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Stockpiling Joy

Surviving a pandemic is about more than physical health, it’s also about mental health.

If you live alone, how do you get through the challenges of isolation? And what if you live in a climate where winter is long, dark, and bone-chillingly cold?

Winter is a predictable part of life in Canada, but pandemic + winter is a combination most of us have never had to deal with before. Usually winter just creeps up on me, before I’ve even swapped my drawers of T-shirts and summer shorts for the cozy sweaters in storage bins.

But not this year. Given the exceptional circumstances, I decided in late summer to start consciously thinking about how I could make this winter more bearable, while not spending every moment glued to an electronic device. This article about how Norwegians not only get through winter – but thrive – helped me reframe and get inspired to start stockpiling some joy I can call on a bit further down the road.

First I started thinking about my physical space. I’m lucky to live in a cozy apartment with enough space not to feel hemmed in or trapped. But what could I do to make it feel even cozier? I had some cute fairy lights that I hadn’t ever done much with, and asked a friend adept at home decor if she had any ideas about what I might do with them. “Why not put them in a glass bowl,” she said. That could look really cute.

I didn’t have a bowl, but I remembered a large glass vase. Not big enough to fit all the lights, but after gazing around my flat I realized the plant stand could be a perfect home for the setup.

I did other things too. I got a couple more plants. I bought a patio heater, to extend the period in which I can host visitors outdoors. (My plans were thwarted by the province’s new lockdown restrictions, but I’m hoping to use it later this fall if Québec shapes up.)

While I’m out on the patio by myself, I fantasize about what sort of gardening I might do next year: I’ll try to grow some herbs again, hopefully figuring out why I killed two cilantro plants this year. Maybe try to replicate my friend Victoria’s great success with balcony basil and tomatoes.

What about crafts? Working with your hands can be meditative, plus you usually end up with something to show for it. I decided to try cross-stitching and ordered a cute beginner kit from a seller on Etsy. I’m looking forward to working on it, with a cat on my legs and fairy lights glowing.

Sea to sky cross-stitch kit. Trees and ocean abstract design in a circle.

I’ve also pondered trying a jigsaw puzzle, which a lot of people have gotten into, or rediscovered. I’m still contemplating these gorgeous wooden creations based on Canadian artwork, and in the meantime, a kind friend dropped off a couple of puzzles I can try out, to see if I enjoy the pastime.

One of the parts of travel I actually miss is spending all the time on planes and waiting at airports reading articles I’ve loaded up on Instapaper. I’ve still been saving them to read “later,” but I’m going to try to make a point to actually peruse them, even if it’s sitting on my couch at home.

I’ve also reserved some books from the library instead of buying them, and am excited to get that email, informing me they’re ready to be picked up. I’m thankful that even though our libraries are once again closed to browsing, reservations and inter-library loans are still available. After experimenting with some ebooks during the last lockdown, I’ve come to the conclusion that I still like reading on paper best.

I’ll still be cooking and baking a lot – check out some of the goodies I made during the first wave – and am planning to try some new recipes. (Scallion pancakes, here I come!)

One thing I need to make a point to do is get outside into nature. It always invigorates me, and I don’t do it enough. I’d like to get back to the Botanical Gardens, and go for a walk on the mountain (aka Mont-Royal). I’ve even toyed with the idea of getting showshoes, even if none have been procured so far. I can find it hard to get motivated to do these types of activities by myself, so friends will be pinged.

There are also a wealth of online activities these days, and I’m always keeping my eye out for these. I’ve taken part in online book launches, comedy festivals, and even a mixed media art class. I love seeing what my friends around the world are up to; for all its evils, Facebook is great for that, and I often partake in events I wouldn’t have been able to attend in person.


As I was writing this post, I got an email informing me that it’s World Mental Health Day today, featuring a video with Dr. Laurie Santos’s five favourite evidence-based coping strategies: exercise, gratitude, sleep, getting social, and being with your emotions.

Sounds good to me. Let’s see how it goes. Bon courage, everyone.

6 replies on “Stockpiling Joy”

Dear Kathryn,

I definitely agree with you that “Surviving a pandemic is about more than physical health, it’s also about mental health.” One wonders how much longer we have to contend with and adapt to the situation, as the vaccines are still unavailable. Having some good hobbies and pastimes are essential in maintaining good spirit.

Moreover, as we maintain spatial distancing and stay home to avoid contracting and spreading the coronavirus, please kindly allow me the pleasure to entertain you with a bespoke poem and music recently published in the multimedia post entitled 🎼🎹—THE—🎹—LAST—🎹—RAG—🎹🎵🎶, where the featured composition for solo piano can be enjoyed and studied in multiple formats available to you as the audio playbacks, the video captures of score with music, and the gallery of printable score sheets, which will be very helpful and illuminating to you if you can also read music.

The said post is available for you to enjoy at http://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2020/04/12/the-last-rag/

Since music can be an essential part of the process of sustainability, wellbeing, healing and even social change and spiritual awakening, may my music and poem in the said post bring you and your family some creative “distractions” or “diversions” amidst the disruptions and woes engendered by the pandemic.

I shall be very curious about your reactions towards and thoughts about my original piano music there.

I love the two photos of the magnificent gardens and lakes. How inviting and tranquil they look!

Happy listening and happy Autumn to you and your family!

Thank you so much for sharing your music! Your passion and creativity shine through. Music is indeed powerful – listening to a piece that moves my soul or touches my heart is something that keeps me going and can change my mood in an instant.

Take care and thank you for sharing your thoughts and your work!

Dear Kathryn,

I am delighted to read your comment here. Thank you for your feedback and compliment. Given that your comment pertains to my said post, I would really appreciate it if you could kindly leave your lovely comment in my post too.

You can simply copy and paste your comment and perhaps add more if you have something extra to say. Thank you in anticipation.

Love your lights. I have those around the ceiling in my bedroom and living room. I call them my princess lights. I love putting on my princess lights and relaxing a lovely drink in hand (hot milk, tumeric and honey is amazing), a fireplace on my TV (wish I had a real one, but I make do), classical music streaming through my Echo Dot and a good novel on my e-reader so I don’t need bright lights. Makes a dreary day so lovely.

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