Solo Quarantine: On Writing, Kindness, Dolce Far Niente, and Hygge

Solo Quarantine: On Writing, Kindness, Dolce Far Niente, and Hygge

March 29, 2020

purple petal flowers focus photograph
Photo by Pixabay on

It’s another rainy, gray day in my adopted state of West Virginia. I’m wearing a thick white sweater over my typical uniform of black yoga pants and a long-sleeved black T-shirt. I plugged in a small space heater in the dining room where I’m writing today to break the chill and dampness in the early morning air. I hope you are well.

After I prepared a large café con leche, I placed a white blanket on the couch and Sophie (my Chihuahua), a Master in the art of hygge, fluffed, rearranged the blanket, and nuzzled right in after her breakfast. If you’ve ever lit candles and incense, wrapped yourself in an ultra-soft throw, and curled up with a good book on a rainy day, you’ve experienced hygge. This Danish and Norwegian concept means all things cozy and enjoying the simple things in life. As a homebody, I’ve been a practitioner of hygge for decades and didn’t even know it. The Italians have their own form of cozy and enjoying the simple things in life: dolce far niente, which means pleasant idleness, or the definition I love–the art (essence) of doing nothing. As we are encouraged to stay home and slow down our fast-paced lives and body rhythms, this might be a helpful practice.

As a daily practice to ground myself and remain present in the now, I focus on two things I see, hear, feel, and smell. Outside, I hear birds chirping and an ambulance in the distance. I hear the awful whine of ambulances more and more. I tell myself that’s a good thing as the person is seeking expert medical help and they are in excellent hands because thinking the worst doesn’t help one bit. I must remain positive. I see a white pitcher with yellow and cream daffodils from my garden and my “collection” of vitamins, minerals, and other supplements I take per the holistic advice from Anthony William, the Medical Medium, whose books I’ve devoured–Thyroid Healing, Liver Rescue, and Life-Changing Foods. I taste a bit of toothpaste, which is messing with the perfect café con leche I made a little while ago with Café Bustelo, of course. I feel warmer now than when I got out of bed and I feel kind of numb this morning, which is why I’m writing this morning and doing this exercise.

Two nights ago, I had a chat with my niece, a newly-married Kindergarten teacher in Maryland. Her school closed their doors two weeks ago and like most of us, she is trying to find her way in a new world. My niece misses her kids, as she calls the children she teaches, and from the drawings with little messages the children write to her throughout the school year, they miss her, as well. She and every teacher in this country are brainstorming to find ways to teach students remotely and to support the children academically and emotionally. My heart is heavy as I think of our children of all ages, at home and far away.

My daughter, a mental health therapist in Northern Virginia, feels the same way about the adults she worked with at her clinic and in the groups she led before she began teleworking. Before this virus gripped this country, my daughter saw between 30 to 37 clients a week, in person or on the telephone. In early March, she began preparing them to work with her over the telephone. I would imagine many of her clients confess are afraid and others can’t seem to grasp the seriousness of what’s going on around them, or they forget. I’m sure she is reminding them to stay home, quarantine themselves, and to wash their hands. She’ll remind them of available social services, shelters, food banks, and hospitals that are still open for them. As a former counselor, I can almost guarantee, most were unsure of their day to day living situations because of their mental illness or from the disease of drug or alcohol addiction before all this began. My heart is heavy for them, as well.

Many of my close friends are social workers and family support workers, who are working hard to continue to support their clients the best way they can at this horrific time, in some instances, entire families in their communities. Others work for Child Protective Services and with victims of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, or child abuse. As people lose their jobs and are forced inside, possibly with their abuser(s), the number of cases will, tragically, unfortunately, rise. That is one of my biggest fears at this time.

Please include these brave folks in your prayers as we continue to pray for our doctors, nurses, lab techs (my cousin in Ohio), truckers (my friend Danny), the Corps of Engineers, the National Guard, first responders, and those working to keep our personal pantries and local food pantries well-stocked. Thank you to all of them!

Before I sign off, I want to add (as if I could stop myself): while we are quarantined, self-isolating, keeping safe, and thinking of ways we can change, grow, and help others with our beautiful gifts, let’s also remember to practice self-care, kindness, and love. Share love and light with the world in whatever way feels natural and right for you.

And if like me, you’re thinking of ways to help your community, I remember what my Mom always said, “Charity begins at home.” The small, but incredible acts of kindness in keeping close tabs with our children, our families, friends, neighbors, and our elderly will help in more ways than we can possibly imagine. Pick up the phone and stay connected.

Be safe, be healthy, be kind. Hang in there and never lose hope.

I choose to remain thankful, grateful, and hopeful.

Eleanor x


Me in March 2020

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, “Latina Authors and Their Muses”. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.


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