Optimistic Nihilism

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Sixteen Small Steps to Happiness

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Sixteen Small Steps to Happiness

1. push yourself to get up before the rest of the world – start with 7am, then 6am, then 5:30am. go to the nearest hill with a big coat and a scarf and watch the sun rise.

2. push yourself to fall asleep earlier – start with 11pm, then 10pm, then 9pm. wake up in the morning feeling re-energized and comfortable.

3. erase processed food from your diet. start with no lollies, chips, biscuits, then erase pasta, rice, cereal, then bread. use the rule that if a child couldn’t identify what was in it, you don’t eat it.

4. get into the habit of cooking yourself a beautiful breakfast. fry tomatoes and mushrooms in real butter and garlic, fry an egg, slice up a fresh avocado and squirt way too much lemon on it. sit and eat it and do nothing else.

5. stretch. start by reaching for the sky as hard as you can, then trying to touch your toes. roll your head. stretch your fingers. stretch everything.

6. buy a 1L water bottle. start with pushing yourself to drink the whole thing in a day, then try drinking it twice.

7. buy a beautiful diary and a beautiful black pen. write down everything you do, including dinner dates, appointments, assignments, coffees, what you need to do that day. no detail is too small.

8. strip your bed of your sheets and empty your underwear draw into the washing machine. put a massive scoop of scented fabric softener in there and wash. make your bed in full.

9. organise your room. fold all your clothes (and bag what you don’t want), clean your mirror, your laptop, vacuum the floor. light a beautiful candle.

10. have a luxurious shower with your favourite music playing. wash your hair, scrub your body, brush your teeth. lather your whole body in moisturiser, get familiar with the part between your toes, your inner thighs, the back of your neck.

11. push yourself to go for a walk. take your headphones, go to the beach and walk. smile at strangers walking the other way and be surprised how many smile back. bring your dog and observe the dog’s behaviour. realise you can learn from your dog.

12. message old friends with personal jokes. reminisce. suggest a catch up soon, even if you don’t follow through. push yourself to follow through.

14. think long and hard about what interests you. crime? sex? boarding school? long-forgotten romance etiquette? find a book about it and read it. there is a book about literally everything.

15. become the person you would ideally fall in love with. let cars merge into your lane when driving. pay double for parking tickets and leave a second one in the machine. stick your tongue out at babies. compliment people on their cute clothes. challenge yourself to not ridicule anyone for a whole day. then two. then a week. walk with a straight posture. look people in the eye. ask people about their story. talk to acquaintances so they become friends.

16. lie in the sunshine. daydream about the life you would lead if failure wasn’t a thing. open your eyes. take small steps to make it happen for you.

-EmmaElsworthy.com

artwork by Lisen Haglund

The Decision to Love

I had a fleeting reminder of the fragility of life today when I narrowly escaped being the middle of a three-car pile up driving in the snow. We were all well spaced driving down a long hill when the car in front of me hit an ice patch at the bottom, fishtailed, and came to an eventual stop in the center of the road at the bottom of the hill. When I realized my brakes weren’t working, I made a half second calculation that my only hopeful option was to direct my car toward the narrow space between the car in front of me and a telephone pole. I made it but the car behind me had a far more difficult choice: hit me, hit the car next to me, or hit the telephone pole. They hit the pole! The driver sped off quicker than I could get out to offer my help and thank them but, whoever you are and wherever you are, THANK YOU – that last minute selfless decision spared all of us and I hope you find more ways to congratulate yourself than reasons to grieve about the front of your car.

I was on my way to a doctor’s appointment when this potential-for-pile-up occurred because I needed to see a physician about a skin rash that has settled into the deepest part of my skin graft scar on my right hand that I incidentally received from the last car accident I was in. This rash has been persistent for a month now and I know it’s because there’s some deeper healing work to be done that’s not of the medical kind but the energetic kind. I’ve been taking medications and treating it topically in vain thus far, which causes me to believe there’s something that needs to be addressed or, rather, renewed in order for real transformation to ensue.

