The solace of a cat in the lap
Watching the nightly news is almost too much for me these days.
I'll sit down and watch three horror movies end on end so I'm pretty tough but the daily news at 6pm has me beat.
It's one adversity after another: the ever increasing COVID numbers here in New Zealand as Omicron flexes its muscle, the continual hammering of the Prime Minister and the government, the widespread protests creating social divisions to a degree that is profound and disturbing, the rising cost of food, the startling escalation in petrol costs and mortgage interest rates, and now the war developing in Europe as Russia pushes its way into the Ukraine.
How much more can we handle right now?
I was feeling overwhelmed this week. My journal pages were bursting, overloaded with words trying to describe emotions and thoughts that are all over the show. It's the uncertainty that is so hard to deal with. I don't do well with it and it reminds me of the cancer treatments I had where we hoped for the best but didn't really know for sure. Past traumas come back to haunt.
So what can we do to keep ourselves well?
I remember a fellow manager I worked with in the air express industry when I was a manager there myself. It was high stress every day back then - flights delayed by weather or mechanical failure, packages routed to Auckland ending up in Egypt, couriers calling in sick - and we were having coffee together and she said, 'I only worry about those things over which I have control.'
That worked kind of well in air express and I sometimes apply this to my every day life: why worry about something that I haven't any hope of controlling, like petrol prices? Can I control that? No, I cannot - but I can find a way to manage how it affects me.
The other maxim I remember was from counselling sessions some years ago and this piece of advice has served me well ever since: the concept of 'structure and distraction' to get through tough times. The structure could be a daily routine (e.g. work, or a routine to the day) and the distractions could be a nice walk on the beach, reading a book, a visit with a friend - those little things that we work into the structure of a day.
Yesterday my structure was cleaning the house, a bit of gardening and my daily swim at the beach. The distraction was sitting in a comfy chair out on the deck with a shot of whiskey in my Attack of the 50ft Woman glass, some jazz playing in the background, and the neighbour's cat Miss Poppy on my lap. Sitting in this way gave my soul some much-needed solace for an hour or two, a reprieve from the worry, an oasis of calm.
We take our comforts where we can these days.
It's Valentine's Day, the occasion when we express our love and feelings for our nearest and dearest, or send a message of endearment to someone we would like to capture in our lasso of love.
These days it's easy to communicate our passions on Facebook or Instagram, send an e-card with bursting love bubbles and blossoming roses, or Zoom our beloved for a face to face tête-à-tête.
But what about that way of communicating which now seems out of date and, dare I say it, old fashioned? Actually confessing our love on a piece of paper or in a card, with a pen?
I am feeling old when I write this because writing letters (and I think back to my early school days when we used a fountain pen (I remember mine was a red Osmiroid that I got for my birthday one year) with a nib sucking up ink from a small bottle) was what we did before emails came along ... gosh, I may be ancient, but I'm proud because my generation has evolved well, adapting to the internet and computers and all ...
Do we even know how to write a Valentine's Day love letter, and is there anything better than receiving an actual letter or card on this special day?
Here are some tips to help you write your love letter - and I do mean WRITE with a pen and paper, no e-cards!
1. When we talk or post on Facebook, we don't often filter what we want to express: when you sit down to write with pen and paper, you can take time to figure out what you'd really like to say.
2. The act of engaging feelings and thoughts with your 'writing-with-pen-hand-on-paper' can help you delve deeper into your heart: that connection between thought and actual words on a page has long been the tool of writers to tap into the expressive vein.
3. When we write using pen and paper, we can express feelings that may be hard to verbalise in the presence of the other person.
4. Before you begin writing, spend some time jotting down thoughts, things you would like to say. When it comes to writing, you can then edit and hone to express more clearly what you want your beloved to read.
5. Adding some special and cherished memories you shared together can add colour and vibrancy to your letter. For example, you could write about the day you met.
And we don't need to wait until Valentine's Day to write a love letter.
We can write letters and send cards through the post all year long, and the subject of our letter doesn't necessarily have to be our partner or love interest. Love doesn't just mean romantic inclination. It can mean gratitude, thankfulness, the depth of an enduring friendship, a tribute to parents (alive or deceased), our children, even a beloved pet.
There are no rules for writing love letters - make it up to suit yourself - and goodness knows, with the world the way it is right now, we need all the love we can get.