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Posts Tagged ‘daily life’

Masked smiles from strangers, neighbors bringing in packages, snail mail from friends. Kindness keeps the world going, especially in times of isolation and strife. I give it back when I can.

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One of the (many) hard things about this past year: so much of it has felt exactly the same.

I love a good routine (and especially a good rhythm). I went to the same coffee shop (hello Darwin’s!) nearly every day for five years when I worked at Harvard. I run almost the same path through my beloved Eastie every morning. Even my nightly (very simple) skincare routine can be soothing in its familiarity.

But: the past 10+ months have held a severely limited orbit of people and places. With the arrival of a new year and no changes (except horrifying ones, like more COVID-19 deaths, and the attempted coup in D.C. on Jan. 6), I have been seriously craving some newness in my days.

I read somewhere that human beings need a mix of novelty and routine in their lives, which struck me as utterly true: the ratio is different for everyone, but most of us need a balance of some kind between comfort and adventure. Since a pandemic winter prevents me from seeking out some of my more typical adventures (I miss you, New York weekends), I’ve been trying to search for novelty in smaller ways.

Last week, I brought home anemones from the florist instead of daffodils or tulips, and their bright reds and purples (see above) made me so happy. I met a friend for a walk at the arboretum a few weeks ago – I hadn’t been there in years. We got lost trying to find each other, but even that newness was interesting, and good for my brain.

My guy and I have tried a couple of new recipes lately: fish tacos, a one-pot stew from Real Simple, cranberry-lemon scones. And last weekend, I drove over to his place and went for a run along his section of the river, instead of my usual harbor/greenway loop. Much of it felt reassuringly familiar – blue skies, pounding feet, beating heart – but there were new trees and paths to see and navigate, and it helped a bit. A change is, sometimes, as good as a rest.

How are you creating (or finding) novelty in these same-same days?

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“Is there a word for when you wait three weeks to do something, and it takes five minutes?” I asked a few girlfriends the other day.

“Being human,” one friend responded wryly. Another came up with the brilliant portmanteau you see in the post title: procrastiminutiae, or putting off the tiny things.

I’ve been deep in a post-holiday, endless-pandemic funk of worry and frustration, unable to motivate myself to do much besides run and read and wash dishes. (All of which are good things.) But a few days ago, I decided to tackle one small task I’d been putting off for weeks: calling the gas company about an inspection. I’m not sure why: maybe it was the sunshine, or my inspiring run playlist (heavy on the badass female ’90s country singers), or just the general sense that it was time to stop avoiding this one little thing.

It took (less than) five minutes, in the end, and I got so inspired I tackled a few more minutiae: taking down the Christmas cards and stockings (I know it’s mid-January; don’t @ me), dropping some clothes off at a donation bin, making a bank deposit, ordering more compost bin bags. Each task took just a few minutes, by itself. But the mental space they cleared felt so expansive – and so good.

We have little control over our lives at the best of times, and lately, with so much disease and upheaval everywhere I look, I’ve been feeling particularly helpless. But it felt very satisfying to exercise some agency over my life for just a few minutes. Bonus: my apartment is a bit clearer, and so is my head.

What are the procrastiminutiae on your list?

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For a spill of yellow calla lilies and long-stemmed roses tipped with crimson, both from my beloved Cambridge florist.

For morning runs along the harborwalk and up the greenway, sea and sky and breath and music in my earbuds, a ritual that makes me stronger and happier and more at peace.

For three bags of cranberries and plump sweet potatoes, homemade mac & cheese and beef en croute from Trader Joe’s, with cider from Downeast for our tiny, two-person feast.

For daily chats with my girl Allison in California, whose good humor and grace and honesty about the vagaries of pandemic life have kept me sane for so many months now.

For Friends Thanksgiving gifs shared with my sister, weekly phone chats with my parents, Thanksgiving cards from my aunts. I am far from most of my family, but we love one another fiercely, even in these strange times.

For the memories of past Thanksgivings, in Texas and Oxford and Missouri and a few miles away in Brookline. There is pain in some of those memories, but also community, and joy.

