03:45am, 20th August 2020. I woke up with an urgent thought on my mind, ‘go and rescue the beautiful Hollyhock from the storm’. Strange, isn’t it, how we can come out of deep sleep with a particular worry or concern on our mind?
I jumped out of bed, tip-toed quietly down the stairs and out on to the garden patio. The storm was making its presence felt and my potted Hollyhock was bending over dangerously in the wind, as it had reached the fantastic height of 61⁄2 feet. I dragged the heavy pot across the floor to safety. Stretch…breathe in deeply…and pause…that was a challenging job for someone who’d just woken up. I stood still, caressed by the wind and gazing up to the clear night sky. What I saw was completely overwhelming.
I was in awe, with goosebumps all over me. The sky looked clear and free from all pollution (we live by the sea, with hardly any light pollution), the stars appeared to be within reach. What a beautiful, magnificent and mesmerising scene. I could see huge clusters of stars that I’d never seen before. Trillions of sparkles in all sizes and colours spread out peacefully above my head.
Who am I? What am I?
Joni Mitchell’s song “We are stardust, we are golden…” filled my mind and I started humming it. I’m a tiny speck in this massive, incomprehensible space, with no end in sight, but apparently there is one, and then there are other galaxies. Awesome. Mind blowing.
And here I stand, humble and small, a frequently grumbling occupant of this beautiful planet, a jewel amongst planets. How can I begin to grasp this, make sense of it and feel comforted by it? I’d lost an old friend only two days ago, another two weeks ago, and another three months ago. Are they now amongst the sparkling stars, looking down on me?
Time is a concept created by man to give a structure to our lives and to be able to keep a multitude of appointments. But when we venture out into space, time takes on another dimension, different rules apply.
My favourite professor, the well-known TV Astronomer Brian Cox, would surely have some answers for me. However, I believe that he is still in awe, just as I am, of this vast, mysterious expanse above our heads, trying to find answers and discovering new mysteries in the process. Someone, (was it Stephen Hawkins?), once said “The more I know, the less I know”. There is absolutely no end to our learning, no end to questions about our existence and the working of our universe.
That brings me happily down to earth and to the subject of custard doughnuts, rice pudding with a sprinkle of cinnamon, scrambled eggs with curry powder, pasta any shape or size, the smell of coffee and baking bread. My list of comfort foods is long, but not as vast as the starry sky, and of course such a list varies with each individual.
We, the human race, have created a massive assortment of escapes and creature comforts, including custard doughnuts, to help us manage our daily life. It feels good to occasionally indulge, in what we perceive as ‘Rescue Remedies’, in times of trouble.
I look at these habits as efforts to counterbalance the awe-inspiring vastness of our universe. They stop us from getting carried away by a tidal wave of problems and keep my/our feet, firmly on the ground.
Creature comforts certainly offer a temporary relief.
At some point in my past, this longing and need for comfort got the better of me. I’d worked for several years in an extremely stressful environment, with every day bringing new challenges and sometimes pains. The daily appearance at work of a kindly looking woman (who may have been her own best customer) with a fabulously tempting and overloaded sweet trolley, was like a life-line, and the answer to my inner stress. Not to mention a glass or two of wine in the evening.
Ooohhh dear. Were my clothes shrinking while hanging in the wardrobe? Or was there something not quite right with my problem solution technique? Of course, at the end of my indulgences, I had created more problems for my health than I could imagine. I became overweight, suffered from broken and restless sleep, breathlessness, mood swings…
So, here is the question for the reader: When are creature comforts no longer truly comforting and of benefit to our well-being?
I guess the answer is not too difficult to arrive at. The secret is in the balance of things, in moderation and in becoming aware of what we do to ourselves. If we benefit and feel better, more alive and invigorated, from our comfort- seeking activities and habits, then surely we’re on the right path. In my case, I had to change my job and find a healthier replacement for my excessive consumption of custard doughnuts.
Easier said than done, you might say. I’d like to argue that point, as I’ve been there and done it. It all depends on how serious you are about changing your habits and improving your health and life in general.
It all starts with a thought and an intention. Every change starts with the first step and a firm belief that you can do it.
Equip yourself with a list of calorie, alcohol and refined sugar-free creature comforts.
Perhaps adopt a daily routine of fruit and veg snacks, walking, singing, exercising, meditation, prayer, mantras – all of which are either low or absolutely free of sugar and calories. And, that’s the best part of it, the side- effects can only be described as beneficial and happy-making. Naturally, I would never ever say ‘don’t eat another custard doughnut’, or whatever gives you comfort. Enjoy it as a treat now and then, but don’t let it have a hold over you.
And then there is the starry sky. What a treat and feast for our spirit it is to do some star-gazing, feeling at one with all of creation. Feet firmly on the ground, head in the heavens; what a comfort for our heart, mind and soul.
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