Ninjas, Mousetrap and laptops. The pointy end of news

Dear reader, I can only apologise for my tardiness this past week. I have been somewhat distracted by matters of the heart and broken laptops. I am back now, and hopefully, you’re pleased to see me!

The assault on my January finances has continued apace. Not only did I need to sell a kidney to set up my website, but then my laptop decided it had had enough too. Poof! An eye-watering £280 later, and I’m back in business. I have a solid drive now, (very expensive, but very fast apparently) and I intend to make up for lost hard drive time. Or as I like to call them, Earth minutes.

This episode has most definitely been in the not-so-good news category and intersecting on the critical financial mass subsection. However, it has, cheerfully given me food for thought. Which is just as well as the cupboard, dear reader, is very empty.

I’m thinking about good news. Not the kind of ‘And Finally’ news piece about an adventurous badger and a pub beer garden, but actual good news that comes into our lives. Maybe an envelope lying on the mat that contains the news the scan was clear. Or a list pinned up on the notice board crammed with exam results. A cross on a pregnancy test. A Yes from a proposal. A phone call from an estate agent telling you the house is yours. A surprise birthday party. A winning lottery ticket. A phone call offering you a dream job. All these things and more. How do you take them dear reader?

Do you accept them like the poem If by Rudard Kipling:

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, And treat those two impostors just the same;

Treating good and bad news with the same heart. Or do you grasp them differently for the emotions they conjure?

If you are a pessimist, or maybe a realist, you may not be able to celebrate the good news for fear it will not last, or that almost certain disappointment is waiting round the corner to bite you on the bottom. You don’t want to risk a wounded pride by pulling your shirt over your head to celebrate the goal you’ve just scored only to find out seconds later that you were offside.

I always find it interesting how sportsmen and women deal with both winning and losing. Especially the fact that the two emotions are not so clear-cut. A great sporting victory comes at a physical and emotional cost. It’s a relief when it’s over, but too much can be invested in winning to sometimes be able to enjoy the moment. It’s been longed for for so long. Worked for so hard with utter dedication. Dreamed about, and now, it’s happened. But you can’t believe it. Tears of vexation spring in Andy Murray’s eyes. Federer on the other hand is more in the Kipling camp.

Why do we feel this way? Why is it hard to believe? Hard to accept the praise. Do our brains slow down and go into hibernation just to protect us in case the outcome is unpalatable? And then, slowly peek out, glancing side to side to make sure the coast is really clear before releasing the party-popper of a smile.

It wouldn’t be done to celebrate on the offchance it’s not actually real. Like poor Miss Colombia, wrongly told she had won the Miss Universe 2015 crown. Ouch how totally crushing.

Those awful reality singing shows where the acts are given the rollercoaster treatment. It could be you, no it’s not, oh wait we changed our mind you’re back in, no sorry you’re not good enough, goodbye.

Our poor fazzled emotions.

My children always question good news. They say ‘really Mummy, really?’ Is this because I tease them habitually or is this natural hesitancy?

I remember staring at both GCSE and A Level results with the same disbelief. One was very good and the other, excruciatingly, hospitalisingly bad. But I looked at the thin sheets of paper with the same countenance initially. Until the thrill or stomach-dropping reality truly hit home.

It’s a bit like the game Mousetrap, balls have to run down chutes, comedy hands knock a bucket over, and the ball continues its course, until the mouse is captured under the big plastic net. Maybe it’s the same with our thought processing. Lots of little silver balls running along corridors in our mind with lights pinging on. A mind-map navigation before it’s rung-up on the till as ‘good news…yay!’ Or ‘bad news, bugger’.

Think if you ask ‘Really?’ When told the car passed its MOT or you don’t need root canal work.

Is the first stage of news, to not believe the news? This gives us time for processing. But then, what of the opposite? The bad news? Is that easier to hear and digest? Is bad news actually far more digestible?

Stages of news

  1. Disbelief
  2. Protracted disbelief
  3. Seeking out counsel on the disbelief
  4. Gradual dawning reality of news
  5. Further introspective disbelief and questioning
  6. Dry run of seeing how it feels to believe the news
  7. Final acceptance of news
  8. Repeat steps 1–7.

It may be an English trait. Our cynicism. Our love of irony. The almost pleasure I had in bemoaning my laptops demise.

It is an ex-laptop, bereft of life, it rests in peace, it’s shuffled off it’s mortal coil and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible. You had assured me that it’s total lack of movement (and strange whining sound) was due to it being tired and shagged out following a prolonged squawk.

Sort of thing.

It is true we all like a good moan and tale of woe to really get our storytelling juices flowing. How delicious to get stuck into a really depressing account of the latest in a seemingly unstoppable run of bad luck. It’s so nice and comfortable on the pointy end of life. Much better than all that soft, rounded good news. Much rather sit on a spike thank you very much!

I am happy to report that I have had some good fortune lately (not the financial kind, you understand), and this has been a hard pill to swallow.

Yes, I am grinning like an idiot most of the time, warmed by an inner glow of completeness. But I do not find it easy to accept these glad tidings and happiness. I’m looking for the small print, dear reader. The bit that says, subject to you thinking everything is going rather bloody well, watch out for the carefully balanced water balloon on the top of the bathroom door. The quick whip of a smack across the buttocks of relaxation. Just when you think it’s all going swimmingly, your metaphorical hard drive coughs and splutters, pirouettes elegantly and then folds and shrinks into the ground, steam rising, melting and shrieking. The death throes.

And there I am, again edging out like an SAS commander, checking the corners, blind spots and hiding places. And, nothing. There’s nothing there. Everything is actually ok.

The only thing that was amiss was my acceptance of good news.

Dear reader, I hope you can let your good news in without a drawbridge, cctv, security system and ninja moves. It’s so much better to enjoy the moment rather than worrying about it suddenly buggering off. Chances are, if you entertain it, it will come and stay and sit by a roaring fire with you, gazing into your eyes, letting you win at cards and not wanting to let you go.

Yours, Carolina