As I’ve discussed in previous posts I’m very pre-disposed to a certain world view. This is fundamentally that ‘There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.’
Those sitting and waiting it to arrive and making no effort to be happy will be waiting a very long time – as the paradox of this state of mind is often that you yourself have to generate and nurture it for it to exist and be maintained.
Ultimately it’s a personal choice.
In the same way that negative people will always manage to find confirmation that their downbeat worldview is correct I (try to) belive that positive things will happen and also that people are fundamentally good.
Spreading positivity wherever you can and being kind to people breeds more of the same (often much more – and in unexpectedly large amounts) which will come back when you least expect it, and usually when you most need it.
This was far from my mind though when I was abstractly browsing the internet the other night.
In the background I was also semi-watching a nature documentary on BBC1 called ‘Spy in the Wild’ (here on iPlayer for people in the UK).
It’s unique selling point was that it sent lifelike animatronic puppets with hidden cameras out into the wilderness to sit with and observe packs of animals – in this case Meerkats, Wolves, Hippos and Chimpanzees.
I became more interested when the narrator (David Tennant of Dr Who fame) stated that the film makers appeared to have debunked previous anthropological theories concerning pack animals and how they functioned as a group.
These long held views had focused almost entirely on social hierarchies and worked upon the premise that such groups functioned solely through dominance, which was often violently asserted in order to be maintained.
This programme was instead presenting an alternate viewpoint, because what the animatronic wolf cubs, hippos and meerkats had been recording in these social groups was quite different.
Although these animals did have leaders that used physical power to maintain their position they also presided over a caring social collective where parenting was a group activity.
This shared familial responsibility in the pack meant that from a very early age babies formed deep bonds with each other and all of the adults.
It was THIS (the programme argued) that made them survivors rather than the rigidity of their hierarchy. Fundamentally they wanted to look after each other and to help when a member of the pack was in danger because they cared about one another.
It was friendship.
In the past I’ve always just accepted the (rather bleak) social dominance theory of Alpha pack leaders and that it was this alone that enabled the survival of animals in nature.
Instead however – here was powerful evidence that even in the brutality of the wild friendship and generosity were far more important to the continuation of a species than power and control.
Particularly in the last twelve months I’ve had continued re-affirmation that we get the best from each other in groups – especially ones where we are ‘lucky’ enough to find bonds of friendship.
But friendship isn’t really ‘luck’.
It comes as the consequence of spontaneous act of kindness, generosity or sharing – and it’s through these actions that we bond and find common purpose.
I’m part of just such a collective at the moment – my slimming group.
It’s almost impossible to underestimate how much harder losing weight would have been without these people – and I’m glad to have walked (mostly randomly) through the right set of doors all those months ago.
Today I stood on the scales, nervously waited for the result and eventually heard the confirmation that I had lost 3lbs and won my ten stone certificate.
However – although there are multiple victories to be found today (the 28th is a big day for me), I think that the TRUE prize I’ve secured is being reminded (as we all sat and talked) that without the support of these lovely people continuously I don’t think that I’d have reached what I believe may be the next stage of my mental battle to keep moving forward.
Up until now it was all about numbers – and I was chasing losses. Now – from here on it’s going to be about gains.
I don’t mean that I plan to put all the weight back on – I mean something else entirely.
Like those meerkats in the documentary, in this group I’ve gained friends. I’ve gained a sense of perspective from listening and sharing. I’ve gained the ability to carry on even when the task at hand seems insurmountable. I’ve gained the capacity to appear flawed in public both physically and emotionally – but not see it as something to be embarrassed about or as a sign of weakness.
Instead it’s strength.
In life (as in Slimming World) because of all this I’m gaining every day.
I’m gaining my health back. I’m gaining a longer life. I’m gaining the hope of future relationships. I’m gaining employment opportunities that aren’t hamstrung by fears about seating, standing requirements or the size of a uniform.
My gains are now my goals and they are for the first time outnumbering my losses in importance.
I’m going to forge ahead with exercise as my main objective now and if I do gain weight in the process I intend it to be muscle rather than fat. I have to fill my skin with something after all.
It’s about time I had a few of these. They really help with pickle jars.
Without good people around me in private and public I couldn’t have done this – and I’ll never forget ever again (sadly I had done) that there is no way to happiness because happiness is the way.
Oh. Just one final thing internet. I wrote half of this post whilst on my exercise bike. You’ve just (for the first time) read seven miles of hill climb.
(Drops the mic)