For a light-filled, wood-floored apartment near the harbor, which has been a true refuge and home during a turbulent year and a half.

For a man who loves me deeply and shares my joy in the fact that we get to twine our lives together.

For the freelance writing projects that have helped give me purpose and income and a chance to use my skills in these furloughed months.

For strong black tea brewed in my favorite mugs, stacks of library books and e-galleys, candles on the mantel and cozy plaid slippers and all the comforts of home.

For the nurses, doctors, grocery store workers, delivery folks, farmers and other essential workers who are keeping us all going.

It has been a hard and sobering year, but there is still and always so much to give thanks for. If you are celebrating today, I wish you a Thanksgiving full of love and gratitude.

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Over the weekend, we hit eight months of pandemic life here in Boston. It worries me, honestly, that not much seems to have changed over the last eight months. People are still getting sick and dying; hospitals and essential workers are still stretched thin; we are still in a strange not-quite-normal limbo. Closer to home, I am still furloughed, and still spending a lot (a lot) of time alone in my apartment.

These autumn days can feel like feast or famine: one day might hold a long bike ride with my guy through falling golden leaves, a nourishing walk with a girlfriend, a yoga class in the park (we squeezed in a few more outdoor classes when the mercury hit the 70s last week). Other days, I might not say a word aloud to a human being until the afternoon, though I check in daily via text with a few loved ones. My in-person circles, always smallish, have shrunk to three or four dear friends, plus my partner. Sometimes it feels impossible to conceive of how we’ll continue this way. (It’s all very Waiting for Godot.)

The isolation is wearying, and sometimes I wish I could spread the interactions out to make sure I get the right amount every day. (I do try, but it isn’t always possible.) But I am also conscious of something else: a steady sense of gratitude for the good days, whether caused by community or sunshine or a satisfying writing session or all of the above.

We do what we can, I (and many others) have been saying for months now. We wash our hands, wear our masks, put off trips to see loved ones or visit favorite places until it’s safe to do so. We find creative ways to connect with folks we love. I send photos of autumn leaves to friends in Idaho and California and Scotland. I curl up in the evenings with a middle-grade novel or the latest Sara Paretsky mystery or an episode of Mary Tyler Moore. And, when the opportunity for feasting comes – be it pizza around a friend’s table or a bear hug from my guy or a ride to the grocery store – I take it.

Some days still feel like famine: I feel acutely the lack of the small interactions at work and in public that made up so much of my days. That seems likely to continue for a while. But most days offer richness, in both surprising and in durable ordinary ways. And for now, as we head into winter (not without trepidation), I will feast when I can.

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One of the perks of having a partner who works at Trader Joe’s: a front-row seat to all the new fun seasonal products. This summer, it was jalapeño limeade, sparkling coconut water with yuzu and watermelon mint tea, and in mid-September, I walked into the store to find that a pumpkin spice factory had apparently exploded.

Starting on my birthday, we’ve tried all the fall treats: pumpkin ravioli with harvest pasta sauce (delicious), leaf-shaped tortilla chips (good, but kind of strange); pretzels dipped in pumpkin-spice yogurt (a little over the top, but yummy); pumpkin curry simmer sauce (divine); ginger-turmeric granola (I am seriously addicted). Now that we’re into November, the holiday treats have started arriving at TJs, but I’ve still got fresh apple cider in the fridge and a box or two of pumpkin samosas stashed in the freezer.

I’m not a pumpkin spice latte girl (I don’t drink coffee), and I’m not even that into pumpkin pie. But as Anne also noted, leaning hard into the seasonal joy this year felt like a good antidote to election anxiety and pandemic sadness. It even became a joke with one of my girlfriends: “Don’t hold back on the pumpkin [or fall] joy!” And, truly, from harvest spiced nuts to a cranberry goat cheese log, I feel we have made the most of the fall grocery-store delights.

So much of the novelty in our daily lives is missing this year; I am trying to savor the sweet parts of home, but I miss travel and trying new restaurants and having new experiences. A box of pumpkin pancake mix might not make up for all that, but it’s a fun way to bring a bit of novelty and joy into our days. (Especially when paired with ginger maple syrup and a steaming cup of tea.)

