No sun - no moon!
No morn - no noon -
No dawn - no dusk - no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! -
Thomas Hood (1799-1845)

It has been a dark and dreadful month so far, with seemingly endless rain, chaos on road and rail, harrowing pictures of people battling with houses full of water, livelihoods washed away, sunken cars…  This is maybe the hardest month in which to stick to resolutions of positive thinking and regular time outdoors and yet today, there is a glorious respite.  

I’m on my way to a counselling session, on a picture postcard morning, through the gingerbread-ironstone village where my counsellor lives.  The sky is a deep, fathomless blue, the freezing air is sharp in my nose and every leaf is rimed with frost.  I have parked my car by a berry-ladened holly bush, and a robin is singing from a nearby fir tree.   I wouldn’t be surprised if a group of red nosed children appeared around the corner, waving lanterns and singing carols.  And yet, this is mid- November, traditionally a season of gloom and dark as the crisp, bright October leaves wilt into treacherous slime on the pavements.  The light and joy of Christmas are weeks away.

I stop to locate the robin’s perch, to wish it good morning and savour its metallic song.  Another few moments won’t make me late as I try to capture the beauty of the frost with my phone.  I’m dawdling like Shakespeare’s scholar on the way to school, nervous of what today’s session might unearth and keener than usual to practice my mindfulness.  

I put off seeing a counsellor for years, with seemingly plausible excuses about time and money.  I was so exhausted all the time that the thought of spending any of my precious energy looking backwards seemed crazy. It was something to think about when …  What the excuses patched over was a sense that my needs could wait until everyone else had received what they needed.  Deep beneath the excuses was the fear of turning to face the experiences that have brought me to this point.  

Having bitten the bullet, it is an enormous relief.  Counselling is exhausting, and at times upsetting, but after each session I can see that my reflections have taken me a step towards recovery instead of round in the old, terrifying circles.  Instead of letting my demons corral me alone in the wee small hours, I am bringing the fight to them in the daylight, with an ally at my back.  

I may be dawdling today, but my steps are still taking me in the right direction.  In spending these few precious moments, wondering at the beauty of the world around me, I am fortifying myself, feeding my soul, finding joy in the everyday and the mundane.  Setting aside special time for treats and relaxation has been a vital part of my recovery so far, but these tiny sparks of joy, amid the everyday challenges of life are far more important.  They serve to lift my spirits and keep my feet on the path through the ordinary and the challenging days. This morning, the robin’s song is far from a distraction, it is the bugle call of a revaille to strengthen my hesitant steps.

Do you look for sparks of joy in a dull or difficult moment, or plod through, waiting for the special times?  Try singing along to music during dull chores.  Look for something beautiful to focus on for a moment when things are tough.