What’s saving your life right now?

What’s saving your life right now?

It’s almost time for one of my favorite Modern Mrs Darcy traditions.

Winter has never been my favorite season. It’s cold, it’s grey, it too often brings colds or worse, and usually brings a bit of cabin fever—but of course this year the dread of illness is something else entirely, and that “stuck inside” feeling is next-level.

And so to beat back the dreary days, this winter I’ve again been keeping a list—a literal, physical list—of the things that are saving my life right now.

The idea comes from author Barbara Brown Taylor. In her memoir Leaving Church, Taylor tells about a time she was invited to speak, and her host assigned her this topic: “Tell us what is saving your life right now.”

Most of us know what’s killing us, and can articulate it, if asked. But few of us stop to note what’s giving us life. Taylor says it’s too good a question to not revisit every once in a while: what are the things—big or small—that are saving us?

Every season carries its unexpected challenges and joys (even this particular 2021 winter has its joys); such is life. In some ways, this winter has been simpler than the past several years. (In others, harder, because obviously.) But winter remains the hardest season for me. I miss my sunshine; I miss my fresh air. I miss my friends, and the family I don’t live with.

That’s where the list comes in.

Our lives reflect what we persistently think about. This practice calls me to pay attention to what I’m dwelling on, and to intentionally look for the good. It calls me to see not what’s killing me, but what’s saving me.

Some of these are Big Things. Some are so tiny they hardly seem worth writing down. But I’m marking them all, the things that are saving my life in this season, even if it sounds silly to say so.

Next Monday is February 1, nearly the halfway point of winter. For many years now, we’ve been joining together to combat the winter doldrums by making our lists of what’s saving our lives right now and sharing them here.

On February 1, I’ll share my list—and you’re invited to share yours, too: in the comments section you can link to a blog or social media post, or simply type your list for us to read.

Winter is hard, but by pausing at its halfway point to share the things that are helping us through it, we’ll lighten the load.

I can’t wait to hear what’s on your list.

P.S. We’ve engaged in this practice for nearly ten years, but this is the first year I’ve had a book out that touches on the subject. For more about intentional practices like this one, pick up a copy of Don’t Overthink It and flip to Chapter 7, “Tend Your Garden.” My hope is that this book can be one of the things that brings you joy, and peace, and life.

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  1. Marsi says:

    I just starting knitting again after a 10-year lapse. I love rain and cloud cover, so I’m the perfect Seattleite … and yet, in the past couple of weeks, the relentlessly dreary weather during covid has worn me down.

      • Heather says:

        Hello, Megan and Marsi, Another Seattleite here! I am brand new to the city and this weather, so I think my stash of sunshine from years in India and California is getting me through. And I prefer coats and scarves to shorts and sunglasses any day, so that helps! I will have to be mindful in years to come to keep my spirits up through the winter as I can see already how it can be hard. I do crochet, never could figure out knitting! So I think winter might be crochet season for me!

    • Mariah Hanley says:

      Also a Seattleite here- although I’m in Spokane this year because of COVID. One thing that’s “saved my life” in the last few winters was making sure to get out to walk in the morning on both days of the weekends/any day I didn’t have work. I would walk from my apartment into Seattle Center, get an Eltana bagel and a Starbucks latte, sit in the Armory and read for awhile with the dog on my lap, and then do a 1-2 mile walk around Belltown, rain or shine. It was a routine that I clung to and I miss it so much when I’m back in Seattle. Maybe something like that, COVID-safe?

  2. Kristin Dunlap says:

    I actually love winter! I live in Florida and this is the only time we can get outside and leave the windows and doors open for fresh air. It will again be too miserably hot soon enough and we’ll be back to being stuck inside with air conditioning. 🙂

    • Susan says:

      I’m with you. We have so much sun and heat in Florida that I savor rainy days, cool weather, sleeping with the windows open, getting to wear a sweater, simmering beef stew while reading a good book, all while listening to my snowbirds neighbors complain. I think sometimes that I’m misplaced weatherwise. Maybe not.🌴

    • Debra Golding says:

      I can totally relate here in Arizona. I get SAD in the summer here when it’s 115 degrees for days on end. Most people in the US can’t relate to the few of us who have reversed seasons of cabin fever.

      • Gaye Vaterlaus says:

        Another Arizonan here – LOVING our rainy, windy and chilly weather today!! Books and podcasts get me through as I am sorting and cleaning the garage. Can’t do that in 115 degree weather so winter it is!!

