Looking to the past to cope with the present

Apr 17, 2020 | 10 comments |

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is MomChildhood-1024x827.jpg As life continues to be unsettled, I’ve thought about my late mother even more than usual recently and, in particular, how she coped during rough times.

Both practical and pragmatic, when life was difficult Mom turned to baking or knitting. If she could give the results of those activities to comfort or help someone who might benefit from a batch of homemade muffins or pair of mittens, so much the better.

In part shaped by a childhood where she often had to do without, doing for others was her primary way of coping with uncertainty.

And when she needed the kind of ‘alone time’ I’m currently craving after weeks of ‘mandated family togetherness’? She worked outside, in her garden in summer or clearing snow in winter—physical activity and fresh air being her go-to recommendations to boost physical and mental health.

Although I’m like my mother in some ways (introversion and a love of reading are perhaps the most obvious), I’m also much different from her in others.

The crafting gene missed me (that one went to English Rose), and although I enjoy baking, it’s not a passion or creative outlet in the way it was for my mom. Owing to chronic back pain, I’ve also never found solace in digging, whether snowdrifts or spring earth.

Yet, although the specifics differ, I’ve realized that some of my coping mechanisms for stressful situations are similar to those my mother used—if not in practice then principle.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is FlowersSpring2020.jpg In the past weeks, and to get that ‘me time’ I crave, walking in my neighbourhood has helped clear my mental cobwebs, focus on small joys and return home refreshed and happier in both mind and body—giving me new perspectives on worries too.

During this time of lockdown, and within the constraints of being an asthmatic living with a medically vulnerable teen, I’m also asking (and like my mom would have), ‘how can I help?’

At present, I’m working with an older friend on a community cookbook featuring vintage recipes from the local area.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is CookbookProjectHistoric2019-1024x768.jpg Although not testing recipes, I’m applying my writing and editing skills to review the text and help make sure it will be understood by contemporary cooks.

As such, and via email and telephone (given social distancing), I’m helping someone who needs support and, in a small way, contributing to a broader community good.

As for other ways of coping?

I’m continuing to find solace in reading, my closets and cupboards have never been so tidy and (much to my surprise), I’ve finished the first draft of a new book in what is for me record time. I’m also lowering my expectations, though, recognizing that life isn’t ‘normal’ and like everyone else, I can’t expect to function in ways I usually do. 

Most important of all, though, given the current state of the world and what so many others are having to cope with, I continue to remind myself that I’m lucky. All I have to do is stay at home and thereby keep myself and others safe.

Always a strong advocate of following public health advice, not only would Mom approve but, and as she often said, ‘this too shall pass.’ 

In the meantime, there’s still the basement cupboards to tackle and those boxes of family photos to organize…


  1. Deb

    Congratulations on finishing your first draft, Jen. I can’t wait to read it. I’ve loved all your books!

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thank you so much, Deb. I appreciate your support of my books and am happy you enjoy them. Hope all is well for you & yours at this difficult time.

  2. Anne Kinch

    Glad you are finding ways to cope during these unusual times, Jen. I enjoyed the memories of your mother!! Also glad to hear you have finished a new book although I am still waiting for your last one to come out in print which it deserves – I want it for my collection and an on-line version doesn’t cut it. Hugs to you, Tech Guy, English Rose and Floppy ears.

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thank you very much, Anne. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. The little rocking chair beside Mom in the picture is one that English Rose now has in her bedroom!

      I also appreciate your interest in the paperback edition of ‘The Wishing Tree in Irish Falls.’ It’s supposed to be on Amazon Canada but owing to issues with Amazon it’s not currently available to order there. I’m trying to identify other Canadian suppliers and will let you know status as soon as I can. I’m advising US readers to purchase paperbacks through Barnes & Noble but, of course, that’s not feasible here.

      Sending you and your family hugs in return. xo

  3. Jennifer Wilck

    I find we’ve kind of settled into a routine, and we are all finding ways of coping that work for each of us. Like you, I crave the walks, and I’m enjoying the signs of spring. I suspect all our gardens are going to be wonderful this year! I do a lot of baking and cooking. And I’ve been catching up with people I haven’t spoken to in a while. Love reading your blog!

    • Jen Gilroy

      I’m glad you’re coping, Jennifer and your comment has reminded me that I’d like to catch up with far-flung people in my life as well. Thanks for reading my blog. It’s great to know you enjoy it!

  4. Heidi Vanstone

    “This too shall pass” is such wise advice for these times. Indeed, it is too easy to feel overwhelmed with the media saturation that surrounds us. I am taking great solace in being with my “peeps”, trying new bread recipes, and (believe it or not) growing my own wild yeast!
    Looking to the past and contemplating how many hardships previous generations had to confront makes me realize how fortunate we are!

    • Jen Gilroy

      I struggle with media saturation and feeling overwhelmed too, Heidi. But yes, we’re indeed fortunate in that we don’t have to struggle in many of the ways those in previous generations did. Good luck with the wild yeast growing. That sounds fascinating. Thanks for reading my blog and commenting.

  5. Susanna Bavin

    I’m glad to hear you are finding ways to cope in this strange new way of living. Congratulations on the speedy first draft! I love the idea of the community cookery book with all the vintage recipes. That will give people so much pleasure and interest.”This too shall pass” – very wise words from a lady who sounds lovely and such a positive and lasting influence on your life and your thinking.

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thank you for your good wishes, Susanna and kind comment.

      The community cookery book is extra special to me because it includes some of my own family recipes.

      And yes, my mother indeed had a ‘positive and lasting influence’ on me and I think of her often, especially at difficult times.


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