When darkness enters, it’s time for a slice of perspective

KATHRYN GEORGE / Stuff

“Last week I got mad at a head of cauliflower because it was going to cost me $9 to bring it home,” writes Lana Hart, amid the highest inflation in decades.

Lana Hart is a Writer, animator and tutor based in Christchurch.

OPINION: Things look pretty bad right now.

Inflation, a struggling healthcare system, a struggling education system, never enough houses or even plasterboard, staggering Covid and Covid related death figures – all against a backdrop of climate change, severe winter conditions and short, sunless days.

Sometimes it starts to feel like the zombie apocalypse isn’t just fiction, and looking in my mirror does nothing to challenge that idea. Makes you want to pull the covers over your head for a year or two.

Advice for coping with all the bad news flows as fast as the rivers of Canterbury. Some say avoid the news because it only causes distress and suffering. Others say accept the negative emotions about it without trying to change them or build on good relationships.

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We know from all these years of battling earthquakes and blockages, floods and disease, that staying stable in difficult times almost always comes down to practicing the five ways to wellness: give, connect, take note, be active and keep learning.

Lana Hart decided that a head of cauliflower wouldn't go home if it was going to cost her $9.

GROW / Tips

Lana Hart decided that a head of cauliflower wouldn’t go home if it was going to cost her $9.

All of that, but I still struggle with the winter blues and try to keep a sense of perspective when wet days sneak through my head. This year, it seems even more important to us to scan the horizons of the world so as not to think that our small country at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean is subjected to an unfair or unprecedented dose of suffering.

Take inflation, for example. It hurts almost every home, every organization, and every individual in the country. Last week I got mad at a head of cauliflower because it was going to cost me $9 to bring home. My anger quickly moved to the heads of the owners of supermarkets and duopoly councils.

If I hadn’t stopped, I might have cursed the producers too, but remember that they weren’t the ones who earned $1 million a day in excess profits by having a virtual monopoly on the food sales for two decades.

CHRISTEL YARDLEY / STUFF

The Coromandel family of 14, the Shellings, talk about the cost of living and the measures they have put in place to try to beat inflation.

Coming out of my pity in the produce department, I was reminded that a) in New Zealand there is always cauliflower in our stores, unlike the vast majority of countries in the world which cannot rely on a year-round access to fresh vegetables, nor on reasonable wages to pay for them, and b) the cost of that head of cauliflower will have risen even faster in some countries.

Even though our inflation rate hit a shocking 7.3% in June, it was even higher in the US and UK, and hit 15% in Poland, and an incomprehensible 263% in Sudan. That thought kept my jaw dropping as I watched the cashier operator scan my groceries.

When I heard the Association of Secondary School Principals sound the alarm that schools were “at or near their breaking point” with constant disruptions to student learning, I sadly thought back to missed or substandard weeks of school for my high school daughter and her boyfriends.

Later, an Afghan friend explained that her female family members back home could no longer attend any type of educational institution due to the Taliban takeover. Her sister-in-law, who was in her final year of a university degree, is “stuck at home every day, unable to even leave without a burqa and without a male family member”. Facing this boredom, even facing the the hunger and deprivation that the vast majority of Afghans now faceis something we could never imagine for our New Zealand youth.

Make no mistake, failing to achieve academic results during these formative years is of course serious business for Kiwi teenagers with long-term implications for their future. But taking note of the high starting point our learners enjoy in a lucky country like New Zealand helps to moderate my feelings of concern for them.

Lana Hart:

ALDEN WILLIAMS / Stuff

Lana Hart: “Staying stable in difficult times almost always comes down to practicing the five ways to well-being: giving, connecting, taking note, being active and continuing to learn.”

Then there is climate change. There is no other planet to compare ours to that could drive away the looming grief of the sad condition in which our fragile planet has found itself – not without decades of warnings -. news that renews my hope in the ability of human ingenuity to move us in a different direction. Plastic-eating bacteria Where machines that suck carbon out of the air are two, and the list of highly innovative sustainable projects grows every day, inspiring me to keep making lifestyle changes that could, little by little, contribute to better environmental news in the years to come.

Maintaining a healthy sense of proportion between all the bad news around us and that around the world could help us get through this winter of discontent. Otherwise, try pulling the covers over your head for about a month until spring.

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