I was recently at my company's annual conference. As usual we had a motivational speaker. And, as so often, it was someone we've seen before; we knew we were getting value from him.
"Tell me your story," he said. "Tell me your story as a tragedy."
Well, that's easy, isn't it? Suicide of my father when I was four years old, brought up in poverty within the household of an austere and puritanical grandfather, a temporary escape to university only to fall into marriage at twenty to an equally puritanical and emotionally abusive man. A painful divorce twelve years later, a career hounded by failure, a second and happy marriage blighted by miscarriage and then, the devastating diagnosis of bipolar...
Hey, wait a minute! Wait just one minute here! This is getting depressing…
"So, tell me your story as a series of parties."
Oh, I love parties. I remember the Christmas party held by the wealthy grandfather of my cousins. There was an enormous Christmas tree with a present for everyone: it was magical. I was four and I fell in love with the cousin of my cousins. I stayed in love with him for the next seven years, but he never loved me back (whoops – that's the tragedy story – sorry!). My sister's birthday is at the end of October and we had a fabulous Halloween party for her once, with a cauldron on the floor and black paper cats and bats all over the windows. The police stormed the Iranian Embassy on my seventeenth birthday (a party to remember as we were all glued to the live coverage on the TV) and I had a brilliant fancy dress party for my eighteenth. In my twenties I started writing murder mystery dinner parties and those were simply wonderful, and instead of a 50th celebration I did a 49th party with a theme of the 1849 California Gold Rush – fancy dress again. Oh yes, I do adore parties!
"Tell me your story from a romantic point of view."
"Tell me your story as a journey of faith."
"Tell me your story how your friends' might see it."
Then – when we thought he had moved on he asked us to look around the room and make a note of everything we could see that was red, and then close our eyes.
"Tell me what you remember that is green," he said.
You see, we have a very limited amount of brain processing power. If we concentrate on the parties, we can't focus on the tragedies. If we focus on the lost loves (oh my dears, I have many) then we cannot see the friendships.
I've made a discipline of focussing on and remembering the positives. It's purely selfish, I admit. You see, I want to be happy.
And I am happy. Even at the bottom of the bipolar cycle, in the middle of depression, fundamentally, I'm happy.
It's not an accident, it's a choice. Make it yours too. Go on, I dare you!
A Moodscope member.