I knew a gal years ago who used to say you should do one scary thing each day. Her kind of scary sometimes verged on cheating death (there’s a backstory involving a photo shoot in a gang-ridden part of South Africa, whereupon I teetered on a roof to get the best angle). I’m not talking about the kind of scary that might get you killed. I’m talking about stepping out of your comfort zone to try something new, both now and in this unpredictable future.
The state of the world is kind of frightening right now, so you’d be excused for not wanting to try anything that might scare you. Let’s face it; waking up to our kids everyday can be terrifying in and of itself. (Just peeking around the corner to see why my child is so silent scares me regularly.)
However distance learning and working from home aside, when was the last time you did something by choice that pushed you a little out of your comfort zone? That alone is sometimes a little scary.
When I moved back to the States after years of living overseas, I had to force myself to mix and mingle, and do things that I normally wouldn’t have, simply to meet new people. I knew I’d become a hermit otherwise, so I challenged myself to either try a new thing a week, or to join groups that would force me to get out and actually do something. I usually had to work up the nerve to walk into a room full of people I didn’t know, or show photos of something that might get criticism from the group, but those experiences ended up being great in the long run. I get that these are bizarre times — many of us are living more hermit-like than we are accustomed to. Those of us who are natural introverts may be loving this new normal, but honestly, even we need some social interaction every now and again, and that’s difficult in this weird time we’re living in. I have some ideas though.
If you are feeling absolutely stressed by the state of things (and who isn’t?) and adding one more thing to your plate will put you over the edge, then maybe skip this. However, if you find yourself pacing your own hallways, longing for another binge-worthy Netflix series and coming up empty-handed, perhaps it’s time to put down the remote and pick up a pen or sewing needle instead.
Who knows? You may learn a new skill or make a new friend in the process — even from a distance. Here are my top four:
Learn a hobby, specifically a useful one, like how to sew, knit or crochet. I have friends prepared for the end of the world with a stash of supplies in their house and they have always joked that I would be invited into the ‘bunker’ — not simply due to years of friendship — but mainly because I could offer a life skill to a non-crafting crowd. There’s no shortage of YouTube videos out there, and believe me, both sewing machines and knitting needles have come a long way over the years.
Face masks are a hot commodity right now and really very simple to sew. If you crochet or knit, you can make these nifty things to save people’s ears while wearing the masks. In times of crisis, I find that I work best behind-the-scenes. Doing something small, like sending off a stack of cloth masks to either friends or a hospital not only keeps me busy, but it also gives me a greater sense of purpose — something that is sometimes lacking in the doldrums of daily life on any given day — let alone in the middle of a pandemic. It’s also something I can actually control. I can’t control whether people will wear masks…but I can make them for people who want to wear them. Ravelry is a great fiber resource and way to connect with people from afar. Fiber fanatics really are fun people — and also very generous. If you ever doubt whether charity is still alive, simply ask a knitter how many hats she’s made for the homeless lately. If you’re wanting to support local, Genuine Purl is still operating from a safe distance.
Learn to cook at least one amazing signature dish. I make a mean chicken pot pie (homemade crust and all) and it is my go-to meal when moms have a new baby, when someone needs a meal delivered, or simply when my own family needs to be reminded that I know how to cook something other than mac and cheese and chicken nuggets. Learning to cook in general will also serve you well when you can’t find all of the groceries you wanted. Learning to cook a stellar meal will make you the talk of the town on your next meal train drop off. If cooking really isn’t your thing, then remember you can still donate other food items in aid of tornado victims and help your community in other ways.
Write a card or letter — or send a care package. I’ve always been a fan of snail mail, and now more than ever, people are feeling isolated. Pick up the phone if you want to chat, but there’s also something about putting pen to paper that perks up the person on the other end. Now is a crucial time to support the US Postal System. And, you can have stamps and shipping supplies delivered, plus print Priority Mail packaging labels right from home — you don’t even have to go into the post office. Writing a letter to someone else is one of the fastest ways to get over your own pity party about yourself. We might not be able to socialize exactly how we want to at the moment, but that shouldn’t mean that you retreat into yourself and ignore your friends. Other ways to put pen to paper: actually keep a journal. Whether you simply scratch out your quarantine thoughts in a real book, or post a daily diary online, there’s something cathartic about writing. Start a blog, Facebook group, or a traveling round robin journal — connect with people even from a distance.
Learn a new game or sport. When things pick back up again, becoming a soccer mom is a great way to make friends and stay fit. In the meantime, grab that soccer ball in the closet and set up some makeshift goals to practice your FIFA skills. Not feeling sporty? Grab a deck of cards or a new board game. Teach your kids some simple games — even Go Fish can be played on a normal deck of cards, and when it comes time for them to fly the coop and head off to college, they will thank you for teaching them card shark skills when they win multiple games of Spades and Poker among their co-eds.