Oh, the good advice we forget and forget and forget again. The things that cajole us out of a funk, that dust us off and yank us to our feet, that make life sweet again. Mum’s wisdom, your best friend’s sage counsel, the oldest of chestnuts. Sleep on it, take a walk, you need a rest, have a cup of tea, sit, breathe, just do your best and for goodness’ sake stop beating yourself up. You know the ones, don’t you? And yet, we forget.
I have a decent handful of these chestnuts, these tricks, for applying when the going gets murky and mucky. The remedial cup of tea is usually the first to be administered. But, like most of us, I’m really great at forgetting the things that are good for me when I am neck-deep in self-doubt and loathing. Of all the great tips I forget – taking a short break is a favourite.
I have written about short breaks before and how restorative they are. It’s so joyful to have an adventure close to home with minimal cost, fuss and packing. It needn’t be a grand adventure, just getting away is all that is required. As the wise people say – it’s all about quality, not quantity – and this must be true for holidays too, I think. This trip I didn’t even plan myself, it was organized well in advance by my Mum and Dad – bless ’em. Waitangi weekend and four whole nights away in Tutukaka, Northland, in a bach with my parents, my sister and her family, my brother and his boo. Eight adults and five children in total, sharing a home perched right on the edge of the sand.
Northland is a particularly pleasant place to find yourself in. It’s warmer than most of New Zealand, more prone to unremitting sunshine, its coast generously blessed with safe, golden, pretty beaches. Corn and strawberries are sold on the roadside, with dozens of hand-painted signs pointing the way for free-range eggs, curling spines of stone-walls divide sheep and pasture; there are avocado orchards, waterfalls and tiny corner stores selling milk, bread, bait, takeaways and newspapers (always with a wooden table and chair set outside, where you can have your iceblock). If Northland was looking for an anthem, this could be a contender.
We spent our five days in Northland lolling in the sunshine beneath shamelessly azure skies. We wore our swimsuits all day, rinsing off under the makeshift outdoor shower in between swims. We read. We compared books. We threw beach-rocks for the neighbours dog and examined desiccated starfish left by the night tide. We discussed tips for avoiding mosquito bites. We went through litres of sunscreen and only bothered to go out to buy soap on the third day. We found sand in our sheets and mozzie bites on our knuckles and the tops of our ears. When there was a power cut we discovered a stash of tealight candles and filled glass jars with them; applauding ourselves for ordering pizza early, to have with cold beer that just had to be drunk. So, there I was, in this pocket of sun-soaked bliss – island across the bay, kayak to paddle, book to read, beanbag to sink into – thinking ‘Why do I always forget about this?!’
Of course it’s not always possible but a short escape is usually do-able. Plan-able, at least. In this country we are so lucky to never be too far from water – why do I forget how good it is to go to it? To put my feet in it? To simply look out and breathe? It’s as easy as some of the other things that make a world of difference: Put the phone away. Write. Read. Talk to a friend. Have another cup of tea. None of these things are rocket science. None of them excessively expensive or even time consuming. Why do we forget?
What do you do when things get boggy and bewildering? Where do you go? What good-for-you things do you always forget?