It changes through life, the thing you turn to when the going gets tough; the thing you do to unwind and to clear your head. Some people go off and pound the streets, shove in their ear-pods (or not) and let the pavement absorb their problems with a brisk walk or a long run. And some prefer padded lycra and off they head on two wheels. Others knead dough, bake cupcakes, make pastry. They lose themselves in sifting flour and cracking eggs and revel in the sight and smell of a dozen scones cooling on the rack. Some sew late into the night under an angle-poise lamp: snip, tack, stitch, utterly absorbed in getting that hem straight. Huge numbers of people paint, sketch and doodle; the world is filled with armies of secret artists who breathe more easily with a brush in their hand. Maybe you sing yourself happy, or perhaps you play yourself out of the blues with a guitar plugged into your reverb machine while perfecting your cover of Octopus’s Garden. Which reminds me, gardening – that’s another popular one; Monty Don says there’s nothing better than dropping down to the soil for lifting one’s mood. And the potter’s wheel, there’s another way of getting one’s hands dirty, holding on and letting go; I’ve not tried it but surely there can be nothing more meditative than watching clay turn, shape and form. Trainspotting is out of vogue, but in some ways, I can see the appeal of quietly watching and waiting, flask of tea in satchel (and for some reason I have a very set idea of a trainspotter’s flask: vintage Thermos in red tartan, white plastic lid with handle). Or maybe you chose to do something more passive to de-stress: read a book, watch TV, listen to the radio. And the thing I turn to? Well, for the last few years it has been to write, that seems to do it for me; the reasons why, I written about in an article for The Blue Nib, if you want to have a read click here.
In the meantime, I wish you well with your own personal escape hatch, make sure you go there and enjoy your chosen pursuit, you know you need to, not only for your own sake but that of the world. And if I can’t persuade you, then listen to the wise words of Howard Thurman, a black American civil rights activist of the Twentieth Century, who said, “Don’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”