This Brief Moment of Calm

I’m under no illusions that people are reading my blog for the personal updates, but I just thought it might be interesting for future me to look back on these posts and realise there was a moment in time when – despite everything that was going on in the world in amazingly bad and infuriating ways – I felt calm and balanced. It has been so long since I felt like that – or perhaps I’ve forgotten feeling like that, because the last 5-6 years have been pretty gruesome and any moments of joy very fleeting. So, I’d like to remind future me, when things appear to be overwhelming once again, that there are fleeting moments of contentment in the middle of buffeting storms.

North Khorasan Province, Iran. Photo credit: Mohammad Alizade on

I admit I am very fortunate that no one from my close friends or family have fallen ill with Covid. My boys were not supposed to have their A Levels or GCSEs this year, so we’ve had no heartbreak for the time being (and we can but live in hope that they will sort things out for next year). I am no longer the only one wearing face masks in the local shops, which has reduced my anxiety levels. I allow myself only a limited amount of ranting about politics and incompetence. And school reopening is still a couple of weeks away, so I am refusing to worry about it at present. Plus, we managed to find shoes for the boys, so the greatest expense and trickiest purchase of the schoolyear is done and dusted!

I think what has made the difference is that I’ve been able to sleep for at least six, and often seven, uninterrupted hours every night, even during the heatwave. And I haven’t been bleeding for about a month now. (I’ve been having a horrible menopause combined with a fibroid which has cause me to have almost non-stop heavy periods for the past three years; of course, my medical appointments keep getting postponed.) This made me realise: ‘I can’t believe how much lighter and livelier I feel. Wow, this is how normal people live every day…’

So, although work has been pretty busy and stress, although August is a month of financial drain to which I had to add the unexpected additional costs of Barney being diagnosed with diabetes and my bathtub leaking again, I have suddenly found myself much less prone to anger and helpless tears. I’ve even had the energy to exercise daily and to write a little bit every day (mostly diary entries or flash fiction, but every little counts.) I have some annual leave coming up next week and I might even go back to editing my novel!

Future me: Make the most of it, Marina, you’ve wasted enough time and this feeling might not last too long!

P.S. Entirely by coincidence, a podcast that I recorded a few weeks back (before this moment of calm) just went live today. I first encountered Britt Skrabanek online when I started my blog and was still living in France, but then somehow lost track of her. So it was a delight to reconnect and chat on her Love Your Enthusiasm series of interviews about my ideals and passions in life, my sources of inspiration and why I’ll never stop talking about the need for cross-cultural understanding and communication. I might not be able to go back to listen to my dulcet tones, but do have a listen if you feel so inclined (lots of bookish name-dropping).

I like the quote she picked to feature at the top of the podcast. Did I really say something as clever as that?

It feels like everybody’s retreating into the trenches, that people are shouting over each other instead of listening to each other. But I really think this won’t last. Art and literature and films will bring us closer once more. We’ll realize that we have a lot of common ground—and what is not common is worth exploring in more depth.

40 thoughts on “This Brief Moment of Calm”

    1. Thanks so much. All too easy to focus on the negatives (or to expect that things have to be hugely successful to warrant any positivity), but that really shouldn’t be the case. Just have to remind myself of that periodically.

  1. I am so glad to hear that you’re having a calm time, Marina Sofia. It is a treasure, isn’t it? And well-deserved. Savour it!

    1. I really, really hope so – I was just saying in the podcast how much my literary online community has helped me overcome challenges over the past few years.

  2. So glad to hear this. You’ve been through some difficult times so it’s not surprising when Covid came on top of that, that you felt way out of kilter. Let the good times roll

  3. What a great idea, to set down here this moment of comparative calm in a time of stress. Good, too, that you’ve been able to continue writing some pieces – including this post. It’s all self-expression, and that’s a way of facing what the world throws at us.

    1. Writing is most certainly my way of processing the world and all the things that befall me. Sadly, for a long time (nearly 4 years) I struggled to write, so it’s great to see that it’s coming back. It’s as if my digestive system has suddenly started functioning again!

    1. I tend to be a bit of a negative forecaster (maybe that’s why I like noir literature so much). You know the type: well, this happy state of affairs can’t last long; let’s just wait and see, shall we; I bet you that things will change for the worse etc.
      So this is a way of reminding myself that things can and do get better, and that I shouldn’t succumb to cynical expectations.

