I just finished reading Alexander McCall Smith’s new book in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, “The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party.” Reading one of those books is like dropping into another world, brightly colored, lively, but with a culture based on respect and manners. It’s Botswana, but mostly a gentle version of the country, although occasionally AIDS, blood diamonds, and witch doctors appear in the stories.
Mma Ramotswe, the lead detective, reflects at one point on how small things can save you when life begins to seem too much to bear. For her, it’s a cup of red bush tea as she sits on her veranda and contemplates the day, or as a tea break in her office with Mma Makutsi. The ritual is as important as the tea itself, if not more important.
A number of things help me when I’m feeling down. Re-reading a Jane Austen novel or getting lost in a British murder mystery from the Golden Age (Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh) or a Rex Stout or Robert B. Parker reassure me because the good guys always win, and I’ve read them before, so I know how it comes out! These books are an escape into another world.
Petting my cat or brushing him helps because it makes him happy. One of the most satisfying things about pet ownership is how easy they are to please (as opposed to most human beings). Having my supper club friends over for dinner forces me to concentrate on planning and cooking instead of my troubles. Other small things I enjoy are a really cold Diet Coke, being safe inside while a thunderstorm rages outside, relaxation in yoga class, having finally learned how to fix the stopper in the bathroom sink, and unexpected hugs.
Sometimes I have run through my whole repertory and nothing works. Those are the nights when I wake up in the small hours and can’t go back to sleep. I have a new trick that seems to help–think of words that make me happy or comfortable, and repeat them. Relax, safe, comfort, light, cool, quiet, calm, snuggle.
What are the small comforts you enjoy? What are the words or deeds that work for you? Wishing everyone a calm, safe, comfortable, cool, quiet, relaxed night!