The Comfort Zone

Entry by: Seaside Scribbler

11th November 2016
'And all along it was...'

A Short Memoir

For years and years I've been trying to find an elusive state of being/emotion. I've never been able to find a great name for it. The closest I can come to is 'a comforted state of contentment' . It's a state of being where I'm in a house with some other people, and there is stuff going on all through the house - someone listening to music, someone cooking, someone on the phone perhaps, the sound of a TV filtering through. It's always warm and it can involve sofas and blankets and perhaps food. When in this state I feel perfectly calm and safe, people pass by, everyone's chilled, people might stop and chat, but everyone's sort of self contained and happy yet connected at the same time.

My family wasn't always completely functional (whose is?) I don't want to write about that now, suffice to say there was a lot of tension and a lot of stuff rumbling along under the surface. I think as a child I picked up on a lot of it and most nights until the age of about 11 I was terrified to sleep because I had monumentally scary dreams. Therefore I don't think it's a feeling to replicate the one I had as a child with my mum and dad and brother that I seek, because I don't remember feeling it much back then and if I did, it was in Gran's room rather than the rest of the house - she lived with us from when I was four. I had it with her, with her lovely warmth and ticking clock and Grannyness. I got it as a student, in various student digs. I had it fleetingly when I had my first child. I've had glimpses of it, over the years but after my gran's death and a change of parent through divorce and remarriage, I never felt it at home again. Until recently I could probably have named every single time I had it and described it perfectly. It definitely wasn't something I felt often and it makes me sad because the opposite of feeling it, is being uncomfortable and on edge - which adds up to a hell of a lot of time spent feeling on edge.

I'm currently in my nineteenth house, and without fail those houses (or rooms, when I was younger) have had walls absolutely hung with stuff: posters, pictures, wall hangings; now, children's drawings, paintings, wooden bits and pieces and loads of photos. There have always been colourful rugs on the floor and far too many cushions, as I try to create this feeling. I've been reading about this Norwegain craze which I can't remember how to spell and I haven't the time to look it up, but it's pronounced 'hoodah' with a Scottish 'ckkkh' on the end (I think) - it seems to mean candles and warmth and a cosy atmosphere - exactly what I've always tried to create in my living space.

About three years ago I finally dealt with the depression that had haunted me on and off for over half my life. I was put on one brand of antidepressant, and within a week I had THAT feeling, the comforted state of contentment, with me constantly. Wow, I thought. I can get it in a pill. However the pills didn't agree with me in other ways and I had to come off them. Fortunately I realised it wasn't the pill that had caused it, it was triggering something inside me. The next lot of pills didn't have the same strong effect, but after a few months, I began to get glimmers of my comforted state of contentment. I treasured them, but the more I tried to hold onto them the more quickly they vanished. I was happy, though, because I was getting the feeling more and more. I put it down to me being happier in general, less anxious the whole time, less flat, not always under the black cloud.

This year I was diagnosed with breast cancer (on Friday 13th May - the minute I saw that date I knew the news wouldn't be good!) and what could have been a disaster that buried me back under the influence of the black cloud has had a rather surprising effect.

The whole 'having cancer' thing isn't as I imagined it would be. It's scary - oh, God it's scary, especially as famous people keep reminding me how often you die from it - but generally I can keep the fear at bay and it's been a wholly positive thing in my life, creating lots of positivity inside me and in the words I write and the things I do and the love I give.

And it's given me the power to tap into the comforting contentment. Cancer has given me that. Strange, isn't it?

This is what happens. I can be anywhere, with anyone (but it happens most often with my partner and two children) and I simply stop whatever I'm doing, just for a few moments. And all I do is feel myself being RIGHT there, in that moment. I can be stirring soup or bathing the kids or folding up clothes or writing or taking out the rubbish or going for a walk or chatting to a friend or reading or watching TV or sitting (hang on, I don't sit very often; there's too much life to live!) or doing absolutely ANYTHING at all (oh, for that italics button, Alison...) and suddenly, there's that feeling! It's just there. I don't have to chase it or be in a warm room with candles and the fire lit eating ginger cookies, it's just there.

Many of you will be going, well, it's just there inside you, what's the big deal? The big deal is that it's THERE, inside ME, and I can have it and hold it and cherish it.

It's about life.

It's about love.

It's about being thankful for the tiniest things.

It's about being thankful for great big things like still being alive.

It's about me liking who I am.

It's about being able to give freely.

I recently discovered this 'stopping and being' thing has a name - The Pause. It's about mindfulness, I have tried sitting and being mindful, but my mind is always too full. I feel quite chuffed I discovered it all by myself - okay, I had Cancer as my teacher, but I still had to learn the lesson myself. I may not be able to sit still and listen to a mindfulness CD but I have learned how to be mindful whatever I'm doing, which suits me far more. I'm a better person because of it. I appreciate the small stuff. I enjoy the present moment much more than I ever did - tiny things give me a smile. Popping in to see a friend means Really Being There, not half there, but right there with them. It means when my children want me I can give them my absolute full attention. It means when I cook I am thankful for the food and the cooker and the smells that drift upwards. It means I listen to music with my soul, not just my ears. It means when I write, I write what I like, not what I think someone wants to read. If someone can relate to it, I'm very happy. If not, that's fine too.

I can finish the title now.

'...Right Here, in my Soul.'