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This is the summer of simple breakfasts: Greek yogurt with granola and blueberries in the blue-and-white bowls I bought from Carolyn. I eat sitting at my kitchen table, sipping ginger peach or English Breakfast from one of my favorite mugs.

This is the summer of morning pages: filling up slim notebooks with scribbled thoughts, jottings, worries, hopes, half-remembered dreams. I went to Bob Slate right when quarantine started and spent a small fortune on journals, which have lasted up until now.

This is the summer of morning runs, down the hill to the harborwalk and over to the greenway, pausing to snap photos of harbor views and herons, wild roses and day lilies.

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This is the summer of purple sneakers pounding on pavement, I’m With Her or the Highwomen in my ears, pulling up my neck gaiter when I pass another person, wishing I could stop to pet the friendly dogs.

This is the summer of masks: wearing, washing, pulling up and down, wondering if I should buy more, on repeat.

This is the summer of long bike rides, alone or with G on my new single-speed pink bike, gradually gaining confidence in hills and corners, thankful for a way to avoid public transit and be out in the sunshine.

This is the summer of missing normal: canceled plans, Zumix concerts in the park, dinner with friends, time with my family, hugs.

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This is the summer of Sara Paretsky: I’m deep into V.I. Warshawski’s adventures fighting crime in Chicago and I think it’s safe to say I am obsessed.

This is the summer of Tuesdays at the farmers’ market, buying salsa roja and berries and sometimes hummus or muhammara, from the handful of sellers who wait faithfully on the plaza. After we shop, we sit in the grass and snack, savoring tart currants and sweet strawberries before heading our separate ways, toward home.

This is the summer of so much time and feeling like I should be doing something with it.

This is the summer of yoga in the park, spreading my mat out a safe distance from everyone else and breathing through sun salutations and hip openers.

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This is the summer of light on the water, watching sailboats and dinghies and yachts on the harbor, marveling at how it changes from hour to hour.

This is the summer of antiracist reading: Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo, Mildred D. Taylor and Nikki Giovanni, making a conscious effort to seek out stories by people who don’t look like me.

This is the summer of Downeast cider – no samples, but cans or growlers picked up to go, refreshing fruit flavors with a little bite.

This is the summer of serious loneliness, trying to build in phone chats and/or in-person connection every day. Sometimes it works; sometimes it’s simply exhausting.

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This is the summer of smoothies at Eagle Hill Cafe, a new favorite in Eastie – I’m working my way through their smoothie list.

This is the summer of reading e-galleys for review; I still don’t like it but I am used to it by now. I am thankful to pick up physical books at the library, and drop in at my favorite bookstores occasionally.

This is the summer of waiting: for the pandemic to be over, for my unemployment to come through (finally), for news about my furlough status, for a time when we can gather without fear.

What does this summer look like for you?

 

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Like a lot of readers, I have a stack or two (or five) of unread books around the house at any given time. They are library books, advance copies for my review gig, gifts or loans from friends, books I’ve bought but haven’t picked up yet. And some of them tend to linger for months.

About three weeks into quarantine, when I was really missing the library, I decided to tackle one book from these stacks every week. I bought or borrowed all these books because I thought I’d enjoy them, and now that I’m not able to browse the shelves at the library, I can give them some attention.

I started with Ivan Doig’s wry, wonderful novel The Whistling Season, and moved on to a comics collection my guy had lent me. I tried a book of poetry (which did not stick, for now), and am slowly making my way through A Fine Romance, an illustrated travelogue my friend Kate sent me. I have been loving Mardy Murie’s memoir of her life in Alaska, Two in the Far North, and am hoping to find some other gems in the stacks as I keep going.

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This is good for my wallet, since I am just as tempted as usual to buy stacks of books from my favorite indie bookstores. It’s good for my brain, which relishes different kinds of books, and is particularly craving absorbing nonfiction right now. And it’s good for my sense of accomplishment – no small thing in these strange days.

What (and how) are you reading these days?

