I’m Not Getting It Together, or Prepare Yourself for a Long and Rambling Post

April 24, 2020

Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash

I’ve been trying to figure out why I seem unable to get anything of note accomplished. Could it be because the world has gone mad? For instance:

  • Our local weather has been see-sawing between the 90s and the 70s with violent storms in between. 
  • I haven’t been to the library since March 14.
  • I go grocery shopping wearing a mask.

You’d think I would have extra time on my hands since I can’t pick up a few things at Target or meet a friend at Panera for coffee—or do any of the other little things that seem to suck up more time than you’d expect. Since we are so very, very fortunate to be safe, healthy, and comfortable during this stay-at-home time, I thought I’d be reading more books, creating art, and writing like mad.

I’m not.


Guess it’s not just “lack of time” that keeps me from doing the things I say I want to do. What have I been doing? I really don’t know. I’ve spent some extra time with Tank because he was due for vet and farrier visits recently. Though honestly, since I’m still doing all the household things I did before lockdown, I don’t have as much additional free time as those who are home from their regular jobs. I’m still doing most of my “regular job,” so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at my lack of increased productivity. The good news is that this week has been better than last week, which was in turn better than the one before.

I see that many other people are struggling with the same mood and motivation issues during these strange days. If you’re struggling too, you’re not alone. Here are a few things that have helped me with the disconnect/anxiety/overall strangeness:

  • Dressing rather than staying in pajamas.
  • Checking in with one or two people every day.
  • Checking the news briefly, choosing the least incendiary headlines to click.
  • Writing in my journal.
  • Going outside for a few minutes to water the plants and seeds, and watch the dog run around.
  • Completing one or two small (I mean miniscule) tasks each week. This week I cleaned up some spots on the carpet in the master bedroom and cleaned and conditioned the boots I wear to the barn.

I also found this piece really interesting—the variety of things people are doing to stay sane. For example, “To guard against lethargy, despondency and slovenliness, structure feels important: appointments, schedules, achievable goals, regular activities.” (Simon Armitage)


“It’s important not to beat ourselves up. You don’t always have to do stuff. Or achieve stuff. You don’t have to spend your time wisely and productively. You don’t have to be doing tai chi and DIY and artisan bread-making. Sometimes you can just be and feel things and get through and survive. It’s OK to just exist.” (Matt Haig)

I’ve spent a good amount of time online, but not reading the news. I’ve gravitated towards music and happier types of distractions, including:

70 West End stars perform Les Misérables’ Do You Hear The People Sing

Cast of Beautiful sings “You’ve Got a Friend”

(Can you tell I miss my shows at the Straz?!)

I’ve been listening to this almost every day.

John Krasinksi’s SGN (Some Good News) episodes are lots of fun. Episode 2 continues my personal musical theater theme with an appearance by Lin-Manuel Miranda and other Hamilton cast members.

If you’re more into operatic/classical music, click here for Andrea Bocelli’s performance at the Duomo in Milan.

Meteorologist Jeff Lyons of Indiana has been shooting his weather forecasts at home, with a little help from the family pet, who has now been dubbed Betty the Weather Cat. Click here to see them in action.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, or next week, or next year. This situation is unprecedented on every level. I’m simultaneously terrified and hopeful. I’ve heard about so many generous acts, such grace and kindness, and I choose to focus on those things rather than the actions of those who for whatever reason allow their baser instincts to take over. I’m trying to overcome my own fear and shyness to reach out to see how I can help others, and I’m doing it imperfectly and awkwardly and often missing the mark altogether. And I’m especially grateful for grocery store employees who never imagined they might be risking their lives to check me out at Publix.

I hope you and your loved ones are still safe and healthy, and that you’re about to enjoy a weekend of simple pleasures and everyday adventures. Let me know how you’re doing in the comments below. And if you’ve heard any positive stories coming out of this crisis, please also share those in the comments!

