Things are strange right now in the human world but Nature still moves forward. If you can get to a park or other outdoor spot, go for a walk today and look for new growth. Listen to the birds chirping. Enjoy the greater hours of daylight that are about to begin. Remind yourself that nothing lasts forever.
Wishing everyone a safe, happy, and healthy Spring (or Autumn, for those in the Southern Hemisphere) ♥
I have melissophobia– the fear of bees. I’ve suffered this intense fear since I was 3 or 4 years old, when a bumblebee chased me and wouldn’t leave me alone (eventually my sister told me to stand still, which I did, and the bee flew away, but the damage was done). If I see a bee now I keep my distance. If it’s flying near me I instinctively freeze in terror. If I can get inside I’ll walk as fast as I can without “provoking” it, all the while too afraid to look back to see if it’s following. If one gets in the house, I’ll hide in the farthest room with a door and wait until someone can come take care of it. The first time I realized I was having a panic attack was when I heard buzzing in the living room curtains (it turned out to be a fly). Basically, I react to bees the way other people react to axe murderers. My logical mind loves bees: they pollinate flowers; make delicious honey; and are symbols of orderliness, productivity, and a peaceful garden. But phobias aren’t logical, and on a deeper, baser, level within me, bees are the incarnation of danger and chaos. Even looking at the photo at the top of my post makes my stomach twist with anxiety.
Last night I had a nightmare about bees that wasn’t about bees at all.
It started when one of my cousins pointed out a swarm of bees in a tree. I knew we had to get out of there, so I started running. But my SO said we should find somewhere quiet to hide and let them pass us by. When I saw bees overtaking me as I ran, I knew he was right. I tried hiding.
The next thing I knew, my scalp was crawling (in the dream I could actually feel the physical sensations) and I heard buzzing. I asked my SO if they were on me and he said he would go get help. While I waited for what seemed like ages I tried to think of a way to get them off me. I kept moving near flowers, hoping they’d prefer the blossoms to me. But nothing I did helped, and they started moving down. They clustered around my eyes, ears, and mouth. They crawled down my neck and settled on my chest.
Suddenly my mom was there, smiling. My mom died 9 years ago, but has been visiting my dreams lately. She saw I was in distress (and I really was, having been crawling with bees in the dream for what seemed like hours) and took charge. Suddenly people were there trying to help. I woke up before the bees were removed, but the dream ended on a hopeful note, and I was confident the situation would get resolved.
I was covered in bees, but this was a dream about my anxieties over coronavirus (COVID-19).
The swarm of bees represents the virus: a massive danger off to the side that I didn’t immediately notice and then couldn’t get away from. Trying to hide from the bees is my self isolation (I have an underlying condition, so I need to avoid people as much as possible right now). Every time I hear the word “coronavirus” I’m reminded that corona means crown, so of course the bees started in my hair. Then they moved to my face, which is the area we’re constantly warned not to touch. From there to my chest, the part of the body the virus attacks. I hope the appearance of my mom means I’m being watched over. The hopeful note at the end gives me a little hope in real life too.
These are scary times. Nightmares are coming to life and threatening us all. But there’s still hope. Sometimes you can’t avoid being stung, but staying calm will help you get through it. And if you’re lucky, there’s still flowers and honey in the end.
Because so many people are stuck at home right now I’ve decided to make the ebook of Love Lies Bleeding free for the next few weeks. Books can help us get through the worst situations, and hopefully my books can help you.
If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, then order Love Lies Bleeding from an independent bookshop and support small businesses when they need it most. Click here and scroll down for the full list of available online shops.
Weekends are made for reading, aren’t they? There’s not much that’s better than getting lost in a story and ignoring the outside world for a while. One of my favourite parts is picking what to read next. If you’re in the mood for something with bite, check out my new short story Tooth & Claw. It’s inspired by real events and is free to download…
Mara, Dominic, and their fellow vampires arrive in Marseille, France in 1909, only to find another predator already on the loose. As the city tries to cope with a killer stalking the streets, Mara struggles to separate memory from delusion. Can she find peace when the past is haunting, the present overwhelming, and the future hopeless? Inspired by real events.
As for myself, I’m currently reading (and enjoying) My Age of Anxiety by Scott Stossel. If you suffer from any kind of anxiety or panic disorder (or even if you don’t), you’ll find this book both fascinating and insightful.
