I see a therapist to help me cope with the anxiety that I face. And in a recent session, he recommended I read a book published by British author, Charlie Mackesy titled The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse.
Hmmmmm. It looked like a children’s book, and honestly didn’t catch my eye. I felt I instead needed to spend more time diving into the latest publications by respected psychiatrists and other anxiety gurus. I needed coping strategies and powerful words of wisdom. Not cute kidlet stuff.
But I bought it, because during this quarantine time I’ve had some really hard moments, and I found myself more than willing to try something unusual. So, I sat down and read the book.
And I was HOOKED.
I read it again. Then I read it again. Then I sent a copy of it to my Mom.
I don’t know if it was the combination of the illustrations and simple truths, but that book was food for my soul. It's the little journey of three animals and a boy, and they discuss life. And they share very simple, encouraging truths that I really needed.
I honestly have no idea if this book will do for you what it did for me. Everyone is different. BUT I think the lesson I learned is for anyone. I know I’m not alone when I say I need coping strategies and powerful words of wisdom. And these can be found in unexpected places and in unexpected ways. We can study theories until our eyes are red, but maybe what we really need is to watch an inspirational movie or browse the children’s book section. Maybe a fun cartoon or a novel will speak to us.
As a child, I loved storytime, and as adults, I strongly believe we still need storytime. Because we still very much need stories.
One night, when my husband and I were visiting Munich, we decided to catch the metro back to our hotel. We didn’t realize it was the same time a huge football (soccer) game had just let out. The train was PACKED.
As we squished in with everyone else (standing room only of course), I found myself completely engulfed by ecstatic fans. Apparently, Munich had won the match. I told my husband, as I was smashed between football jersey clad bodies, I felt as if Germany was giving me a giant hug. And I honestly didn’t mind. The excitement and happiness was almost tangible in the air that night.
I started thinking then about how often we are hugged in life. And I’m not just talking the traditional, physical embrace. For example, I’ve often heard the phrase that tea is a “hug in a mug.” It makes sense to me! With the liquid warming up my body, it definitely feels like the tea is giving me a squeeze of affection.
Certain scents are like a giant hug to me. For example, cinnamon! The lovely smell wraps around my head as I breathe in, and I feel it’s a full-on cinnamon embrace. (I could also say the same for fresh baked bread and Mexican food!)
What else gives you a “hug”?
What about a beautiful song? Music can completely envelop my being.
What about a cozy blanket wrapped around your shoulders?
The bright sunshine warming up your skin during the summer season?
My cat cannot hug me, but when he happily curls up on my legs, it’s like a hug for my lap.
I think especially during our current time, it’s good to be reminded that not all hugs have to be conventional. When we can’t be held by our loved ones, we can STILL be encircled with something just as powerful.
I recently heard a podcast by The Minimalists. On this particular episode (#202), they interviewed Tara Button, founder of Buy Me Once website that from my understanding, promotes minimalism by encouraging people to carefully buy quality items so that they last a lifetime. A great concept. Anyway, on a slightly different note, during the podcast, she expressed how cleaning – even something simple, like our breakfast dishes – is a form of self-care.
I felt a little silly for not realizing such a fantastic truth sooner.
I never really thought of cleaning my home as an act of self-care, which then in turn helps me better combat anxiety or any difficulty I have in life. I think on some level, I felt this truth, but Ms. Button worded it perfectly. Just like eating a healthy meal, working out, or doing deep breathing, having my house clean helps me to relax and mentally feel more at ease. (I know some people don’t notice dirt and clutter. For better or for worse, I’m NOT one of those people.)
Ms. Button also points out, not only is cleaning self-care, it’s instant gratification. For example, when you clean off a cabinet, you see the fruits of your labor right away. And it’s satisfying.
Once again, I’m reminded that it pays to be more mindful and intentional. To focus on what’s in front of me. To soak in the fact that the sparkly cabinet is looking pretty good and take a moment to really realize it. Then I can use that moment to help propel me forward.
I think the hang-up comes when I realize that I STILL have so much more to clean. I live with a constant to-do list, and it can be overwhelming. BUT, while that may be the case, concentrating for a minute on what I’ve just done, how great it looks, and how I am physically changing the atmosphere around me, is a BIG help. Even when my actions don’t seem so big.
When I was little, my Mom told me that if anyone asked me to keep a secret, it never excluded my Mom. I could always tell her. It was our clandestine little pact. I could promise my friend not to “tell a soul”, and I could say it confidently, because my promise to my Mom far exceeded any other promise: a secret promise superior to all other secret promises (cue dramatic music).
I like to look back and acknowledge clever parenting techniques from my Mom and Dad. My Mom was able to have an eye on me and my friends’ dramas and give me advice to avoid trouble. Now, whether I took that advice was another story, but it was her way of keeping tabs on me and the happenings in my little world. And it worked. I confided a lot to my mother, and in turn, she was able to guide me.
If any of you know me at all, you’d know that I really wasn’t much of a troublemaker, so I didn’t give my Mom a ton of grief to begin with. But I have to ask myself, was it because I kept myself out of trouble, or was it the secret pact with my Mom that helped me to stay out of trouble? I like to think a little of both.
Thanks, Mom, for initiating that secret pact.
A lot of my friends are mothers, and I want to just encourage them that so many of their parenting techniques, no matter how amazing, just may not be appreciated by their chicklets. At least not yet. But I believe they will be.
Much love to my mama friends…
Creator of Love, Auntie.