Home > The Comfort Book(8)

The Comfort Book(8)
Author: Matt Haig

   Consider how every human body contains trace elements such as copper and zinc and gold, amid the massive amounts of carbon and oxygen and hydrogen. Similarly, if we could analyze every negative experience we’ve ever had we would find vast quantities of emotions such as fear and despair, and also trace elements of other things. Joy, hope, love, happiness. And in the darkness even the tiniest fragments of light can shine, capture our attention and maybe even lead us home.



Delete the italics

        I am not popular enough.

    I am not good enough.

    I am not strong enough.

    I am not lovable enough.

    I am not attractive enough.

    I am not cool enough.

    I am not hot enough.

    I am not clever enough.

    I am not funny enough.

    I am not educated enough.

    I am not Oxford enough.

    I am not literary enough.

    I am not rich enough.

    I am not posh enough.

    I am not young enough.

    I am not tough enough.

    I am not well-traveled enough.

    I am not talented enough.

    I am not cultured enough.

    I am not smooth-skinned enough.

    I am not thin enough.

    I am not muscular enough.

    I am not famous enough.

    I am not interesting enough.

    I am not worth enough.



(I am enough.)



Tips for how to make a bad day better

   Get up. Get washed. Get dressed. Stand up. Move your body. Put your phone in another room. Go for a walk. Stretch. Place your legs against the wall. Get some sunlight, if there is some available. Head, if you can, to somewhere green. A garden, a park, a field, a meadow, a forest. Breathe deeply and slowly and consciously for a little while. Phone someone you love. If there is a nagging thing you are expected to do, but really don’t want to do, cancel it now. Do it now. If you can, cook a good meal and concentrate on the process. Cooking is the best kind of active meditation. Avoid artificial blue light, especially after dark. Allow bad thoughts, because that way they pass through quicker. Watch some TV you really like. But before you watch it, work out how long you want to watch for, and stick to it. If it is a clear night, watch the stars, just as Marcus Aurelius did in times of turmoil nearly two thousand years ago. Go to bed before midnight. Don’t try too hard to get to sleep. Just allow your mind to absorb the day, and let all those fears and frustrations float through.



The most important kind of wealth

   In 1981, American philosophy graduate Steven Callahan found himself adrift in the Atlantic for seventy-six days. He had been sailing a sloop he had designed and built, the Napoleon Solo. He was seven days into a voyage from Cornwall to Antigua.

   One night, during a storm, the boat was hit by a whale. The boat was quickly flooded and started to sink. Callahan escaped onto an inflatable life raft but also managed to hold his breath and dive down into his boat a few times to get hold of essential supplies. These supplies included a small amount of food, navigation charts, flares, a spear gun, and sleeping bag.

   He was then set entirely adrift from the boat. He was 800 miles west of the Canary Islands but heading in the opposite direction. He had enough food and water to last him only a few days.

   He fished with the spear gun and made water with a solar still, a contraption that evaporates saltwater and distills it and then purifies it. It took him days to get it working properly.

   There were many moments of dashed hope. For instance, on the fourteenth day he saw a ship and lit a flare and thought he had been seen. But no such luck. He saw other ships, but again no one saw him, and soon he was south of the shipping lanes, heading into hotter and hotter weather.

   The discomfort was immense. The hunger. The thirst. The heat. The saltwater sores on his skin.

   Mentally, according to his own accounts, it was also tough. Not just the continual threat of sharks, but his own thoughts.

   “I had a lot of time to think, and I regretted every mistake I’d ever made,” he told the Guardian newspaper in 2012. “I was divorced, and felt I had failed at human relations generally, at business and now even at sailing. I desperately wanted to get through it so I could make a better job of my life.”

   Fifty days in, and things were looking hopeless.

   He had spent over a week trying to keep the damaged raft afloat with a pump, and he had no more energy. He broke down. But pulled himself together just enough to find a way to temporarily fix the raft.

   Then his contraption to purify his water broke. He knew, logically, he was going to die, as he had only three cans of water left. He felt his mind, as well as his body, shutting down. He had lost a third of his weight. He had nothing else to give. His use of flares and beacons had triggered no rescue attempt.

   “I could feel all the people who had ever been lost at sea around me.”

   At some point he threw discarded fish guts back into the sea. Which caused seabirds to hover above him.

   The seabirds drew the attention of some fishermen from the Guadeloupe archipelago. They found Callahan on his seventy-sixth day on the raft and took him to shore, where he would eventually recover in the hospital.

   Although the ordeal was terrifying, and nearly cost him his life, Callahan didn’t regret having gone through it. And it never put him off sailing.

   In his book Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea he writes of how he no longer regrets his life, and how he has learned to be grateful. “My plight has given me a strange kind of wealth, the most important kind. I value each moment that is not spent in pain, desperation, hunger, thirst, or loneliness.”

   Even more remarkable is his memory of beautiful moments within his ordeal. The sight of a clear, starry night sky overwhelmed him with awe. “A view of heaven from a seat in hell.”



Nothing is stronger than a small hope that doesn’t give up.

   Nothing is stronger than a small hope that doesn’t give up.

   Nothing is stronger than a small hope that doesn’t give up.



Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.

    Rainer Maria Rilke, The Book of Hours



A reminder for the tough times

   One day this will be over. And we will be grateful for life in ways we never felt possible before.



The goldsaddle goatfish

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