6 Apr 2020

The “At- Home” Diaries: The Life Saviours


I’m struggling at night.
The nights are long and unsettling and try as I am; I’m not sleeping well. In the day I manage to avoid a confrontation with the ghastly reality of our lives with all sorts of distractions. I write and I exercise, I cook and chat with pals; so far the days pass relatively quickly and other than missing my team at VA it doesn’t feel altogether different. Truthfully, it is kind of relaxing – lunch is a longer ritual with a home-cooked concoction from me and night is devoted to another meal, a TV series and an early night. Exciting? No, but it is comfortable and safe.

Walking around our garden multiple times is how I start my evening bedtime ritual. 5 or 6 laps are meant to tire me out, followed by a long, lazy soak in an oil bath. (I am extravagant with this bath treat and decided with all that’s been taken away, it’s not so outrageous.)  Crisp sheets, the right temperature, and no more social media are meant to create the mental haven I need to fall into a deep sleep – and a couple of chapters of a current novel.


Guess what? It’s not working.

These happy rituals help me fall asleep but my subconscious wakes me every night in the early hours. I don’t wish to and I have even cut back on my jasmine tea and chocolate intake, hopeful a caffeine reduction might get me through. NO.


Deep within I imagine world events are causing a trauma I may be able to disguise but not avoid. I don’t want to diminish this crisis or hide from it. I believe it is important to understand, comprehend and deal with these emotional repercussions, but I would rather not dwell in the darkness. Everything is so much worse at night. I think it is the contrary nature of this from where I am sitting; my life feels the same, looks the same and yet nowhere is or can ever be the same. What I read is the stuff of nightmares and then I look up and see the beauty around me and find it hard to equate the two. There is an unreal quality to this pandemic when you aren’t facing the frontline.


What helps? I have found some life saviours.

Audiobooks. They are my new best friends in the middle of the night.

I have divided them into two categories – biographies and autobiographies for the small hours and fiction for my extended walks around the garden. The reason non-fiction works are because when I do drift off, it is very easy to find the correct place the following day; not so easy with fiction and somewhat ruins the tale.


Secondly, the narrator is everything. Sorry but some voices are plain and simple irritating and I learned the expensive way. Now I preview the narrators before I click away. These audio versions have been life saviours when my anxiety threatens to overwhelm; the conversational tone is relaxing and the content interesting.


So far I have spent evenings listening to Michelle Obama and learning more about the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. I have been enthralled by Anne Glenconner and discovered all about The Queen’s dresser, Angela Kelly. Natalie Wood, what a tragic beauty and sorry tale and then there is the fabulous Tara Westover’s Educated. Yes, I don’t sleep much.


And fiction? Finishing To Kill A Mockingbird was like saying goodbye to a best friend but in a sharp turn, A Good Neighbourhood sounds promising three chapters in.


Audiobooks and I will never part, even when my sleeping patterns do regulate, they really are small joys in a distressing landscape. If you have recommendations I would love to know. xv





 

My Life Saviours

Lady in Waiting ||  Behind Closed Doors ||  The Other Side Of The Coin ||  Educated ||  Natalie Wood ||  Becoming ||  The Duchess



A Good Neighbourhood   ||  To Kill A Mockingbird ||  Where The Crawdads Sing ||  Force Of Nature  ||  Emma

 

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51 Comments

Deepa

I have never been one for audiobooks but in this situation have taken one up that was recommended to me – Trevor Noah’s autobiography Born a Crime. He is writer and narrator, and I could listen to him speak all day (or night) long. Engaging, funny, informative.

Reply
Vicki

I will download it, thank you Deepa :)
I had never been a user of audiobooks either… something new to discover :)

Reply
anitapelayorivera

Good morning dear Vicki!

So much to say here.

I wake up with anxiety during the week because I know that I have to be here at my computer monitoring my students’ attendance as well as completion of math and language arts tasks. The technology is new and every week my knowledge of how to use it will become more complex. My heart skips a beat from fear I will do something wrong. I don’t have the support I wish I had and now with restrictions of going out even for groceries are increasing, the nightmare is finally becoming reality.

This narrative will one day be in the past tense: the perfect past and the imperfect past, both tenses that will help our own personal narratives leave a historical document behind.

Reply
Vicki

Your last sentence is the quote we all need to have where we can see it on a daily basis, Anita… thank you :)

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Michelle à Détroit

Look at it this way, Anita-you have been forced to push yourself and learn a valuable new skill. Every day, you’ll master it more. And, you’ll be able to use it going forward when we’re past this terrible time.