    • Jan Roberts says:

      We lived in McAllen, TX (on the TX-Mex border) for a few years, and I can relate to that stuck inside feeling! We tried to travel in the fall or early spring, just to get some different weather and feel seasonal changes. [One year we traveled to Baltimore/DC during election week (we voted early!), and it was cold & drizzly, so people kept apologizing for the bad weather. We kept telling them we were loving it because it was a nice change!] I know that’s been hard to travel much lately, but I’m hoping it will be an option again soon!

  3. Kate says:

    I have been swimming laps at the Rec center. Regular life would never have allowed for this but the pandemic schedule does and I am very appreciative of the safety measures in place.

  4. Emily says:

    This is such a lovely idea!
    Currently my list includes crochet-I taught myself to do it in the UK’s november lockdown and I’ve made a cardigan, a blanket and a scarf in our current national lockdown. I’m also loving walks-they’re making a massive difference to my mood-and planning out meals and taking time with cooking. I feel so much better when I’m eating well and it feels like such a luxury to have the time to cook nice meals during the week.

    • Dawn says:

      I’m not Anne, but go to Amazon.com and buy the kindle version of the book. It will be “delivered” to your kindle app. Open your kindle app and you should see it in your library. Enjoy!

    • Susan says:

      Amazon and Apple make it needlessly difficult to order books. You have to go to a browser and log into your amazon account and order a kindle book from there. You can’t order via the app (neither kindle app nor amazon app) because the two companies fight over compensation.

    • Pam says:

      Yes, you have to go to an Internet browser, unfortunately, when using an iPad. I’m so used to it, I don’t notice the extra step anymore. The store is more integrated to your Kindle book collection on an Amazon product, such as a Fire tablet. I own both types of tablets (Fire, iPad) but do all my purchasing on my iPad, and most reading on my Fire tablet. Go figure.

  5. Anna h says:

    I have started hiking. I downloaded the app all trails and I am thinking of doing all of the trails in my area. One by one.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    I am in Germany and we are locked down (again), and while I enjoyed the springtime lockdown, not so much now. So. I am reveling in the seed display at the grocery store, walking in the cold weather with a book in my ears (just finished The Thursday Murder Club – LOVED, particularly the interview at the end) and relishing a new moka pot with my morning half-caf.

  7. Joi says:

    I am loving the indoor time right now for decluttering and organizing. Plus, I just joined an online bookclub reading the classics. Our first book for January is The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. Great read!

  8. Laurel says:

    I’m a quilter as well as a reader 🙂 I decided to join an online quilting challenge to work with a modern quilt pattern. I’m looking forward to learning new skills and to creating something beautiful in these cold, dreary, NH winter days. I’m also taking my dog for a walk in the woods daily. Our windchill factor was way below zero yesterday, but we took a beautiful short walk.

    • Virginia says:

      My husband and I are both quilters. Since March, I think I’ve made 15 or so quilt tops and he’s made 20. It saved our life during pandemic. Also, I read 100 books last year, more than I’ve ever read. A lot were on audio while sewing. We feel fortunate to have something we love to keep us going. (I’ve also cooked a LOT and found some new recipes)

  9. My husband and I love to roam. Every Saturday we get in the car and leave our St Paul urban neighborhood and head out into the country–perhaps south along the Mississippi or east into Wisconsin. We take with us a detailed map showing county roads, and follow what appeals. “Left or right?” my husband asks and off we go. We love seeing beautiful old farmhouses and expanses of farmland in wintry hibernation and always seem to be rewarded with hawk and/or eagle sightings. We don’t leave the car–go through a drive-through for lunch in the car–and when we return home we feel as if we have been on a long trip. A change in scene is saving our life.

    • Ute Isabell says:

      Reading this I was getting a little jealous and sad about not being allowed to travel (‘south along the Mississippi’ is so evocative) – then I thought: there is a lot of undiscovered beautiful landscape around Berlin, my husband bought his dream car just before the first lockdown and is itching to drive it further than the supermarket: why don’t we do this? So, tomorrow the dog and we shall venture into the unknown…

  10. Jan Mussler says:

    So much to do in lockdown, although we aren’t as locked down as many. Spring cleaning has never been better! I’m a quilter with several projects in various stages I play Round Robin with. Zoom meetings. Webinars. Seed catalogs are starting to come in and already bought my seeds – there was a shortage of those and canning supplies last year. Will actually have time to plan a garden. We did home improvement project last year – new deck, porch and arbor, will tear out remaining wood deck and landscape. And reading, of course. Playing Scrabble on-line with friend in California

  11. Jan Mussler says:

    And I forgot, we bought a new to us Jeep in the fall so we go for drives, despite the snow. Cross country skiing and pickle ball indoors – outdoors as soon as the courts are dry.

