My favorite kind of winter in Minnesota this year–not much snow and very mild temperatures. Of course, we’re hardly through it. As a farmer’s daughter, I know not to judge a winter by my own standards. It will be a few months yet before we’ll know about ground conditions and what that will mean for spring planting. But, given this is a pandemic year, I’ll take the gift of mild weather. When we can be outside for exercise, it helps to keep the endorphins firing.

The days may be getting longer, but this is still a dark time, perhaps the darkest in memory. After the giddy high of celebrating vaccines on the way, it was easy to be lulled into thinking the worst of the pandemic was over. More likely, my mind skimmed over the possibility of several months waiting for the delivery of a weapon to add to our arsenal to fight this plague. Clearly, the constant reminder of daily death tolls that rise too fast added to the terrible state of our country’s angst and unrest can test one’s hard-won serenity.  

January and February are good months to hibernate, right? What a privilege for those of us who have been spared illness ourselves or in our families, or who are able to depend on others— essential workers, and health care providers to keep the community afloat. I consider my own isolation the least I can do to minimize my risk to others if I become ill or simply carry the virus without symptoms.

Solitude plays better when it is chosen rather than forced. As an introvert, I require time away from others to re-charge. During my crazy busy years of full-on career and child-rearing I remember yearning for solitude. Then, grabbing time for myself felt so selfish. Over the years, as my time became more my own, I started to celebrate the choices I could make— traveling, adventuring, writing, volunteering. 

We are all vulnerable to fear of the unknown.  Once in a while, events remind us that control over unpredictable events is an illusion. Do you remember the movie “Castaway?” Poor Tom Hanks shipwrecked for years with little control over if or when he may ever be rescued. On his own, he filled his loneliness void by creating the character Wilson, from a volleyball, to serve as a companion. 

Fortunately, social connection is a survival tool available to each of us. It’s important to stay in touch, support our friends and family through their weak moments, laugh as much as possible and start making some plans for what comes next….because, of course, there will be a NEXT. I’ve learned that solitude is best served up in small portions, of one’s own choosing. But, being lonely is a choice not a sentence.

Attitude is the key. I’m choosing to view this last few months of restriction as a precious gift that is unlikely to come again soon. More time to read books, write, and spend time at the lake, than expected. Even more time to clean closets and de-clutter! The magic of zooming has worn off somewhat, but making Christmas cookies virtually with family can be very fun—as can dropping off gift tins to those nearby. I love hearing stories about people redecorating, getting a new pet, taking a road trip in an RV—all because they had the time to do it!

Speaking of time to read—my recent book recommendations are: Anxious People by Fredrik Backman, The Long Call, by Ann Cleeves, and The Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz.  In fact, I believe I’ll go finish reading Moonflower right now!