Welcome to At The End Of The Day. I’m Hannah Sung and I write this newsletter to process the firehose of daily news and consider what matters most -- caring for ourselves, our relationships, social fairness and the greater good.
In September, I wrote a post called, “How I Plan To Get Through Winter.” Looking back, I had some ridiculous Big Summer Energy. While I followed through on some of the list, like rearranging our indoor living space, I had also thought, without irony, that I might spend winter teaching my child to tap dance by learning myself via YouTube (I just...what?).
How adorable that I did not plan for how completely exhausted we would all be right now. Yet here we are.
I’ve been thinking about that malaise and exhaustion through a very real moment I had with friends.
On Super Bowl Sunday, we had our standing Zoom game of Codenames. The call started with chatting and jokes, trivia (yes, I have a very organized and delightful friend) and we screen-shared The Weeknd’s half-time show to bop along and unpack the artistic choices.
We were just getting started on Codenames when my daughter snuck out of bed and appeared mirthfully behind me. I walked my daughter back to her room and when I returned, one of my girlfriends was crying. I had only been gone for two minutes but instantly understood what was happening.
Waiting for me, someone had inevitably asked “How’s everyone doing?” Cue tears. I think a lot of us are there right now.
My sweet, hyper-articulate, crying friend spoke about the crushing sameness of every day, the unrelenting lack of space and privacy. The total lack of surprise and serendipity in our lives.
The conversation stayed with me all week. And I’m thinking about what I can do, for my friends and family and myself, to eke us through until this phase is over.
Three things came to mind:
When my friend was unravelling herself for us, she mentioned telling her partner the same thing on another night, how crushing the daily sameness was for her, before falling asleep crying. The next morning, she awoke to a clean kitchen counter with an overturned wooden bowl on it. She lifted the bowl to find a cake her partner had baked with random, scavenged ingredients late at night. It read: “SURPRISE! Today is different.”
They didn’t have flour in the house (he ground down oatmeal) and there was one egg. We all laughed at the description of the cake. But creating very simple moment of delight and surprise is the gold standard now, one I’m going to try in our house, too.
🐹 Small joys
You might be saying, BAKE A CAKE? With what time or energy? I know. I also feel my energy getting frittered into the sky with stress over school, variants of concern and another inevitable wave, maybe lockdown.
When I mentioned stress and cartoon Cathy to ATEOD editor Ishani, she sent me back a note saying she did not know this reference — youth ❤️
The good news is that small joys can make a difference with very little effort. That’s the point -- they’re small.
Mishal Cazmi writes a newsletter called Small Joys, which she started in the pandemic. In it, she lists ways she finds moments of pleasure. Past items include dried flowers, because they last longer than fresh, and a round-up of shaky spices she is trying because she can’t get her hands on Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel Sesame seasoning. She reads romance novels. She has a group chat devoted to their favourite Hollywood Chris. I spoke with her about how she defines a small joy:
Last year really showed me that joy wasn’t necessarily a highlight reel, it’s not taking things off your bucket list, it’s not the greatest hits of your life. Small joys can be all the small things and they slowly accumulate into something more.
It reminds me that I have my own versions of these things, too. Small joys are what we have right now, so I’m focusing them. The easier, the better.
When my friends gathered for the Zoom call that went from Super Bowl to heart-to-heart, we had actually gotten together for our regular Codenames game. I’m lucky to have a social convener friend who plans it.
Pre-pandemic, I had serendipitous moments in life. There were parties, restaurants and laughs with friends at work. Humans need novelty and unexpected moments around the corner to feel alive but pandemic. So I’m injecting it back with play and games.
I should’ve known all along. My older kid has been bright-eyed and bushy-tailed all week, having been seized by the delight of learning Minecraft for the first time.
You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation — Plato
And while I really miss the ways in which I used to have playfulness in my life (clothing swaps, drinks nights, beer and burger catch-ups with friends), there have got to be ways to play in a pandemic. I’m going to try them in small ways at home -- pranks, games, riddles.
I don’t have the energy for anything elaborate. But my kids are insisting on face-painting tonight (we don’t own face paints so there go my nice lipsticks). Playing is the purpose.
I know the pandemic rages on as we fear what the variants of concern will do. And I know no small fix in our lives will change that bigger picture overnight.
But as epidemiologist Dr. David Fisman has repeated on Twitter (#thankyouDavidFisman) every pandemic has a beginning, middle and end. We are in the middle. This pandemic will end.
If lockdown life has us too tired to do things for ourselves (what’s self-care?) I’m going to try doing some of the above for others.
Happy lunar New Year everyone and thank you for reading,
✨✨✨ At The End Of The Day is edited by Ishani Nath ✨✨✨
Small Joys Newsletter by Mishal Cazmi
How We Decided to Send Our Daughter Back to School, New York Times. How and where my own family basically landed on the decision, too.
A third wave is coming. Where is Ontario's plan? by John Michael McGrath
Great Backyard Bird Count, Audubon. No need to bird in a bubble when friends text you this link for your 9-year-old (thank you!)
LIGHT IT UP for Paid Sick Days, 15 and fairness. A phone zap and social media campaign in Ontario if you are so inclined.
If you want to try playing Codenames with your own friends over Zoom, this is where you create the game and Wikipedia is the easiest way to understand the rules.
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Credit: Bas Glaap, Unsplash