March 08, 2023 | Sandra Pierce



According to the Human Kind study, recently conducted by creative consultancy, Leo Burnett, despite moving beyond the worst of the pandemic, the mood in Canada has continued to sour. Their data shows that nearly one in five Canadians are feeling less content today than they were a year ago.

Which, oddly enough, made me happy knowing that I wasn’t alone in still feeling out of sorts, discombobulated and out of sync with everyday life.

Were we this unhappy prior to the pandemic? Have a fifth of all Canadians always been in a funk? Did the pandemic just bring it to the forefront?

My late father was a psychiatrist and a bibliomaniac. To him, therapy was a talking cure and the right book a reading cure. He used to say that certain books enter your life when you need them most. Wintering, How I Learned to Flourish When Life Became Frozen and Enchantment, Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age, by bestselling British author, Katherine May, are two such books for me.

The first, published in early 2020, was her memoir about a difficult period of her life that happened to coincide with the height of the pandemic.

Bored, restless, and burned out, she found pastimes that used to bring her great pleasure, such as walking, swimming in the sea, collecting pebbles, and savoring a book, no longer did so. She felt like she was looking at her life through a foggy windshield.

“There was nothing that made the world feel interesting to me,” Ms. May said in an interview with The New York Times. “I felt like my head was kind of full and empty at the same time.”

Ms. May, in her writing about the culture we live in, helped me realize just how much we are “endlessly cheerleading ourselves into positivity while mentally erasing the dirty underside of real-life…. where misery is not an option”.

We are always going to have winter in our lives. And as she wrote, “We must learn to invite the winter in. We may never choose to winter, but we can choose how.”

A few of her suggestions to get through the tough times:

  • is by chilling,
  • hibernating, healing
  • re-grouping

As Ms. May expands, "doing these deeply unfashionable things — slowing down, letting your spare time expand, getting enough sleep, resting — is a radical act now, but it is essential."

If Wintering was comforting in that it reminded me I wasn’t alone in feeling undone, Enchantment inspired me to make myself feel alive again.

With the pandemic behind us, she wrote about working on recovering the sparkle of vitality, looking for those everyday moments in life that give you pleasure – her one simple question she would ask herself, “What soothes me?

It might be going on a walk. Or visiting an art museum. Maybe you enjoy watching the shifting clouds.

Whatever it is, find a way to do it. Every morning, Ms. May goes outside and smells the air “like a dog.” She notices the color of the sky and the way her skin feels against the cool air. She wrote about the need to work on our “ability to sense magic in the every day, to channel it through our minds and bodies, to be sustained by it.”

Neither of these books offered a neat, easy ending solution to miraculously feeling better, but she does offer hope, an antidote to her tendency to “feel like a negative presence in the world.”

Reading these two books made me think, made me contemplative and, by the end, they consoled me. I was more willing to accept that the periods of sadness in our lives are not silly, nor a failure of nerve, nor a lack of willpower. It is just part of normal life.

Leonard Cohen expressed it best in “Anthem”, a song that preaches the acceptance of imperfection:

“There’s a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in”