How to Stay Calm

Although I am opinionated and overcritical, I am a model of calmness. Floods…derechos…earthquakes… I have endured these things without undue fuss.

But this year has been tough for everybody. Calm? Have we been calm? No, we have not. You’ve heard me on Covid–heavens, the main reason I voted is that I want someone to get our lives back on track by mandating masks and instituting some kind of plan.

We all deserve a vacation from Covid, and there is none. How I long to go to the beach! A week in a tatty cottage. It doesn’t have to be fancy. And I am not actually mad about the beach. It’s enough to sit on the screened-in porch with a good book. Don’t you agree? And then sit on the beach.

Things will improve, I hope. A vaccine is almost ready and will probably be available next year.

We really, really need a vacation.

But in the meantime, you might wonder, What books can I read to stay calm? The first is a critically-acclaimed new books; the other two have been around for a while.

A WELL-REVIEWED NEW BOOK I HAVEN’T READ YET: Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, by Katherine May. Here is the description from Goodreads.

“Sometimes you slip through the cracks: unforeseen circumstances like an abrupt illness, the death of a loved one, a break up, or a job loss can derail a life. These periods of dislocation can be lonely and unexpected. For May, her husband fell ill, her son stopped attending school, and her own medical issues led her to leave a demanding job. Wintering explores how she not only endured this painful time, but embraced the singular opportunities it offered.

“A moving personal narrative shot through with lessons from literature, mythology, and the natural world, May’s story offers instruction on the transformative power of rest and retreat. Illumination emerges from many sources: solstice celebrations and dormice hibernation, C.S. Lewis and Sylvia Plath, swimming in icy waters and sailing arctic seas.”

A POPULAR BOOK I HAVE READ (YOU MIGHT HAVE READ IT, TOO): A Year by the Sea by Joan Anderson. Here is the description from Goodreads.

“Life is a work in progress, as ever-changing as a sandy shoreline along the beach. During the years Joan Anderson was a loving wife and supportive mother, she had slowly and unconsciously replaced her own dreams with the needs of her family. With her sons grown, however, she realized that the family no longer centered on the home she provided, and her relationship with her husband had become stagnant. Like many women in her situation, Joan realized that she had neglected to nurture herself and, worse, to envision fulfilling goals for her future. As her husband received a wonderful job opportunity out-of-state, it seemed that the best part of her own life was finished. Shocking both of them, she refused to follow him to his new job and decided to retreat to a family cottage on Cape Cod.”

HERE IS A BOOK I LOVE: Drinking the Rain by Alix Kates Shulman. The description from Goodreads.

“At fifty, Alix Kates Shulman, author of the celebrated feminist novel, Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen, left a city life dense with political activism, family and literary community, and went to live alone on an island off the coast of Maine. On a windswept beach, in a cabin with no plumbing, power, or telephone, she found that she was learning to live all over again.”

I recommend this beautifully-written book, though there is no way I could survive in a cabin with no plumbing.

What calming books do you recommend?

Have a calm weekend!

6 thoughts on “How to Stay Calm”

  1. I love the sound of Wintering. Putting that on my list.
    Calming books, what a great topic! What springs first to mind is A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle. I still love it even though the author’s “fictionalizing” take on her own life is troublesome, as I wrote about in a discussion post this month.
    The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu has been helpful to me in describing many calming and centering practices.
    Good luck to everyone who is seeking that quiet place these days!

  2. I do need to read these books, especially the one by L’Engle. (I got it at the book sale, which I really miss now that we have missed two cycles of it!) The other two sound wonderful, too.

  3. All three of those books sound great. I buy more books than I can keep up with, of course, being a dedicated book lover. I have read 2 0f Elizabeth Berg’s books of her sweet and deep short essays, the first is Make Someone Happy. Hint, she loves dogs. Calming books.

  4. Hmmm. Good question. I’ve been rereading Carol Shields. Small Ceremonies was a lovely surprise, and the concept (of creating our own ‘small ceremonies’, regardless of what’s transpiring around us) is helpful. I just downloaded a copy of 84 charing Crsss Road as an audiobook from the library, thinking that would offer some respite (I’ve always read/watched it, never listened). I’m currently enjoying Lennie Goodings’ bookish memoir (A Bite of the Apple — it’s not a calming read per se, but reading about reading is a comfy thing for me) and am thinking of rereading Winifred Holtby’s South Riding next year (reading her biography The Clear Stream now, which is quite good).

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