Finding the Silver Lining: RD Readers share the simple joys that got them through lockdown woes
Over the past year, many of us have found a new appreciation for life’s simpler joys. RD readers share their discoveries
I think for so many, the silver lining should be a simple message—that happiness is found at home, and from within. I’m thankful for all the travelling my spouse and I got to do in our 45 years together. We saw so many countries and met interesting people. But we never knew the contentment we had right here. Dusting off the Scrabble board we’d bought in ’75 and taking it out on the back, screened-in porch was so enjoyable—with the bonus of seeing and hearing all the birds chirping! —Margaret Waggoner, Florida
After being forced to cancel a much anticipated trip to Hyderabad for a cousin’s wedding, my brothers’ family and mine began regular and frequent video chats to make up for our absence. In the process, we’ve reignited a wonderful sibling relationship that often went neglected due to our daily grind. It’s reinforced my belief that maintaining connections is definitely worth all the effort.
—Sudha Chandrasekaran, Coimbatore
My daughter told me that people in nursing homes and assisted-living centres were looking for pen pals to help them combat the loneliness brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. I have always loved to write and receive letters, but a handwritten letter has become a rarity. So I jumped on the opportunity to resurrect this passion of mine. Initially, I sent out three letters to three assisted-living facilities in three states. I received one reply from a wonderful man in New Hampshire. So far we have exchanged three letters, and I have made a new friend.
—E.S. via rd.com
Because of quarantine, I no longer run as many errands, and our yearly vacations were cancelled. No more pit-stopping at various stores. The result was a bigger wallet and fewer things. I ended up saving (and still am) so much more money because I’m not spending sporadically, and I’m not buying things we don’t need. If I keep this up, I’ll be able to pay off my car in another year, instead of three.
—Angela Eckhart, Pennsylvania
When the lockdown came into force, my son had just turned one. Between household chores, office work, a toddler’s constant needs and my mother’s deteriorating health, I was overwhelmed. One morning, a parrot flew into our balcony. I found myself both exhausted yet amused at the timing of this. But this little chatty creature brought much excitement to my toddler, who became engrossed with its daily care. After seven months the parrot flew off to a new adventure but the delight our unexpected guest brought during those tough months was the highlight of our year.
—Anshu Rai Taneja, Mumbai
My daughter started kindergarten this fall, but this spring I got to work one-on-one with her on her math, reading, writing, science and social studies. We also built giant forts, played lots of games, solved puzzles and did a host of other things we wouldn’t do on our normal schedule. I felt truly blessed to have been able to spend the time with her.
—Erika Ciavattone, Michigan
When the lockdown was announced, my 75-year-old mother and I decided we would spend our evenings on the terrace for a daily ‘outing’. Every evening at 5 p.m. my mom would sit on her chair and meditate while I walked the length of our terrace soaking in the local sights and sounds. In the process we encountered beautiful birds, stunning sunsets, warm neighbours whom we had never met before, playful kittens we never realized patrolled the rooftops. The constant discovery of something new and wonderful left us inspired, energized and hopeful even amidst the trials of isolation!
—Shivani Arora, Chennai
Can I be thankful for having more time to play video games? To me, it’s a silver lining.
—N.A. via rd.com
With the loss of my job, an ailing parent and a city in lockdown, I struggled to stay hopeful when the pandemic took hold of our lives. It was only when I made a conscious effort to overcome my fears, focus on the now and take action, that things looked up. I dived into things I had always wanted to do: Yale University’s popular online happiness course, belly-dancing and flamenco classes, making music with a friend from Germany, journalling. Eventually, I got a job teaching global politics and started prepping for the Ph.D I had been postponing for five years. Not only did I feel more in control and optimistic, I felt stronger knowing that I took concrete steps towards my future!
