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When Wishes Don’t Work

Emma Grey

“Sometimes things don’t turn out the way we imagine. This stuff happens. But not ‘every time’ as we sometimes convince ourselves.”

I was in Sydney over the weekend for a planning meeting for our musical (which we held at the Ladies’ Baths at Coogee, in an ocean pool, because why wouldn’t you?) On our way from the car park we walked past a fence covered in people’s wishes, written on plastic-coated coloured paper specially hole-punched for the purpose.

We had to do it. It was such a beautiful idea and we were in inspiration mode for a massive project that has about a thousand moving parts and will involve hundreds of people. Positive vibes would not go astray. The problem was there were no pieces of coloured paper left and, when we read the instructions, the wishing wall was for 2016, not 2017. 

That wasn’t working for us, so we scrabbled in our bags and ripped some paper out of a notebook, sacrificed a fine-tipped pen making a hole in it and stuck our wish on the wall anyway — out of place, the wrong colour and in the wrong year. And it felt great. 

There’s a 15-minute task in our new book about stopping what you’re reading, putting the book down and filling a bucket to soak your feet for a few minutes. We had to trouble-shoot it with instructions for what to do when you inevitably read the instructions and think it’s too hard to follow through. Here’s what we wrote:

Nope, not doing it.

Sometimes, the only bubbles you’ll notice are the ones made by your own excuses as they rise to the surface, asserting various reasons why you can’t stick your feet in a bucket, as simple as it sounds, probably followed in quick succession by, ‘This always happens! I can’t even do the first task.’

The ‘My 15 Minutes’ approach is about gently overcoming our natural urge to put things off at the slightest hurdle. It’s about challenging the self-talk that gets in the way of us pushing through obstacles, the ‘I’ll do it later’ promises we make to ourselves without following through.

This experiment is not about recreating the ambience of a five-star retreat, but about sitting down, slowing down and taking care of yourself — where you are, with what you have, for only a few minutes. If that means doing it with a toddler beside you splashing in a different bucket, do it. If it means doing it when you get home instead of now, do it. If it means doing it with plain warm water and no bubbles, do it. If you don’t have a bucket, use the bath. If you don’t have a bath, up-end a storage container and use that. 

Sometimes things don’t turn out the way we imagine. Maybe you’ll settle down to relax and your baby will wake up or the tweens will start squabbling, or your partner will walk in after a bad day, oblivious, and start ranting about the guy at work. This stuff happens. But not ‘every time’ as we sometimes convince ourselves, mid-whine.

Sometimes, when we give something a go and the experience is thwarted, part of us gives up. Bit by bit, we abandon the idea of making life nicer for ourselves because ‘it’s too hard’ or ‘it never works’. What we tell ourselves then is a story that chips away at our potential fulfilment. It’s a story we don’t have to buy and one that we have the power to change.

Next time there’s a nice little experience to be had and a couple of minor obstacles in the way — or even a massive experience and some sizeable obstacles — improvise and reap the rewards. 

Emma and Audrey’s new book, I Don’t Have Time: 15-minute ways to shape a life you love is available now. 

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Emma Grey

Emma Grey is the Canberra-based author of ‘Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum’ and ‘Unrequited: Girl Meets Boy Band’. She’s director of the life-balance consultancy, WorkLifeBliss and co-founder of a fresh approach to time-management, My 15 Minutes. She lives just over the ACT border with her two teen daughters and young son. More about the Author

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