7 Good Habits I Picked Up During the Pandemic

young man sitting in nature painting

It was the worst of times, it was the best of times, it was a time of disbelief, it was a time of hope, it was a time of media noise, it was a time of personal quiet, it was the spring of not going anywhere, it was the summer of reading everything.

The pandemic is by no means over, but now that the situation is better in at least some countries, I can look back on the last 16 months or so and see some of the good that came out them.

Yoga

It all started with a yoga mat with poses illustrated on it. Now, I’m not doing the sun salutation or headstands. Nor do I have any aspirations to contort my body into semi-indecent poses like you see on the covers of yoga magazines. But I do yoga at least 3 times a week and it’s quietly wonderful.

Yoga, I’ve come to believe, is not some new age nonsense, but a simple way to appreciate your body and feel at ease in it.

Penpaling

I’ve always meant to penpal but never got around to doing it–until the pandemic. Now I’m happy to say I have penpals around the world.

Getting to know someone like that, from a distance, one word at a time, one wait at a time, can be special. More than acquiring new perspectives, it’s an opportunity to see yourself reflected in another’s curiosity.

Essential Oils

Sitting in my room writing and reading, I felt that something was missing. Not love, no, it felt good being a hermit, at least for a bit longer. And then it struck me–my room looked the way I wanted it to look, but didn’t smell of anything.

I got a simple aromatherapy lamp and half a dozen essential oils, and now I’m slowly discovering, one by one, the wonderful world of natural scents, plants and trees, and another form of quiet wisdom I didn’t pay attention to before.

Gardening

I haven’t traveled lately, but then I didn’t feel the need to. I owe that to the garden. There was a greenhouse to set up, and soil to prepare, and vegetables to plant and water, and other green things to do.

Something about soil on your hands that doesn’t make your hands feel dirty. On the contrary, it enriches them.

Oatmeal

How can I have been living for so long not knowing the simple pleasure of oatmeal with nuts and forest fruit and cranberries and bananas and cinnamon, and a bit, just a bit of honey?

Raising Dogs

I may have lost a cat–Manoli hasn’t showed up in months. But I gained Mozo and Beto, two furry four-leggers who more than once kept me awake at night with their maddening barking are good at being what they are, young dogs.

PS: Not so furry these days, since they got a trim and now are wearing summer coats.

Living in the Present

With few goings out and distractions, it was easier to return to my breathing, to meditation, to the small and simple everyday pleasures of life. To the present moment, the here and the now.

To seeing things as they are and appreciating them for that, not wanting to change them in any way.

I hope to continue inhabiting the present long after the world readjusts itself to a new normal, and myself with it.


Painting: Futur-Simple (c) Azucena

Why Bad Weather Doesn’t Get Me Down (Most of the Time At Least)

Bad Weather Painting

You know that feeling when you wake up but it doesn’t look like morning outside?

When it’s so overcast you almost have to turn on the light.

When the bare branches of the trees shiver against the gray sky.

And people on the streets walk with their head down, sunken in their coats, and then they disappear, and the street is gray and empty under an even grayer sky, only the wind whistles as it goes, makes the old trees crack.

And then rain, cold rain that dies on your windowpane.

That’s poet weather for you.

Wouldn’t you rather have sun and shine and clear sky?

Girls in light dresses, men in shorts?

Rays of sunlight rolling down the street like oranges and lemons?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t entirely mind bad weather.

I find it comforting.

Bad weather’s a good excuse to stay inside and read and write.

To listen to music, cook, maybe watch a film.

Makes me feel that I’m not missing anything out there—that there’s no better way to spend the time.

And if you do have to go out, doesn’t the cold make the return to warmth quite pleasant?

Warmth is one of those things we can’t appreciate until we’ve lost it.

Maybe you’re reading this from a place where November can seem drab and dreary.

Maybe your window is gray and weepy.

Maybe you don’t feel like singing and dancing.

But I say give November a chance.

Make some tea, find a quiet spot, open a book.

Make the tea green or dark if you’re feeling sleepy.

After all, your Circadian rhythm may get tricked by the absence of light into thinking it’s nap time.

Not that a nap would be bad.

But if there are books to read…

Bad weather is good book weather, isn’t it?

Versions of You

How many versions of you do you go through every day?

Probably more than the clothes in your wardrobe.

You change from one person to another, from one setting to another, from one feeling or mood to another.

Are you the same “you” with your mother that you are with your friends?

Is the “you” that you are with your best friend the same “you” that you are with your lover?

And the “you” that you are with your lover is the same as the “you” that you’ve been with your ex-lover?

And what about the “you” that you are with yourself?

Today “you” are yourself and tomorrow “you” are also yourself.

What changes and what stays the same?

You look more or less the same every day—your eyes don’t change color.

Your arms or legs don’t grow or shorten.

You keep your shape.

You are sky.

But like the sky you change.

And then you are also clouds.

You ask yourself “Who am I?”

And you answer every day, with everything you do, with every word you say or don’t say, with your silence, too.

You answer with every desire and every hope and every dream.

Consciously or not.

But are “you” the same “you” that you’ve been before you began to read this?

Will the same “you” that goes to bed today wake up tomorrow?

If “you” keep changing even as you keep staying the same, how can I know “you”?

And can “you” know me, if I, too, am like you and go through the same process of change?

But I know that there’s no fixed “you,” that you keep changing with your emotions and your thoughts and your dreams and your desires.

And “you” know the same thing about me.

We know each other through change.

We can pretend we know each other.

And make up stories, good or bad fictions.

But are we not wiser discovering our ignorance?