Happiness 3: the Ghana edition

I wrote the next ten additions to my happiness list on an aeroplane, flying to Ghana for a gathering of colleagues from across Africa with a shared vision for people-centred land governance: the International Land Coalition Africa‘s Annual Regional Forum and Assembly.

I wrote in my journal that night, “Here I am again, miles above the earth, filled with the usual joy and thrill of being between departing and arriving; suspended in a magical bubble.

I fly towards a new country, with few expectations other than to be surprised by many things that I can’t predict, but wish to simply enjoy as they arise. There are people to meet, things to see and learn, adventures to have and pillows to sleep on I couldn’t imagine if I tried.

Behind me lie my home, my family; friends and spaces I shall enjoy intensely on my return. Ahead lies simply the new, the unexpected.”

And so, my happiness list continues to grow….

  1. Flying towards new adventures.img_8699
  2. Flying home to my beloved family.
  3. Sitting miles above the earth, capturing my thoughts in words.
  4. Seeing how we try and understand or at least express something of our human experience through so many forms of art.
  5. Writing.
  6. Sharing things with my children that have a great deal of meaning for me, particularly from my childhood.
  7. Feeling my chest tight with love.
  8. Going with the flow.
  9. The excitement of a work vision having some concrete steps closer to reality.
  10. Trusting my instincts, and seeing that the trust itself, and the letting go it enables, is often a catalyst in itself.


ghanaI’m writing now from my hotel bed, on the eve of flying home again after a wonderful four days of intense learning, engagement, and connection. The things in my heart as I write that fill me with happiness are:

  1. Exploring some of the colours, scents, sounds and unique experiences of places new to me.accra-gbawe-royal-family
  2. Meeting a wide range of amazing people from diverse countries, some of whom are likely to become and remain friends and connection, some of whom I will probably connect with from time to time, and others who I may never see or speak to again but am so grateful to have met.ilc-africa-2016
  3. Getting back to a sense of balance and certainty after having briefly felt off course.
  4. Catching myself wanting to drive others along with me in a process in my own excitement and desire to move forward quickly, and noticing in time to be able to slow down and keep the process moving forward collectively without pushing or dragging others with me.
  5. Listening to what my body wants, being gentle with myself, and finding relaxed and restful spaces.
  6. The excitement of knowing I’ll be back home in my own bed, with my beloved family, in less than 24 hours.
  7. Exploring new (to me!) local dishes.
  8. Conversation that integrates the personal and professional seamlessly and comfortably, just as the two are intertwined in our experience of life.
  9. Mementoes, particularly ones I can wear that remind me of travels and people and I love.
  10. Panoramic views that provide the thrill and beauty of wide perspectives.

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Happiness contd.

Picking up where I left off in my first list of things that make me happy, here are the next additions:

  1. The connecting messages, emails and phone calls I sometimes received from loved ones after writing blog posts.
  2. Birdsong – outside my window in the mornings, in the early morning dark when out running, or in unexpected corners of the city. If I pause and pay attention there are birds just about everywhere.
  3. Films that open the door to new perspectives and insights.
  4. The loud and tuneful chorus of frogs from the valley on a warm evening, always louder than I can believe.
  5. Hugs. Just losing myself in a hug.
  6. A big gulp of refreshing, cold lemonade straight out the bottle.
  7. Seeing joy and excitement on my kids’ faces (how does anything compare to that?).
  8. Changing my perspective and seeing my way through things that felt almost impossible.
  9. Morning cuddles with my boys, burying myself in their warmth and scent and sweet arms wrapped tight around me.
  10. Reading favourite books from my childhood with my own children.
  11. The rare pleasure of really connecting with a new friend, slowly relaxing into conversation feeling completely safe and uncensored, and enjoying the flow as the hours drift by.
  12. The look of pure happiness and love in my dog’s eyes when I stroke his nose or give him a tummy rub.
  13. The daily contentment of living in a home I truly love, and knowing there is nowhere else in the world I would rather be settled.
  14. Losing myself in a book I can hardly put down, completely connected to the characters and their world.
  15. Conversations with friends in distant places, always just a message away.
  16. The rare joy of a fast and stable internet connection.
  17. Lovely gifts from thoughtful friends and family.
  18. Finding and truly believing in a ray of hope and optimism in a difficult situation.
  19. The moments when I can take a deep breath and, with true and deep acceptance, say, “It is what it is.”
  20. Waking up slowly and gently from a long, deep sleep, feeling rejuvenated and sleepily satisfied.


Inspired by a post called ‘Things that Make Me Happy’, I was amazed at how many things on her list resonated with me, and thought it would be fun to write my own list! So, since I am stuck in bed with a fractured ankle, and keeping my thoughts on positive things can only assist with my patience and healing (especially after a tough day), here are the first twenty. I’ve been interested to note how many of these have shown up in my past gratitude lists, as my intense and conscious pleasure in them never seems to diminish, no matter how often I enjoy them.

