The Right Comforts

Thursday is the apex of my work week stress curve. I sit in court all day and represent children in abuse and neglect proceedings. The subject matter, even after twenty years in the business, is stressful—for me and for the parties, certainly, but also for the other attorneys, the courtroom staff, the social workers, and most especially for the judge.

This week we had a blue light special on Upset Teenagers. Seems every time I picked up the phone it was another, “Miss Grace, you have to get me outta here…” Sometimes, the clients are upset because their mom and dad won’t Parent Up, sometimes they’re upset because the social worker has dropped the ball (one of at least twenty he or she is expected to juggle) and sometimes—these are the most upset kids—they’re upset because they’ve screwed up again, and they figure if they pitch a loud enough tantrum, somebody will focus on placating the tantrum rather than holding the kid accountable for bad choices and worse behavior.

My clients are not dumb, nor do they lack for determination. Even in a tough week, I admire my clients immensely.

Part of what makes child welfare law so difficult is that often, all of the options before the judge have significant risks and downsides, and nobody hands out crystal balls with those black judicial robes. My clients have run off and come to bad ends, they’ve been sent home (where they begged to go) only to see Mom or Dad come to a bad end.

Probably more than you wanted to know, and not the point of this diatribe.

The point is, when I get home on Thursday nights, I want to be the baby. I do not want my dial set to “give,” I want it set to “regain my balance.” To this end, I try to arrange matters so I never have to stop for groceries on Thursday evening, never have to put gas in the tank, never have to socialize. I come straight home, where I proceed to…

Make a big pot of decaf Constant Comment or Lemon Lift tea.

Divest myself of all courtroom attire and slip in to my play clothes.

(Play clothes includes fuzzy socks. Must have thick, warm fuzzy socks. Must.)

Light my Midnight Jasmine candle, burn a couple sticks of cedar incense.

Make a PBJ for dinner, or whatever I want for dinner, but I can promise you, it won’t involve cooking or cleaning up.

Develop a case of temporary blindness about dust bunnies, sticky counters, or gritty floors. All that stuff will be there tomorrow—nobody will steal my housework.

Fuss around on the computer but without any assigned task, not even re-reading whatever I might have written that morning before heading off to work.

In short, I get absolutely unstructured time for a few hours each week. I’ll take a keeper read to bed with me—an old friend guaranteed not to disappoint—and for Friday morning I generally don’t set the alarm.

I need this ritual to decompress, and it has taken me years to stumble on what works for me in terms of processing the week and regaining my balance. Some of what I do to cope has symbolic significance (changing my clothes), and some is just for animal comfort.

But I am not the only person with a job that sometimes gets to me. We’ve all come across small comforts, little gestures and routines that take us in the direction of self-nurture and comfort.

Care to share some of yours?

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39 comments on “The Right Comforts

  1. A long soak in a jetted tub by candle light, a bottle of Pellegrino in an iced champagne bucket, with a keeper reads as well. Post tub there may be Dark Chocolate. And the fuzzy socks are preempted by a large black male feline who will still insist I am comforting him, not that he is pinning me in place to rest. The phone gets turned off or magically runs out of battery.

    The tub and book routine started in High School, it was the best Friday night possible between school week and then working on the weekend. The accessories evolved with time, age and finances. The core is always low light, a book and a cat.

  2. Ironically, my best comfort is hands down a hot cup of coffee (or tea – coffei in the daylight, tea at night) next to the fire, wearing my fuzzy slippers, cuddled with a thick blanket, on the couch, reading a book. I stay happy even when it is snowing and blustery outside. And amazingly enough, even the kids don’t bother me when I am in “the zone”. LOL Your picture is actually very close to my perfect comfort. The other comfort is brownies. Brownies make everything better! *nods* 🙂 And congratulations to Sabrina! 🙂

    • There is kinds of data to support what we already know: Our pets help us cope. They reduce our blood pressure, make us better at problem solving and add to life expectancy. I started really worrying about my dad–from whom I get my love of cats–when he said having a pet would just be an added nuisance.

  3. Destressing always involves reading. I like to snuggle up under the covers with a heated blanket on cold nights and some of my cats purring around me. Sometimes I have a nice cup of freshly ground black coffee if I want to read for a long while and other times I may have a glass of cabernet savignon.

    If I really have other things to do I put some music on (the type depends on my mood) and still have that coffee or wine. I like to sing along so that’s why I rarely listen to music while reading.

  4. In the mid-west, the conditions aren’t often right for my perfect de-stresser (a sunny, warm, slightly windy day outside on a blanket with a good book) but reading a book on my papasan chair in the quiet sunny spot by the window before anyone else wakes up works too. Also, a glass of Viognier by the fireplace watching something I (as in not my husband or kids)actually likes on Netflix is a nice way to decompress.

  5. I live in the Pacific Northwest and I work for an international internet company. Essentially, I guide our clients to user our internet product. Well, with that being said, my client base is the East Coast and Europe. My work day begins at about 5:30 am. I have about an hour commute, so I’m up around 3:30am. Since I talk to people all day, the last thing I want to do when I come home and socialize.
    What I do to unwind is put on nice comfy clothes, fuzzy socks, get my pugs to snuggle with me, grab my Kindle and start reading (usually a historical romance). I just like to lose myself in the wonderful books that I read. It relaxes me and I find myself happier just reading them. Of course, the happier I am the happier hubby is.

