If it’s raining and you have an umbrella, use it.

This advice from Psychiatrist, Dr. Shoma Morita, means that when you find yourself in difficult circumstances and there is the possibility of taking any action to relieve or influence those circumstances, then do so.

This may mean canceling appointments or making one. We may need to usher in a change of plans, however inconvenient. It may be seeking an opinion or turning over every stone to look for a solution; perhaps a change in medication is required or even a change of physician. There are so many situations and choices that can arise in daily living and most come with options for intervention. We need to seek those options out.

I suspect that this maxim comes to mind because I have been sweltering with the heat. I live in an area prone to heat waves and on the third floor of a beautiful 100-year-old house without air conditioning. And for all my good intentions and enthusiasm to get on with my projects, I am incapable of mental or physical exertion during these heat waves. Arugamama – things as they are. And I don’t like it.


However, I don’t live in Ottawa for the weather. I live here because my grandchildren live here so going back to the west coast is not on my list of options. I can count on my purpose to remind me that I made a choice to live here. And because of my grandchildren, my housing also could not be more perfect when I don’t consider the heat.  (a five-minute walk from my house to theirs) And on top of everything, I actually love my living arrangements and I’m grateful to my friend who has made it possible.

Still: the reality for me, even if I stop complaining, is that it’s unsafe for me to spend my days and nights in such a hot environment.

So, what can I do besides complain?

What is my umbrella? Firstly, I have to accept that during these heat waves I can’t do what I usually do. I  have an option to stay cool by going to my daughter’s air-conditioned house during the day and also to sleep. Sounds good, but I prefer to be home.  I also can’t bike or walk as it is too hot outdoors early in the morning and late in the evening, on the worst days. Oops…there I go again.

I can write on my laptop when I am there; make personal calls;  run errands and do things with my grandchildren where air conditioning is available. Furthermore, I can catch up on my reading, make a meal for the family, do laundry, etc.

I can’t do zoom meetings and webinars because my laptop is old and slow and there is no privacy. And on days when it is hot but bearable, I can work for short periods in the morning in my own study. I use fans, keep windows closed, lights off, and cold cloths on my neck. When I do my Friday webinars, I can manage the hour by plunging my feet into two pans of chilly water under my desk. It is simple and it works.

And when I make a mistake and decide to sleep at home. I have new tricks that help. A cold shower before bed and/or cold cloths on my body plus the fan. It makes a difference.

I find this maxim practical for all manner of difficulties, big and small that I have encountered.

One of the guidelines of Living Fully with Illness is to be an active agent in your own treatment. Find out things that you can do. The bottom line is to take some action rather than endure unpleasant circumstances, or unnecessary suffering that can be changed, or alleviated in some way.

At times when much of our life can seem out of our control, it is even more vital to take charge of the things – even small things that we can do something about. Never underestimate the impact on our well-being that small steps can make.

One of the benefits of writing is that it allows me to impartially see how this maxim applies to me. This can be discouraging when I see my complaining and it is encouraging when I am reminded that I am here for a purpose and I’m not leaving in the near future. I simply get to work thoughtfully with the situation at hand. There are umbrellas for all occasions.

Cool breezes for you all, during these hot August nights. Warmly, Trudy

PS Thanks to  Phil Goodwin on Unsplash for the sweet photo.


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