A Little Comfort And A Better Year


Oh, the joy of turning over the page of a new year and looking forward with much optimism and hope for better times ahead. 2021 was an annus horribilis for so many, and my wish for all of us is better times ahead. After we all catch the new covid variant and recover from it, of course. Hey ho. 

Paul finished his last chemo treatment at the beginning of December and is feeling better every day. He has some residual neuropathy (numbness in fingers, toes and tongue) but he is hopeful that the tongue numbness, at least, seems to be fading, and that the rest will follow. Paul's first week of 2022 includes a CT scan and a visit to the oncologist which will, in the ideal world that I am convinced exists for us this year, give Paul the all clear to go about his life in a cancer-free state. He is already firmly convinced this is the case, and I am following along in the wake of his beautiful optimism. 

This year has been very difficult for for us and so many around the world. Every time I read the news I am caught up in the horror of so many lives falling to pieces. Fires, floods, tornadoes, violence, so much political conflict, the planet warming irretrievably. Between that and the difficulties closer to home I finished this year just wanting to curl up and not face any more problems. I am someone who is not really adept at finding comfort. I can find distraction very easily but that is not the same thing. I was brought up to just get on with things, and mostly that has worked for me, but this year it did not. I felt myself just falling apart at the seams and so overwhelmed. I found that talking a lot about my feelins helped. I am not really a natural at that, but I am learning. And just recently I have been feeling into other small ways of finding comfort in my daily life. 

One of those things is giving myself permission to stay home. I am a homebody, but I have always felt compelled to go out and take part in the world. Last year I cancelled Christmas. This year I cancelled it even further, which was even better:) It was not hard to cancel Christmas, as covid finally came to Tasmania. We have had pretty much zero cases since July 2020, but on December 15 the state opened up to the rest of Australia to come visit without quarantine, just in time for Omicron. This has been wonderful for us because The Girl came to visit from Melbourne, but on the other hand, covid. We now have over one thousand cases. And masks. We have started to have to wear masks. I think Tasmania is one of the last places in the world to take up wearing masks, as we have been covid-free all this time. We are very fortunate, really, to have been able to wait until everyone is fully vaccinated before we are all exposed to covid. It has been a splendid excuse though, not to go out. Paul has had his covid booster, but his immune system still isn't fully functioning, so we are really limiting social contact. It's been wonderful. We had a tiny family Christmas with my three kiddos, and Paul. We did colouring in and played Boggle. Who remembers Boggle? For some reason, it's the one game my kids all love to play. We introduced Paul to it (our game is circa 1980, as I inherited our old family set), and made him play several round before Christmas lunch.

So yes. We stayed home. We had a tiny Christmas. We put up the Christmas branch. The Girl and I did the Christmas decorating and it took all of ten minutes. That was so calm and lovely. Last year I gave away about three quarters of our Christmas decorations plus our Christmas tree, and now we can only have a pared back Christmas. I liked it a lot.

So that was one of my comforting things. A tiny Christmas. I also bought a colouring book on a whim from the half price table outside the newsagents. I haven't coloured in for many years. When everyone else was doing the adult colouring in thing, I just thought is was silly. But I also have comforting memories connected with colouring in. When I was around eleven we had just moved to Australia and it was the summer holidays and we didn't really know anyone, so we were on our own most days, my mum and my brother and me, and Mum bought us some big colouring posters and we spent the summer colouring in. It was quite lovely and friendly and I remember it fondly, the summer when we were on our own, colouring in and reading aloud to each other. 

And again, when my kids were younger someone gave us a giant colouring in poster that took up the entire dining room table. All the kids plus half the neighbourhood kids coloured in for that summer, and also added their own embellishments and drawings. It was epic, and they have good memories of that. So this summer, we are staying home and colouring, connecting to those long ago memories. Colouring in around the table is such a nice way to spend time together. You can chat or stay quiet, it doesn't matter. So this is my second comforting thing. Colouring in.

My third comforting thing is Old Bear. There he is up at the top of the page. While I was cleaning out a cupboard about six weeks ago, I found Old Bear again. Old Bear is fifty years old. He has been my companion since I was born, and has travelled with me everywhere I've ever been. Mostly he has stayed at the back of a cupboard, but that day as I was sorting things out, I thought, "I'm going to get Old Bear out. He's going to sit on my bed, and we can chat." So we do. Old Bear has very good energy, and he is a good listener. We lie on the bed sometimes when things get a little too much, and I hold his paw. 