    • You’re working dairy farmer hours, back when the first milking was 4 am, so the second milking could be done before supper at 6pm. You don’t fight as much traffic, but it’s hard on the circadian rhythm.
      Glad to see somebody else appreciates the necessity of fuzzy socks. I am not eccentric. Am. Not.

      • You’re right, I don’t fight much traffic on way to and from work, that is a plus. However, the hardest part is my husband and I are pretty much on two different time zones. I work east coast hours, he’s on west coast hours where we live. We make it work, but that can be difficult. Thank goodness for the weekends!! Happy Friday!!

  6. I do my unwinding on Sunday, I wake up late, and I do absolutely nothing just lay in bed under the covers with chocolate, music and either a book, a movie or when I’m really stressed out my video games. Helping a mustached italian plummer save a princess from a dinosaur feels like a romance novel.

    • Donkey Kong forever! I haven’t played Donkey Kong in decades but I can still hear the happy notes when Mario scores.
      I do a lot of my plotting in bed. I set the alarm for an hour before Mandatory Muster, and just drowse, not quite sleeping, with a soft focus on whatever story I’m begging the Universe to reveal to me. Great things sometimes happen when I’m not quite awake.

  7. Ah comforts. I tend to start relaxing a little on Thursday nights as well. For de-stressing I love a nice long bath. Like you I like to have some aromas that I find relaxing. I use different bubble baths or oils. And I love a nice relaxing Eucalyptus and Spearmint bath salt. Lavender is another favorite of mine. A nice long soak in a tub as hot as I can stand it gets me feeling relaxed. Then it’s off to bed with a good book (old favorite, new read, sometimes both). I love a nice pair of flannel pajama pants as well. I think I am heading that way now. Enjoy your comforts!
    Allison

  8. Thankfully, I dont have such a stressful job as that! I have always been a stay at home mom. Now, my boys are grown. So I have been lucky to spend a good bit of time with my granddaughter every week. She is 3 now and I will admit, there is a reason 50 year old women dont have babies very often! haha But it has been the most joyful thing imaginable most of the time. So perhaps that would count as my comfort zone. Playing in the sprinkler or puddles. Walking the neighborhood at her pace, finding treasures (screws, washers, anything shiny…)and chatting about anything at all. It makes the whole world look a lot more wonderful!

  9. I live in a constant state of “go, go, go” (as I call it) I am not one know much about the words “slowing down”. I often wonder if I can find ways to get more time in the day because the “to do lists ” seems only to grow when I take to much time to do nothing. However I am so taking notes so any ideas that are not food; this seems like a small adventure.

    • Sammy, my mom raised seven kids, putting in some of that time with a wringer washer and no clothes dryer. There are times in life when go-go-go is the resting phase and rocket-rocket-rocket is only a normal day. For my mom, there has been a certain comfort in keeping the activity level high. It gave her a sense of purpose and way to deal with the frustrations and imponderables life through at her. If she couldn’t get my brother to stop sneaking out at night, she could at least vacuum the house to the last dust bunny.
      And yet, you take the time to stop by this blog when I’m sure there are a thousand other things clamoring for your attention. Big thanks!

      • I have to give my cell phone credit for that. You had made the suggestion to me on face book once and I checked it out and found it to be “cool” (as we use to say 8 years ago when I was in high school ). Its interesting to read what the others posting are saying. I have to admit though I am so use to the go, go, go that the last time I took a vacation and went toto NC I felt so lost and out of place that I had to create a daily activities plan just to feel more normal. My poor mom got stuck with me in close confines for a week of me wanting to go, go, go ; she was so over the moon to return home (she likes to stay busy but also likes to slow down). I have always been like this which is funny because my getting into writing poetry came from having to sit in classes that I found boring/ or the teachers could not keep my attention back in hs .
        I have to thank you for being able to help others in a way ems cannot.

  10. When i’ve had enough hubby will go out and buy a new romance novel for me with my favorite chocolate and my favorite soda draw me a bubble bath and tell me “Take as long as you need baby” and leave me alone for awhile:) I received the book in the mail tody Ms.Burrowes thank you very much I will cherish it. You have made me feel special….again:)

  11. I do nothing. By “nothing” I mean that I put on flannel pj pants and a sweater and then just lay on the couch. I read, I knit, I watch TV (there is almost always an NCIS marathon on some channel on Saturday). I wish it was something I could do regularly but at least one weekend a month sees nothing accomplished.

    • Go, Sabrina! The lost of art of doing nothing should have more acolytes. I tell all divorcing couples that each parent needs at least one weekend a month to be Off Duty from all other obligations–kids, work, house, everything. Even God took a rest, for pity’s sake.

  12. So many great answers here. (Dark chocolate goes without saying and I will make that recipe, soon.)

    I’m like Sammy always going, mind always spinning. But I’m teaching myself to do nothing, to meditate, so far unsuccessfully. Yesterday, in the doctor’s office I sat very still and told myself, “It’s okay just to be. I don’t have to think anything, plan anything, remember anything.” Ah, a hitch. Back to it. “I’m drifting in a sea of blue sky and white puffy clouds.” It was working until the doctor came in. I’m doing it a little more each day because frankly, even my favorite “hot baths’ aren’t doing it for me lately.

    What kind of fuzzy socks are the warmest? I have perpetually cold feet and this year I got the wrong blend or something. Twice.

    • I’d go with Angora. It’s usually blended with something else because pure angora is usually too warm for most people’s comfort.
      Whiffing vanilla is supposed to calm us down. Lilac scented candles soothe me and boost my mood–or maybe it’s the case that when I can spend hours around a lit lilac candle, I’m at home writing, and THAT soothes me.