Read: The dos and don'ts of 'social distancing'
If you’re like me, the pandemic has left you feeling lost, even as you stay in one place. Being lost in your own home—what a feeling. The question is, what will bring you back? What will help you find your way? How can you survive the disorientation and dislocation? I’ve heard it said that you don’t want to find refuge from the storm; you want to find refuge in the storm.
Last year, I published a book called Cozy: The Art of Arranging Yourself in the World. It’s about finding the truth of who you are and then arranging yourself so that you feel better—even for a moment. It’s a deeper beat than what we might immediately think of as cozy—fireplaces, candles by the side of the tub. Those things can be cozy for some, but not everyone lives where it’s cold, and some people think candles are a fire hazard. It’s more about what makes you tick. Who do you love? Where are you from? What paths have you traveled? Coziness is in the particulars. What will be cozy for you may not be for someone else. I’m coziest on the No. 1 subway line, in a corner seat with The New York Times. Of course, I can’t ride the subway anymore.
Read: Isolation is changing how you look
When I published the book, it felt almost foolish. Who gives a hoot about how cozy jury duty is? But I believe in this down to my toes. As flip as it may sound, coziness is something you can identify and use like a tool, even during life’s darkest hours. It is precisely in these hard moments that we need to call upon our most authentic selves, and identify what makes us cozy so we can put it to work.
I’m not going to get through these days by doing puzzles or baking bread, although I have pulled out the puzzles and we are baking a lot of bread. What has sustained me during the challenging times are noticing the small parts of my life that I love. The sound of a radio dial, making the bed, a dirt road, pencils. Just the sight of a pencil is cozy, and if you look, you will see them everywhere. There is something about a pencil that says, I will help you try. If I’m feeling like a terrified apple, I could take a moment to notice the soft wood of the Ticonderoga No. 2 I’m using to underline a book. I could rub the eraser and marvel at how well it whisks away my mistake. I could let it make me think that everything is going to be okay.
Many of us are afraid that we, or someone we love, will end up in a hospital. I believe coziness can be found even in hospitals. For my book, I interviewed Ann Fink, who was a critical-care nurse for 45 years in the neurointensive-care unit at New York–Presbyterian/Columbia University hospital. She sat bedside with the most traumatized patients for much of her life. When I asked her about being cozy in a hospital, she lit up. “Of course hospitals are cozy, and ICUs are where coziness is needed most. There are a thousand ways to make someone cozy. Coziness is something you have to figure out patient to patient, and family to family.”