Aspasía S. Bissas
PS: Don’t forget to leave a rating or review after you’ve finished Tooth & Claw!
Every so often it pays to stop and take stock of how your life is going. Some days (or years) aren’t going to be as good as others, and a lot of the time there won’t be anything you can do about it. Sickness happens, jobs are lost, the world is a mess– there will always be things out of your control that affect you in a negative way. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make your life a little better, no matter what else is going on. Some of these suggestions are small things you can do, some take more effort. Some might not work for you (although you won’t know until you try). Take a look and see what inspires you…
Find a hobby: I read somewhere recently that people don’t have hobbies anymore, which is a shame because hobbies are fun (and sometimes you get a new sweater out of it). Taking time to do something you enjoy, whether it’s knitting, snowboarding, or even raising fancy pigeons, offsets many of life’s stresses, among other benefits.
2. Try something new: There’s nothing worse than getting stuck in a rut. Break out of it by trying something you’ve never done before. If you don’t like that, try something else. The point is to experience as much of life as you can.
3. Take a class: Is there something you’ve always wanted to study? A class will challenge you and keep you on track.
4. Read a book: A shocking number of adults don’t read– do yourself a favour and don’t be one of them. (By the way, I’ve written some books you might like, along with this article on the benefits of reading, according to science 🙂 )
5. Drink tea: It’s good for you (and relaxing). If you don’t like it, you might be making the same mistake I did when I first started drinking tea and steeping it too long (2 to 4 minutes should be plenty). Or it could be that you hate one kind but love another (I finally realized I really don’t like hibiscus). Some of the many types you can try include: black, green, white, red (aka rooibos), oolong, matcha, kombucha, herbal, barley tea (also known as bori-cha or mugi-cha), flavoured and dessert teas…
6. Get out of the house: Go down the street or halfway around the world, but go.
7. Give back: You can donate time or money to a charity, run errands for your mom, or offer to babysit for a friend– whatever you do, just do something nice for someone else.
8. Keep a journal: Whether you go with an old-fashioned diary, a bullet journal, a gratitude journal, an art journal, or even a blog, journalling will help you sort through your day and your life, and has even been found to have multiple health benefits.
9, Pay attention: Also known as being in the moment. Look around, focus on details, notice the world.
10. Be immature: There’s always that person who will tell you that you have to grow up. Ignore them. Be silly, have fun. Finger paint, blow bubbles, laugh at stupid jokes. Wear something age inappropriate. Growing up is overrated.
11. Splurge once in a while: As long as there’s room in the budget, don’t be afraid to treat yourself.
12. Learn to make your favourite food: If you cook only one thing, make it a good one. (And if you have a family member who’s a great cook, take the time to get– and make– their recipes.)
13. Feed your backyard birds: Not only is it helping wildlife, but before long they’ll get to know you. Hearing birds chirp excitedly when you go outside is like starring in a real-life Disney movie. Just a couple of things to remember: seeds not bread; once you start, don’t stop feeding in winter (they rely on your help to survive); feed them away from any shrubs or places where cats and other predators can hide (and if you have a cat, keep them inside).
14. Grow something: It can be an entire garden or an avocado pit in a jar, but take care of something green.
15. Buy flowers: Speaking of something green, flowers or a plant will brighten up a room and your day.
16. Listen to music: Maybe dance a little too, while you’re at it. Repeat often.
17. Use the right toiletries: Even though soaps, shampoos, lotions, and perfumes are all made from the same basic ingredients, the quality can vary pretty significantly. You’ll look and feel better when you figure out your skin type and hair type and use the right products for them (preferably in a scent that makes you happy).
18. Be quiet: I don’t mean talk less (although sometimes that’s good too), but find a way to be quiet within yourself. Meditation is a good way to find your inner quiet, or you can do something as simple as sitting for five minutes with your eyes closed while focusing on your breathing. Meditation can help relax you, ease your pain, and even make you a kinder person.
19. Put down your devices: You’ve probably heard this one a lot. No one’s saying give up your phone or tablet, but do take some time every day to focus on the world around you instead of a screen.
20. Love your people: By which I mean show your partner, kids, friends, pets, family, favourite teachers– anyone who means anything to you– that you care. Ask them how they’re doing, get them a coffee, give them a cuddle. Everyone’s life could use a little more of that.
