Small sparks of happiness: More notes from my quarantine journal
Apollo, December 2020 / Cindy La Ferle
“The world gives you so much pain,
and here you are making gold out of it.
There is nothing purer than that.”
December 10, 2020
So here we are, barely two weeks away from Christmas. Most of us are still hunkering down at home while Covid-19 spreads faster than a California wildfire.
Reading the morning news, I was hit with the astounding fact that more than 3,000 Americans died yesterday from the virus. Meanwhile, half the country refuses to accept the results of the 2020 presidential election, and the talking heads won’t stop talking about it. I’d hoped that the country would resume some sense of normalcy by this time. What was I thinking?
In spite of it all, I’ve been relatively calm, or maybe it’s just that I’ve lowered my expectations. Over the years I’ve acquired a few coping skills to help ease the sadness, stress, and frustration that come with any sort of crisis. I’ve learned to accept the fact that life doesn’t always work according to my plans and wishes — and that it’s possible to experience little sparks of pleasure even when it feels as if everything around us is in tatters.
After nine months of living through this pandemic, I’ve developed a personal survival kit. Here’s a short list of things that help me endure the wait for a Covid vaccine. Maybe some ideas will work for you too:
I don’t make social calls as often as I should. Years of phone interviews (for assignments) made me less inclined to spend my leisure time with a phone next to my ear. I prefer the quiet ritual of writing and sending snail mail, and for that purpose I own a colorful collection of felt-tip pens and blank notecards. It’s all about staying connected in whatever way is comfortable for each of us.
So what if it’s cold outside? Filling container pots with fresh winter greens, pinecones, and a few holiday accents is therapy for a gardener’s soul. It’s a lift to have something naturally pretty or fun to look at outdoors when the landscape is dormant. I position my container gardens near the windows so that I can enjoy the view indoors too.
To me, creativity can mean painting or drawing, writing haiku, following a different recipe, trying new cosmetics, playing a musical instrument, or simply varying your household routine — anything that adds color and pleasure to an ordinary day. This week I’ve been making Christmas cards, using my own photographs. I’ve even pulled out my rubber stamps and glitter glue — and I’m having a blast.
Every day, I try to wear at least one nice thing — a pair of earrings given to me by someone special, a cozy sweater, tinted lip balm, and/or pants that don’t make me look fat. I never stay in my pajamas past 9:30am if I can help it. Even if nobody but my husband sees me, my self-confidence soars if I don’t scare myself when I look in the mirror.
~Supporting our local restaurants. At least once a week, Doug and I order carry-out meals from restaurants we visited before the pandemic. Sometimes we treat ourselves to something fancy. This helps keep our favorite places in business and gives me an occasional break from wondering what to make for lunch or dinner. Along the same lines, I try to purchase Christmas gifts from the online catalogs of local merchants.
~Splurging, binge-reading, and binge-watching.
At the moment, my splurge list includes peanut butter ice cream, Montessori toys for our baby grandson, Sunday newspapers, gluten-free cookies, The Crown (on Netflix), more boots (on sale now!) and all the books I have time to read. In view of the long winter ahead, I’m also subscribing to my favorite magazines and newspapers — print editions. Few simple pleasures can top the thrilling distraction of new publications delivered with my snail mail.
Nothing shakes me out of the isolation blues faster than helping someone else. That can mean anything from writing a holiday check for a charity to making an extra batch of stew for a friend or family member. Meanwhile, local soup kitchens and homeless shelters are always in need of food and clothing donations.
~Listing everything that went well.
Right now, if we’re not careful, we’ll easily fall under the dark spell of negative news. Seeking out positive experiences is worth the effort, even when we can’t travel far from home to find them. At the end of each day, I make a mental note of all the things that went well or brought me happiness, whether it was a soul-lifting talk with my husband, a photo of our grandson, a newsy email from my cousin in Canada, a clean kitchen, a satisfying piece of writing, or a good walk at a local nature center. As Annie Dillard wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” ~Cindy La Ferle
All posts from “My Quarantine Journal” are posted in order (from last to first) here.
Enlightening! I’d love one of those cute cards! I’ll have to start sending snail mail!!
Things that make me happy
Not sure who you are, but I will mail you a card if you send me your snail mail address 🙂