Category Archives: Challenges

Empathy Challenge

This challenge has a purpose beyond personal improvement. I’ve heard it mentioned more than once that psychopaths have taken over (since those who are willing to do anything to succeed tend to get into positions of power more than those who have empathy and a sense of morality) and are destroying society and the world. As psychopaths are obviously very successful, what can non-psychopaths do to win back the power? What do non-psychopaths have that psychopaths don’t? Empathy!

Once before when I had become a particularly cranky person I stumbled on some blogs about how practicing empathy can help you solve relationship problems and I decided to try it. I spent a very short amount of time (no more than 10 minutes probably) thinking about how my son and husband were feeling – imagining being them. And I suddenly wasn’t cranky with them anymore. In fact I was more cranky with myself. I remember that for a while our house was very harmonious.

I’m not sure whether having harmonious homes could make ordinary people powerful enough to take on psychopaths but because of the relatively little effort it takes I think it would be worth trying. If we have one weapon that psychopaths don’t, why not try to develop it and find uses for it?

I can imagine that the commonly used divide and conquer trick would be less effective on a highly empathetic population. I also reckon we’d be better at cooperating, which is necessary when you don’t have the resources of the rich psychopaths.

Anyway, so my challenge is to spend 10 minutes a day feeling empathy. I will choose a different person each day and I can choose whoever I feel like choosing. Probably I will choose someone who has annoyed me that day. And I will write about what happens.

When I decided to try this challenge I imagined that I’d conclude what I already suspected. That empathy helps us get along better and maybe prevents some kids turning into psychopaths so that it is a bit like planting trees. Effort is highest at the beginning and rewards grow with time.

What I didn’t expect was that it would open a whole new world, or that it would take me such a long time to be able to gather these thoughts and attempt to articulate them. Or that just when I was on the cusp of being able to do this I would hear someone else explain much the same thing (as usual, someone else got there first!).

I empathised with people close to me, people I hardly know and with infamous people that I have never met but think I know a lot about. Although I never intended to only empathise with people who had made me angry, that was what I ended up doing. It was scarier to empathise with people who are close to me than with people I’d never met because it meant I’d have to look at myself from their point of view.

When I empathised with people in my family it was always prompted by me feeling angry that I carry too large a burden. It is true that my list of things to do never gets shorter despite my best efforts and sometimes when I’m tired I wish I didn’t have to be responsible for anyone else. I never wanted to be a “homemaker”, but I do most of the housework and that is probably the thing that makes me most cranky. Women and especially mothers are the default carers and cleaners – unless they can find someone who will do these jobs for them they end up being the ones who are left with them. If it weren’t that housework has been given a lower status than other jobs I might not feel like I’m being downtrodden. If I hadn’t been encouraged to think that doing things for others was a burden I might not feel angry either.

Applying a bit of empathy made me see that:

  • I only notice the jobs that are left for me to do – not the ones that other people always do.
  • I actually enjoy most of the jobs I do and perhaps I am the one who gets the most out of them. Housework gets you moving and is a good break from stressing out at a desk job.
  • I love my family and I want to do things for them.

If you fear becoming a doormat or look down on people who are doormats you may fear that empathy will make you weak, and because we live in a society where competition is the focus (rather than cooperation) we all want to be winners and fear being losers. The trouble is that in any competition there has to be losers (usually more losers than winners). You may not agree, but I believe that being able to help is real power – more powerful and more satisfying than forcing someone else to do what you want.

I found that the rewards of empathy are immediate, and they benefit me. If you don’t like being angry, try empathy. It makes anger disappear. It doesn’t matter if you get it wrong when you imagine what the person who annoyed you was thinking or feeling. The important thing is that you imagine being that person because then you will understand that they probably had a good reason to be the way they were – or at least as much reason as you have for the things you do.

I’d even go as far as saying that empathy is a good substitute for religion for people who don’t like the idea of religion. What else is being left-wing really about anyway? Imagine if everyone in the world was really just the same “spirit” but inside different bodies and the different circumstances associated with that. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” seems pretty clear then.

When I am not spending my energy being angry I can use it to think about things clearly – to be able to see how the particular conflict fits into everything else. Is it trivial or important? When I’m not busy thinking about how wrong the other person is (though that is so tempting, and so satisfying in the short term) I can move on to thinking about how the conflict could be resolved. What outcome do I want? What outcome do “they” want? Is it possible for everyone to be satisfied? What’s the fairest compromise? How could the conflict have been avoided?

