Not alone

The other day I went to visit an old friend. Her husband died a little while ago and, prior to his final illness and associated times in hospital, they had never been apart. They loved each other deeply, they built up a business together, they stuck with each other through some very black times, they shared their successes, they were pretty much self-contained. Their business was based around their home, so neither of them was ever there alone.

Now that he’s gone, she is bereft – she hates being in the house on her own, but there is no choice. She does have friends who she made through the business and her friends (me included) do go and see her. There are people around her on the site still working (the business continues) and living and they pop in throughout the day, but she still feels isolated, especially now that she is ill herself and her mobility is poor.

We do our best – we go and visit, we drink tea and do the washing up. We tell her stories and try to cheer her up, but it’s very hard and she sees no positives. There is only so much we can do.

This set me thinking about how important it is to be part of a community. And then I reread a lovely e-mail that I received from Patricia’s partner, who wrote…

…Pat was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when she was 45, and there were many times when her health didn’t allow her to spend energy on the outside world.  Over the years forming connections and friendships online was a real lifeline for her…

and once again, I thought about the value of being part of a supportive community, but also the fact that our friends can be scattered far and wide and they are still our friends.

Last Friday I met up with a dear friend who I haven’t seen for 20 years. We found each other via social media after a bit of a gap in communications. How lovely it was to share a meal and catch up face-to-face… how lovely to have the opportunity to renew a connection.

So, lets celebrate all our friends – near and far – whether we sit in the same room, chat via the computer or send letters. And let’s learn to value our own company too, so that when we can’t be with the love of our life, we can still find joy.

-oOo-

By-the-way, based on a suggestion from Patricia’s partner, I have made a donation to the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society in Patricia’s memory. If any of you feel moved to mark her passing this way, donations to any charity supporting those afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis would be appropriate. If you do this, please let me know so I can pass on the information.

Say a little prayer, or not

Sissie in her blankie in the garden at High Bank

Sissie’s blankie was described in the pattern as a ‘prayer blanket’

Recently, I have come across numerous patterns for prayer shawls and prayer blankets and I was beginning  to wonder whether the knitting and crochet community was undergoing some great religious revival. However, the other day I discovered that these are not shawls to pray in (like a Jewish Tallith) nor blankets to kneel on whilst doing so (like hassocks), but creations that include simple repetitive patterns. The idea is that the shawl can be made whilst praying because there is no need to concentrate too much on the pattern, so one’s mind can be occupied by something else.

inner-peace-awardIt was quite a coincidence, therefore, when a few days back Megan (my chronic life journey) nominated me for the ‘Inner Peace Award’ and got me thinking about the whole idea. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a great fan of the chain letter type blogging award, but this one doesn’t really involve that aspect and did start me considering the importance of things like prayer shawls. Even if we do lead a stressful life, finding time to create something simple and beautiful (like Sissie’s blankie in the photo) can really help us to achieve a little inner peace. I have written before about crafting and mental well-being – the fact that repetitive activities, like knitting, crochet and wet felting, can increase alpha waves in our brains and encourage creative thought and relaxation. As a person who has the propensity to get very uptight I can highly recommend this approach to achieving a happier life and as a way to develop a calmer and more positive state.

Other people, of course, seek peace in different ways. Recent research has demonstrated the value to our health of visiting natural places or simply being outdoors. There is also clear evidence that walking can be a useful tool in treating depression. Whatever we choose to do, it seems that our mental state can be improved by participating in the right activities.

As I explore the blogosphere, I come across all sorts of approaches to peace and happiness and I want to share one in particular with you. I found Candy Blackman’s blog London Life with Bradshaw’s Handbook quite recently. You may be wondering what this has to do with inner peace, but if you read this post, you will find out. Candy is exploring London using Bradshaw’s 1862 Hand Book to London as a way to deal with her grief following the loss of her mother. One day a week she visits London, following Bradshaw’s guide and she blogs about it. It’s lovely – great pictures, fascinating links, a whole new (old?) perspective on London. She says that she hasn’t found a direction yet or arrived anywhere, but clearly the pure act of doing something is helping her… and providing those of us who follow her blog with fascinating information.

So, if you are feeling blue or stressed – put on your walking shoes or pick up your knitting needles and see if you can’t achieve a little inner peace.

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