Our Claire is feeling surprised…

Thinking back on the last year, one thought that keeps popping up is that nothing turned out like I expected. Back in January 2020, COVID was something happening somewhere else. I never expected it to come to the UK. Then, when it did and the death rates were so bad, my anxiety got a hold of me and I thought civilisation was on the verge of collapse. I certainly never expected that we’d get a vaccine so soon or the transformative effects it seems to be having. Nor did I imagine that I’d be feeling so positive about life right now. But, really, that’s the nature of life: nothing turns out like you expected.

This is no bad thing. Doing a little research on the internet, I found an article from The University of California that argues that the unexpected is vital to our existence. Apparently, “surprise works on the dopamine system in our brains, helping us to focus our attention and inspiring us to look at our situation in new ways.” It also states that there are four stages to being surprised:

  1. Freeze – when we are stopped in our tracks.
  2. Find – when we try to understand what’s going on/how this happened.
  3. Shift – when we consequently begin to shift our perspectives.
  4. Share – when we share our surprises with others.

However, as the pandemic has shown, not all surprises are pleasant. It is then that we’re tested and, hopefully, come out the other side stronger. Looking back on the last year, that is certainly how I feel. I’m on top of my anxiety and I’m feeling more confident in my abilities than I have in a long time. I also have greater confidence in society’s abilities than I’ve had in a long time. As a country, we came together when it mattered and we’ve met the greatest challenge we’ve experienced in our lifetimes. The conclusion has to be that we’re stronger together and so we should not let anyone or anything divide us. In fact, since this is the case, we should look at ways of bonding us tighter to make us stronger.

This may all sound pie in the sky but, as I’ve said above, it all starts with a surprise. So how do we avoid the humdrum and make our lives more surprising?

I think a great way is by doing random acts of kindness. For example, some coffee shops have ‘pay it forward’ schemes where you put money towards a cup of coffee for someone else. Another example is to chat to a stranger. A guy under the name of bemystranger, who I follow on Instagram, does exactly that. He’s made it his aim to talk to someone new every day of his life, believing it challenges xenophobia.

Cardboard bee hanging in a treeOne thing I’ve been doing of late is making pieces of cartoon art for people (see picture). They’re made of cardboard packaging that I had lying around that I thought may as well be put to good use. However, I didn’t want to force them on people. So I decided the kinder thing was to hang them outside my house for passers-by to take away with them if they wanted to.

But what’s in it for me? Well, as I’ve said in a previous week, doing nice things for others makes me feel good too. Plus, as the article states, “By embracing and engineering surprise you can make our whole world richer”.

One thing you can rely on, though, is that, whatever you’re going through, WHISC will be there for you. Their Listening Ear service is available by calling 0151 707 1826 or, alternatively, leave a message on their Facebook page with your phone number and they’ll ring you back. They are also currently in the process of opening up the Centre again and have a host of activities to get involved with. Visit the What’s On page for more information.