The thing I realise I cannot do very well (nor can most people) is work out what the core of the problem is and to be able to communicate it in such a way that I don’t just make people angry or defensive. It is easier to see how other people should have communicated to me than to be able to work out how I could have communicated better because my emotions get mixed in. When someone does something that upsets me or makes my life difficult I want them to know that I am annoyed. There is some satisfaction in telling them that they are wrong and being able to yell it out and for people to see that I am angry (and maybe look scared). But is that going to work? It will if they are scared of me. Otherwise it won’t.

An example of a conflict that could have done with a dose of empathy was one that I witnessed at a jumping castle. The lady in charge of taking money for the castle ($3 per child for 15 minutes of jumping) was telling a lady that her son had been on the castle for 30 minutes. The lady responded “What do you want me to do? Tell him to get off? You want me to tell him to get off?” and then she did tell her son to get off, and her other kid too, explaining loudly that the lady was wrong about him having been on there too long but that they were going anyway.

Then a man, who I assume was the father of the kids and/or partner of the mother, became involved. He told the lady running the jumping castle that the kids had only been on there long enough for him to go and get a Chai, which couldn’t have been more than five minutes, and then went on to say that the goodwill and community support she was losing by getting their kids to get off the castle was worth more than the cost of 15 minutes of jumping and that she was wrong. His voice was quite loud by the end and the lady in charge of the castle was repeating “Ok, I’m wrong” over and over, probably hoping it would make the argument end sooner.

After seeing that argument I realised how satisfying it is to be able to blame someone else for something that went wrong. Being able to personally convict someone of an offence and label them as a bad person (and having it on their record to influence future expectations) just feels like the right thing to do. And if everyone else is wrong, then it must make me being right even more special. But what about when someone does that to me? If one day I do something that isn’t nice (deliberately or due to thoughtlessness) would it be fair to be labelled as a bad person? Would I like people to say “Oh, but she’s just like that, what did you expect?”? If I annoy someone is it ok for them to say it was all my fault? Or to wish I hadn’t be born?

I can see the danger in someone who is being treated badly using empathy to let the abuser off lightly, and I’ve read how caring too much is the curse of the working class, so empathy is something to be used thoughtfully. It needs to be used more generously on those who deserve it than on those who do not. But if you have worked out that a person deserves empathy, I think it should be used on them. And it doesn’t stop there.

It was while listening to Bob Brown respond to criticism that he was just as able to play politics as others in parliament (http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lifematters/optimism3a-bob-brown/5646720) that I realised he’d already worked out that having empathy can make you stronger not weaker. In a funny way it makes you closer to the non-caring psychopath because when you can see through your anger to the facts you can be more ingenious and cunning – you become a more evenly matched opponent, but one that is fighting for something good.

One of the infamous people I spent quite a bit of time empathising with was Rupert Murdoch, because I am angry that he has such a large influence over politics as well as public opinion, and I think it is such a waste that such influence is used for bad instead of good.

I imagined a young Rupert Murdoch feeling looked down upon by the intellectual elite and thinking “I’m going to show you!”, and hasn’t he ever? Now money is a more powerful influence on political decisions than science or expertise. The intellectual elite are now all brains and no claws – able to know everything but do nothing.

I imagine the delight a kid who was not classed as intelligent by the kind of tests done at school when he grows up into a “bogan” who can afford a better house than a University Professor and I get cranky with the school system that focuses on competition, because that is not what life is about (it is about getting along with each other and getting things done TOGETHER) and because it means that most of the kids will end up feeling that they aren’t very smart.

No wonder there isn’t as much enthusiasm for limiting financial inequality as you’d expect. If you take away the potential for someone who has been excluded from the intellectual elite to become super rich then you are taking away the potential for them to climb the class ladder because they’ve been made to believe that you are either clever or you aren’t (and it can’t be changed), but that with hard work you can become rich. And you become sceptical of the motivations behind the quest for financial equality – it would mean that other kinds of inequality such as superior intelligence would become so much more influential.

Imagine if instead, science and other “academic” passions were more like gardening – open to anyone and embracing enthusiasm more than anything else. Maybe then Rupert Murdoch’s media empire would provide us with visions of utopia and practical ways to get there.

 

 

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Wagging Christmas

24th December,10:30am                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               I have just made a decision.  I’m not going to participate in Christmas this year.