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Victoria

Unsettled….that is how most of us feel right now! Coronavirus has brought to the world strange and almost surreal juxtapositions. At once we feel the same, continue with our usual ‘habitudes’ and rituals, whilst almost everything we hold dear, and at some level have been allowed to take for granted, teeters and wobbles all around us. The macro world collides with the micro world. Separated from our friends and families, watching too many terrifying news reports and always doing our best to stay at some level hopeful and philosophical. Not easy! We live in the French counrtyside far from our families and friends. Quiet, calm and peaceful comme d’habitude , all so normal, but with this strange ghostly cloud hovering just out of sight. Reading has always been a saviour of mine, along with walks amongst the vines and baking. Love a bath too! Simple joys to help keep us calm. I try to focus on the mantra ‘calm’ and gazing on nature -so far these both still exist. Thank you for your always thoughtful thoughts et bon courage as I am hearing more and more!

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Vicki

I can imagine what it is like in the French countryside… nothing changes and nothing remains the same… I suppose it’s the same for most unless you are a health worker or involved directly in another way. We are so, so fortunate to be well.. that’s what we must hold on to..

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Michelle à Détroit

Vicki,

If you can have it delivered, try to get some Clary Sage essential oil. You don’t even need a diffuser. Just a few whiffs from the bottle before bedtime works like a charm to help you drift off. I swear by it.

Reply
Stephanie

Astronauts alone in space for months at a time suggest having a routine.

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Carol Sawyer

Good morning from Houston, Texas!
Our Book Club recently read
Eleanor Oliphant is Fine
and we all thought it was wonderful.
We also read
Pachinko
with great reviews.
Just some thoughts….
all the best and stay well!
Carol

Reply
Vicki

I loved Eleanor Oliphant.. fabulous! I am on my way to download Pachinko.. I don’t know that one :)
So many new titles… EXCITING!

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Mumbai

Fears attract fears, the past is over, the future we don’t know, now we have problems but they will be over like every rain, night etc. and good things will come out. Though have a strong believe in the present moment which creates your personal future …and what calms your body and your mind is meditation. Try 20 min, before you cuddle into your pillow make a deep breath and thank for all the good life you have and had
already. Perhaps St Johns wort will help also to have a good sleep. Reading books when you wake up at night only stir your mind up better take some deep focused breaths. Sorry, perhaps too many advices. Wish you a good night that night!

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Kathy Keil

Vicki, I’m with you on the sleeping problems! I listen to audiobooks most when in my car, so listening at night is definitely worth trying. Tom Hanks narrating The Dutch House is wonderful! Also, Thandie Newton narrating Jane Eyre is so good. Hope you enjoy both. Thanks for staying in touch with all of us!

Reply
Vicki

I will.. brilliant… a familiar voice is always a winner combined with a fabulous tale :)

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Linda B

Again, you have eloquently expressed where we are all at. . .Somehow, that helps. Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!

Reply
Vicki

I think so too… together is such a powerful and positive feeling… what we all need right about now..

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Chris M

I have discovered podcasts of ‘Great Lives’. Just the right length at 30 minutes each. So fascinating that I usually fall asleep before the end! Oh well, there is plenty of time to listen again.

Reply
Vicki

Thank you…I just found them… so many fabulous episodes going back years.. :)

Reply
Sunflower

Vicki, I’ve been a radio and audio book listener for many years. Long walks listening to Jane Eyre as one example have been bliss and I’ve known to sneak back into the garden hoping none of my family want to talk to me as I want to listen to the end of a book in peace and quiet!! I can also recommend to you the BBC Sounds App. There are some fantastic things to listen to as well as catching up in radio programmes missed. Try searching for Desert Island Discs. These are not as long as the original broadcast as there are restrictions with the records chosen but you do get a couple of minutes music. I’ve listened to many of these – just select and download to your own library for later listening. They are about 35 minutes just enough to drift off to sleep. I’ve also found a similar idea but this one is podcast called The Travel Diaries by Holly Rubinstein. Selected well known people talk about a particular place that means so much to them for whatever reason and they describe it, explain it and show their love for these places. Jo Malone is one I particularly loved and the way she speaks about Grasse and Saint-Paul de Venice is magical – areas I know you will know Vicki. I’m sure you will enjoy these.
Thank you for just keeping in touch with us all too.

Reply
Vicki

Wonderful, thank you.. I am searching for The Travel Diaries… found them! Perfect :)
I’m downloading your recommendations now…

Reply
Mona Turner

Prayer, mindful meditation, gratitude journalling, listening to music and dancing in your living or your garden, just close your eyes and dance.

Reply
Jeanne

I love to listen to biographies in the car, finding them easier to follow, as you do.
Angela’s Ashes is an old favorite. I enjoyed Kate Mulgrew’s book, Born with Teeth. Billy Crystal’s was funny and well written, as was Penny Marshall’s. I see a pattern of people in the film industry in my choices.
The true story, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is fascinating, I would highly recommend it.