—Alissa Abraham, Mumbai
It was only during lockdown that I became better acquainted with the young woman who has lived in the flat across from mine for the last seven years. Until then, our communication was limited to a casual nod. Now, we discuss poetry and art, exchange recipes and share a mutual love for the famous Assamese bhoot jolokiya—the chilli that can set your hair on fire!
—Stormy Hazarika, Mussoorie
I’m no longer bald, and by the grace of God, I’m still here! In April 2019, I was diagnosed with cancer after a trip to the ER for extreme swelling and pain in my abdomen. To say I was shocked was an understatement. I was admitted to the hospital and shortly thereafter began chemo treatments for stage-2 diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. My husband immediately stocked up on hand sanitizer, gloves and toilet paper (you have to drink a lot of fluid when you are trying to flush the chemo from your system). Because of my compromised immune system, I also refrained from hugging and kissing friends and family and spent a lot of time alone. I finished treatment last August and have been in remission since. Little did I know that I was ‘in training’ for COVID-19!
—Diana Bosse, Ohio
When the COVID-19 shutdown began, I became depressed. I missed my activities, family, friends. Turning the television off, I pulled out shoebox upon shoebox and spent hours organizing photos. I reconnected with family members long gone, laughed over fun memories, revisited places travelled, shed tears at the losses, smiled at the blessings. And I created memory albums for each of my six grandchildren, from their birth to the present. With each photo, I could once again hold them in my arms, bake cookies, rejoice in their accomplishments and feel the warmth of their hugs and kisses.
—Carol Murray, New York
My husband and I had talked about getting a dog when we retired and this seemed like the right time. We found a cute three-kilo poodle-terrier mix named Coco at the shelter. The rescue representative kept stressing to me that she was a 10-year-old ‘senior’ dog. My response was, “No problem. We’re seniors too!” Now I have a happy reason to get out of bed every morning at 6:30, when I take her for a walk. She is full of energy for a senior. She makes us both laugh and has helped us find our smiles.
—Anne Chance Venice, Florida
The local craft store stayed open during lockdown, and I was invited to take kits home to make masks for health-care workers. At first, I hesitated, since I don’t own a sewing machine. But that did not stop me. From the middle of April until the middle of July, I made 42 masks, all sewn by hand. What a joy to do my part to support first responders.
—Kathleen Zurenko , Florida
My yard has never looked better than it does now. I spend part of the mornings outside every day!
—Sharon Devora, Texas
Online lectures during the lockdown brought unique challenges to those unsuited to using technology for lessons but my students of architecture often rescued us while navigating this unfamiliar terrain. The world became a global classroom, facilitating webinars, immersive learning and a blooming self-study model. So my silver lining of 2020 lies in all the wonderful learning experiences. Never mind the face-masks—it pulled off the masks we’ve been wearing all these years, revealing our vulnerabilities and leading us to be more appreciative of what we have.
—Sunanda Satwah, Mumbai
Because I have been at home 24/7, I watched a pair of barn swallows raise their young on my front porch. Although this may not sound like much, I watched the entire process, from the parents selecting a place to build two side-by-side intricate mud nests (where I could easily see them through my front window), to their laying and hatching the eggs, feeding the young babies, raising them to maturity, and very patiently teaching them to fly on the porch (with the aid of the porch light to land on). I then watched them fly around the yard in a larger area every day and return to the nests every night to sleep together—at least for the first week. The mother and father bird were amazingly attentive parents. These birds have been a highlight of my year.
—Wynne Smith, South Carolina
My husband has been retired a while, and I retired in October 2018. We love each other, but we are quite independent, with our own interests and schedules, so when the lockdowns began, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The pandemic has been heartbreaking for those who’ve lost loved ones or jobs. But our silver lining is that my husband and I have grown closer than ever through this time of isolation. We encourage each other whenever one of us begins feeling discouraged. We stay engaged with family and friends, whether through digital connections or socially distanced encounters. Our love for each other—our appreciation for each other—has continued to grow during this unusual year, and that’s something for which I am deeply grateful.
—Mindi McKenna, Missouri