Happiness First

“ Just a perfect day ,problems all left alone
Weekenders on our own, it’s such fun
Just a perfect day, you made me forget myself
I thought I was someone else, someone good

Oh it’s such a perfect day
I’m glad I spend it with you
oh such a perfect day you just keep me hangin on
you just keep me hangin on”

Lou Reed

I remember exactly where I was when I first heard Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’, it was in the grounds of Kilshane , which is now a fancy boutique wedding venue, but back then it was the old Holy Ghost Novitiate. It was a beautiful September afternoon and a few of us were lazing in the grass after a strenuous morning’s praying, meditating, and pretending to listen to a talk on theology.

I had a red twin deck Aiwa cassette player and was playing Big Country’s ‘The Crossing’ album and Ray French said it was terrible and asked if I had anything else. I flipped to the other deck and played Simple Minds ‘Sparkle In The Rain’, which Ray said was worse. I was crest fallen, as I’d taken both out to try and impress Ray, as he was the eldest of us, and was Scottish, hailing from Kirkintilloch.  The other chap sitting with us was John O’Connell, who was effortlessly cool, smoked, and when Ray was berating me, nonchalantly took a  C60 tape from the breast pocket of his denim jacket, and handed it to me, took a drag of his cigarette and just nodded towards the tape deck.

I took out Big Country and replaced it with John’s tape of what proved to be Lou Reed’s transformer album. I hated it. He couldn’t sing, there were no stirring choruses…and then the third song started , Perfect Day, and I was lying in the grass, without a care in the world and the song hummed along with me.

Yes, yes, I know that the album has trans/drug/jolly good time/gay vibes, but I was 17 and these things largely went over my head.

I always think of that day and my Soulmate when I hear it. Why my Soulmate ? Because I was thinking of her then too.

This week, for no particular reason, I got into a bit of a funk. I was getting stressed about things that I had no business being stressed out about. I was getting anxious about things that I have absolutely no control over, and things that never annoy me, annoyed me.

I can’t recall what started it.

Many, many moons ago I attended a business retreat…yes, I know, ironic, started out this story studying to be a priest and sacrifice everything for my fellow man, and we’re now at the ‘what can I get from everyone’ stage. Anyway, at this business retreat, the visiting guru, who’s name escapes me now, gave us a talk on what triggers us. It was a small group, and we all trusted each other, so everyone was open and honest, and when he started to go around the room and asked each of us what word describes what triggers us, each of the others had it worked out. Each one was different, heartfelt, and full of meaning. I started to panic as it was getting closer to my turn. I think I was sitting next to Robert, and I didn’t hear a thing he said because I was having a panic attack.

The room was silent. I looked up and the guru was standing in front of me , looking at me expectantly.

“I don’t know what to say.”

“Tell me about a situation where you , in hindsight, feel that you over reacted and maybe we can work it out together ?”

I said OK, and then frantically tried to recall over reacting to anything, because I’m usually right about everything and everyone usually goes along with what I say….yes, yes, I know that was delusional, but I was under a lot of stress, the economy was collapsing, and I had a god complex that meant I was the only one who could fix everything….

I became aware that the room was silent again.

“Anything come to mind ?” the guru asked, slighty less patiently than the last time.


“Yes ?”

I think the others were now leaning forward in their chairs.

“Well, last Saturday we were going to the cinema…and , this will sound silly, but the kids were messing in the back seat, and I could half hear their chat, and Jake and Elliott were teasing Robyn about something, I can’t really remember, but I could feel her getting annoyed and I barked at the boys to stop and apologise to her. They were all dumbstruck, Robyn included, and all stared at me in fear. I felt terrible….”

“And ?”

“That’s it. I overreacted to a simple , and good humoured as it turned out, teasing between brothers and their sister.”

“Why did this trigger you ?”

“I don’t know, it was just…”

“Just ?”

“I don’t like people picking on other people.”

“But they weren’t.”

“ I know, but…”

“But ?”

“I just…she was getting upset and….”

I started to cry.

Proper crying…snorts and everything.

I was mortified.

“Appreciation. That’s your word.”

“What ?”

“What triggers you is others not appreciating someone, not even necessarily your own, feelings or viewpoint. Does that make sense ?”

In that moment it made perfect sense.

“Yes !”

Everyone was nodding and smiling at me, and there were a few ‘Good man, Pauls’. I felt euphoric.

“And there was this other time…”

“Thank you Paul. Richard ? What triggers you  ?”

And my moment had passed.

The point of the exercise, I think, was to realise that you are getting annoyed by things, and think of your trigger word, and hopefully not get so annoyed.

I only ever think of it about three days later.

Today I went to see my reflexologist, yes, yes, we’re almost full circle now, idealistic people saving priest, megalomanic business thingamy, and now open to everything, and she , an angel named Edel, said I was generally good, but that there was a lot of calming required.

I did my best to be cool , calm , and considered with everyone I met for the rest of the day.

I let my Soulmate take the thorn out of my paw.

I let Tuna fall asleep on my lap.

I mowed the lawns.

Lou Reed’s perfect Day came on randomly on the best playlist in the world EVER.

I threw sticks and an “eternity” dog chew for Molly.

I made tea.

I drew a card for a tiny friend’s birthday on Monday.

And as soon as I finish this I’m packing my bag for a weekend in Salamanca, and having a bath.

Be kind to yourself.

Be kind to others.

Your, and others, happiness first.



P.S. This is for everyone who needs it…which is everyone. The BBC’s version of ‘Perfect Day

Author: paul

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