Tricks for Moving On

Edith here, in the cold stark dark of a New England late fall.

I was trying to come up with a meaningful post for today about writing, something that would engage you all and spark thought-provoking discussion. I failed. This has been one of the most difficult autumns of my life, both personally and professionally. It included deaths, health issues, and conflicts with which I am ill-equipped to deal. Almost all of it was out of my control.

So how did I cope? And now how do I brace up, as the British say, distract myself, and move on? Here are some of the ways I came up with. I hope you can add more, and I have a reward for one of you!

Bake bread. The sourdough starter in my fridge, in a little jar on the front of the top shelf, speaks every time I open the door: “Bake me! Don’t let me die!” Is there anything more comforting than the smell of fresh-baked bread?

Watch something good. Luckily, the next season of “The Crown” blew into town last week, and it has moved to Netflix. I love Olivia Colman as the new Elizabeth and Helena Boneham Carter as Princess Margaret.

Go for walks in the sunshine. I am not a serious sufferer from SAD, but sunshine always helps my mood, and I am regular walker. Being in nature has always held a bit of being in church about it for me. Which leads me to…

Sit quietly. I’ve taken more time to sit with my thoughts, in meditation and in the worship room of the beautiful, historic, spirit-imbued Friends Meetinghouse that is my church (and Rose Carroll’s, of course).

Run away. Regular readers of this blog know I take myself away on solo retreat from time to time. I thought about doing that, but also didn’t have the energy to arrange a place, pack up food and drink, and get myself there. So I’ve been holing away in my office, instead.

Hang out with children. As I no longer live with children (which can be its own kind of difficult!), I draw great joy from hanging out with my two-year-old great goddaughter (who is DARLING but her parents don’t allow her picture on social media except this one from a day her grandma and I took her apple picking).

Miss C

I love that my young friend Miss B – tall, willowy, and nearly fourteen – still wants to have after school “play dates” with me, too.

Write something different. I have a first draft going (Murder at the Lobstah Shack, Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries #3) and developmental edits to wrestle down (Taken Too Soon, Quaker Midwife Mysteries #6), and I am working on both. But I carved out time this fall to write a short story featuring entirely new characters, setting, and era. I sent it off on submission and of course the whole concept is still knocking at my brain, so I might try another story along those lines.

Read more: I’m always reading, but lately I’ve been making more space for it. I just finished (and loved) Paula Munier’s new Blind Search, and have started my good friend Ang Pompano’s debut mystery, When It’s Time for Leaving. Most evenings, you’ll find me on the couch with my nose in a mystery.

Readers: how do you move on from the tough stuff? Please share, and I’ll send one commenter one of the brand new ARCs of Murder at the Taffy Shop!

112 Thoughts

  1. I stay very busy with pet therapy, visiting, Adult Day Care Centers, Nursing Homes, Assisted Living, Libraries (Storytimes and read to dog programs), Colleges (Stress relief) and work with a company that works with special needs adults. Seeing the smiles really helps get thru the “cloudy days”. Binge read a series. Sometimes cleaning frenzy.

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  2. Edith, I sadly don’t have the option of being able to run away or the ability to do many of the other things on your coping list.

    For me, I have no other option other than to keep going forward. I suppose just squirrelling myself away from the world is one thing I do. The weekends where I barely leave the house and just read and watch TV is one way I cope but I do that all the time to begin with so I’m not sure if that counts.

    I don’t feel that I have SAD though last year’s holiday season was harder on me for some reason.

    Honestly, I just keep doing the daily routines of my life and that keeps me busy enough to seemingly keep me moving forward.

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  3. I’m sorry to hear about your tough year, Edith. I guess for me when I have tough times, I focus on what makes me happy and what makes me feel good. I exercise, I read, I indulge in family time and plenty of time with the pup. I set achievable goals for myself and map out steps to attain those goals. Those things keep me from wallowing and drowning in sadness over things I can’t control.

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  4. I, too, am a walker. Although I’ll walk anytime of the day, my favorite time is early morning. Most everything is still and I can hear the birds singing. There’s nothing better for my mind, body and spirit.

    There’s also a song I like to listen to by Gloria Estefan called “Tres Deseos” (“Three Wishes”). It never fails to lift my spirits when I’m having a bad day. My daughter, when she was little, called it The Happy Song. Although the words are in Spanish, which I am not fluent in, the music is so uplifting I can’t help but feel happy when I hear it. I looked up the lyrics in English and they basically say that the storm clouds are lifting and happiness will reign. The three wishes are for a future of prosperity, that a better world will flourish, and that there is peace in the heart. I wish these for you in the new year to come.

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  5. I have had a rough time with recurring lung health issues recently, so I can’t get to to walk. Meds are hard on my body. I compensate by reading, reading, reading. Now I need to leave lots of reviews from my notes. I always love winning a new book.

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  6. Thank you for your very special and kind words. I would like to add – look around and you will unfortunately find someone who is having a worse time than yourself. Smile it always makes someone’s day.

