really too late’ - she tries to respond to the invitation as though she were still 27. I love that idea. I’ve been trying to copy it.

So: I’m 27 (though really sometimes I’m also 34); I might live another three years; I’m going to make that three years the nicest and the most productive ever; I’m going to live as though this is all there is.

(But I’m also secretly hoping that, if I do that, maybe the next bit - the ‘if you build it, they will come’ bit - will fall into place too. Maybe if I just focus on doing my best work, someone will eventually pay me for it.)



CN xx