  1. Lying in a hot bath watching the steam play with the sunlight.
  2. Family chatter around the dinner table.
  3. Weekend pancake-making with the kids.
  4. Watching the moon on early-morning winter runs, feeling the fresh, chill air and loving being just where I am.
  5. Messages from friends when things are tough.
  6. Engaging and stimulating conversations in unexpected contexts.
  7. Falling into sleep wrapped in the warm delight of the body of the man I love close against me.
  8. Being able to offer love and comfort during difficult times.
  9. Singing along to favourite songs.
  10. Warm sunshine on my skin, especially when the air is crisp and fresh.
  11. Finally getting things done that have been on my to-do list for a while.
  12. Relaxing with lovely people.
  13. The relief of tackling a problem that has been worrying me in the background for some time head-on, and finding solutions, or at least ideas for ways forward.
  14. Breathing into the pleasure of a massage, feeling the muscles releasing and relaxing, and knots unwinding.
  15. Watching favourite old films and remembering why I love them so much.
  16. Absorbing the fleeting beauty of skies lit up with the rich colours of sunrise and sunset.
  17. Friends – enjoying time together, connecting when far apart, and just having them in my heart.
  18. Climbing into bed when it is deliciously toasty from the electric blanket, feeling safe from the chilly night air.
  19. Watching my kids having fun doing crazy dances, or joining in the fun.
  20. Pausing to consciously appreciate the rich pleasures of savouring flavours and textures on my tongue.


This month I have been grateful for…

Watching my boys do the robot dance to their current favourite song, Better When I’m Dancin‘, smiling to myself with the purest happiness.

Spending time immersed in creation in the kitchen, not rushing to proIMG_4143duce a meal but simply, slowly enjoying the process of exploring new flavours.

The determination, dedication and commitment of my colleagues.

Conversations and readings that lead me to fruitful self-reflection.


The fun of family board games, and introducing the kids to some of my own childhood favourites.

Finally being able to satisfying my children’s longing to play in snow again.


Solidarity and partnership in the most unexpected places.

Rich conversations and new connections.

Productive and enjoyable work meetings awIMG_4248ay from the interruptions of the office, exploring new coffee shops and delightful corners.

Finding beauty in the smallest things.

Returning to a book that gifted me with rich new perspectives, and finding it just as rewarding to engage with as ever.

Loving my first trail run, and being so grateful I chose to slow down and support an injured friend rather than rush to the finish line, despite finding it a challenge when my body felt fresh, strong and ready to go.

1000 Hills Trail Run 2016

Getting better (at times) at calming my busy mind, and being consciously present and content.


This week I am grateful for…

FullSizeRenderThe pure sensory delight of the gentle winter sunlight coaxing my skin to a satisfying glow whilst wrapped in the taste and scent of rich, smooth coffee, with the soothing sounds of Moby in the background.

My youngest bouncing through onto my bed with his stuffed, knitted and stitched animal friends, charming me with delightful stories about what mischief they get up to at night while we’re sleeping.

The fleeting, captivating colours of sunrise.

Sunrise in Salt Rock

Buying my first pair of red shoes, painting my toenails red and noticing the light joyfulness of how brave and happy I feel wrapped in strong, bold and beautiful colours. It feels like an outward expression of greater confidence in showing my true self to the world, regardless of how how I might be judged or criticised.

Quotes that feel perfectly supportive of where I am, and what I wish to remain aware of: “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make.” – Jane Goodall

Finding more courage each time I tackle difficulties at work directly, clearly, jointly and with determination, and see that far from creating conflict it often opens the door to more creative solutions than I could have found alone.

Relaxing in the bath watching dancing steam-angels with light joy and deep contentment to be just there, in that moment, in this life.

Hugely supportive feedback from someone I greatly value and admire at a moment in which I had lost sight of what I have achieved, and how much faster I can often now regain my inner clarity and choose not to get defensive when feeling under attack.

The reminder that sometimes things need to go awry to motivate us to tackle deeper, underlying issues that we’ve been avoiding or not noticing.

The incredible support of one of my dearest friends, far away in London but only a moment away thanks to technology, throughout the week. There is such a deep sense of safety in having friends with whom I can be completely raw and honest about the darkest of my shadows, and still feel completely wrapped in love, acceptance and support.

Breathing in the greater sense of clarity, integration, growth, strength and happiness washing over me this morning after a tumultuous few months.


This week I am grateful for…

The soothing company of Passenger on the road.

A very tough and enjoyable Pilates session well before dawn this morning (my first in many years), finding great satisfaction in feeling my muscles stretch, strain, and still hold me with greater strength than I thought they could.

Laughing out loud to myself with pure happiness, thinking that I have seldom believed life could contain so much contentment and satisfaction.

Finding new depths of peace with a process that hasn’t gone as I had hoped, but has delivered immensely constructive knowledge and connections nonetheless.

Enriching conversations that opened me to new ideas and perspectives.

Returning home after three early morning runs, seeing dawn start to lighten the horizon with a smile of tired satisfaction.


The tight excitement in my chest when I think of impending events, visits from loved ones, and many other joys in the coming months.

Sleep. Deep, glorious, peaceful sleep without the restless dreams of work that have disturbed my nights for many exhausting weeks.

The messy, fun, sometimes stressful but ultimately satisfying process of making gingerbread men with the kids, and laughing together at their crazy colours and jelly-tot eyes and buttons – because jelly tots were all we had🙂

Cosy, beautiful new slippers that warm both my toes and my heart.

Watching the gorgeous sunset colours flow from subtle oranges to eye-catching pinks and purples this evening with a welcome sense of peace, knowing that after a great deal of hard work we’re prepared for the exciting weekend to come as we host and play at the Durban International Canoe Polo tournament.



This week I am grateful for…

A wonderful birthday weekend spent with family and loved ones, with just the right mix of winter sunshine, delicious food, adventures, rich autumnal colours, visits to favourite haunts, conversations, exercise, gorgeous gifts, and happy children.

Birthday Collage 2016 2

My first 5:15am run with a new running group, after which I felt strong, inspired and content.

Finding my acceptance of whatever may come just in time to handle a work disappointment in a calm and constructive way.

Watching the growing confidence and independence of my children with quiet delight.


Making time to write again.

The precious friends that hold space for me to just be me, with endless love and acceptance, as I do for them.

Friendship 2016 2