Bits and Bites of Everyday Life


Will the real Patch Adams come to Santa’s rescue? He is so SAD!!

True North Perspective
Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more:

Indian summer is over! It sure made everyone feel happier while it lasted. Humans need their daily dose of sunlight, otherwise they start to feel gloomy and lethargic. Unfortunately at this time of the year, days get shorter and the sun’s rays grow weaker. We must also contend with colder weather. My body always takes a while to adjust to the latter.  

This is the time of year where I try to indulge in simple pleasures to counterbalance the effects of less light, less heat and more indoor living. For example, I will cook more comfort food at this time of the year. When Brian was around, our favourite weekend breakfast was either French toast served with cream cheese and fresh fruit drizzled with maple syrup or pancakes, our favourite being buckwheat pancakes drizzled with molasses. I practically never make that breakfast anymore, but last Saturday, I made French toast with thick slices of crusty bread, sprinkled with lots of cinnamon, served with banana slices, blueberries and raspberries drizzled with maple syrup. Yummy!!! What a treat! My favourite soup at this time of the year is an autumn potage. I also make pumpkin soup, my daughter’s favourite. 

Saturday evening, I stayed home and read Margaret Trudeau’s book, Changing My Mind, while sipping a brandy. One of the things I notice about this time of year is that many of us have accumulated fatigue so it’s a good idea to slow down and relax more often. Easier said than done, you say!! I know! But if you can, have a short nap in the afternoon. It’s much better than staying in bed all morning over the weekend. That will only make you feel groggy or grumpy. 

Sunday afternoon, I dropped in at the Orléans Shopping Centre, looking for a new top or blouse. The place was as busy as a beehive and, lo and behold, Santa was there! I was amazed!

I crossed paths with my friend and ex-teaching colleague, Nicole Roussin. Shopping came to a sudden halt as we chatted and caught up with the latest news and about her daughter’s friend who has terminal cancer. When the conversation took on a lighter tone, I joked about Santa being on the job already. “He’ll be exhausted and totally fed up with his job by Christmas!” We laughed, knowing it could very well happen as it does with store clerks who will be listening to Christmas music and serving hordes of shoppers till Christmas Eve finally rolls around. 

My friend Geneviève Hone, author of In Other Words, wrote a fitting poem about the subject. It’s about a therapist who gets a referral from a colleague who says he can’t treat this gentleman because his children know him. The therapist writes that this patient possibly suffers from paranoid tendencies (he thinks everyone in the world knows him). He possibly suffers from some obsessive disease; he keeps long lists and checks them over and over again. This individual possibly suffers from an eating disorder. He is clinically obese and binges on cookies. He possibly suffers from severe jet lag as he travels throughout the world on very tight schedules and possibly suffers from an inferiority complex … he feels the need to be loved by all! 

The second therapist braces herself, opens the door and … in walks Santa! He immediately cuts to the chase. “I am old and I am tired; I want to retire from my present occupation. I want you to help me choose a new career: a less demanding one that requires no night travel in the dead of winter, no lifting of heavy bags, no caring for animals or elves, and no cookie eating or milk drinking. Will you help me do that, Doctor?” 

The therapist looks him in the eye and says she will do her best but “surreptitiously” writes in the file notes: “NOPE! NO WAY!” 

I love it! But doesn’t it represent what ails a lot of us? Sadly enough many people feel overworked, underemployed, unappreciated, misunderstood, overwhelmed or just plain tired … and at this time of the year, it can spell major misery. To top this, some people suffer from Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) also known as winter depression or winter blues. Normally healthy, they suddenly experience depressive symptoms at this time of the year. SAD sufferers may end up sleeping too much, having little energy and having trouble coping with feelings of depression.  

And like Santa, hopefully they will seek treatment. Doctors may prescribe sunlight or bright light therapy, anti-depressant medication, cognitive-behavioral therapy or carefully timed supplementation of melatonin. Sufferers usually see a marked improvement that sees them through the winter doldrums. 

But what if your blues are light? Well, you can always try laughter! Some years ago, I attended a seminar given by the real Patch Adams at Ottawa’s Aberdeen pavilion. Patch Adams’ trademark approach is using personal interaction and humour to treat patients. He was amazing! After his talk, he led us in two or three different, collective exercises meant to break the ice and have us connect with one another. It was an eye opener and lots of fun. We all need connection and it is especially important at this time of the year. Patch Adams’ philosophy is “You treat a disease, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. You treat a PERSON, I guarantee you win. No matter what the outcome!” 

I remember feeling very strongly that Brian’s oncologist should have been there that afternoon. We all need recognition as a PERSON, not another patient, not just a number or name on a file, not the umpteenth case of the day!  

About a year ago, I tried Laughter Yoga with Sophie Terrasse. I was skeptical, of course! I don’t like to force laughter and I didn’t want to look silly… but I’ll tell you it was fun and I left the community center tired but feeling good. This is why TV comedies such as Two and a Half Men, The Office and Big Bang are so popular. They help people relax and have a good laugh. Comedy movies do the same job! My all-time favourite, feel-good movie is Mama Mia. It combines wonderfully uplifting music with a feel-good story. Music is also good for your soul as is singing, whether you do it in the shower or join a group. My favourite “pick-me-up” album is Helmut Lotti’s Latino Classics. When my grandchildren come over, they often ask for that CD, in particular the Cucaracha song. We dance all around the living-room and they borrow the set of maraca and add their own rhythm. 

It all boils down to one thing, do what works best for you! Every morning, my friend Monique joins a group of ladies for coffee and a muffin or bagel at Tim Hortons. It sets the tone for a good day. Last Sunday, when I stopped at Second Cup for my Chai Latte, I noticed they have a Christmas eggnog beverage. I’ll try it next time I drop in! I love eggnog. I will enjoy hot chocolate when I read a book or magazine and will eventually stock up on eggnog. 

Another thing that pleases me is aromatherapy! My all-time favourite has always been lavender. My granddaughter says my house always smells of lavender. A popular scent at this time of the year is cinnamon. Explore essential oils! Find the fragrance that works for you and use it in your house. 

Work some floral magic in your home! When I dropped in to pick up a few items at Independent, the lady behind me set a huge, ruby-red poinsettia on the counter. It was gorgeous! I thought, “Now that will really make any room brighter!” I always buy a poinsettia for Christmas but I prefer the pink ones. And, don’t wait for someone to buy you flowers, buy them for yourself and if you can, offer flowers to someone else. At the moment my Christmas cactus is in full bloom, a lot of them double blooms, so that makes my day a brighter. 

If you have a special recipe, short of joining the snowbirds down south, please share it with me! I will pass it along to my readers. One of my yoga friends said a walk in the woods really cuts it for her. She may have to pull the snowshoes out of storage before long but that’s O.K.! So be it! Another friend said sweets lift her spirits. And word has it, a little dark chocolate is apparently good for your health! If it works, why not indulge? 

CTV had a wonderful series this week called “Out of the shadows, into the light”. It touches on suicide and warns that it is best to talk about it. Be vigilant, some people are more vulnerable than others at this time of the year! We need to connect and a sudden void can be the moment where a person slips away. Please reach out if you feel depressed and know that it will pass! 

As one of my favourite golden oldies suggests, “So let the sunshine in; face it with a grin. Open up your heart and let the sunshine in!” 

Christmas is coming! 

Blessings to all! 

P.S. Please drop in at the Dominican University College Authors and Artisans Fair on Empress Street in Ottawa this weekend. I will be there!

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