What is respite? It’s an interval, a cessation, it’s breathing space. The Cambridge dictionary says it’s a pause or rest from something difficult or unpleasant. I’m not sure about that definition, it seems rather glib. It doesn’t capture the subtleties of ‘respite.’ We seek respite from our young children, who demand our attention 24/7. It’s healthy for us to do so, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that we are taking respite from something ‘difficult or unpleasant.’ We simply need a break from the same demands every day. It could be respite from anything we do every day, or several times a week. ‘Same old, same old,’ we say.
When we are in grief over the loss of a loved one, it’s very necessary to allow our grief its natural expression. But as one year becomes two, and then three years of living with grief, we need respite. For some it’s in finding another person to love. For others it’s finding love for oneself, as well as others. Respite is a very necessary tool for living happily.
My youngest son is learning the importance of respite. He owns a cafe and has been running it for 5 years without a real holiday. He’s now aware of his rising levels of anxiety, broken sleep, and the threat of burning out in his early thirties. He’s devised a plan of self-care, both short-term and long-term. I wish I’d had as much wisdom at his age. He finds ways of delegating and taking days off each week. He’s even found a mentor in an older, successful cafe-owner, who is happy to give valuable advice.
Some of us manage self-care naturally, even in times of grief. We might make a movie date with a friend, or make time for coffee and catch-ups, buy ourselves flowers, or a good book, or leave the desk and go for a walk, or a run. The trick is in making it a regular habit, and not something we do when it’s almost too late.
When I was in my thirties, I took a desperate week’s break away from my family and home town after two years of enormous stress on a daily basis. It took me seven days to calm down enough to begin relaxing, but by then I had to fly back home and soldier on. It would have been better if I’d had someone to talk to about all my problems before my silent stress grew enormous. Months later, I was whisked off to hospital with glandular fever and borderline jaundice of the liver. It would have been helpful if I’d had enough self-esteem to know that I needed relaxation and creative time without feeling guilty about it. It would have helped if I’d not felt powerless and trapped by life. It would have helped if I’d had counselling.
Years later I learned that we can find respite from our troubles by reclaiming our power. It takes time and practise, but what else are we going to do with our lives? Keep doing the same things in the hope that it will work next time? I did that for years and discovered catalysts could bring about change, which is not ideal. Catalysts are generally very uncomfortable. Finally, through asking and seeking, I discovered that when I changed my thoughts and words for the better, my world changed for the better. I began meditating and then saying affirmations. If I’d been religious, I would have used prayer, but I wasn’t and I didn’t. However, I do believe there is much more going on in the universe than we understand, and I have found great relief in experiencing the non-physical energy that exists on this physical plane. They, or It, are there for us if we tune in and ask. Some of you might think that I’ve found God, and in a sense I have. The Source, or Infinite Intelligence that I trust, is like God or Allah but without religious rules. It helps tremendously to know we are not alone; to know we are loved, and that we only have to ask for help and we shall receive. We can find strength in reclaiming the power that is within us. The life-changer we seek is inside each one of us.
There will always be light and dark, there will always be the opposite end of a situation, but we can find relief in remembering to look for the better feeling. Does it feel better to say ‘My glass is half-empty,’ or ‘My glass is half-full’? The first one carries the feeling that there is not enough. The second has the feeling of appreciation, even joy. Look at a situation and examine your words and thoughts about it. What feels better? We need time to contemplate what makes us feel better, and to change our words accordingly. I’m not advocating the use of false feelings. We wouldn’t pretend with a smile that our petrol tank has enough fuel in it when we know it’s empty. But we might say with a smile of appreciation that we have enough money to catch the bus that day.
We might say our home is too cramped and crowded, that it’s bleak and depressing. On the other hand, we might say we appreciate having a place to call home and that it is the home that will launch us into a better one. Which thought feels better? When you go for the better-feeling words, visualise the kind of place you want to live in. Don’t get caught up in the how, or the where. It’s the feeling that is the important part, because as we feel, so we attract. Appreciation will attract more to us to appreciate. You will be surprised at what shows up in ways you might never have thought possible.
The first step to positive feelings of appreciation is to find stillness in your day. Even if you have to get up 30 minutes earlier, or take time out of your lunch break, try to find a place to sit and just be. You might meditate, or pray, or say affirmations, or write a poem, feed the ducks on the river, listen to the wind in the trees. Getting out in nature and sitting or walking quietly is almost like a meditation in itself.
I recently visited the busy city of Melbourne and was walking in the rain just before 9:00am to the sound of tyres on wet roads, trams clanking, and people walking hastily to work under their black umbrellas. As I turned a corner from Collins Street onto Russell Street, I saw a sign outside a building attached to St Michael’s Church. It said ‘Mingary. The Quiet Place.’ Inside I found a small sanctuary. A booklet told me that ‘mingary’ is Gaelic for ‘quiet place.’ This remarkable haven in the middle of the city is for all people, of any religion or culture. Not only is it a quiet place to reflect, but they run a counselling service, which is open to anybody at a low cost. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all cities had such places? If you’re ever in Melbourne, you may wish to visit this very special place:
I invite you to share some of your strategies for dealing with life’s challenges. What has been your most helpful turning point? Maybe you have several. What has been your soul food, your respite? One of mine was the Abraham-Hicks book Ask and It Is Given. The Abraham teachings have helped me profoundly through the years since then. Another has been the work of Lyza Saint Ambrosena, who is based here in Queensland:
I look forward to reading your shared stories.
Wishing you quiet places.
Wendy Dartnall is the author of A Wind from the East,
and independent book stores.