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  7. Oh, Edith, I am so sorry that this year has been rough. It sounds like you are doing all of the right things to keep yourself on track.

    My solution is running. Three miles on the track will help kick both endorphins and often a different perspective into high gear. And I try to perform random acts of kindness.

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  8. cj Sez: Praying for you, Edith. Autumn is supposed to be a glorious time as the year winds down into winter…it’s sad that yours was a struggle. But spring is a time for rebirth and renewal, and I pray the coming spring will bring you comfort and peace.

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  9. Edith,
    Kind thoughts — cycle of life events and personal health not only are painful but the remembrances of your dear friends can’t help but interrupt your thoughts and feelings….sometimes putting one foot in front of another, which we all need to do, isn’t enough. That’s when I take comfort in the love and friendship others give me and the memories of the good times with those who have passed. My only other answer…time, giving oneself time and permission to heal or at least accept what can’t be changed…..(you don’t need to put me in the giveaway as it is always my joy to buy one of your books).

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  10. These are excellent suggestions for maintaining equilibrium in difficult days, Edith. You have given us a gift in writing this piece. For myself, I would add
    – Music – which I do not read or play- but has a profound effect on me. Mostly classical, soothing mediation music, and – for energy – traditional Irish fiddle music.
    – For some months, I found it helpful to start the day by reading a poem – from my ancient college textbooks or modern – M.S. Merwin, Donald Hall, Jane Kenyon, and – of course – Mary Oliver.
    – Meditation – just sitting sometimes, feeling open – a version of what you find helpful in Mr. Whittier’s meeting house.
    – I am starting yoga again – it felt as if I was in whitewater for a while, and my practice went to hell in a hand basket.
    – Reasons to be thankful and cheerful. I have many blessings and it is helpful to count them, like a rosary (from my tradition) – a rosary of blessings, like the blessings you note in your own life
    – Yes, young people. I babysit whenever I can carve out coverage here. It’s hard to be feeling too down with a three year old behind you in a car seat singing a song or telling a story.
    – Friends – coffee together, a hug, a few laughs.
    – A big one – acceptance. We are entering a stage of life that involves great joy, but also losses, our own and those of family and friends. Part of life. I am now a full time caregiver. There isn’t great deal I can do about that and there will be no happy endings. But, I’m responsible for building as rich a life as I can for myself in this challenging chapter of my life.
    Hugs. You can do this.

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  11. Oh, Edith, so sorry to read that this has been such a hard season for you. Your words today, as it happens, are touching just the right sore spot for me too. This year it hasn’t been, for me, the big blows – I have had years like that – but things that can’t be fixed and changes I don’t want. What you wrote was just what I needed to read this morning. Thank you.

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  12. Sorry to hear about your tough autumn—a tough year here for us as well. I appreciate all the suggestions here, several of which I’ve tried to follow myself—I bake a loaf of bread each week myself! Sending good wishes your way, here and always.

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  13. One thing that helps me is to help others. With it being the season it is and another fast approaching, there are lots of ways to help whether you feel comfortable doing so in the limelight or back in the shadows. I find that concentrating on others takes my mind off myself, which in itself if a great relief. Plus I’m accomplishing something good in the process.

    Another thing I do is to take something I normally do and shake it up. I love photography, but usually my photos are of nature either critters or landscapes. To shake it up and make me concentrate more of the task at hand and free my mind of what it’s dwelling on, I may go on an adventure concentrating on abstract photos (like just parts of a building or a neat window) or people (totally strangers with interesting features, someone that makes me laugh or just down right adorable). Of course, due to privacy and considering 99% of these people never know I’m photographing them, these photos I never post or share but are rather for my personal satisfaction of capturing a neat photo.

    Please know as you go through rough times that many people are lifting you up in prayer for the strength to endure and for good times to come to you soon. It does seem that when troubles come that they come in bunches, but we must remember that the good times do as well.

    Thank you for the fabulous chance to win an ARC of “Murder at the Taffy Shop”! Definitely on my TBR list and one that I can’t wait for the opportunity to read.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

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  14. Edith, my dear, I’m so sorry to hear you are going through a rough time. I, like most people, have had my share of them, too. When WX permits, I work in the yard. I can do that for hours and hours and just let my mind free wheel. It’s harder in the winter, but then I do something like clean out closets or file drawers. In other words, I find projects to keep me and my mind busy. Then I say the first part of the Serenity Prayer, “accept the things I cannot change”, and then get a smile out of something an English doctor said to me many, many years ago, “Press on, undaunted.” It worked then, it works now. Just don’t isolate and brood. That only makes it worse. When you are depressed, too much time in your own head is hanging out with bad company. ((((((((((HUGS)))))))

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  15. I’m so sorry you’ve had a tough autumn, Edith. Here’s hoping for better days ahead. I look for something that make me laugh. Whether it’s a sitcom, stand-up show, or a funny movie, if I can find something that will make me chuckle, I know things will be okay.

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  16. Sorry to hear about the rough autumn, Edith. Hugs.

