A different breakfast

It was a cold November morning. We had agreed to meet at 8.30 at Versailles (probably the oldest – and most beautiful – café in Lisbon) for breakfast. It opened in 1922 and is richly decorated in an Art Nouveau style, with a predomination of gold and mirrors and a look of older times. I’ve been going there for many years and I still love it. Besides – it has the most wonderful “duchesses”, small cakes with pastry and “crème fraiche” that are unique. Fortunately they have them in miniatures, so that we may taste them without feeling we are committing a terrible sin…

I was meeting Nora, a colleague from another company but with whom I had had a friendly relationship for quite some years now. She was in that category of friends you meet while at work but with whom you develop a closer relationship – you occasionally meet for lunch, you talk about other things rather than work, you have certain complicity…so we had agreed to meet for breakfast on that day.

Nora is a gentle, empathic girl (she is some ten years younger than I). She arrived with her broad smile and we ordered croissants and tea. Then inevitably talk derived to work and I found myself opening my heart to her.

The last year had been a tough one for me. There had been many changes in the company where I worked and I felt excluded from decisions where I had once been involved. I felt I was losing ground and I was reacting badly, I suppose. The more I felt I was outside things the more I alienated myself and the more I showed my discontentment. The problem was there were really no alternatives and although I had really looked for them none came round (the huge crisis Portugal was facing did not make things easy). And as time went by I found myself complaining more and more about my life, while Nora patiently listened. She looked surprised to see me like this, as I was always the optimist and the strong one. But I was feeling far from that – and most of all I was really feeling sorry for myself.

Then it was her turn to speak. And when she spoke, it was a different Nora from the one I knew – well, maybe not different, only so much more. She revealed a side I had not known existed – that of a very sensitive person, a person who is attentive to others and willing to help. But, most of all, very, very wise.

And that wise person told me I should not feel sorry for myself; she asked me to think of the good things I had in my life and to count them (making me remember Granny who, when seeing us in a sombre mood or complaining, would tell us “count your blessings!”); and then she asked me about the good (there must have been some!) things I still found in my work. Last but not least, she told me the worst thing one can do is complain; as we will attract more and more unhappiness. On the contrary, if we face setbacks with a positive attitude it will be so much easier to overcome them…this and many other things she told me during that different breakfast. And then she told me I should read an incredible book where I would find all this and so much more: “You can heal your life” by Louise Hay.

As I walked to work I kept thinking of what she had told me, and of the many things I had heard from her. Already at home, I looked the book up at Amazon.uk and decided to order it. At this point I really wanted to read it and, when it arrived a few days later, I eagerly went through its pages and, with a pencil, underlined the sentences that seemed to give an answer to my questions and doubts. When I finished, I went back again and again to those underlined pages and kept reading some passages over and over again.

As Nora had predicted, this book has helped me to heal my life. With Louise Hay’s philosophy I learned that “we are each responsible for all our experiences”, that our thoughts are very powerful, and they can be changed, that “resentment, criticism and guilt are the most damaging patterns”, that “we must love ourselves” and, very important, that “the point of power is always in the present moment”. I learned that if you face a new day with a smile instead of with a sour face the day will smile back at you. And, above all, that happiness is made of small things, and if you are aware of them and value them you will feel much happier much more often! And also that the more grateful you are the more things you have to be grateful for…and that you must learn to see the good aspects of everything – to see “the glass half full”, instead of half empty. I learned so many things – that I now practise every day in my life, and how much better I’ve learned to cope with setbacks and enjoy the little joys.

From that day on my life changed – rather, I changed it. A disappointment about a possible job alternative was already faced in a more philosophical way and then I decided I would really concentrate on the good things my job still had – and things began to improve. My own attitude towards life in general began to change – I won’t say it’s easy, but it’s a learning process. And it’s really worth it!

As for my friend – yes, she is now one of my good and close friends! – Nora, I have no words to thank her for what she has done for me, on that day and ever since. She has been a constant source of advice and inspiration, and has taught me how to get to know myself better. In this process I have discovered so may incredible things and even found new interests in life that were maybe hidden but that are now of the utmost importance and contribute so much for my happiness.

Over the years I have given many people this book – or, alternatively, recommended it – whenever I have felt they were, as I was on that morning – in need of healing their lives. If only I have been able to help them a tiny bit it will have been worthwhile.

No matter what happens I know I will always remember and be grateful for that cold November morning of some years ago, at Versailles – and for that different breakfast that healed my life.