Chicken Little, the sky is falling in, and we all know it, even if we wallow in denial. Welcome to the age of anxiety where everything you hold sacred might be snatched away in a heartbeat. What do you hang on to in such times? Certainly, the past has its appeal covered by a sticky sepia veneer of nostalgia but if you are too young to reference one of those, what else is there but an uncertain future framed in nihilism?
My recommendation, and it is a simple prescription, is choose simple pleasures — the simpler the better:
· Autumn walks (doggo is very welcome but not de rigueur)
· Sitting down in a comfy chair after a long walk (don’t forget to sigh audibly as posterior hits the soft cushioning and amplify the effect with a good single malt)
· Eating hot buttered toast with a window view to a foul grey rainy day outside (vegan choices also available)
· Recalling a conversation with a friend or a joke that made you laugh good and long (don’t say you haven’t had many of those, right?)
· Accepting an offer of help or better still, offering help to another (altruism is its own reward paradoxically)
· Showing warmth in everyday interactions — (be careful not to smile too much though for fear of looking mad or creepy in public)
· Counting your blessings before you go to sleep (sheep too if you are an insomniac)
· Connecting with a friend you haven’t heard from in a while (just so long as they don’t owe you money)
· Wallowing in denial (see first sentence, first paragraph)
One of my personal favorites, not included in the list above is a trip to my local Nepalese takeaway, Thamel. As a restaurant in suburbia, it stands alone and since like many ethnic restaurants it has a bar with beer on tap, it attracts a regular daytime crew — older folks with time on their hands and a deep and sincere love of alcohol and company.
I hear your judgement nerve tingling but suspend judgement, for these people are not sloppy alcoholics but an intelligent, relaxed, and entertaining association of friends.
Whenever I go to the restaurant, typically to order take-out, I am assured of a warm welcome from the manager Govinda, whose wise demeanor, deference and kindness over multiple years is undisputed. Having made the order, I invariably order a pint and take my place with the crew who sit in the snug opposite the bar and receive a second warm welcome.
If you haven’t read my earlier blogs, I happen to live in Finland as an Englishman and have lived here that long that I speak the language and am familiar with the cultural codes. Indeed, I am greeted and referred to genially, as the ‘Engelsmanni’ but also by my first name when I set down.
So, the conversation rolls along in Finnish, sometimes led by me or by lead members of the regular crew. I sometimes surprise myself that my conversational Finnish can flow in that easy manner that fits with the tempo while still reminding myself that I am making mistakes. As an English teacher for many years, I reminded my students (and by default, myself) of the importance of communication above perfection and it seems to be a universally workable rule.
Mansplaining alert: another universal rule is the power of the pint — a perfect measure of alcohol, carbohydrates and hydration, it also apparently contains traces of an alkaloid derivative of barley — the grain used commonly in beer which has been proven to tingle our dopamine receptors — inducing happiness quite independent of alcohol. So there.
The order takes approximately 25 minutes to process and in that time frame we rest in the spirit of good company, laughing and sharing stories and of course, supping beer. Perhaps it’s the brevity of the moment — a prescribed time limit to the interaction safe in the knowledge that it will happen again that make it so enjoyable.
Also, pint drained to the suds, I walk out of the restaurant socially refreshed and toting a delicious Nepalese meal for the homeward journey.
There it is. Life seems unnecessarily complicated these days and despite the success of social distancing and remote technologies to fend off a pandemic, we all need good food and human connection — the simplest and best antidote to anxiety.
Seek it out — you will find willing participants in your quest. Have a great day.