Ten Tips To Make Your Life Better


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by Donna Sinclair

It’s been over three months since the federal election; one month since Christmas. Partisan sniping in Parliament has recommenced and newspaper columnists are inexplicably (to my mind) arguing for a foolish pipeline.  The festivities are over. As W.H. Auden says, we are now  “back in the moderate Aristotelian city… And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it. It seems to have shrunk during the holidays.”

Personal crises erupt now and again too. Most people have moments when we totter on the edge of a health or financial or relational cliff. We topple over or pull ourselves back, not always of our own volition.

So how do we survive these wintry times of huffing rage or lacerated heart? Here’s my list. Not advice. Nope, definitely not advice; at least, not from one who huffs a lot, and knows the sting of crisis now and then. But seeing what someone else does in the midst of anger or sorrow can help us find our own answers. And what would a blog be without ten tips to make life better?

  1. Escape into someone else’s story. There’s a reason why the English novel has survived as an art form for three centuries: We humans love a tidy beginning, middle and end. We love to experience – even if in our imagination — a moment when life is resolved and brought back into harmony, by characters who stand in for ourselves. Patterns imposed by the writer sweep away our own (generally more petty) dysfunctions, smoothing our rough edges, lowering our heart rate, letting us rest.
  2. Build a fire. (Skip this tip if you don’t have a wood stove.) Reading by a fire propels us back into earlier times, when people whose lives were ever so much harder than our own hunched close to the hearth, listening to a bard, muttering, “And then what happened?” Humanity survives because we are so curious. We have to stay to hear the ending. The best place to do this is huddled close to the fire.
  3. Walk. I am writing this in winter. In Northern Ontario. Walking is restorative. Do so slowly and carefully if it is icy and you are old. We have found a path by a lake that stays open because dog walkers (bless them) like it. We can see ice huts, which congregated into little villages as soon as the ice was thick, and skiers and snowshoers. Oh, do that too. Fish, ski, skate, snowshoe, whatever you can. Because we are strong northern people.
  4. Make bread. For one thing, it warms the house and fills it with a comforting and delicious scent. For another, it is a miracle, and we need such when we are mad or sad. Chaos may gather all around us, but the yeast still froths (if it is fresh) and permeates the flour; the dough rises and afterwards the loaves, and we are connected with our ancestors. Their loving presence and the scent of new-made bread fills our kitchens. We find butter and jam and make hot chocolate and savor our accomplishment.
  5. Grow something. Last week, at a shared lunch I described in detail to dear friends the art of sprouting, which I had just discovered. I proudly offered round my sprouted lentils, vitamin rich and delicious. They smiled gently, gave me spring mix and sprouted radish to garnish my soup, and told me where to get more seeds. They had been sprouting for years. I learned humility, which eventually leads away from sorrow. Most of all, something green in winter brings joy. If you can eat it with your friends, even more joy.
  6. Talk. Talk and talk. I learned this from my daughter, in the midst of some sad times. She said, “Tell your friends, Mom. You can’t do this alone.” So I told them and told them and told them, and they were filled with grace: patient, kind, non-anxious, attentive. “You have to talk about this until you bore yourself,” said one friend kindly when I apologized. It got me through. This method comes with a corollary, naturally: learn to listen well. Listen and listen, with an open heart and thoughtful mind because this will pass, and your turn to be the wise one will come, and you must be ready.
  7. Pray. Even if you don’t feel like it; even if the cave of sorrow and rage you inhabit is so dim you can’t believe there is a God, pray anyway. Expel the god of judgement and welcome in with gratitude the god of kindness who will appear to you soon in the guise of a friend, a winter bird or a shaft of sunlight through a window beneath which you can sleep.
  8. Sleep. Afterwards, it really will be better.
  9. Find a good church, listen and sing. If the hymns make you weep unexpectedly and ferociously, and your own tears upset you, hide in the balcony. When worship is over, blow your nose and wipe your eyes and look around for others doing the same. Sit with them at coffee hour or Bible study or whatever happens after the service. (If nothing does, start something. This is after all, a community of friends.)
  10. Go to the library. Preferably on foot. Bring a backpack. You have to get those books home. Stack them on the coffee table, and begin again at step one above.

A journalist for more than 30 years, Donna Sinclair is an award-winning writer who has traveled widely in Canada, Africa, Central America, Britain, and Eastern Europe. She is the author of The Long View, The Spirituality of Bread, The Spirituality of Gardening, A Woman’s Book of Days, A Woman’s Book of Days 2, and numerous other titles. Donna lives with her husband Jim in North Bay, Ontario. Her most recent book is Tommy’s Angel (2013).

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Categories: Daily Life, Donna Sinclair, Ethics, Featured, Leadership, Peace, Justice, and Equality, People, Self-Help, spirituality, Values

Author:Wood Lake Publishing

At Wood Lake Publishing we are passionate about supporting and encouraging an emerging form of Christianity, which is rooted in ancient wisdom and attentive to the movement of spirit in our day. Visit us online at woodlakebooks.com

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