In fiction, an old favorite is Stones from the River. By Ursula Hegi. Anything by Ann Patchett.

Reply
Vicki

I’m downloading an Ann Patchett now… thanks to Kathy… I will check your other recommendations… so fantastic to have these suggestions :)

Reply
Carrie

Love your emails, and I’m sorry you can’t sleep. Try valarian root, kava kava, and melatonin with a hot cup of water steeped with fresh raw ginger and turmeric. Books I love (Audio or not), “The Lost Vintage”, “The Perfume Collector”, “Madame Bovary”, “Murder on the Orient Express” and “The Alchemist”. Add some long, slow, concentrated stretches and breathing with meditation….🥰😴

Reply
Vicki

Thank you Carrie… all noted and I am a big fan of ginger but hadn’t been drinking the infusion at night… I will add that to my routine… I wake up and have lemon and ginger infused in hot water each morning… I try and have three large cups… it’s the best. Tumeric I take but end up ina mess with the fresh stuff.. I will persevere… :)

Reply
Deb

Like you Vicki and many others, I seem to manage the days well- small pleasures and little victories! Cooking, reading, walking , picking the last of our NZ summer roses, whatsapping my family spread far and wide but the nights are long when you are wide awake and wired at 2.30am. I get up and have a stroll around, a warm drink and resettle. I find a bit of Jane Austen does it for me! Stories I know so well, characters who are like old friends and I get drowsy again quite easily- I know all the endings! Reading your words Vicki and the words of our VA gang worldwide are also comforting! Pandemics are such an emotional time- it doesn’t take much to turn on the tears! Don’t start me on The Queen yesterday- so gracious and inspirational, bless her!! Xx❤️

Reply
Vicki

The Queen.. what an inspirational leader and an original… I am a huge fan and cannot imagine what her mind has to deal with at night. Do you think she is always that serene? She has had a whoppa of a year!
Jane Austen is on my re-read list… yes, familiarity is very soothing… Thank you for the reminder. Take care, Deb …

Reply
Maria Sorrell

Beautifully expressed. Thank you Vicki for sharing what a lot of us are feeling!

Reply
Vicki

We must talk with each other and try and express these feelings we have… it’s hard, doesn’t come naturally to all of us and easier not to.. but if nothing else I am committed to doing this … Look after you :)

Reply
Suzanne

Download Louise Penny’s novels (start at the beginning with Still Life) and listen to the mysteries set in Quebec, read by Ralph Cosham, the voice of Armand Gamache. You will become addicted to the daily life of characters who live and work in Three Pines. Your Christine in Sté Rémy reminds me of the hearty souls in her stories. I think you will love these stories. Enough said.

Reply
Vicki

Thank you, thank you Suzanne… I do miss our wonderful Christiane.. so I shall enjoy these even more…

Reply
Mary-Jill Bellhouse

Agree, I’m waking at 2am … usually get into the ipad to search for homes! I sold my lovely home in Canberra over Christmas 2019, during huge bushfires/floods/hailstorms! Then in early March, before the Pandemic really ‘hit’, I moved to northern NSW near the Gold Coast (Aus) – the plan to be closer to family as the grandchildren grew up. All seemed fine. Thought I’d rent for a couple of months whilst I look for a new home to buy. Now I feel quite weird – in a temporary home/ I can’t yearn for my past life as it would never be the same / I can’t visit old friends there or here as they all live across borders that previously we’ve never worried about but which have now been closed / yet I don’t know what the new life m/home will look like either! (I am lucky to be living in a small seaside village where we can still walk on the miles of beautiful unspoilt beach – mindful of social distancing – but many beaches further north on the Gold Coast are now closed, so we may not be able to use ours for much longer). I’m determined not to wallow, but it is a very strange feeling of such enormous change on all fronts for me … I do take comfort that everyone in the world is feeling ‘discombobulated’ in some way (smiling as I channel Miranda Hart in using that word – can’t you just hear her).😄 So thanks for your post Vicki. Well timed. Hopefully this whole situation will remind us that we are all one and not separate entities, much as we forget that. I shall get onto audiobooks (all libraries here are closed). But regarding books …Australian Liz Byrski … all her books about women of a ‘certain’ age are entertaining – ‘The Gown’, by Jennifer Robson, ‘Aprons and Silver Spoons’ by Mollie Moran, ‘The Wives’ by Tarryn Fisher … a few lighthearted thoughts …

Reply
Vicki

Mary-Jill, I do understand about your limbo between homes… especially if you are a homemaker like me… it’s the most unsettling time and add into the mix these circumstances… I feel for you. We were in-between homes in London for a much longer period than we imagined and I really found it difficult.