The world can be a very frightening place. Sometimes it seems like even doing the grocery shopping is all too hard. But I hope that each of us has some place, some memory, some simple thing that can help us get through difficult days. I'd love to hear what your comforting things are. Much love, and all the good wishes for a better year for all of us xxxxx


Tracy said…
Old bear has such a lovely friendly face - an ideal companion for hard times. During our first lockdown here in the UK there was a period when it all got just too much for me. I am known as the strong one in the family and everyone was off-loading onto me, regardless of how I felt about everything. One day I went and lay down on my son's bed and noticed some old children's books on the bookshelves. I lay curled up reading them for a couple of hours and suddenly the madness in the outside world didn't matter any more.
Treaders said…
Colouring can be very therapeutic so why not! During probably our first lockdown (out of God knows how many) I started doing wasgijs (jigsaw puzzles where the finished result is similar but not the same as what's on the box), and I found that very comforting. I don't care how strong anyone is this bloody pandemic and the non-stop media bombardment is enough to put anyone on their knees so good for your for scaling back and withdrawing into yourself! Fingers crossed for Paul this week - I'm sure he'll ace it as he's been such a rock throughout. I'm just curious though, when you say you "moved to Australia", where did you move from? I just assumed you were a native!
Jo said…
Tracy, yes, Old Bear's face is very kind and understanding:) The story of his genesis, as far as I remember, is that my mum was a nurse in a nursing home and one of the old ladies there made Old Bear when she found out my mum was expecting. Made with love:)
I really hear you on the children's books - I still have a whole bookshelf of my favourite children's books and they are the ultimate comfort read. Recently The Girl, now 25, asked me to record some of her favourite picture books from childhood that I must have read to her hundreds of times. When I asked if she wanted the books as well, she said, No, she could still see every picture in her mind.

Anna, my mum finds jigsaws very therapeutic as well, but i have to say those wasjigs are diabolical. Mum did one once and it was terrifying. Jigsaws are supposed to be calming, with nice scenes of ducks on lakes with castles dotted about..
Yes, I am Australian, born here, and there are generations of us back to the First Fleet. But I grew up in the highlands of New Guinea, where my parents were missionaries for many years. My dad flew small planes into tiny airstrips among the mountains.
Deborah said…
Knowing both you and Paul have made it through a trying year, on many fronts, must e a comfort, too. Unfortunately, my comforts tend to be edible with not so comfortable outcomes when I stand on the scales. I swallow my emotions.
This Christmas nearly all the gifts we exchanged were books. I'd become tired of all the fuss, bother and buying associated with Christmas and we adopted an "eat it, drink it, read it" approach to gifts and only for close family and several friends.
I read your CV-19 comments with some trepidation. Western Australia, with 9 CV-19 deaths during the past 2 years, will open the border in February. I have been reading blogs about planning for and protecting the family and have begun stocking up, planting more food and generally getting organised to stay well. We will have our booster shots tomorrow.
Very best wishes for the New Year.
simplelife said…
How lovely to see you pop up here.
Sounds like Paul has come through his treatment really well, I hope he continues to improve and gets good news this week.
I, too have been worn down by the covid situation and life in general. It's been a hard year.
My comforts are my daily walk, currently a jigsaw puzzle I'm working on, sitting outside in my yard and watching the birds. I have bursts of colouring in, think I need some new pencils and textas. My daily coffee (or 2) is the thing I most look forward to. I love being able to stay home without feeling like I should be out doing something, but at the same time gosh some of the days are loooooong.
cheers Kate
Jo said…
Deborah, eating is so pleasurable! This is something Paul has struggled with this year. He loves to eat, but eating caused him a lot of pain during chemo, and then when his tongue went numb he didn't enjoy eating anymore. He just had to remember what food tasted like. I am so relieved that has improved for him.
I like your Christmas presents philosophy. Every year I get food and an interesting magazine or two from my mum, which is the perfect way to spend Christmas afternoon on the couch.
I think I am done with worrying about covid. We have been so fortunate to have avoided the worst of the delta outbreak in our respective states. I am keeping a low profile for the sake of Paul's immune system right now, but I refuse to worry. Que sera, sera, right?

Kate, another jigsaw enthusiast! Sometimes my kids borrow one from my mum, which I think is sweet, but I am not a fan. I have never actually vacuumed any pieces up off the floor, but I have thought about it..
I am a fan of bird watching as well. I moved my bird bath from the front wall, where I can't see it, to the garden right outside my dining window, where I sit to write. The birds are splashing around all day and the cat thinks it is cat telly. I also like bees. I have sedum Autumn Joy right outside my window, and the bees crawl all over it and I get very distracted from my work. It is wonderful!
I am not yet finding the days long, but I do have a list about a mile long of things I must do, so that keeps me out of trouble. Right now I am painting the house.
I find a list helps because every time i get a tiny bit bored my list tells me to take out the recycling or collect sage seeds from the garden. Or putty up the windows. I am a very bossy and detailed list maker..
Anonymous said…
Wishing for calmer, healing waters in the days ahead for you and Paul, Jo. In my own search for comfort, I found simplifying was key. The morning cup of coffee ritual, accompanied with prayer (sometimes filled with gratitude, others with deep despair)did my heart good. I took up knitting again; the quiet clicking of the needles soothing my soul. Instead of a bear, I have a small pillow I have hugged the tar off. And, I search for celebrations and laughter absolutely everywhere! Ah, the sound of laughter...the best!
Thinking of you,
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

So glad to hear that Paul is on the mend. It's a personal hell, but your bloke is stoic and made of tough stuff. And a wise choice with the Christmas festivities. He runs a higher risk than most of us do.

