Doing More Of What Keeps You Calm

I am looking out over Porthmeor beach, in St Ives, Cornwall.

It’s early morning, there’s hardly anyone else around, but the sun’s already rising. I’m thinking about the day that lies ahead. A warm breeze is blowing, I’m watching the white gulls gliding in from either side. A dog is running in and out of the waves, I can hear it barking. And I can hear the sound of the rolling surf as it approaches, then recedes. It is deeply soothing. In the far distance, on the sea’s horizon, I can make out the shape of a container ship. I watch it for half an hour as it drifts slowly from left to right. Then it disappears into the grey green blue.

On Saturdays, back in Rutland, I take a trip into town and get coffee at the same café.

I take my own cup that they fill for me, which I take home to wash. They add a stamp to my loyalty card and every now and then I get my coffee for free. The staff there know me well and they always help me carrying things, making sure I don’t fall over and drop my stuff. Through the big picture windows at the front of the shop, I see the weekend market, fruit and veg stalls, people and traffic going by. I sit. I write.

I’m an accomplished avoider. By now, I’ve learned that it’s not necessary to check my bank account every day, or to stress about every hour’s news update.

I’d genuinely rather watch the clouds passing across the sky and to see the dry branches move in the wind, than find out the latest news about Brexit. There are certain places in my mind, in the vaults of my memory, that I simply no longer visit. That way, I avoid pain. I am a firm believer that (by working at it, hard) I can control the programme that runs in mind. Only me, and no-one else, is in charge of how that plays out.

I love to people watch and to consider other people’s lives.

This too helps to keep me calm. I’ll be watching Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City at Wembley later today, and I’m not expecting my team to win (unfortunately). So, I’ll be calmly watching the game, thinking about the players as individuals – about the lives they will go back to after the game. And I’ll be watching the Spurs fans too, I’ll be sharing in their success, in their pride, in their love of the game. Having watched Leicester City for a decade or more, I understand the overall context, where the team has come from. That will help me remain calm too.

My life is now spent anticipating calm and happy moments.

Even, the joy of routine. Celebrating things that just work for me. Things that other people might take for granted – a reliable car or a modest glass of wine after an evening meal, a funny programme on the radio, or my family together around the table. I watch the same favourite movies over and over, they’ve become like friends to me. I like the fact that the stories are predictable.

I’m in the moment, and I’m cultivating this kind of calm in my life. It supports my resilience.