You will find your home and all the well thought out reasons for moving will be true… it’s just a different timescale. Enjoy your seaside while you can and remember there is a freedom for you right now without the responsibility of your own home… don’t worry about making it perfect … you can run along that beach instead :)

Thank you for these reads… they will give me great pleasure..

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Debra Pinck

Vicki,
I understand your trouble sleeping and would like to share that I have found that magnesium supplements work wonders for a good nights rest.
Sweet dreams!

Reply
Vicki Ford

I have a suggestion for those struggling: “Finally brethren; whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of a good report; if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – Meditate on these things”. Ladies do this first, BEFORE reading the news, and only if you HAVE to read the news. Fill up your dry spiritual tanks with hope instead of the despair that the world so willingly wants to pour into you. The above verse is Phillipians 4:8 in the New Testament and is a direct exhortation to people so their souls may not be shipwrecked by depression. I had to learn this lesson in a very first hand way a few years back when all I kept reading were reports of global terrorism. I then had to walk my way out of a black hole of hopelessness and discover hope and faith again. Tip: Unless things are in your immediate sphere of influence giving you the ability to act on them, then let them go. You cannot carry the world’s cares upon your shoulders, it will crush you. My biggest tip: learn how to pray. Prayer moves things. Watch some christian prayer meetings online from a reputable ministry. ASK for prayer. Dial in or email your burdens to your local church or ministry. Ministries and churches are waiting and willing to pray for you and your families. Also, do you know how many people on the front lines are requiring Godly prayer right now and around the clock? Healthworkers, police, paramedics, doctors, their patients – including the British Prime Minister. If you learn to pray, you will be richly aiding and benefiting your families, society, country and indeed the world. There’s no time like the present. God bless you on your respective journeys and may each day be filled with His eternal sense of purpose.

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Eleonore

Bonjour Vicki!
I know this is not an easy time but I take comfort in thinking that it is not easy for everyone and even worse for others.
I love listening to podcasts and reading books too. When I’m not working from home I talk with my parents on FaceTime and we share ideas about redesigning our garden in the countryside. We are currently locked down in Paris and are not allowed to leave. And with this weather, most of our newly planted roses, shrubs and trees will die because of a lack of water. But as I said before, people are dying so it’s difficult to feel sad for that… :)
Anyway, I’m reading books edited by Highgrove Gardens, Kiftsgate Manor Gardens and the Land Gardeners too. I also read interior design books for inspiration (LOVE them!) such as those by Nora Murphy, Lisa Fine (Near and Far) and Gil Schafer.
As for fiction, I’ve re-read North and South (Gaskell), The Lady in White (W. Collins) and I’m currently reading books by Louise Penny (the Inspector Armand Gamache series) which are wonderful!
Hope this helps a little! :)

Here is my humble selection :)

Reply
Vicki

Most grateful, thank you Eleanore
I think your garden, once it is redesigned will be very poignant and have special meaning. Take care xx

Reply
jeanne.c.

Hi Viki and well wishes to all. We are in Week 4 of stay at home and yesterday was an anxious day for me. Don’t know why but I just own it. I continue to walk around my pool and listen to the birds….I chirp back at them sometimes…. they answer me sometimes…. but I love hearing them. So peaceful in the morning. I am lucky that I live in Florida and the sun shines just about everyday. I can go out and stand in the sun for a couple of minutes at a time and it does wonders for my well being. Thank you for being so real Viki.
I am currently reading Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton. Here are some on my list that I will be reading next: Boys on the Boat by Daniel James Brown, Maximum City by Suketa Mache, and The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.

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Sheila in SF

Like you and many others I share your concerns and feelings of despair at times. Thanks for expressing them and know there is hope in spite of the darkness.
Namaste

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Deborah Hoard

Thank you for this post. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who’s up at night. I read my Kindle but the white light (indicating to me I should be awake) keeps me up…. even after I turn it off, so perhaps an audiobook would solve my problem. If you have not read A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, I highly recommend it!

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Vicki

Thank you I will… and do try the audio, it is a real lifesaver when you can’t sleep..

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Georgia Piech-Pander

Hi Vicki,
Enjoy your blog, your honesty and your perseverance. Also having trouble sleeping … Then I get up and eat something — so NOT GOOD. Have trouble concentrating while reading … am managing care of several older family members and it’s difficult to relax and unwind at the end of the day…. or in the middle of the night. I try teas and melatonin, but for me … I think it is the “new normal.” I do deep breathing exercises and pray.

Reply
Vicki

Try audiobooks, Georgia… they are helping me… and I’m also learning something… I listen to fiction on my walks and autobiographies/biographies at night. Good luck! And I hear you about the eating…. It’s hard not to find comfort in food right now… says someone who has just ordered her groceries and all the ingredients for cake baking!

Reply

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