You know I’m a happy person, right?
A good, kind, generally smooth natured and positive person?
It’s bizarre. I am a natural optimist, born optimistic and lived optimistic (until about 5 years ago, when I started seeing optimism as the super power of the youthful).
I wonder if losing one’s optimism goes with the menopause? Does losing the faintest hope of ever having another baby remove a wall in the brain and suddenly the black thoughts on mortality rush in, or am I being overly dramatic?
No, I’m not depressed, not that deep, dark, motionless, stuck in bed depression, but I can feel me looking sideways at people and things that I usually shrug off and feeling affected by them. If I were a dog, I’d be one of those snarling little lapdogs, not my usual happy Heinz 57 mongrel. I’m feeling kicked by life. Not nice. I don’t like the snarling me.
So, it’s time for a break. An escape. Of course, I had one this weekend with Leamington Spa but it was only a weekend. I’m feeling the need for a longer holiday even though we haven’t got one booked, can’t afford the time off and moreover have a plumber in next week doing the ensuite up. Yes, if I think I need a break now I should wait because after living in and cleaning up the inevitable mess that a bathroom re-do will bring I will be even more desperate to escape reality than I already am.
Stuck at home, seriously contemplating escape. That’s me. What to do, then, when life has me trapped and my soul is singing the blue electric sky? I am taking my time off life. Next week I am deleting all social media from my phone, temporarily of course, setting the out of office on my answerphone, and cancelling any and all appointments that tie me by time. And I am vacationing at home properly.
I’ve got a new garden chair to enjoy myself in. Not for the first time, I got suckered in by a movie and fell in love with a look… Nights in Rodanthe… which I had never seen until last month. More specifically, I loved the blue adirondack chairs, which looked the perfect thing for sitting out and contemplating the sea from. I might not have a sea, but I do have a garden that faces south, and evenings that, if not long, are at least long enough to allow for sitting out before cooking. My chair will be blue soon… this weekend or next, when I get the paint, brush, chair and me in the same place on a dry day.
The story of the house itself is worth a read: from perfection to part destruction and back again. I bet the removal looked strange, passing by the front door.
And the cooking will be as easy as I can manage. Packet paella, some ready cooked chicken served with rice or pasta, steak or pork with four minute noodles. The kitchen is not a place I need to be on vacation, when there’s no Aga to tempt me to cook. If I do choose to spend time in the kitchen, it will be for relaxing baking, or perhaps a mindful exercise, making risotto or an apple pie from scratch. Bread is a good vacation project, so perhaps a rosemary and garlic foccacia, or a rye bread.
Reading is a necessary part of my vacation. Something light and happy. Katie Fforde’s A Rose Petal Summer strikes me as exceedingly suitable, especially since I am loving anything rose scented at the moment. I had the most divine Turkish Delight hot chocolate in Leamington, and the memory is tempting me towards buying a bottle of rose syrup to try and recreate it… but I know it wouldn’t be the same. I might get the syrup to enjoy with lemonade or soda water and ice instead. And I always like an improving book during a holiday as well: perhaps Love People, Use Things by Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus.
No TV. We live with the news on as background constantly at home, and it’s just no good for me. I think I’ll turn off the TV and put the cosseting sounds of Radio 4 on instead. The pips at the hour and the melodic rhythm of the shipping forecast somehow always seem associated iwth holidays for me. My Mum was/is a great listener, and radio was, when I was little, the only thing we had in the caravan. Or I’ll switch over to a light classic station.
And we will have walks either early morning, before the world stirs, or after our evening meal. A short walk around the block to pick up a paper, or a longer, slower stroll to the nearby pubs and sit sipping a cider. We, because I fully intend taking the Husband on these holiday jaunts. If I can, I’ll persuade him to finish an hour earlier at work and meet me for coffee or a cool drink in the park, by the beach, under the tree canopy in the local woods. If I’m vacationing, then he should, too.
And we will vacation properly at home as well. Taking the afternoon or a day off to visit the local tourist attractions seems a sensible thing to do. There are museums in Liverpool and district that we haven’t visited, remarkable as that seems to my children, or towns full of industrial heritage, often written loud on the building fronts and in inlaid tile signs, that we need to explore and rediscover. I am liking the idea of being a Tourist at Home, inspired by a book I picked up on my travels. I’ve collected a few leaflets and a tourist guide to my own city(!) and we’ll visit the sites as outsiders would. Fresh eyes on an old problem will hopefully give me a change of scene, mood and recharge my optimism.
Today’s header is a photo of a rollercoaster by Matt Bowden on Unsplash. I chose it because it shows the ups and downs that are my life at the moment, it has that faintly manic quality a rollercoaster has, and it really is a perfect symbol for me at the moment. I’m in th emiddle of a mad ride and I can’t get off. Do I laugh, cry, scream or all three? I refer you to the Kurt Vonnegut quote above.
How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters. Every book I review has been bought and read by me, unless stated otherwise.
I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. It always feels good if you get a book back in return for some money. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:
Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better. August is like a pause before real life begins again in September, so it’s a second chance to set up rituals and rhythms that boost happiness and work for you.
Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little things in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.
On the principle that it’s never too early to start thinking ahead, really, and that Christmas is always on us before we know, how about Have Yourself a Happy Hygge Christmas? Christmas is about the small things in life, much as hygge is, and establishing what you want from Christmas and then being able to say no to the excess is important. The book has hints and tips that hopefully will help you enjoy what is, too often, a frantic season.
And on the basis that we may well find ourselves in Lockdowns or unable to enjoy an absolutely normal Christmas under Covid regulations if numbers spike, why not read and plan alternatives? Celebrating a Contagious Christmas was written in response to the pandemic last year, and will need updating soon, but it is about celebrating whatever the situation, and does have good advice on stocking up an emergency cupboard, celebrating when travelling to relatives is impossible and putting the heart of Christmas back into the heart of the celebrations.
If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me.
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