I’m not a Christian and I don’t agree with obliged present-giving or forced merriness. I don’t see why I should pretend to care that it’s Jesus Christ’s birthday, and use it as an excuse to spend extra money that I don’t have on things that nobody really needs, and eat too much food that I don’t really enjoy, just because everyone else is.  I haven’t done any Christmas shopping yet, nor do I plan to do any. What a relief.  It’s simple. I don’t believe in Christmas, so I’m not going to celebrate it.

11:15am The more I think about it, the angrier I feel about the Christmases when I have been sucked-in to all that ridiculous last minute preparation. Desperately filling the fridge, buying last-minute unsuitable presents, menu-planning, worrying about having enough supplies.  And then there are the contingency plans based on the weather, or how many people end up coming.  For Goodness sake!  It’s not an air raid or a cyclone about to hit… It’s just another public holiday!

But there’s more to it than just the way Christmas makes people behave irrationally.  It’s the sneaky marketing and pressure that is deliberately put on consumers to out-do one another. Is it just me and my cynical outlook, or has Christmas become a competition about who wants to look like they care the most? Since when is love, compassion, generosity and appreciation for one another measured by how much money you can spend on presents or by how much effort you can put into creating extravagant meals? I think about all the Christmases where I have been made to feel inadequate and guilty for not making as much effort for my friends and family as they had done for me.  The fact that Christmas can be used as a marketing tool to make people feel “slack” or “stingey”, or even “ungrateful” for not spending as much money on crap as everyone else is, is wrong.  And the fact that marketers know this and do it on purpose, is evil.

I have spent all year preaching my anti-consumerist sentiment and criticizing greedy, ruthless, corporate behavior. I am NOT going to let my guard down now and let them trick me into participating in the biggest, most wasteful, consumer orgy of the year!

1:30pm I just called my Mum to tell her I would not be going to Christmas lunch tomorrow at my sister’s place. She wanted to know what my plans were instead.  When I told her I was protesting and planned to spend the day at home, she laughed at me, and told me who else would be going and the lovely time I would be missing out on.  I had a momentary vision of myself as a crazy, lone demonstrator, wearing a sandwich board and opening a ring-pull can of sardines to the sound of self-indulgent laughter, champagne corks and Christmas crackers and the smell of grilling meat.

Oh no you don’t… I can see what’s happening, and I’m not going to be a sucker for family peer-pressure!  They can laugh, but I will not be a hypocrite! I have integrity, and I intend to stand up to what I don’t believe in.

1:45pm I’ve been thinking that in the interests of maintaining my dignity, I will keep a low profile over the next couple of days.  That means no Facebook, and I intend to turn off my phone after I call my sister to let her know that I won’t be going to her Christmas lunch tomorrow. This will help me to avoid awkward Christmassy seasons greeting with friends, and stop me from making self-righteous little speeches and announcements.  I will simply put Christmas out of my mind altogether and carry on as if it is any other quiet Sunday.  If people in the street wish me a Happy Christmas, I will smile and say “I don’t celebrate Christmas, but thank you”.

2:15pm I’m planning to call my sister soon to tell her I won’t be coming.

3:30pm Still working up the courage to call my sister.

 5:45pm I just called my sister and told her. She was fine about my decision, and laid no guilt-trips on me whatsoever.  If anything, I felt like I was laying a guilt-trip on her.  I suspect she secretly wishes she could do the same.

9:30pm Ok, phone is switched off, and that’s all the communication I’m going to do until people get over their Christmas fever.  I will confess though, I did go on Facebook very briefly this evening, but only to share a link to the Zeitgeist Moving Forward movie, as a subtle hint in favour of my protest .  I’ve spent more energy on Christmas than it deserves already, so that’s all I’m going to say on this topic for now.

25th December, 10:15am It’s a gloriously sunny day with a fresh breeze.  Perfect for doing my washing.  Housemates have all gone elsewhere for the day, whole house to myself, phone switched off… Bliss!!

12:15am I’ve had a productive morning painting, doing my washing, and sun-baking.  Might cook myself a nice lunch of lentil stew with rice…mmm

1:15pm I just went for a walk and saw a fat kid, already drunk on too much sugar, waddle out of his front door, only to trip and fall down the steps with his hand in a box of Cheezles.  Very quiet out there today, apart from a couple of stressed-looking people unloading eskys and bags of ice out of the boots of their cars. Suckers.

