Anne here, and today, for some reason, I woke this morning feeling a bit gloom-and-doom-y. You know how it happens — news headlines come at you from all directions and you start despairing at the state of the world. Mass shootings, dreadful laws, inept, lazy or corrupt governments, Covid deaths, poverty, racism, injustice, global warming and people's refusal to face it, and . . . I could could go on. But I won't.
The media is so eager to throw disaster and ghastliness at us, and it's pretty easy to sink into negative thinking, but though it can creep around the edge of my consciousness, I'm determined not to let it in. Some days you really have to work at achieving some balance to the gloom and doom. Today was one of those days for me.
So what did I do to counteract the gloom and doom? The first thing was to take the dog out for a good walk. It was a cold and showery day but luckily we hit a lovely patch of sunshine.
Dogs are great for mental health — they're funny and silly and affectionate and they live absolutely in the moment, and find joy in the smallest things, which is a great life lesson. And I am lucky in that I have some lovely areas where I can walk her.
We started off walking on a narrow dirt track beside a creek, and she loved that, diving in here and there to investigate all sorts of interesting smells. But then the little path got increasingly muddy and when everything was squishing wetly beneath my feet, I decided we'd head for higher ground and walk on the (gasp) actual path. Yes, poor spirited of me, I know and not nearly as interesting, but strangely I prefer my feet dry. I had to make her sit for this photo, because otherwise she'd continue darting around gleefully — and heading back to muddy joy.
When we got home, I stopped to check my "garden." I'm using inverted commas, as it's not much of a garden yet, not compared to the one I left behind. But I have some vegie seedlings in the vegie boxes— spinach, and garlic and broad beans. And I planted a pile of bulbs into pots, and look! Little green shoots are nudging their noses out of the earth. Come spring, there will be various kinds of daffodils, snowdrops, jonquils, Dutch crocuses, spring star flowers, grape hyacinths and more in those pots. I was inspired by the UK TV show, Gardener's World, where Monty Don had the most wonderful display of spring flowers in pots — below is a screenshot I took from the show. Mine won't be quite as lush, but still, it's something to look forward to.
Later on, a friend dropped in, bringing a couple of slices of delicious cake — Greek Karidopita, a delicious walnut cake, moist and slightly squidgy from being infused in a spicy syrup. There's a recipe here. And good food is definitely a comfort, isn't it?
So with dog walking and bulbs and friends bringing good cheer and walnut cake my gloomy start to the day turned into a happy day. And I was back in balance.
I have a recently breaved friend who was feeling particularly down recently — and then her small grandchildren came to visit. And left her exhausted but smiling. Kids will do that, especially little ones.
Another thing I do to keep the blues at bay is to dive into some favorite old books and reread them. Comfort reads, if you like. The sort of books that are like old friends, and are guaranteed to leave you smiling.
Then there's music. A few years ago, my old sound system gave up the ghost, and I decided not to replace it, since I was expecting to start renovations of my house in the next few months. The plan was to buy a new one when the renovations were completed. Well, some of you know what happened there: after three and a half years waiting in vain for the builder, I got a rush of blood to the head, bought another house that was in perfect condition, and sold my old house. And now I'm happily settled in my new house.
So on the weekend, I bought a CD player. The shop assistant was a bit bemused — CDs are soooo old fashioned. Why not subscribe to Spotify? But no, I wanted my music that I've collected over the years. And once I'd set it up, I pulled out some of my old CDs that I hadn't played for years, and I've been playing them ever since, singing along. (Sorry neighbours.) I still have many boxes to unpack and sort, but having music to sing and dance to as I do it makes everything so much easier.
Sometimes when I'm feeling particularly helpless in the face of terrible things happening in the world I'll donate money. I can't change big situations, but I can send a little money in the hope that it might help make a difference even if just to one person. So I send money to organizations like Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), or Catherine Hamlyn's Fistula Foundation, or the Red Cross, or a Wildlife Rescue organization, or to whoever is on the ground dealing with the thing that is upsetting me.
None of these tactics is particularly clever or intellectual or even costly (apart from donating), but small, everyday things — the dog, the garden, beloved books, music, little kids, visiting with friends — can really balance out the relentless negativity of the news headlines.
What about you? When there are terrible things happening in the world, how do you keep your spirits up? Do you have any special comfort reads?
(I'll send a copy of my new book (The Rake's Daughter) to someone who leaves a comment.)