3 v. simple things that have helped my mental health (and might help yours)
When this is what the future feels like inside your chest (but guess what, it's not a fire, it's the sun rising behind the clouds!)

3 v. simple things that have helped my mental health (and might help yours)

Bookmark this email and come back to it when you are at a low point.

Hiiiiiiii!!! I completely forgot it was Wednesday yesterday! I know I've been all over the show with my posts lately, and probably no-one noticed cos everybody's inboxes are out of control, but I'm going to try and get back to the routine of publishing a short ditty/pao like Renee used to once a week.

I'm also trying to wrap up something useful and constructive for you in these posts in the spirit of sharing creativity and inspiration. So, here it is, a day late (did Renee ever give extensions??).

Three things that helped me get through the past couple of months, which were hellishly brutal.

1) Poetry

I think it's one of life's best ironies that the briefest words are capable of lifting the heaviest weight. I am in awe of the power of poetry. Over the past three months, one poet who has consistently held me up is Andrea Gibson (this is apart from Mary Oliver whose book Devotions goes everywhere with me). It's tempting to magpie some of Andrea's recent poems and drop the quotes in here, but that would be to steal the surprise and gift of those verses in their gorgeous wholeness. So instead, bookmark this email and come back to it when you are at a low point, whether that be in the whipping wind at the beach/sitting in the car sobbing/dying a slow death in a zoom hui.

Fyi, the titles below are not the titles of the poem - consider them more like... prescriptions....

2) Write yourself a letter from the future

A lovely friend of mine who has a similar tendency to... I don't want to say catastrophise because that's such an asshole way to describe the sensation.... but, to be overcome by the gravity of the consequences of things going wrong. This is especially relevant when you feel wholly responsible for the outcome, and even worse if the impact will affect someone else's emotional or practical welfare. (Bobbie saying: "you care about everyone else but me.")

I don't know if this is one of those trauma wounds and most of the time I can keep it in check, but occasionally things just pile up and I can't (definitely the concoction is worse when mixing anxiety with politics and genocide and inane social media reels).

My friend told me about a technique she uses in these situations, where she writes herself a letter from the future. Somehow, though, I got the instructions wrong lol and started writing to my future self desperately asking for help and confessing what a piece of shit I was. Weirdly, the exercise seemed to work in reverse, too. It was shocking to see how much hatred I held for myself in those deep unspoken places. It was not all-good. But rather than rip those pages out of my journal, I painted over them later, which felt like a settling or putting to rest. These pages look like scars now, colourful, not mean anymore, and I embrace them as part of the journey.

3) Keep track of the (mundane) things that delight you

This is another thing I started doing following a friend's recommendation. I've mentioned it before - Book of Delights by Ross Gay (and if you subscribe to Spotify premium then you already own the audiobook!). I enjoyed this book so much, mostly for the invitation to recognise my own simple daily delights. They sound like this:

Delight 13/02/24: Sounds - Bobbie's footsteps in the kitchen. The creak of the floor boards. Her guitar strumming. Singing. The slam of the front door as she runs to catch the bus. Nana snoring (still). Later, the two of them sitting on the bed gossiping on her bed in the afternoon sun (I can't make out what they're saying). Making dinner out of nothing. The absence of demands for our labour. Domestic ease. Three generations of women living alone together.

Delight 17/04/24: sitting in a cafe next to a tour-bus full of Jamaicans, each one coming in asking each other how they slept, and the big guy beside me saying "Glorious! Glorious!" while outside the sun isn't even fully up, thinking, what the hell will he be saying by lunchtime?

Delight 27/02/24: Me saying to Bobbie in reo class while learning a new waiata "never let not knowing the words stop you from singing!" and her replying "it's not just the words you don't know, it's the melody."

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Arohanui xx