3:00pm My brother just called in on his way to my sister’s place. He looked very unimpressed and unsurprised by my protest. I suspect he was thinking that this is just another one of my excuses for a no-show at a family get-together.

5:35pm I just finished listening to Zeitgeist Moving Forward as I paint. I went for another walk earlier. It’s a very spooky atmosphere out there today with everyone hiding away in their bomb shelters. The only audible sounds of life are drunken and oblivious, muffled behind brick walls, stereo speakers and backyard fences.  I feel like I am the only one who really knows what’s going on.  It’s eery.

I saw a Santa walking down the middle of the road earlier this afternoon, wearing dark sunglasses and carrying a long umbrella under one arm.  There isn’t a cloud in the sky today, and it’s hot.  Far too hot to be wearing a full length, fleecy red suit in the sun.  It suddenly occurred to me that this Santa could easily be hiding a fire arm inside that umbrella…

I was back on Facebook again this afternoon just briefly.  Long enough to share another YouTube video with John Lennon singing “So This Is Christmas” over shocking footage of people in war zones, maimed in hospitals, and laying out corpses.  Most of the corpses are infant sized.  Lots of close-ups of grief-stricken faces.  The usual cliché, but it felt good.  My friend John commented on the link I put up yesterday, warning me to watch out for that Zeitgeist crowd, and wishing me a merry Christmas (Bless him).  Bad Boy Donald put his status as “Merry kiss ma ass!” (Love it).

7:15pm My housemates have returned home sunburnt and exhausted, while I’m feeling quite sprightly and cheerful.  Ha ha, they are both tucking into my lentil stew and comparing stories about packed trains, misbehaved toddlers, boring bus rides and embarrassing comments they made.  My painting is coming along quite nicely.

26th December, 12:15am                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Well, I made it through another one, and now we have Boxing Day hangovers and New Year’s Eve to look forward to. With my Inkling challenge successfully completed, I feel now I can rightfully take off this morally superior straightjacket, and go back to being my normal, obnoxious, careless self.   Hey, where’s that champagne?  Here’s to Christmas being over for another year!  And thanks for the soap nuts, and the Kindle, and the lychees and dark chocolate macadamias! And loving the ergonomic meditation stool!  And sucked in that I didn’t get you anything!  Hahahahaha!!!

26th December 3:30pm There I was feeling all cocky about getting away with wagging Christmas and getting an Inkling Challenge under my belt, only to have my challenge refused by The Inkling for not being challenging enough!!  What?!!  I don’t know anyone else who has the guts to protest against Christmas! I thought it was a pretty cool and original challenge. But no.  Apparently just doing something that I wanted to do anyway, and using the challenge part as an excuse to get away with it is not a valid challenge…  Doh! The Inkling did, however like my idea and thought it was entertaining enough to publish, but I needed to add an after thought.  How can I make my challenge, or the original idea more challenging?

28th December 4:22pm I’ve been sitting here licking my wounds and thinking about how to salvage something from my failed challenge.  A real challenge for me would be to make Christmas a beneficial, enjoyable experience, which celebrates all the original good-will that Christmas intended, without over-indulgence, insincerity or waste.  I was talking about this with my sister yesterday.  We were remembering how special Christmas was to us when we were kids because it was the one day of the year that we were “allowed” to eat lollies and chocolate and get non-essential “presents” of things that we were meant to enjoy!  Not just boring things like school shoes, or other things that we needed for school.  Christmas was the one day of the year that we actually did get spoilt!

Today though, there’s nothing very “special” about eating junk food or getting useless novelty gadgets.  For most Australian children, and adults, these things are regular weekly, or even daily activities!  The only thing that makes Christmas Day any different, is that we are encouraged to do so much more of what we normally do, to kid ourselves into feeling like it’s a special occasion.  But really, there’s nothing very special about doing more of the same thing.

Maybe I could begin some new Christmas Day activities that really are special, because nobody ever does them at any other time of the year. And preferably these new Christmas Day traditions would be low consumption, fun and encourage togetherness and sharing.

The first part of the challenge would be to come up with ideas for new Christmas Day Traditions.  The second part would be to actually practice them myself, and encourage my family to participate with me.  If those two steps can be completed successfully, then I can try the real challenge of encouraging others to do the same and reinventing Christmas back into the special, fun day it was supposed to be.

I’m prepared to count my failed wagging Christmas challenge as a temporary set back, but not a complete flop.  So stay tuned for the come back!

