Adventures, Books, Spinster rambling club

Self care is a walk in the park

Lately, I have not been in a good place.

It’s been a busy summer – a fortnight in the Lake District, a couple of days in Brittany, some volunteering, building an office with my pals (power tools!), going bouldering, helping Lauren move house, going to a wedding, seeing my niblings, going to Pride for the first time… I read some books, not as many as I expected to, but some. I fell in a bog in the Lake District, which was hilarious at the time but became rapidly less-so as I realised I’d actually done some damage, resulting in two days off work, a lot of painkillers, multiple trips to my amazing osteopath, and walking like a duck. I’m on the mend, but it’s shaken me. My mood has plummetted over the last week or so and refused to lift, especially when I then dropped my phone in the toilet and was furious with myself about it, on top of everything else. I’ve got a busy time coming up and I really need to be well for it. I’ve had to cancel plans and miss out on things I wanted to do, and all this has coincided with the weather shifting from summer to autumn. It’s been hard.

I bought Rain: Four walks in the English weather for my mum a couple of years ago. I’ve followed Melissa on twitter for years, and I knew mum would enjoy it. I was right: she dipped in and out of it over a while, and often paused to tell me about it. She gave it to me and it sat on my shelf for a while, waiting for the right time. I found it: Friday was gloomy, I was in not-inconsiderable pain, and I had dropped my phone down the toilet the day before so was generally feeling pretty sorry for myself, and I needed a small book for my commute. Rain was the perfect choice: it lifted my mood, got me out of myself and thinking about something else, thinking about being somewhere else, about what it would be like when I could do things again. The way Melissa writes makes me feel like I, too, have been where she’s walking (I haven’t), and stirs memories of familiar places, places I have walked and would like to walk. I felt soothed and safe and managed to focus for the first time in several days.

I love walking, but I don’t like rain. I’m getting better at it – I have better clothes for being outdoors in, and am, as I get older, becoming more zen about getting grubby hands which is a real problem in a wet city – but nothing seems to be able to shake the change in my mood on a grey day. It’s not downpours or storms that bother me – I enjoy them, providing I don’t have to go out in them – but drizzle, or the kind of rain that isn’t heavy but just doesn’t stop, the lack of light in the sky. It makes me feel sad. I want to be happier about rain, to be one of those people who genuinely doesn’t mind – two of my friends in particular make me want to be more like that. But I’m learning, slowly, that the sad feeling isn’t always as bad if I just get outside in it, wrapped up in something waterproof and with somewhere to walk to.

On Saturday, I was extremely melancholy. It was grey and gloomy, and my family were out for much of the day so I was alone a lot. I had an epsom salts bath and listened to a podcast but I couldn’t settle to anything. It wasn’t until the sun came out after a downpour that I realised that maybe I needed to go outside. My local park is a bit too bleak for times like that, but the cemetery is perfect. It helped. I wandered, and found treasure, and listened to the birds, and breathed, and felt better for it. I then almost got locked in, but never mind. Then, yesterday, I felt even worse, so I took myself to the cemetery again. I found a patch of dry path and laid down under a tree in the sun, and listened to the quiet sounds around me, and it helped. Self care, for me, isn’t about buying new socks or having a cake, it’s about doing the things I need to do – like tidying up, or cancelling plans because I’m in pain, or dragging my sorry self outdoors. It doesn’t always work, and it’s only a short term fix, but it’s worth a try.

Luckily for me, the first two weeks of October will force my hand – I’m going to be staying at my Nan’s, looking after my auntie’s massive dog, while my Nan and auntie are on holiday. I’ll have to go out for a decent walk every day, because Keera will need it, regardless of wind or rain or feeling tired. I’ll just have to learn.

2 thoughts on “Self care is a walk in the park”

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