Times Insider explains who we are and what we do, and delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how our journalism comes together.
As we remain in quarantine, unsure if the slow jog to normalcy is a few more miles or a million, Melissa Kirsch, a culture and lifestyle editor, is part of a team at The New York Times that spends a lot of time thinking about how to embrace a full and fulfilling life in isolation. We asked Ms. Kirsch, who writes the At Home newsletter, to share what she has learned in the last year and talk about some of her own strategies for living well during an uncertain time. The following are her edited comments.
Give myself something to look forward to. On Monday nights, I meet up with two friends on FaceTime to watch a crime documentary. We don’t talk during the movie, but having them in the room, even on a screen, makes the experience more exciting. If my energy starts to flag in the middle of a Monday afternoon, I’ll remember it’s movie night and feel both relief and anticipation. It’s not an actual movie in a theater, but it still feels special.
Think about how I want to look back on this time. I find myself consciously trying to do things that will make me feel better about this experience in the future. That may mean reading more or cooking more or trying to be creative about the ways that I connect with other people — like writing letters or meeting people for walks in the cold. I don’t want this year to turn into a blur of Zoom chats and Netflix.
Write down tiny details. I keep a log book, which is an idea that I got from the artist Austin Kleon. Every day, or as often as I can, I try to write down the most mundane details of the day. Today, I might write something about the fact that I reheated farro for lunch or that I spoke to somebody at The Times about a computer problem. Those tiny details that make up a day are the things we’ll forget when we look back on this time. I hope that when I read them over a decade from now, the complexion of the days will come to life: what it was really like, separate from the larger narrative of “a year in quarantine.”
Act like I’m a person with a purpose. I try to give some structure to the day, even if it’s just by making my bed and taking a shower and leaving the house first thing in the morning for even a short walk before work. Doing those things really helps me feel normal. Another thing is bedtime. Going to bed at a reasonable time has helped keep some kind of armature to the days.