01 Mar What I learnt in February
1. I have really, really missed the sun.
We have had one of those winters where it has rained, a lot. I don’t mind winter, in fact I quite enjoy the opportunity to hunker down, to light the fire and eat comforting food. To lie in bed, snuggled under blankets, listening to the wind and rain outside. I even like the dark evenings and the shorter days – an opportunity to do some hibernating and not feel guilty about not ‘making the most’ of the day.
Obviously I am not a fan of the cold mornings, the desperate dash from bed to shower, and working in the kitchen trying to stave off putting on the heating for as long as possible, working in coat, scarf and, sometimes, bobble hat.
But this last month, more than any other time I can remember, I have been desperate for some sun. Warmth would be good, but for now, I’ll settle for sun, for bright days, for Vitamin D. And we have, this last week, had a few days of sunshine. I even sat (wrapped up and with a hot drink) outside to read for half an hour. And as I did I felt myself relax slightly. I remembered that winters pass. I remembered the sun will shine and it will, one day, be warm again.
2. I love Anglesey.
I have known this fact for a while. But this month we spent a week on this tiny island at the tip of North West Wales, and I remembered how much I adore this place. The week was cold, really cold, but the clear skies and wide open spaces felt brilliant, the kids got on well, and we walked in woods and on beaches and along cliff tops and felt good. We felt alive. I was grateful for this place, out of the city, where the day to day concerns fade for a while, where I can think big thoughts as I look at big skies.
3. Depression affects the strong, not the weak.
Having spent six years fighting the thought that my battles with my mental health are a sign of some inherent weakness, some symptom of being insufficient, not brave or competent enough, I have finally realised that the opposite is true. Often those of us who end up with a diagnosis, find ourselves in this place because we have thought for too long that we have to do everything and be everything, we have not let ourselves off the hook, we have punished ourselves for any sign of weakness or needing help. I wrote about it here. It is a good revelation and one I intend to keep hold of.
4. There is always more than meets the eye.
The book club I attend is just over a year old and these evenings are one of my highlights of the month. This one might just have been my favourite yet. We discussed the book obviously (A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – this year we are theming the months – February was Young Adult fiction), but we talked about so much more; ex-boyfriends, employment law, and seaweed – to begin with. As I get to know these women better and I learn new stories and details about their lives, the more I want to know about them. Their resilience, beauty and complexity continually amazes me.
5. A lot can change in a year.
My Grandma is 87. And one year ago she very nearly died. She took a fall in her flat and was not found for 7 hours. During this time she was in a lot of pain and had been very cold. She was in hospital for over ten weeks, and for a while at the beginning it was very touch and go. My Dad and his sister (and other family members) held a 24 hour vigil, keeping watch, caring for her. And then, due in some part to her childrens’ tenacity and the brilliant NHS, but also her determination and a large dose of luck, she started to improve. Then she came home. Then she dismissed her carers who were coming in twice daily to check on her (she hated that!). `She is elderly and frail, her mobility and her hearing are poor.
But this last week my Mum told me Grandma was planing to have an exhibition of her paintings. Grandma is a water-colour artist, and last year we thought she would never paint again. But she is painting and planning to show her work again. Remarkable.