  4. Thanks for sharing, Marina! I like your personal posts and I’m so happy to hear that you are enjoying a moment of calm.

    Your podcast was chock-full of wisdom. That pullquote was just one of many beautiful, clever nuggets I will be sharing all over the Love Your Enthusiasm social channels. Thank you for being such a longtime blogger buddy and for being on the show. You were fab!

    1. Thank you, Britt, for being such a patient interviewer, and really knowing how to ask those insightful questions that get the best responses. It was great fun doing this, and made me realise many things about myself as I was trying to crystallise my thinking! (And go, go, go anthropology!)

  5. Lovely post, it’s good to remind ourselves of these moments when calm descends. I am so glad you’re feeling better about some things at least – and hooray for sleep. Long may it last.

    1. Sleep is so underrated – I had some really draining months when I would sleep at most two hours a night, and even those with interruptions. So needless to say, I was not only NOT very agile intellectually, but felt emotionally battered as well.

  6. What a lovely post to be able to turn back to in the future! I do so hope you’re right about listening to each other again, I despair of that at times when I hear some of the things being said here (the US) right now.

    1. I agree it’s hard to stay optimistic, but I really hope this is the tail-end of a backlash, a glitch on the way to progress and understanding, rather than a permanent regression.

    1. Funny how we forget that, because we can just about function on a minimum of sleep. But even more than the hours, it’s the quality. The fact that I don’t wake up 5 times a night!

  7. Glad you’re having a moment of calm – hopefully it will last for many moments to come! Poor Barney – I reckon cats should get medical care on the NHS. They deserve it at least as much as most humans… 😉

    1. He was initially very serene about the injections, but is starting to resent me pulling at his skin (he is very skinny, so it’s hard to grab hold of enough skin to inject me). Clearly, I am not the gentlest nurse in the world!

      1. Ugh, the very idea of having to inject either of my two makes me shudder – getting worming tablets down them once every few months is quite hard enough! Poor you!

  8. SO glad to hear you as you have just shared. You are a wonderful person, and I feel very fortunate to count you as a trusted friend. Thank you for this reassuring note to ‘future self’! 😘

    1. And thank you for being there during the hard times as well! In the podcast I talk about community, and how this has kept me going – especially the community of like-minded people that I’ve encountered via writing groups or bookish online Twitter or literary festivals etc. You all have really kept me going on the darkest of days!

  9. I can’t believe how much you have achieved since I’ve been following your blog, if that’s how you’ve been feeling. Amazing feat of endurance and determination and great intelligence. It sounds like you’ve been at the worse end of the menopause experience, I’m so sorry… but you will come out of it and this fleeting moment of calm will become more regular and then normal, it really will. I can’t imagine what you’ll achieve then – very humbling (for me!)

    1. I won’t lie, the last few years have been hard, and I’ve had to work hard to remind myself of the positives. I do hope things will be looking up now for me personally, although… for the world in general, I am more than a little fearful.

  10. “Art and literature and films will bring us closer once more. We’ll realize that we have a lot of common ground…” I do hope so, Marina, I really do. In the meantime, as with everybody else here, I hope this time of respite will stay and allow you the much needed equilibrium you must have been missing.

  11. I’m glad to see you feeling more rested and better overall. I hope you enjoy your annual leave! I’ll be listening to your podcast recommendation.

    1. Did you have any holidays this year, were you able to get away for a bit? It is a bit sad not to have a change of scenery at all this year, but that’s life, and I hope to get at least lots of writing done.

      1. (my mind is exploding as I’m reading your comment and listening to your voice on the podcast at the exact same minute) Yes, we planned a socially-isolated vacation, in all the French regions where tourists and French people don’t go 😉 (and not far from where our families are). It was great… and a bargain… lol

  12. I love this post. I am glad you have found this peace. I remember feeling guilty of being happy when I got my job earlier this month, with everything going on. But we must enjoy the things that make our heart lighter and our eyes brighter.

  13. I’m happy to hear you’re feeling good.

    I’ll remind you of Voltaire’s quote on the notebook you gave me: “J’ai décidé d’être heureux parce que c’est bon pour la santé.” A tall order but such a good advice.

    Enjoy your holidays.

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