  12. Jenny says:

    I “regular” homeschool my oldest, now a 9th grader, and it’s been a LOT. (But I’m getting an A in geometry, 30 years after round 1!) My morning ritual sitting outside under our patio cover with our gas fire on, my coffee, and taking my time waking up my break sets me up for the day. Over the last few years I’ve learned a little about our backyard birds, and I love laughing at their goofy antics. One morning a juvenile California Towhee was following its parents on a swoop up to the top of our mesh pool fence and he flew full speed into the actual fence. I swear he pretended it didn’t happen and looked around like he hoped no one saw.

  13. patricia says:

    I signed up for a class, “It’s never too late to Begin again: A Julia Cameron Journey” based on the book of the same name at our local community college. We will be rediscovering our creativity. So far I’ve started doing morning pages and am looking forward to the weekly solo artist dates. Our first zoom class begins tomorrow.
    That ought to shake things up a bit.

    • Michelle says:

      I went to Barnes and Noble for one book and found The Artist’s Way while wondering around. I had heard about it from several sources and even though I didn’t think it was for me, I bought it and have enjoyed it immensely. Never one to keep a journal, I’ve enjoyed the morning pages and am finding the whole process including the artist date really beneficial to my budding watercolor addiction. A class dedicated to this process would be such fun!

  14. kate says:

    Baths – extra hot and with a bath bomb, soak, or tea. Candles – a lit, wonderful smelling candle is making all the difference these days.

  15. Barbara Belfore says:

    My friends and I talk about this all the time these days, hence the first item on my list:
    1. walking in the morning with my friends — we walk for 60-90 minutes before the sun comes up and talk about whatever’s on our minds — it’s great therapy on so many levels!
    2. my dog — I walk him 3 times a day, every day, no matter the weather — he rewards me with unconditional love and the more-than-occasional muddy paw on my pants! my lifesaver
    3. baking — who doesn’t love a homemade chocolate cake with Mom’s famous chocolate frosting?
    4. my family — sons, sister, mom, dad, hubby — all of whom I am still able to see in person, even if not as often as I would like — it’s where you can always be yourself
    5. reading, of course — so many audio books (due to the dog walks) and luckily the library is offering curbside service — where would we be without the library — I don’t even want to imagine…
    6. Netflix, et al — never much of a user prior to the pandemic, now I enjoy watching old (The New Girl, Parks and Rec) and new (Schitt’s Creek, Zooey’s Extraordinary Playlist) shows that can entertain me and let me forget the world around me, if only for a few minutes

  16. Jaime says:

    I bought myself Bri McKoy’s Everyday Kitchen Masterclass for Christmas and I’m really enjoying it. Also…Bri is like a little ball of sunshine and it’s so fun to just watch her in action!

  17. Nicole M Brickman says:

    I am about to read your book! I am hoping to participate. I just found and signed up for your blog in the last few months. 🙂

  18. Shannon T Cole says:

    Girl scout cookies and working out! Those two don’t normally go together, so I’ll explain.
    My daughter is a girl scout, and we set quite an ambitious cookie sales goal. So the whole family has had a nice distraction outside of work that allow us to work together toward a common goal.
    Working out has always been an outlet for me. My days are not the same without lifting a weight or two!

  19. Shirley says:

    I actually have always loved winter. When it snows, it’s magical. Pristine snow and brisk air = happy feelings for me. If it doesn’t snow for Christmas, it’s always a let down. But since I live in Ohio, I am not like others who say “Oh, I only want snow for Christmas.” My advice if that’s the case is to move. Because we’re going to get snow in NE Ohio and cold temps. Walking in the snow, skiing, ice skating–be like Canada and embrace this time. Don’t shutter in the house–get some fresh air (deep breaths!) and feel renewed.

  20. Hilary says:

    I think it’s vital to thoroughly take advantage of those beautiful but fleeting sunny days in winter. No matter how cold it is, I bundle up A LOT, and go for a run.