Chani Nicholas

Words for a Pandemic

April 17, 2020

“Be gentle.
Rest often.
—Chani Nicholas

Soften is one of my chosen words of the year. I didn’t expect it to be this essential.

Jonathan Greene

Finding Solace in Poetry

April 10, 2020

Lost in the frenzy of coping with the Covid-19 situation is the fact that April is National Poetry Month in the United States. Several times on Catching Happiness, I’ve posted about incorporating poetry into one’s life in simple, non-intimidating ways. (See “It’s National Poetry Month—No Foolin’” or “10 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month.”)

In fact, now seems like an excellent time to return to reading poetry. I find it calming and soothing—and slowing down is necessary in order to fully appreciate the layers of meaning in many poems. In particular, I’ve been meaning to revisit some of Robert Frost’s poetry after visiting one of his homes in September of 2019.

In the meantime, here’s a poem, courtesy of, to remind us that even in the face of  “interesting times,” some rituals remain.

Introduction by Ted Kooser: That sage curse, “May you live in interesting times,” has been upon us for the past few years, but here a Kentucky poet, Jonathan Greene, offers us some reassurance that there is order in the world. Greene has a special talent for, and love of, short poems, and this is a good example of his work. This poem is from his most recent book, Afloat, published by Broadstone Books.

The Return

We are heartened
when each year
the barn swallows

They find their old nests,
teach their young to fly,
lining up on the barn roof
for their first flight.

They remind us,
for now, some rituals
of this good earth

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2018 by Jonathan Greene, “The Return,” from Afloat, (Broadstone Books, 2019). Poem reprinted by permission of Jonathan Greene and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


Strange Days

April 06, 2020

A little bit of spring from California a couple of years ago

Life continues to feel surreal. Most of us are down to visiting the grocery store and staring at our own four walls. My big outing of the week is a trip to the barn to take care of Tank. If I happen to run into anyone, we stand at least six feet away from each other and shout pleasantries. Weird.

Nearly everyone I know and the majority of the people I follow on social media or the Internet is relentlessly trying to remain positive and encouraging, and I could not be more grateful. My mother-in-law sent the whole family an email with only these words:


I have no idea what life will be like once this is “over.” Will it ever be over? Did someone hit a reset button somewhere?

I’ve been too tired and distracted to do much of anything, and even my reading has suffered. I don’t have a lot of work deadlines right now, but I do have personal writing projects I’d like to pursue, and I can’t seem to motivate myself to do them. I’ve tried breaking them down into smaller and smaller bits, but so far haven’t found a small enough bit to accomplish.

But today is the start of a new week, a week in which I will continue to enjoy simple pleasures and maybe even an everyday adventure or two—for example, I need to pick up a few items at the grocery store today—wish me luck! I will try again to be more productive with my time, whether I use it to clean up a mess (have you noticed the Persistence of Messes even in times of pandemic?), or to write a haiku, or to otherwise play around with words hoping to find the magic combination that resonates in my mind as being something I want to share. 

I will read books from my unread shelf, and library books that have been stranded with me. I will take Luna for walks, and brush Prudy. Tank is scheduled to have his yearly vaccines this week. I will make dinner, and do laundry, and otherwise keep our home a place of safety and comfort. My husband’s business is considered essential, so he is still going to his office, though it is closed to the public and only one other employee is working there with him (the rest are working from home).

I will take it one day at a time. Life goes on, even in these strange days. 

And how are you doing?

While avoiding too much news, I have found some solace online. Here are some links you might find inspiring or helpful:

If you have extra time on your hands, you could do worse than joining Yale University’s “The Science of Well Being” course, available free through Coursera.

“Pandemic Positivity” downloads from Positively Present.

I’m partway through watching this TED Connects video with Elizabeth Gilbert.

And finally, I leave you with this, the best thing I’ve seen online all week (thanks for sharing, Kerri):

Stay home. Stay safe. Wash your hands. Love you all!