Somehow during the summer break I was persuaded to join a community writing project that is taking place in my local area. It is all to do with our sense of well-being and how we achieve it. During the course of the next few weeks, we each have to interview people who live locally and find out their views on the subject, and how they personally maintain a feeling of well-being. The first task all members of the group were set, was to write an autobiographical or biograpical piece. Here's mine....
When it was suggested that the theme to write about this month was on 'well-being', something inside me blanched. The subject seemed too complex, too serious, and way too personal. Of course it didn't have to be personal; I could just as easily write a factual piece explaining what I thought well-being meant to others and what, in the day to day running of their lives, gave them a sense of well-being; how it affected what they did; how they interacted with others. But I didn't feel comfortable with that. It felt too cold. Too impersonal. My writing has to come from the heart.
Plus, I wasn't altogether sure what the definition of 'well-being' meant. Was it purely our health? Our contentment? Our state of mind? The environment we live in? Or a mixture of all these things?
So - just as I thought I would have to - I looked deep down into the dark and dusty basement of my mind...I'm not altogether sure I like what I found lurking in the shadows, but I'll share my findings with you none the less.
The first thing that I discovered about myself is that the basis, the foundation if you like, of my own personal sense of well-being, is built on a thick layer of selfishness.
It's all about me.
Evelyn Waugh is quoted as saying: 'I can't quite explain it, but I don't believe one can ever be unhappy for long provided one does just exactly what one wants to, when one wants to.'
The more I read and re-read these words, the more I agree with them; I only seem to be truly content, truly happy, when I am doing whatever it is I want to do in the particular moment of time I have chosen to do it in.
But does this make me selfish?
After all, if I am happy, contented, at peace with my inner self, then I am liable to be much more approachable and tolerant towards others. So surely this is a good thing.
Then we come to the bricks on top of my foundation of selfishness. These are made up of the company I keep, the people I surround myself with.
I have never been one to suffer fools gladly - this I know. I do not like to be surrounded by people I deem to be foolish.
So, to keep my sanity, my sense of well-being if you like, I tend to cull the people from my life who threaten my contentment. Life's too short to be bothered with company that frustrates me, that ruffle my feathers of well-being. I am quite an anti-social person at heart: I am never lonely or bored when I am in my own company. I never feel more relaxed, more content, more at ease in my mind, body and soul, then when I am alone. When I feel depressed, sad, or just generally fed up with life; being on my own, listening to my music in a quiet room filled with the soft aroma of scented candles, instantly restores my feeling of well-being.
I am lucky in the sense that I am a fairly laid-back person. I wear my heart on my sleeve. Everyone knows where they stand with me: when I'm angry I shout; when I'm happy I laugh; when I'm sad I cry. I don't tend to brood or sulk - not for long anyway - and I think this contributes a lot to my contentedness. It would seem to me that people who hide their feelings deep within themselves, keep them locked away like hard cold lumps of stone, must be truly discontented. I would not beable to function with this heavy inner burden. I infuse my life with friends that make me feel good, and rid myself of those that don't.
Does that make me callous as well as selfish?
Finally, but most importantly - to me at least - is the environment I live in. We've already established that I like peace, quiet and solitude. I would not flourish well amid noise and bustle. Living in the centre of a town, or even in a busy street with houses on either side, and to front and back, invading my much-needed privacy, I would simply wilt and fade. My sense of well-being would be torn to tatters. I need to be able to see space and sky. I need to feel like I am, to a certain extent free; that I am not part of the scurrying rat-race that pushes us forever forward with ever increasing speed.
Living on Sheppey, never more than a five minute drive away from where the vastness of the sky meets the vastness of the sea, is a huge bonus to me. Watching the motion of the waves, hearing them lap at the shingle, restores my sense of well-being far more quickly than any tonic or remedy ever could.
And of course, within that environment are the my family and close friends. These people are extremely important to me and important to my sense of well-being. I am not the sort of person who particularly cares what anyone thinks of me. I will do what I want, and say what I want, regardless of the fact it could unpset others...except to those I hold dear. I like to think I am a loyal, trustworthy daughter, sister, mother, wife and friend. And I expect this in return. To be out of sorts with any of my family or close friends is probably the one thing that affects my happiness the most. These people are the crown, the roof, of my contentedness.
My inner peace
My sense of well-being.