  21. Diana says:

    Love this question! I learned about the Scandinavian tradition of Hygge and I love that idea. Here is my list of what is saving my life:
    1) Lots of good books to read
    2) Warm clothes
    3) Warm socks
    4) Hot chocolate and nourishing soups
    5) Writing my novel
    6) Gratitude Journal

  22. Heather Lima says:

    Music. I’m rediscovering piano 20 years after I learned to play the first time (I left home for college and never had a piano to keep practicing). I’m slowly working my way through classical pieces for the first time. Perfect for evenings when it’s dark and cold outside and it feels as if I have all the time in the world to play.

  23. Kathy says:

    My husband and I having time together
    Zoom with friends i love
    Books that inform, books that relax me and give me hope: LOVE IS THE WAY, CASTE
    Sunny winter days here on Long Island even though I am usually in FL this time of year
    My kids are healthy
    I just had my first covid vaccine.
    Knowing we have great people working in healthcare
    Volunteers doing vaccines
    Hygge: lots of battery operated candles
    My 95 year old Mom
    My seven siblings and their spouses
    Our new President
    Phone calls from our kids and grandkids
    Delivery people: POSTAL, UPS, FEDEX
    Blogs
    Amazon
    Kindle
    Amaryllis
    Bernie meme
    Hope for all of our futures

  24. Lisa C says:

    2 things saving my life right now…. Starbucks premade iced coffee from the grocery store and my Aerogarden. Our local Starbucks stores are either open very limited hours, have a drive up line a 1/2 mile long or are closed altogether for weeks at a time due to Covid 🙁 so getting my fix of quality non flavored & unsweetened iced coffee was a challenge until a friend recommended the premade version….it’s SO GOOD! Who knew? Can even get it at Aldi’s and Target! And my Aerogarden which I started around Thanksgiving is now bursting with petunias on my kitchen counter and brightens my spirits everyday. The whole family has enjoyed watching the flowers start from nothing, sprout and turn into a huge ball of color. It makes me happy 🙂

  25. Brittany says:

    We are in Florida, so it’s hard to complain about winter. However, being outside is life-giving this time of the year. The summer time is difficult because of the extreme heat, but our weather is absolutely gorgeous right now! We are doing the 1000 Hours Outdoors Challenge this year. It’s about 2 1/2 hours a day outside. I LOVE it!

  26. Lara says:

    Film music! So perfect for background music listening. I used to listen to soundtracks from films all the time but hadn’t in awhile. I recently got obsessed with the Bridgerton soundtrack (say what you will about the show, but the soundtrack is a MASTERPIECE) and it’s got me back on a film music kick!

    • Michelle says:

      I love film music as well. My absolute favorite is the soundtrack from Last of the Mohicans. I have a whole Pandora playlist centered on film music.

  27. Janet says:

    Everyone’s lists are so good! I’m in Florida, too. Things I’m enjoying are coloring, British mysteries shows on Brit Box & Acorn TV. And, of course, reading. However I have totally lost any interest in leaving the house. I haven’t been to the beach but twice during all this and it’s 20 minutes away.

  28. Kelly Wheeler says:

    I bought an iPad Pro and Procreate app so I can draw flowers. Procreate is so powerful and I am constantly challenged as I try to learn the app and all its features.

  29. Ruth O says:

    We have to wait a whole WEEK for Anne’s list?! I was delighted to see the title listed in my email, and then sad to realize it was sort of a teaser. But we have time to think about it and come up with ideas and then list them. Or list them here and now. I really enjoy reading all the comments, and look forward to February 1st. I am grateful we’re close to halfway through winter; one thing saving my life is each extra minute of daylight.

  30. Ann says:

    Well, planning a trip to visit Mickey in Orlando was always a great motivator for me. But sadly, with Covid I am foregoing this year. We always went at spring break and the planning started the summer prior. This will actually be my third year sans Mickey. So I read. Currently Outlawed by Anna North. Prior to the The Most Fun We Ever Had & Perestroika in Paris. Reading always helps take my mind off “real life.” Walking daily is a big one too. Although today I had a depressing visit with my neurologist. My back is getting old. I am in Texas/Houston area and thankfully our winters are never too overwhelming. Someone mentioned AZ. We were there last spring break. Beautiful state. I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time!! Hopefully we can all travel safely again soon.