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It’s official, friends: after six weeks of working at my kitchen table and sitting on a hard wooden chair for six to eight hours a day, my body has had it. 

I started feeling twinges in my IT band earlier this week, quickly followed by serious soreness and tightness a few days later. It freaked me out – because, as y’all know, I love to run, and especially right now, it’s vital for my mental and physical health. I texted a couple of friends in a panic – one a dancer, one a longtime runner. Buy a foam roller, they both urged. Stretch it out. Rest. 

I’m taking their advice (thank goodness for Marathon Sports, my local running store). But I still need help. This wasn’t an issue until it really was, and I don’t want it to either continue or get worse.

This is the current setup: my work laptop, either set flat on the kitchen table or propped on a double stack of books as a makeshift standing desk. It helps to stand sometimes, and moving around when I can is important (plus online yoga). But I can’t type like this all day, and I need all your best work-from-home ergonomic advice. I live in a studio apartment, and I don’t have a “regular” desk or room for much new furniture, so this is going to be a case of working with what I’ve got and getting creative.

How do you avoid tight shoulders, sore tailbones, repetitive stress injuries, etc., when working from home? I’m really asking. And if you’ve got recs for products that work – laptop stands, etc. – let me know. I’m all ears.

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We’re in the middle of week 6 (of how many?) of quarantine over here, and it seems clear this is going to be our lives for a while. I am alternately grateful for my blessings and privileges (my lovely apartment, a job that allows me to work from home, virtual connection with family and friends) and really missing the aspects of “normal” life that are suspended right now (in-person yoga classes, trips to the library, hugs).

Like a lot of folks, I do better with a bit of routine and structure, so as I adjust to wearing a mask, doing yoga online and canceling travel plans, I’ve come up with a few daily rules for myself. I’m sharing them here, and I’d love to hear yours, if you have any.

Leave the house twice every day.
I need fresh air and movement like I need oxygen. And while getting out for a run is great (I do this most days), I get tetchy and restless if I’m inside for the entire rest of the day. So I’m walking myself to work, going to the bodega, meeting my guy for a bike ride, walking the compost bag down the hill – whatever it takes to get outside more than once.

Related: Get up and move. 
I’m spending a lot of time sitting at my kitchen table, and my body is starting to feel it – so I’m trying to get up and move around the apartment as often as possible. Even a few steps makes a difference (or so I’m telling myself).

Write it down.
I journal regularly anyhow, but those morning pages (and sometimes evening ones) feel important right now. Sometimes I’m just whining on the page, but sometimes it helps to think things through, remember moments of joy or make lists. I stocked up on journals right before our stay-at-home order hit, so I’m set for a while.

Drink more water.
However much I think I’m drinking, it’s probably not enough.

Pick up the phone.
I’m alone most of the time right now, but I need my people, and I want to be there for them, too. So I text a friend (or three) every day, FaceTime my sister, call my mom, trade Marco Polo messages with a couple of friends. Hearing a friendly voice, or just getting a text update, helps.

Wash the dishes.
Because if I don’t, they tend to pile up quickly – plus it’s often oddly grounding.

Tackle at least one book from the long-unread stacks every week.
While I’m bemoaning the temporary loss of my library, I’m trying to see this as a chance to catch up on the books that tend to linger on my bedside shelf. So far, I’ve picked up (and loved) an Ivan Doig novel, a quirky collection of Boston-themed comics, and now a memoir about life in Alaska.

Make a list.
I’ve been making “Today I…” lists each night, as a way to reassure myself that yes, I did the essential things today, and to capture some memories in list form if I’m too tired to write it all out. It’s a (mostly) reassuring practice.

Give myself a break.
My friend Jen Lee keeps reminding us to “go gently” in her Morning, Sunshine videos (they are so good, y’all). I tend to be hard on myself at the best of times, and it’s helpful to remember that we are all dealing with a lot right now. So I’m giving myself a break: curling up with a book (see above), taking a leisurely walk, going to bed early if I want/need to. This rule (and the first one) may be the most important one on this list.

Do you have any rules/practices for your daily routine during this time?

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