I’ve always been comfortably agnostic about star signs. Load of old nonsense. Probably. But, then, I’m also your classic Libran. I’m all about balance and fence-sitting and harmony.
Whether it is politics, business or general gossip I am notorious for my wishy-washy lack of conviction.
I worked for the same company for 16 years. My CD collection is untroubled by music from the 21st Century. I still HAVE a CD collection, for God’s sake. I’m the guy in the pub who gets shot down for saying: “But has anyone ever really listened to what Katie Hopkins has to say?”
So it’s fair to say I’m not the sort of person you would expect to take mad leaps of faith or do things on a whim.
This is not to say I am content with everything. I am self-aware enough to feel occasional frustration at my inability to be impetuous. To seek out new things and throw myself into challenging situations.
But two things happened to me in the last week that really got me thinking.
Firstly, our cat went AWOL. Well, she’s still a kitten really: Dopey, ingenuous and extremely loving. Seemingly incapable of taking on the urban jungle of Buckinghamshire’s fifth largest town on her own four paws.
My stomach started to churn with worry when she missed her dinner and didn’t come into our bedroom and sit on our heads as we tried to sleep. Then, when she still hadn’t returned by the morning, we went full-on nuclear in our panicked response. We crashed social media. We stuck ‘Missing’ posters up all over town. We mobilised the cat lovers of Chesham (every town has one - they are like the Justice League but with scratch posts and rubber mice).
We were sleepless, bereft, sick with worry - but we were also whirlwinds of activity. We knocked on doors. Checked ponds, streams and the side of roads. We were making difficult decisions hour-by-hour out of sheer necessity.
Of course, 48 hours later, she bounded through the catflap of her own accord. Nonchalant. A little peckish. Utterly unrepentant.
Relief and joy flooded through me. I’m not ashamed to say my eyes got a little damp as she released herself gently from my embrace and wandered off to find a biscuit.
Just before the cat incident, I ran a half marathon. I suppose it is the classic distance for a man of my obsessive equilibrium: more than a fun run, but less likely to result in cardiac arrest than the London Marathon. The course was undulating. Much more difficult, I thought, than the flat tracks I usually plump for. I reasoned I’d just try to get round in one piece without pushing the pace too hard.
What I hadn’t bargained for is that the hilly terrain was actually faster.
For every hill I slogged up, there was a beautiful downslope on the other side. I breezed along with the wind in my sails, getting a glimpse of how Eliot Kipchoge must feel. The last mile was all downhill and I coasted to a personal best time without the usual gritted teeth and creaking bones of that final push for home.
And, if you will forgive the rather tortured analogies, I guess that’s the rollercoaster of life.
It’s a bit like work. Or relationships. Or anything. The flat course is fine, but sometimes humans need highs and lows too.
My good friends at Smarter Not Harder talk about this a lot in their productivity sessions. One phrase that has stayed with me is: “You need to eat the frog.” If you have a “To do” list, you need to knock over the hardest one first. And you need to fo it fast. Rip off the plaster. Take the plunge and do something difficult before it has a chance to gnaw away at you and impact the other things in your life.
Once you’ve done that, you can enjoy the downslopes all the more.
It’s hard to feel euphoric when things stay the same. What was once comfortable can soon stagnate. Many companies I work with have the same philosophy about challenging the status quo. Aiming for higher highs even if there is a risk of failure or disappointment.
So, I guess I’m going to try and be less change-averse in my own life. Eat a few more frogs. Who knows - I might even go and apply for that marathon!
Now, if you will excuse me, I’m just going to go and board up my catflap.
We crashed social media. We stuck ‘Missing’ posters up all over town. We mobilised the cat lovers of Chesham (every town has one - they are like the Justice League but with scratch posts and rubber mice).