  31. Sarah S. says:

    I moved by comfy reading chair to the other side of the room. This different perspective has brought me life. I have a new window to look out and a different view of my favorite book shelf.

  32. LynnEllen Lang says:

    I’ve been reading books with three other friends. We live in different states and have our discussion by email. Writing out my comments makes me think more deeply about the material and allows time to respond to the others’ comments.

  33. Colleen Bonilla says:

    My 90-year-old mother is in the hospital with Covid. She’s alone and scared and her four children cannot be there with her. We are heartbroken. What is saving my life right now is my Christian faith in a good and loving God. Also saving my life is this blog, the MMD Book Club and books…lots of books. Devotionals and the Bible and so many excellent books that have been recommended to me by Anne and all the readers here. (Book people are indeed the best people.) “Evvy Drake Starts Over” turns out to be the perfect escapism for me right now. It helped me fall asleep last night. Also saving my life: gratitude. So much to be thankful for and reminding myself of blessings big and small keeps me sane and grounded.

  34. Celeste Douville says:

    I *love* winter. And I have lived in Minneapolis for five years. Before that Seattle. Winter is harsh (in different ways) in both places. I love winter.

  35. Donna says:

    I cherish and appreciate the “big” things, but here is a list of some of the “little” things that have saved me lately:
    1. learning Italian, (my first “second language” to ever attempt to learn), mostly using the free app Duolingo and supplementing by reading children’s books in Italian.
    3. working 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzles — haven’t done that since I was a kid!
    4. cooking adventurously.
    5. listening to podcasts and audiobooks, and of course reading.
    6. writing every day, even if just ten minutes.
    7. feeding and watching the birds in my garden. They seem ready for Spring too!

  36. Stephanie says:

    We finally have significant snow here in Wisconsin, so right now the following things are giving me life:
    Snowshoeing
    Nordic Skiing
    Ice Skating
    Reading
    Puzzles, lots of puzzles
    Redecorating my living room (if I can’t go anywhere, I want look at something nice)
    And finally my kids being back in school full time!

  37. Rebecca Ferber says:

    I used what would have been my gym membership to purchase a stationary bike for my living room and I love it so much. I ride my real bike just about every day in the summer and fall, but it’s not safe in the Boston winter. While riding my stationary bike, I watch YouTube videos of people riding their bikes in amazing places all over the world, so it does feel like I’m getting out on the trails and seeing nature.
    I also love turning on ambience videos on YouTube while I read in my living room.
    I got myself a new supportive pillow and a special knee pillow, which has been saving my back and hips while I sleep!
    TV has also been so great: Schitt’s Creek, For All Mankind, All Creatures Great and Small, and Star Trek Discovery are some of our favorite shows right now.

  38. Laura says:

    Reading comfort books to my isolated 23 year old son with autism – his day program and job site are cancelled during Covid. I read around 3 hrs every morning! We’ve read everything I can think of with a warm and loving family to him. He mostly loves my voice and we’re both relaxed and comforted. I’ve read so many books from the Mitford series to Betsy-Tacy series. All of the books I choose are cozy and with loving families. I read over 100 books in 2020 and who knows how many this year before things recover!

  39. Beth says:

    Love reading all of these and definately going to steal a few of these. Reading a ton, started a reading journal, joined MMD Book Club, exploring local neighborhood, cooking, baking and catching up with lots of people!
    Stay healthy!

  40. Hope Garner says:

    This year I decided to focus more on professional development. I just read Work Simply by Carson Tate. I found it fascinating and challenging. Basically, you discover your work style from 4 cognative styles. The rest of the book Ms Tate offers suggestions based on each work style. I found a method of herding all my ideas, book lists and papers into a format that works for me.
    Also, my 2 kitties are cuddle-bugs and have kept me warm.
    I am a librarian and my reading list is soooo long but I average about a book every 2 weeks.

  41. Melissa Wilson says:

    I love this and I’m so looking forward to hearing other’s ideas. Aside from continuing to read like crazy, I’m “saving my life” by 1)decluttering and organizing my ENTIRE house and 2)experimenting with cocktail making – using a couple recipes books I received for Christmas.

  42. Sasha Swinnerton says:

    What’s saving my life right now is: my rescue cats,I rescued them in December(they are returning the favor now), Marvel movies, teaching myself Amigurumi, and every day the sun sets a little later each day.

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