This week I tried a mindfulness-based practice that I've been calling the daily diary of good things. All it entails is writing down one small, pleasant experience each day and noting any associated thoughts or feelings. I was looking forward to this one, largely because it didn't involve actually doing anything other than kicking back and letting the good times roll.
Day one was a work day. I have two and a half 'child-free' days per week. I also have two regular employers, some freelance work commitments and a very short attention span; so time management is pretty key. This particular morning, I had one thing I really needed to do and 319 things I thought I might also achieve. None of those things involved conducting extensive research on the best scooters for two year olds (if you'd like any advice in this area, do feel free to get in touch).
After a morning of procrastination, I spent the afternoon working in Central London with similar levels of productivity. The tube was busy when I returned home, as apparently other people had been working there too (I don't get out much).
I find the whole experience of being pregnant on the tube quite awkward. It's tricky for others too I know: the whole 'is she, isn't she?' dilemma has people standing up then sitting down, then pretending they were just doing squats and having to keep it up until Waterloo.
I rarely wear one of those 'baby on board' badges, as I then feel even more embarrassed if people don't notice it. I did wonder about something a little more eye-catching; a plastic baby doll on a little bodyboard strapped to my head, for example. But it gets quite windy on the platforms and I had visions of a 'baby on the track' mass panic that could, on reflection, cause more embarrassment than sporting a small badge.
It was all very easy in the early stages of pregnancy, when the bump wasn't visible and I could quietly vomit into my handbag without anyone looking up from their phone, but seven months on it's a bit of an ordeal. When someone does eventually offer a seat I'm such a walking cliché of well-mannered Britishness that I automatically reply, "no thank you, I'm fine," in case anyone else feels bad for having not offered sooner.
Walking home, at the end of this unsatisfying and underproductive day, I wondered why I hadn't just spent the day with the toddler. Or better still, under a blanket watching something with Matthew McConaughey in it.
I became cross. I was cross because I'd planned my day so badly and squandered precious child-free time. I was cross that I didn't go and sit on the knee of the man occupying a priority seat on the tube without ever looking up (or simply ask for the seat: it's not that hard). I was cross that I hadn't completed the One Important Task on the to do list.
But mostly I was cross that I was now only able to picture Mathew McConnaughey in Dallas Buyers Club, which was not what I'd had in mind at all.
That evening, I pulled out the notepad that was serving as the daily diary of good things. Where to begin?
It was then that I remembered something I'd read in Laura Vanderkam's latest book, 'I know how she does it'. In it Vanderkam describes what sounds like a pretty hellish family outing involving traffic jams, tantrums and vomit. Or maybe that's a fairly normal family outing. But then she retells the story of the day; highlighting those moments that are full of fun and love, and free from bodily fluids.
I revisited my day, beginning with the sleepy cuddles and the goodbye kisses. I remembered how I felt when a friend shared a recent blog post, along with a lovely comment. I had a sudden vision of Matthew McConaughey in 'How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days'.
I couldn't decide which 'good thing' to write down. And then I walked past the toddler's bedroom and saw my husband holding our sleeping daughter in his arms whilst he cut her toe nails (a near impossible task when she's conscious). I was overwhelmed by his devotion, and I went back to get my notebook. I also placed my favourite nail varnish and some cuticle cream by the side of the bed, just in case, but as yet I haven't woken up to a surprise pedicure.
It's easy to get swept up on the wave of a bad day, but you can find good moments in every day if you look for them. Changing the narrative of your experience, to focus on the things that make you smile and feel good, is powerful stuff.
Throughout the rest of the week I enjoyed looking back over my days and reliving my favourite bits. Writing down those small memories was a lovely, relaxing thing to do; it's something I plan to continue.
Next week we are going to try 'follow the bird'; a mindfulness activity that is supposed to be great for kids. The toddler has been trying to catch a bird for ages - maybe this will be her lucky week.