Far out, Melbourne has been weird for so long now, that I can't recall what the previous normal was like. Certainly there are vague hints and recollections which suggest that the now quiet city streets once thronged with people. Things were actually different back then.

However, when I was a really young bloke my girlfriend use to work late Friday nights at the big department store, and she'd ask me to pick her up after work. Being a gentleman, how could I say no to such a request? The city streets were even quieter way back then. So perhaps everything which was once old, is now new again? :-)

The hold out appears to be the folks way over in the west of the continent. As someone official recently suggested, the only way to move from pandemic is to become endemic. Thus have things always been.

Buck up little camper, I see fun and interesting events in your future!


Treaders said…
Wow Jo, what exciting lives your parents lived!
Kathy said…
Happy New Year to you and glad Paul is getting through his treatment and hopefully the other side of the cancer. Like you Qld did well for 2 years keeping Covid out of out State and once the borders opened it's everywhere which is very worrying.
Jo said…
Patricia, ah, yes, laughter is the best. There was a lot of laughter when The Girl was over for Christmas. Sometimes Red and I are hilarious, but sometimes we are not. Sometimes you need a bit of community for the best laughter. I will think on that. Knitting is a wonderful comfort aide because it is also productive, what's not to like? Old Bear salutes your Old Pillow. And prayer and coffee seems like a splendid way to start any day. Perhaps it's having that small routine that is about both pleasure and connection that is so comforting?

Chris, now Melbournites know what it's like to live in Launceston! My kids come back home and ask where all the people are, especially after 5pm! I think you may be right re endemic covid in the community being the ultimate way forward. We have mostly dodged the bullet here in Oz because we isolated from the world until we all got vaccinated. This latest omicron variant really isn't anything like as virulent. We have over 3000 cases her in Tas now, and only 5 people in hospital, and all of those 5 are there for reasons other than covid. I hope I am right about my thoughts that omicron has turned covid into the new flu...

Anna, they are adventurous souls:)

Kathy, thank you, HNY to you and yours. As for covid, I think we have much less to worry about than if we'd opened the borders this time last year. All the best and much health to us all!
Mary said…
Happy New Year! Good to hear you're being kind to yourself, and that Paul is staying positive. I have a bear that's just turned 70. He only comes out at Christmas these days, to save wear and tear. Our Christmas this year was a comfort - my daughter,her partner and my little granddaughter come to be with us for the holidays. Also of comfort is a walk in the woods where we live, with my dog, Buster. We find new things there constantly to interest and amaze us. And reading and drawing. I have some books I especially like to reread for comfort. Best wishes.
Linda said…
So pleased to read your blog post. I often think of you, Paul and your family as I’ve followed your blog for some years. Happy 2022 to you all. I hope Paul gets good results this week and that he continues to steadily grow stronger after his treatment. I have had a teddy bear for about 20 years which my daughter gave me. Ted has travelled the world with me and I sleep with him tucked up to my chest every night! My husband doesn’t mind that his wife of 50 years takes Ted to bed as well as him! When I was a small child I had a lovely teddy called Bobby but when my first niece was born on my 18th birthday I passed him on to her so my replacement is great. Enjoy your colouring and the relaxation it gives you.
Jo said…
Mary, I am loving these stories about comforting old bears and pillows. Wow, yes, I may need to do some repairs on Old Bear, and treat him very gently in order to get him to 70, but as you know, visible mending is my thing, and Old Bear would no doubt relish some fancy patches.
I found that by keeping Christmas small and manageable this year, it was very nourishing and comforting, and I am glad to hear that you experienced the same. And how wonderful to have woods to walk in. I know Paul finds a lot of joy every day from walking through the bush around his place. he especially enjoys the tiny fungi that pop up on the trees whenever it rains.
And comfort reading. Oh, yes. I still have a whole bookcase of children's books which are my go-to for comfort reading. Or Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer.

Linda, I am so glad your husband has made peace with sharing the bed with Ted:) I love that you still remember Bobby fondly. I bet your niece loved him too.
I am finding I need company to really enjoy colouring. It is nice with family while chatting on a hot summer afternoon, but doesn't really float my boat when I'm alone. I'll let you all know if I find a new comforting pastime.

And the great news is that Paul has had the all clear on his first scan. Much joy all round:) Thanks for all your love and concern all this time. We both really appreciate it all:) xxx

Popular Posts