I took to my journal to work out my thoughts to try to see what the Universe was trying to say to me today and it organically arose that I needed to write a letter to my right hand to help it heal itself:


Dear “Little Hand,”

We’ve been through everything together. You’ve created my most beloved artwork, written my most meaningful words, you’ve connected my body to the tools I’ve needed to direct my life, you’ve expressed my support for others, you showed me the unimaginable bliss of surrendering to others’ support, and more. From you I have learned about love, about life, about family, about friendship, about karma, about death, about healing, about the interconnectedness of all life on earth, about just how strong my will is to create, about the importance of blind faith, and about gratitude.

This gratitude for you developed over time and was nonexistent when I saw you for the first time after you had been (in the words of one newspaper) “brutally maimed” in 2010. When I first saw you, I vomited in disgust. I could not believe that you were a part of my body. The pain you caused me angered me. The thought of you never doing what I wanted you to do again scared me. Your ugliness made me cringe. These internal feelings of hatred caused me pain that I had never previously experienced and it occurred to me, “I’m damning myself from the inside.” And I traced that thought, “What if my body will never do what I want it to do again if feel hateful toward it? On top of that, will I revisit my hurt every time a person notices my scars or asks me about it for the rest of my life?” I sat with that thought and concluded that I would never heal if I held on to those feelings and I would effectively harden myself to help from others too. “But what if I loved my hand instead?” I asked myself. I believed strongly that I would heal if I loved every part of my broken body and actively looked (or sometimes made up – hey, why not) reasons to be grateful for it. I reasoned, “If changing my perspective doesn’t work and I never heal then at least I will enjoy my thoughts much more than I do now. I might as well try!” It was then that I decided and, moreover, vowed to love you until the day I died.

One of my all-time favorite memories with you happened a day after I made that choice when I was wheeled down the hall to the hospital psychiatrist who promptly greeted me with a question from behind his desk, “Have you mourned the loss of your index finger yet?” I replied in light of my decision, “No, I’m too busy celebrating that I still have a hand.” The psychiatrist was taken aback and asked if I thought I needed therapy. I said, “No, thank you.” Little Hand, you truly began healing after that…

Years have passed since then and you have done so much for me! You’ve regained all of your flexibility and strength against the doctor’s predictions, acted like a portal through which I could absorb all of the positive energy given to me by my tribe, you’ve carried the weight of my every day, you’ve brought visions I’ve had into the physical world, you’ve entertained my desire to learn to play instruments, you’ve protected me, you’ve served as a constant reminder of the power of thoughts, and you’ve brought so much to me literally and figuratively that I’m confident the list is endless…

When I was in my classroom just a month ago peacefully and playfully demonstrating how to own a body to humans in their rawest form (i.e. teaching 0 – 5 year old children), the students really began to take notice of you. They touched you, they asked about your skin graft that they call a “bandaid,” asked to see your four fingers to stare in amazement as they held up their own little hands for comparison, they kissed you in passing, and they held you often. They gave you unconditional love and, inevitably, germs too. Your little crack of dry skin invited these germs inside and that resulted in an infected cut followed by a temperamental rash that has worsened and remained for about a month… under a bandage or a glove… hidden away because, although fresh air may be what you need, seeing your strength compromised has caused me to revisit the fear, disdain, aloneness, and frustration that I combated so long ago on top of the fear of exposing others to the truth of that.

Energetically, if our bodies are reflections of our internal climate, this affliction surely must mean something. Sure, it could be as simple as “kids carry germs” and you are sensitive, which are correct enough assumptions logically but, metaphysically, why did this infection occur in response to their unconditional love in the most vulnerable square inch of you, the spot that has experienced the most trauma, the very nook that has lost all sensation? What does this signify that the most vulnerable piece of you, that I have been wrapping up and keeping to myself, has remained injured? I don’t know yet but I am answering the call to revisit my vow and to bring this emotive piece into the light where it has remained hidden as if it too has been undercover. I might as well try.

When I remind myself of what your presence has meant for me and my life as I have done through writing you this letter, I become so overwhelmingly grateful for you and your pain because when you’re not at your best I feel invited to bring out my best by returning to my decision to love you because you are hurt, ugly, and broken.

With all the love I can muster, forever,

Kelsey