    When I feel down, I’ll spend time with my dog, lose myself in a book, or take a bubble bath (if it’s not too hot). And sometimes yes, shutting myself away in The Girl’s room (currently empty except for the big built-in desk) works, too.

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  17. Dear Edith, You’ve had a rough time for sure. I’m saving your coping strategies for the inevitable times when life reminds me how beautiful, hard, and transient it can be. Isak Dinesen said the cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea. I hope you can find time for a walk on the beach. If not, my other go to is dancing to a ridiculously catchy song like “Lovumba” by Daddy Yankee. 🙂 Sending hugs, xoxo Shari

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  18. What a wonderful sharing of healing ideas. I am sorry to know of your hard times, Edith, but happy that you have such great coping skills.

    As for myself, I read books with happy endings, pray, meditate, volunteer to visit those who are sick, buy myself flowers, spend time with my loving granddaughter, listen to beautiful music, pet my daughter’s dog and talk to my best friend who lives far away.

    BTW, is your book up for sale now? I really want to read it

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  19. Reading is my favorite, and aqua to release stiffness. I used to walk more, but breathing is an issue, so short walks. When I retired from teaching, I felt a bit unmoored without the all-consuming work, but I’ve adapted to the leisure, found my inner lazybones, and contribute just a little by writing reviews and donating a storytelling workshop to a conference of AEYC, early childhood educators. ❤

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  20. All good methods for me, too. Our pets always cheer us up, but this year is a tough one. We lost our precious 17-year old Pug Pep in September, and 12-year old Charlotte the Grumpy Cat’s lymphoma is getting worse. Good memories but tough times. Some alone time, thinking and praying are definitely needed; I need to be sure, though, that I don’t let them turn into why me pity parties or an excuse to just hide away. Remembering we are all in this life together helps.

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  21. Edith, I’m so sorry you had such a rough fall. Your strength and resilience astound me and all who know you.

    I’ve rediscovered needlepoint this year and find it so soothing and rewarding. If I’m stressed or upset or down, I’ll work on a canvas for a little bit, and feel better. And snuggling with our doggy is always a mood changer. I call him my anti-depressant!

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  22. I am so sorry for your troubles and I totally understand the feeling of being unequipped to handle some of life’s hard places. I highly recommend spending time with friends. Even when I am very blue and don’t want to be around anyone, if I reach out to friends I always feel better after the time spent with them. Also I try to fit in some yoga as that always helps center me. I truly wish for your new year to be a better one.

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  23. Reading 📚 babysitting my granddaughter Bellemere and Alice they are two years old. Walking with my little dog Josie. Two year old children are Fun and a handful. They keep me going.☺ thank you for the chance I want to read your book and get lost in the story.

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  24. I’m sorry you’ve had a rough Autumn, (I’ve seen some of you’re posts), I pray your Winter will be brighter! I pray a lot, cry some, read, cleaning and yard work always helps me, even if I feel I don’t have the energy, I make myself. I can get a lot of frustrations out with cleaning or yard work, all the while talking to myself. I spend time with grand-kids or some of my family, help them with problems they may have that I can help with. What is out of my control, I compartmentalize, what I can do something about, I talk to myself and the good Lord and work myself through it . Probably sounds crazy to some.

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  25. I have two granddaughters, two years old and six years old, so spending time with them always cheers me up and wears me out. Working in my yard helps and my true solace is reading. I can’t imagine not being able to read. My sister is one of my best friends and talking to her helps as she is going through this journey with me. I really enjoy your books. I hope things are better for you soon.

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  26. I’m so sorry you’ve had a rough fall. When I’m going through a difficult time, I read, spend time with friends, spend time with my dog. Coloring helps relax me too. A good cry also releases a lot of stress and tension.

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  27. Edith, I’m so sorry that your fall has been so awful. This has been a complete disaster year for me, with three close friends dying and my sister dying at Christmas last year. Then, I’ve had some health issues crop up, too. I did get some good news on my lungs the first of this month, and my lung doctor has dismissed me. Yay! Reading, which is a great source of comfort and peace for me has been adversely affected in that I have gotten far less reading done than usual. However, I do still use it to take me away, much like Calgon in the old commercial. I have found that cooking helps some, too, fixing something that others enjoy as well as myself. I’ve always heard that to feel better, one needs to get out of themselves and help others. While I do think that there is truth in that, I also know that sometimes it’s all one can do to cope with the day-to-day. Spending time with my ten-year-old granddaughter has helped lots, as she is such a source of joy. I have even found that cleaning out some clutter helps. I doubt that there is one thing that works for everyone, or that there is even one thing that works all the time for oneself. My mantra this year has been, put one foot in front of the other and keep going. I hope that your holidays will bring much happiness and better times for you, dear Edith.

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  28. I really don’t have a cure for moving on through the tough stuff life throws at me. Mostly I just try to remember that even when things are bad, they could be worse. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like things could get worse, but then I read a story about someone else’s troubles and then I’m grateful I’m not facing what they are. I try hard stay a glass half full kinda girl all the time, not always an easy task for sure!

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