Today marks the halfway point of winter. This isn’t an easy month—or an easy season—for many of us. My adversarial relationship with February goes way back; I know I’m not the only one.
To collectively beat back the gloom, today we’re sharing the things—big or small—that are saving us right now.
The idea comes from Barbara Brown Taylor’s wonderful memoir Leaving Church. In it, she tells the story of how once she was invited to speak at a gathering, and when she asked for her topic, this was her host’s request: “Tell us what is saving your life right now.”
It’s a good question. Most of us know what’s killing us, and can articulate it, if asked. But it’s harder—less natural, less intuitive, less practiced—to note what’s giving us life.
We’ve been revisiting this question here on MMD for a decade now, always at the halfway point of winter.
Friends, this was hard for me this year. When I posed the question to myself last week, my initial answer was: not a single blessed thing. My family has been in a brutal season and it feels like the hard stuff demands my full and complete attention.
And yet. When I stopped to consider—really consider—the small things that are saving me, I made a list. It took me a week to do it, but I have it, and it’s not short. This is an incomplete sampling of what I jotted down.
1. The basics. This feels almost too obvious to name and I’m going to do it anyway. Focusing on the solid foundation of eating well, exercising regularly, and sleeping plenty, as detailed in my post on what worked for me in 2021, helps.
2. Sunny days. Another basic. As I type it’s pouring rain here in Louisville and we’re waiting for an ice storm to roll in, but this past week we’ve had snow on the ground and sun in the skies, and the combination is welcome to my light-deprived eyes. The dreary days get to me over the winter, and sunshine—even when it’s infrequent—helps a ton.
3. Emotional support hamsters. I already introduced you to my daughter’s hamster Phoebe (if you haven’t yet seen the short video go watch it, she’s adorable). Last week my son had a birthday and all he wanted was another hamster friend, and Cloe entered our family. (Cloe is pronounced like “Chloe,” I didn’t choose the spelling, ha!) These little guys are such a delight to have around, and the two of them together? The cutest.
4. My funny kid. Readers, my kids are FUNNY. And I have one in particular who seems to be deliberately honing his skills as a young comedian, and he brings so many needed and well-timed laughs to our household.
5. Baking. For a variety of reasons, we’ve been baking more than we have since early pandemic days. Our household favorites are these cheddar dill scones and these lemon and cranberry scones; if you have favorite recipes to share I’d love that. I also made this apple crisp recipe for the first time in years and I can’t even tell you how good it was.
6. Puzzles. I wasn’t going to say it, because I always say it, but by golly, I love my puzzles. Two recent completions are pictured: Sibley Backyard Birding and Michael Storring’s Cuba. (You do know we have several puzzles posts, right? Check out these favorites, and these.)
7. Bedtime chats with my girls, and phone calls with my college kid. Do I often stay up a little later than I mean to because I’m talking with my teenagers? Yes. Is it worth it? Also yes.
8. The moka pot. We’ve had this Bialetti coffee contraption for ages, but have never used it more than we have this past month. We’re making lattes at home and delicious strong coffee (espresso-like, though it’s not technically espresso); it doesn’t take much time or effort yet it feels like such a luxury.
9. New projects. While I love my ongoing work, I find so much energy in a new project. It’s something to tinker with, something to look forward to.
10. A great book at the right time. I recently began Elizabeth Strout’s newest release Oh, William! on audio and devoured it in two days. I’m not sure why I waited so long to pick it up; it was one of my most anticipated 2021 releases and yet I never seemed to get around to it last year. The tone of this lovely and introspective literary novel was exactly right, and right for right now.
***** ***** *****
What’s saving your life right now? Share your own blog or Instagram post below in the comments section.
P.S. 2019’s saving-my-life reflection (with a little help from Rick Steves), and my favorite and kinda-weird-to-read-right-now post on what’s saving my life. Last year I wrote about laundry, really! Plus survival strategies for winter, my least favorite season.