Broke, lonely and overwhelmed by a sense of failure, Catherine Gray hit rock-bottom. But, as she reveals in this extract from her book The Joy of Ordinary, it took a surprisingly simple rethink to bring her back from the brink.
“When I was 33 I was suicidal. I had moved back home with my mum, had no savings to my name, no partner and was convinced I was going to end up alone. Left behind by all my happy, successful friends, I was increasingly sinking wine to an aesthetise my despair. However, a year later, I had become a totally different person; one who couldn’t imagine ever wanting to leave this life. How?
I decided to do two simple yet also fiendishly difficult things. First, I gave up drinking and then, because I knew alcohol would wind its way back into my hand unless I found a way to change mentally, I learned to locate the forgotten joy of the ordinary.
Being disenchanted with our ordinary lives is our default. ‘Enough’ is an ever moving target: you’re renting, so you want to buy; you’ve got a good job, now you want the next one. I wanted pots of money, a house with shutters and awards on my mantelpiece, a husband and three dogs. And until I got all that I reserved the right to be unhappy. But to counter my urge to drink myself into oblivion, I made it my mission to learn how to be default happy rather than default disgruntled – to turn myself into a positive-seeking searchlight, rather than a negative-seeking drone.
I learned how to mine wonder in the workaday. I discovered that if I don’t let ordinary pleasures slide on unnoticed, I can get a buzz just from watching a dog – Sam the staffie – swim at the beach.
Once you add together a grinning dog splashing around like a seal, buttery toast, getting a seat on a packed train – all the things that do go right in a day – it can mean an ordinary day begins to feel extraordinary.
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