Anonymous


September 2011 Challenge

A Week Without Makeup

My challenge began rather accidently and continued mostly out of laziness.  On Monday morning I woke up in bed with a new man and decided to get up before he woke so I could put on a bit of makeup, just enough to not feel overexposed.  I had  showered the previous night just before going to bed, so as yet he hadn’t seen the real me, nor did I have any  intention of letting him do so.  I quietly emptied the contents of my handbag twice looking for my mascara, but eventually had to accept that I must have forgotten to put it in my bag to bring after using it the day before. Shit! So there I was, stranded in this man’s apartment without any makeup on my face, and none to put on, and him about to wake up and catch me like that at any minute!  I considered making a run for it, but then remembered how difficult that could be without a swipe card to get me out of the building. I was trapped.

Okay, all I could do now was to gracefully take it in my stride and not let it bother me. I had to think naturally beautiful thoughts and feel confident in my own skin.  I put on some lip gloss and combed my hair.  My reflection in the mirror, with the pale yellow sunlight of the morning making me look radiant, was friendly. I felt a sudden release, then forgiveness, like I was rediscovering the grown up child within me that I had been ignoring for so long.  Meanwhile, as I sat there basking in my revelation, he gasps suddenly, rolls over, looks at his watch, swears, throws back covers and stumbles into the shower without so much as a glance in my direction.

Over the next few days I felt no need to “dirty” my face with the black stuff which I realized I had been doing to myself daily.  What a treat to skip this tedious morning ritual! Why had I never questioned it before? I felt fresh and honest.  My face could breathe. I saw the vulnerability of my made-up face, which inevitably, as the day progressed, would end up as smudgy shadows, accentuating the bags and sitting stubbornly in the wrinkles under my eyes.  Tinted sunscreen and lip gloss gave me all the “protection” I needed.  Even then I felt a bit like I was cheating.

I attended my appointments confidently, defiantly removing my sunglasses in-doors and looking other made-up faces supremely in the eye.  I felt self righteous in my nakedness.

On Friday my ex-boyfriend called round to say hello.  Apparently he was back in town for a few days to collect some things before moving permanently to another city.  He was clean shaven, with a new hair cut and diamond stud in one ear.  I noticed he was wearing the black jacket I had told him he looked good in and was heavily perfumed.  He smiled broadly when I opened the door, but then his face changed.

“You look different”

“You look different too.”  I replied.

“Have you done something?  I don’t know… Your eyes look kind of swollen, like you’re tired or something.  Did you just wake up?”

It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

”No.  It’s probably just because you haven’t seen me for a while.  How have you been?”

“Yeah good… You look different.  There’s something different about you.”

“Yeah well, I don’t think we should see each other anymore.  I’m over you and I don’t really want to see you again.  I have a new boyfriend anyway, so…”

“Yeah, I just came over to say hello, that’s all.”

“Okay then,… Hello… and bye.  Take care of yourself.”

Door closes.  Damn!  What’s come over me?  I had never been able to do that before.  Was that because I had always been too obsessed with looking attractive to be really conscious of my true feelings or to be able to express them adequately?  I felt cool, calm, confident, and satisfied.

I broke my no-make- up diet on the following Tuesday night when I went out with a friend to see a movie.  There was a real novelty in dressing up and putting on a bit of “bling” for the occasion.  It felt good to lash-out and wear a bit of make-up and notice the boost it gave me.  I definitely look more attractive with make-up and I don’t think I would ever want to give it up completely. Although it is nice to know that I quite like my face as it is too, and I don’t need to feel ashamed to hide it.


July 2011 Challenge

We challenged Simon to make something functional from rubbish.

CHI-CYCLING: THE CONCEPT

Everyone knows recycling. Welcome to Chi-cycling. Chi  (pronounced ‘chee‘ and sometimes spelt Qi) is the traditional Chinese idea of life force or the energy that flows through everything. Chi-cycling is about combining what you already have in new ways to create something useful by adding the vital impulse of human imagination. Recycling can turn used plastic packaging into new plastic packaging.Chi-cycling can turn used plastic packaging into anything. It can turn a cardboard tea box into a wallet. In a few seconds it can turn a humble paperclip into a funky Scandinavian-inspired incense holder.

THE CHALLENGE

I was challenged to build something out of recycled materials that I would otherwise put in the bin. I decided to build something I’d been thinking about for a while – a vertical garden – out of plastic packaging and supermarket ‘green’ bags. I love apples and it seems bizarre to me that some apples are sold in large rectangular plastic boxes. One of the beautiful things about fruit is that it needs no packaging. I decided that these boxes would be my basic building material and over the course of two weeks ate lots of apples.

Materials

BACKGROUND

A vertical garden is a garden that is geared for the metropolitan landscape where space is at a premium. Many plants are climbers and can happily grow in the vertical plane. Walls can become living walls. This idea is starting to gain traction in architecture and expect to see more and more of them in coming years. Hanging gardens are one aspect of this vertical movement and involve sets of garden beds one underneath the other allowing excess water to flow with gravity from the higher to the lower ones.

OUTCOME

The challenge went well. You can see all the building materials in the first photo and the final result in the others. Building this vertical garden did involve tying more knots than your average Inca quipu but the plastic green bags retain the knots well with little slipping. I did some strength testing on it before adding the soil and was surprised by just how strong the whole thing was. During this phase I decided to make it a hybrid structure that was part vertical garden and part fruit basket to add some colour to the room while the greenery is growing. Lower to the ground where there is more light I planted sage leaf, a curry plant and a flower. If you love making things out of things too it would be cool to hear from you.

Top of vertical garden

Fruit holder

Plants

OTHER POSITIVE EFFECTS

Chi-cyling is definitely an uplifting experience and its the same part of you that sees the wallet in the tea box that sees the opportunity in the crisis and the silver lining in the cloud: the part that senses the possibility for transformation. So why just think outside the box when you can grab the box and turn it into something awesome!

Simon

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June 2011 Challenge

We challenged a lady, who will be known as “L”, to give up swearing for a week. L cares for a toddler who has recently started to talk, so you can imagine why swearing might be a problem.

The toddler I’ve been looking after has been saying swear words such as ”bl@@dy h#%l”,….followed by “I hate it!”, and I cringe when I hear him say “Bl@@dy, f#*#*ing s!*t!”

I’m being held responsible, hence the challenge I have been given to stop swearing, and to at least take notice of what makes me swear.

It’s not as if I swear loudly in public. It’s just sometimes loudly in home situations. At other times I swear to myself, under my breath.

On the first day of the challenge I noticed myself swearing as I did the dishes at the toddler’s place. First, when I found that the cold tap had been turned off so hard that I couldn’t turn it on.Then I swore when it was hard to fit a large saucepan into the sink, and I burnt the back of my hand on the hot tap. When the dishes were finished I swore when the plug was hard to pull out, and I swore again when, on another attempt, a spoon was in the way.

There was more swearing during the day, then on the way home on the train I swore to myself when I tried to get a Fisherman’s Friend out of my handbag, and the three big bags on my lap, whose straps were all over my shoulder, got twisted up in front of me. Then, when I went to get up from my seat to get off the train, I swore to myself because the three bags took up so much room that it was hard for me to squeeze out. Because of all my bags I went to exit the station via the wide barrier gate. I swore to myself when I found it closed, then swore again when my valid ticket didn’t make it open. When the young man ahead of me began to talk to the attendant at the gate I swore to myself because now I would have to wait to show my ticket, but, taking things into my own hands I just pushed back the barrier with one hand and got out.

That evening I swore when I picked up my empty plate and a spoon fell off it, although I had calculated that it wouldn’t.

Over the days numerous things kept making me swear,….my keys getting caught in the handles of a plastic bag, a door lock that is infuriatingly difficult to open, ….usually inanimate things that don’t behave the way I think they should, and that seem to be out to get me.

Today it was loose mats protecting the carpet that caused the most havoc. I kept on catching my toe under various mat edges, and once I almost went sprawling on the floor. It was enough to make anyone swear.

I now realise that I have conflict with inanimate objects because I’m not sufficiently observant, or in tune with them. My mind is on other things.

I’ve tried to not let the toddler hear me swear, but it’s too late. He has learnt to swear, and yesterday, when I wasn’t there, he was heard to say loudly, and indignantly, when the brick he was playing with fell on one of his fingers,…”Bl@@dy, f#*#*ing s!*t!!”

What have I learnt from the challenge? I still think that swearing does me good sometimes, but to give it up I will have to learn to “go with the flow”, and try to be in tune with things, rather than fighting them, and reacting angrily when things seem to go wrong. Reacting angrily is a worse example to the toddler than the swear words I may say.

What’s wrong with a bit of unpredictability and chaos anyway and why should they make me angry?

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