21. Watch or read something funny: Let’s face it, real life is feeling a little dystopian right now. Give yourself a break.
22. Laugh at yourself: Note to self, life is easier when you don’t take everything so seriously. Or as Maude (Harold and Maude) puts it: “Harold, everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can’t let the world judge you too much.” (By the way, consider watching Harold and Maude as the bonus 46th thing you can do to make your life better. Also Amélie.)
23. Don’t read the comments: The internet has become a breeding ground for trolls and they congregate in comments sections. Unless you enjoy submersing yourself in anger, negativity, and outright abuse, don’t read the comments (also keep in mind that responding, disliking, or acknowledging these comments in any way marks them as “popular” and makes them more prominent on the page).
25. Go to the library: Not just a place to borrow books (although that alone is pretty awesome), libraries are community hubs where you can do everything from enjoying art exhibits, to attending author readings, to borrowing musical instruments, and so much more– for free.
26. Play outside: Spend some time in the fresh air. It doesn’t matter what you do, just enjoy yourself in nature.
27. Clean the house: Yes, it’s boring, tiring, and sometimes gross. But it feels so much better to be in a clean space. Do you live with other humans? Make sure they do their share.
28. Make little changes: It can be overwhelming when you’re thinking about starting something new or changing something old. Instead of trying to tackle it all at once, try breaking it down into small, easy-to-manage steps. What do you want to do/change right now, and what’s the first tiny step toward getting there?
29. Walk away: Sometimes there are things, people, and situations in your life that make it worse. They add to your stress, make you feel bad about yourself, or drain your energy. Leave them behind, if you can, and don’t look back.
30. Talk to someone: Whether it’s a friend, a therapist, or anyone else you can open up to, find someone you can confide in.
31. Listen to someone: Let someone open up to you.
32. Take a break from the news: Although it’s good to know what’s going on in the world, watching the news with its 24/7 focus on the negative can be more stressful than informative. It’s okay to ignore it sometimes (same for social media).
33. Vote: Yes, your one vote does make a difference. No, not all politicians are equally bad. People literally fought and died for the chance to have a voice– don’t waste yours (even if you’re not thrilled with the choices, picking one is always better than picking none).
34. Plan a trip: Researchers have found that planning a trip is more satisfying than actually taking one. Even though travel is a worthwhile experience, sometimes it’s better to stay home.
35. Daydream: I’m not sure why anyone ever thought this was a bad thing. (By the way, science agrees.)
36. Don’t wait: If there’s something you’ve been wanting to do, don’t put it off.
37. Take care of your feet: They do so much for us and yet most people tend to ignore them. Show your feet some love by putting lotion on them after every shower, not wearing wet shoes or socks, and gently using a pumice on rough spots. It’s also best to avoid wearing high heels except on special occasions; while the appeal of heels is debatable, the damage they cause is not (oh, and make sure to throw something hard at the next person who tells you beauty is pain).
38. Don’t compare yourself to anyone: There’s no one way to be– you’re doing fine, no matter what anyone else is up to.
39. Take chances: Being cautious is important, but being too cautious can result in a life observed rather than lived. Try something, even if you don’t know it’s going to work.
40. Throw some shade (on yourself): Avoid the sun and tanning beds too. Unless you’re a fan of leathery skin and melanoma.
41. Embrace change: Change happens whether we like it or not– learn to make the most of it.
42. Celebrate: It’s easy to let special occasions and accomplishments go by without fanfare. Don’t let every day feel the same– celebrate whenever you can.
43. Find your tribe: This one isn’t so easy, but it might be the most important. Find the people who get you, who let you be yourself, and who care. If you laugh at the same things, never let go.
44. Be self sufficient: I don’t mean live off the grid and produce everything you need (although if that’s your thing, go for it), but the more you can do for yourself, the better. There’s something extremely satisfying about fixing your own leaking faucet instead of having to pay a plumber (just one example). Bonus: if you’re trying to get away from giving “stuff” for gifts, you can give your skills instead– make or fix something for someone who can’t.
45. Rest: Everyone I know is always busy and usually exhausted. It’s time to prioritize resting. Get a good night’s sleep (if you can’t sleep, don’t try to do anything other than relax), nap, take time off, put your feet up. If nothing else, your brain will thank you (your stressed out body probably won’t complain, either).
Are you already doing these? Do you have others to add to the list? Please share in the comments…