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The Importance of Anticipation

We need things to look forward to.

By Melissa Kirsch

Welcome. We’re expecting a storm today, in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern U.S., the sort of blanketing that for children growing up in colder climes has long brought anticipation of the most delicious sort: Will schools be closed? Will we spend a day inside in our pajamas? Surely there’ll be sledding, snowmen and snow angels. An unexpected departure from the norm, a disruption of the rhythms of the week.

Of course snow days weren’t all windswept delight for parents, for those who had to reckon with the icy streets and sidewalks, downed trees and stalled subways. And this year, the pandemic has rendered the frozen fantasia of snow days all but obsolete for kids, too. Now that we’re getting the hang of remote learning (or learning to suffer through it), many school districts will continue as usual. Provided there’s electricity, there will be algebra.

If you’re able to stay inside and watch through the window, at home and safe, an impending storm might be cause for excitement. In a year short on the usual sources of serendipity, a change of scenery is no small thing. I’m eagerly anticipating a walk outside, swaddled in a hat and scarf, looking forward to even this small modification to my routine. I’m thinking about those snow days of years past: the long zipper of the snowsuit; mittens clipped to cuffs; the plastic bags rubber-banded to our feet to keep them dry inside loose, uninsulated rubber boots.

I found this article about anticipation’s connection to well-being very helpful in understanding part of what’s tough about life on pandemic pause, why I found myself excited for a snowy stroll, strangely excited for a routine doctor’s appointment earlier in the week. These two stories about why planning vacations makes us happy are good too. (They might even move you to plan a future trip.)

Whether you’re in the eye of the storm or somewhere else, inside or out, I recommend listening to this recent cover of Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues,” by Bill Callahan and Bonny “Prince” Billy, featuring Bill McKay.

You should definitely join T’s virtual book club for a discussion of James Baldwin’s “Go Tell It on the Mountain” with the novelist Ayana Mathis on Thursday at 7 p.m. E.T. R.S.V.P. here.

I love this project by Leanne Shapton, in which she decided what to eat — and paint — based on the foods mentioned in Joni Mitchell songs.

And I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the most beautiful social distancing poem I know, “A Song” by Joseph Brodsky, with its simple refrain, “I wish you were here, dear.”

Tell us.

What are you anticipating this week? What small event are you looking forward to in the near future? Is it falling snow, burgers for dinner, getting back to the book you’re reading? Perhaps an errand, perhaps the weekend. Write to us: [email protected] We’re At Home. We’ll read every letter sent.

As always, more stuff to look forward to appears below. See you on Friday.

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