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.


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.


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.


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.


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

A New Year (Less Strange Perhaps)

new year fireworks painting

It was a strange year, wasn’t it?

Many things may have happened to you–a few too many.

Or maybe nothing happened to you–you’ve postponed your plans, canceled your trips, put your dreams on hold.

Maybe your life has really come to a halt this way.

Still, was it a bad year if you’re here reading this?

It’s a rainy Christmas day here–not a snowflake in sight.

But I can’t feel down about it.

This Christmas, in addition to the usual presents, Santa also brought people around the world some of the first COVID-19 vaccines.

Not just vaccines, but the hope of life resumed.

When people put their minds together, the results can be amazing.

We may be a destructive, selfish, complicated species–but we’re great at working together when we have to.

For me personally this year hasn’t been too bad.

I made friends in unexpected places and became in many ways a better version of myself than I have been before.

I’ve become more social too–without even leaving my house.

Who would have thought I needed a pandemic for that to happen?

I like to think I finally learned to stop blaming others or myself for things that go wrong.

Because sometimes things go wrong and it’s not anyone’s fault.

Chaos and disorder are built into the fabric of life, it permeates every design and structure, natural or man-made.

Accepting our ignorance and smallness, isn’t that the first step to growing stronger?

Many people will probably have a long list of New Year resolutions this year.

Many people will hope that with the vaccine out there, life will become maskless sometime next year.

Maybe that will happen. Or maybe it will take longer than that.

Maybe there will be other waves, other strains, other mishaps.

After all, the state of the environment is probably an ever bigger issue that this virus.

Like Shakespeare wrote a long, long time ago, “The worst is not so long as you can say ‘This is the worst.'”

Will you still be making a list of resolutions this year?

I will.

I may not wish to travel just yet, but there are so many other things we can do today without even leaving our homes.

That’s what’s great about out day and each.

We each live in a small kingdom of information and easy communication–a friend is only an email or phone call away.

It may not be the same as face to face interaction, but it’s so much better than previous generations had during pandemics.

We can wish for a better year for sure, and maybe we will get it.

Many of you deserve it.

But even better perhaps, let’s wish for a better version of ourselves.

I’ll sure try to use what I have the best way I can and in a way that’s good for others too.

Will it be a happy new year?

It remains to be seen.

But it will be a new year, and that means the opportunity to create new plans, build new dreams, nurture new hopes–in short, create a better version of ourselves, any way we can.

Image (c) The Painted Clock Painting Classes

Coronavirus Conspiracies and My Mother

My mother thinks the coronavirus is a global conspiracy meant to 1) kill off people (because there are too many of us around) and 2) enable those who unleashed it to profit from it and “rearrange the global order”.

I tell her the numbers. I tell her that people are really dying, that this virus is serious.

“Where are all these cases and all these deaths?” she answers back. “I don’t believe in these numbers. How can I know that they are true?”

A few months ago, I wrote about the emotional neutrality of big stats and how it’s hard to feel the suffering behind statistics.

Stalin comes to mind again. He said that one death is a tragedy but that a million deaths is just a statistic.

Coronavirus Conspiracies and My Mother

The virus here in Romania is raging—there are around 50 deaths and over 1,000 cases every day. That’s considerably more than in spring.

Back then, my mother was faced with the option to stay home or go to work. She chose to go to work.

It took some persuasion on my end to get her to stay home. At work she has contact with many people, and she’s over 50 and smokes like a locomotive.

What’s more, grandmother lives close by, my mother sees her every day, and they don’t maintain much of a distance.

My grandmother doesn’t out of habit, she’s never had to deal with anything like this virus. She’s used to the company of others, and her sight and hearing aren’t good anymore, so if you talk to her, she has to come close to you to understand.

In the end, my mother remained home for about a month and a half. Then the lockdown was lifted and things seemed to stabilize before everyone started going places and cases surged.

At work, she has to wear a face mask most of the day as well as other protective gear. She hates that, says she can’t breathe properly through her mask.

She complained of shortness of breath in the past and often feels unwell. She doesn’t take very good care of herself.

This week she has been to the beach with her boyfriend. I had mixed feelings about that trip.

On the one hand I knew she needed it, on the other I thought of the risks. I brought her up to date with the latest numbers but she was quite firm about her desire to go.

Perhaps my mother’s attitude is a psychological reaction, a kind of self-defense mechanism. Perhaps it’s easier to think that a virus like COVID-19 is something made in a lab and controlled by some people than something natural and largely beyond human control, for the time being at least.

There have been well over 21,000,000 million coronavirus cases so far.

I wonder how many of those 21 million people have been like my mother, I don’t mean to say careless–she does wear a mask on the street and does wash her hands when she comes home–but rather stubbornly disbelieving that the coronavirus can happen to them and going about their lives as usual.

And I hope she will not be one of them.