Comfort Reads for Troubled Times

Some days it feels like the world is really going downhill. Natural disasters (as I write this, Texas and India are still recovering from massive floods, large chunks of western North America are on fire, and another hurricane is gearing up to hit some vulnerable islands on the way to Florida), politics (’nuff said), bad days on a personal level…and if they all combine, watch out!

On days like this, one of the best cures is a comfort read. Simply defined: it’s a book you pick up because you know it will make you feel better. It’s by a favourite and trusted author. You’ve probably read it before (perhaps many times), or else you’ve been looking forward to reading it (maybe it’s a new installment in a series you love). Maybe you discovered it at an impressionable age and love it beyond all reason even though you know it’s not objectively the best book ever. It has stood the test of time…at least for you.

What books qualify as comfort reads? Obviously, the answer to that is very personal. Some people might crave works that are light and funny, or sweet and romantic, or even dark, so that they feel less alone.

Here are some of mine…

The Lord of the Rings

Yup, I’m one of those people. *grins* I’ve read the books multiple times. Most of those times were long ago, but I’m slowly rereading them now, and let me tell you, it’s a bit weird revisiting them for …

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Stop and Listen to the Music

Last Thursday my husband and I went to a Sonata Arctica concert. We’d snagged tickets on Black Friday ($12–and only $18 even with the ridiculous ticket fees) and so we made the fairly last minute decision to go.

And, oh, it was glorious. Small, intimate venue, music so loud I couldn’t hear properly for approximately 12 hours afterwards, a small crowd of music lovers who braved the below freezing temperatures to come hang out in a tiny venue without proper parking…

But it was really the music that made it great. Sonata Arctica is a Finnish power metal band, and they were touring with Leaves’ Eyes (multi-national symphonic metal band) and Omnium Gatherum (Finnish death metal band).

(My husband: Is all music in Finland metal?
Me: Probably.)

(For those people who are like “There’s genres of metal music?” here is a description of the various ones.)

Omnium is not really my taste, so we missed the beginning of their set, but there was a point during Leaves’ Eyes’ set where I came back into my self and realized–that probably for the first time in a long time–that all my stress had fallen off, that I was content, that all the things that I worry about day in and day out had, for at least the moment, disappeared.

As you can imagine, it was quite freeing.

Symphonic metal is my favorite music genre, and I’ve found it to be very useful writing music as well, especially when I’m doing …

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Mental Health for the Holidays

I think November’s been tough on a lot of us, and December isn’t necessarily any easier. Personally, besides the obvious stressors, I’ve also had a truly hectic month at work and came down with two colds in quick succession. Seems like a good time to review self-care. So here are some reminders, for myself as much as for you all…

1. Take the time to do something you love.

I was lucky enough to attend not one but two contra (folk dance) weekends away from home in November. Lots of exercise, friends, wonderful live music, the state of flow, and a natural high, not to mention the excitement of a road trip. (Of course, that’s probably also where I picked up both of those colds. Argh.)

2. Do something creative. If you’re a creative professional (like a writer), do something else creative.

I’m a big believer in “creative cross-training”. We writers love to talk craft and work on improving our craft, which is important. But it’s also important to go and try something else — something that doesn’t have the same stakes and expectations attached. For me right now, it’s Instagram, contra dance, and occasionally tinkering in the kitchen.

3. Try something new.

At one of the aforementioned dance weekends, I got to try English Country Dancing (a cousin to contra) and swing dance, both new to me (swing dancing has footwork, ack, but the music is so much fun…). At the other, I got to try dancing …

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