Finding a Balance Between Solitude and Loneliness

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I saw a scarlet tanager from my window the other morning. It flitted past like something out of a cartoon, stopped on a fence post, then shot upward into the canopy of the oak tree behind the house.

I was not a birder, before all this happened, before I took to a desk in the bedroom to work. Now that I’m at home, though — as you may well be yourself, even if your state or country or region is cautiously exploring reopening — the window beside me has become the most glorious screen I have. I saw that red bird in his glossy black jacket and I grinned in delight. I do the same at clouds, now, when they’re moving fast. I mark the progress of the sun. Before, I just worked in a newsroom.

It’s fascinating, what’s happening to us, as we live life at home. Some are cooking more, reading more, listening to music more. Some are learning languages. Some are teaching themselves to draw. Others are not: They’re out of work; they’re out of patience; they’re nervous; they can’t relax.

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For a great many, it’s a weird mix of both: a balancing act between pleasant solitude and desperate loneliness, between an acknowledgment of what passes for good luck and a desperate fear of the opposite, of an infected droplet falling unnoticed on your skin. That balance can transform itself, become a cycle whirring endlessly in the brain.

We’re hoping At Home can help. We’d like to think that it’s possible, even in the middle of a pandemic, to live a good and cultured life. Maybe you’re not going to read Nic Pizzolatto’s “Galveston” or Shakespeare’s sonnets aloud. (Though y’oughta.) But you could listen to our Michael Kimmelman play Bach, if you scroll down to the bottom of his recent diary. You could embrace leisure wear, instead of just pulling on last night’s sweatshirt again. You could watch a great movie. You could get a new board game. And I hope very much you’ll make pancakes one day soon, for they make life better nearly every time.

More examples of how to live well at home appear below. We publish more every day on At Home. Come visit. We’re not going anywhere soon.

Let us know what you think!

How to deal.

ImagePam and Chris LeBlanc enjoy a cocktail while on a walk in their neighborhood in Austin, Tex.
Pam and Chris LeBlanc enjoy a cocktail while on a walk in their neighborhood in Austin, Tex.Credit…Drew Anthony Smith for The New York Times
  • You’re spending quite a bit more time in your home, and it’s probably time to start acknowledging that and making some changes. You may not be ready to build an ice rink in your garage, but fixing up your backyard for a camp-less summer might be in order. If you’re seeking a decidedly smaller project that (hopefully) comes with a happy ending, there are kits which let you raise a caterpillar into a butterfly.

  • You may be looking to slow things down a bit. If so, virtual reading clubs have sprung up for people who want to be alone, together.

  • If you’re looking for something a bit more raucous, the rise of to-go drinks, and the discouragement of indoor gatherings, has created something new: The Walktail Party, above.

What to eat.


Credit…Melissa Clark
  • Melissa Clark urged us to try a savory babka, which she says may be superior to the chocolate variety. And in her ongoing series of recipes you can make from things you likely have in the pantry, she came up with a one-pan tuna casserole and a one-bowl cake, above, that is so good it will have you looking for something to celebrate.

  • The meat industry has struggled to respond to the pandemic, which opened up a giant opportunity for plant-based meats to find their footing. The sales boom could dramatically alter the industry.

  • And going a step further into vegetarian options, Yewande Komolafe offered up a brothy asaro that is an adaptable and comforting one-pot stew with West African roots.

How to pass the time.


Leah Lewis in “The Half of It.”Credit…KC Bailey/Netflix
  • Take a minute for mindfulness amid all of this chaos. We’re here to help you meditate. We also have some stretches that can help with all that sitting.

  • Is this the moment in history where you’ll finally deliver on your promise to learn guitar? If you’re not feeling quite that ambitious, try making an envelope out of a newspaper — you’re not required to use the At Home print edition.

  • And our critics picked the best films of 2020 (so far), each of which is streaming. Among the highlights? “The Half of It,” above. Emphatically not on their list? “The Lovebirds.”

Like what you see?

You can always find much more to read, watch and do every day on At Home. And you can email us: