Jessie: In New Hampshire where even though it seems like spring outside everyone is staying in their houses anyway!
Yesterday morning I took my dog, Sam, on a walk round our village. Most Sunday mornings at around 9 o’clock, at the first signs of spring, the streets and yards would be buzzing with activity. After all, the snow is mostly melted from the gardens and daffodils and crocuses are poking up through the cold earth. Usually, gardeners armed with rakes would be gleefully aiding their progress and children would be eagerly whizzing down the sidewalks on their bicycles.
Alas, things are a little unsettled at present. Perhaps you’ve heard there is a a nasty bug making the rounds and causing havoc to all and sundry? Here, the governor has ordered all public schools closed for the next two weeks. My husband has ceased his endless business travel and my college kid has had his university convert all classes to virtual ones.
There is a temptation to feel unnerved by the prognostications and the state of the stock market. But, although I have stocked up on frozen veggies and plenty of dry goods as well as a bountiful supply of coffee beans, I don’t wish to dwell on potential disasters. I am always happy to create untold troubles for the inhabitants of my fictional worlds but I have no such desire to spend my real life gnawing myself apart with worry.
But telling oneself, or anyone else for that matter, not to worry is futile and irritating. I find the best approach for me, whenever something heavy threatens to run on a loop through my mind, is to look to distraction. I am convinced that feeling agitated in my mind makes my body more vulnerable to whatever might like to come to call. So, here are a few of my favorite ways to distract myself:
- Write a letter to a loved one by hand, using beautiful stationery and a preferred pen. If there is any chance the world is going down in flames I see no reason not to break out that box of lovely notecards and let someone I care about find a cheery and uplifting message in their post. It is like receiving a germ-free hug from afar!
- Take care of one small thing around the house that bugs me but that I’ve been putting off addressing. There is nothing like sorting out a small but habitual irritation in my environment to make me feel a bit more in control of my world and slightly triumphant as well. I may not be able to buy hand sanitizer but I can track down all the loose rechargeable batteries in the house and juice them up before they are needed.
- Make some popcorn or some bread from scratch, the old-fashioned way. Pull out a corn popper or turn on the oven. Serve either one piping hot and savor each bite. Nothing drives gloom away like hot carbs smothered in butter!
- Learn something new. I love to learn new things and a deep dive into a new topic is one of my favorite distractions! Many, if not most, public libraries offer access to online learning programs, like Mango, for languages. MIT, Harvard and a bunch of other institutions offer free access to an astonishing variety of online university courses. Skillshare provides an amazing learning experience for about the same monthly cost as Netflix. I find I cannot pay attention to the latest disturbing news when I am busy concentrating on developing watercolor painting skills or brushing up on my Portuguese.
- And, of course, read a book. Nothing has ever transported me so completely from my own life into another world like a good book. I, like the rest of you, I’m sure, have a towering TBR pile that is always at the ready to serve up some solace. If, for some reason, I should run out of things to read before the pestilence subsides, I have a library card that allows three ebook downloads at a time. And I can borrow and return books without ever leaving my house!
Readers, what do you do to take your mind of the things that trouble you? Writers, are you using current events to spur your creativity?