What Does “Feeling Good” Look Like Right Now? 29 Women Weigh In

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Six months ago, you were decades younger, and your concept of “joy” revolved around emphatic discussions carried on in dive bar booths to the tune of jukebox synth-pop (or, well, something of the like). But in the time since dive bars were last crawling with patrons — most of whom hugged one another hello — the world has taken a turn, so to speak. In large part, summer’s standardized activities are off the table (think: cocktail bars, vacation plans, concerts, dance floors), but nevertheless, we're still finding ways of accessing positivity, bespoke to the “new normal” at hand.

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So, as we grapple with the spread of a global pandemic, confront police brutality and systemic racism, and contend with a crumbling economy, it follows that joy, as a notion, might need some reconfiguring for the current moment. And in tandem with all our present responsibilities — our essential roster of "shoulds" — we're making space to feel good in new, inventive ways. From Zoom weddings and shadow boxing to pottery-throwing and ice cream sundaes, here’s how 29 women of all ages stationed across the country are finding some reprieve — and even joy — right now. 

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Emily B., 30, Austin, TX

“My fiance and I are getting married this Saturday, and I've been getting so much joy out of having time to explore our relationship in such an in-depth, hands-on way. My one uptick of quarantine has been being able (well, forced!) to spend so much time together really checking in and investing in our connection. Working through little details, learning more intimately how we each spend our time, how we work, how we take up space. Often, we'll spend hours cooking elaborate three-course meals together. Sometimes, you need to slow down to really truly spend that kind of quality time with another person. And for that, I’m grateful.” 

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Lena C., 26, Los Angeles, CA

“I've always loved shows and theatre. I'm so happy in the performance art space. Being a part of an audience really brings me a lot of joy. I love watching people on stage. I've never called myself a movie buff but I've spent a lot of time in the past few months really working my way through the film canon and doing what I can to catch up on all the great iconic movies I missed out on. Then I've been going to all the forums — Reddit and movie response blogs and the comments sections on reviews and reading and writing. I know it doesn't matter because most of these comment boards have been dormant for a long time (they're generally old movies). But all the same, it gives me the feeling of being in an audience and I love that. It makes me feel less isolated while I'm...quite literally alone.”

Allie H., 19, Seattle, WA

“Hands down, joy for me has been FaceTime dates with my friends! I used to dread FaceTiming with anyone, and now, I jump at the chance to see my friends, hear how they are, and LAUGH. We don’t even care how we look, but just to be able to spend time together when we have to be apart is special. I love these moments of connection and I have vowed never to screen a FaceTime call again!”

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Sarah G., 26, New York, NY

“Riding my bike is my ultimate expression of joy. It's when I feel the most untethered and free and mobile, especially after having been relegated to the inside of my apartment for such a long time. Right now, I’m so consumed by the news cycle, by scrolling through social media, by reading articles, and donating, and going down these Twitter holes, so biking has started to feel meditative and liberating. It’s so nice to be in motion.”

Karin G., 61, Watertown, CT

“As a therapist, I correspond with my clients often about ‘joy’ and how we define it — or ways we can pursue it right now without feeling guilty. It's a hard question. No one wants to feel like the version of pleasure they're perpetuating is a denial of what's happening in the world or a distraction from fighting for racial equality and the end of a pandemic. But I keep telling everyone, this is a moment to practice extreme kindness to ourselves. More than ever, we need to be working hard to meet those needs in CONJUNCTION with acting as the best versions of ourselves in the world at large. For me, that often means taking long walks. Often on these walks, I'll leave my phone at home and I'll stroll or meander without a direction for as long as I can within reason. It's a way to settle into my own thoughts, and to listen to the world around me, and to exert energy. Fresh air can be very healing.”

Diane D., 26, Somerville, MA

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“I've been getting into ‘jabs’ which is a sort of shadow boxing. I’ve never been the type to really love exercise but during quarantine this exercise has been a great way to get out stress and turn off my brain for an hour or two.”

Hanna F., 27, Westchester, NY

“Reading for pleasure! I read often for my job in publishing. All the time, really. Then, in order to be an active participant in the world, I've been reading so much about racial politics and white fragility — all on top of just keeping up with the news and Twitter. Which is a lot. A LOT. I know that might make it sound like reading is not something I necessarily want to do right now but my real sentiments are just the opposite. It's a way of reclaiming reading. Of making it feel like mine again. There's something powerful in that.”

Cara C., 28, College Park, MD

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“I've always been into yoga, but have never been able to get behind the whole doing-yoga-in-your-living-room thing. I tend to feel like I need the instruction of a teacher and the ambiance of a studio and the music and candles and stuff. But, well, since that's not exactly available to me right now, I've had to make the choice to figure out how best to make this work remotely. I've gotten really into setting up my space. Candles, music, the like. I've built kind of a sanctuary at home. And it makes me feel like maybe I'll never go back to the 'ol yoga studio life. I’m getting very into building out my own flows and working through things bit by bit. It feels really personal, I guess.”

Andy W., 31, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

“Doing! Nothing! If I'm going to be totally honest, I can't remember the last time I moved this slowly. I've been volunteering and demonstrating while I'm unemployed (thank you COVID) but the thing that has truly helped me to feel good is the ability to just lie still every now and then. To just sort of hang out in my own brain. It feels crazy that we don't actually devote more time in the day to doing just that under most standard circumstances. But having some time to sit still without the TV on, without looking at my phone, without listening to music even, feels so valuable.”

Wendy P., 58, Washington D.C.

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“Joy is playing grocery delivery roulette and scoring toilet paper. It’s reading books I ordinarily don't make time for, conquering puzzles, and cuddling with my dog. But ultimately, the greatest joy for me is having my kids home and safe and the sound of their laughter. These all make me feel relaxed and take me away from the stresses and anxieties of the outside world for brief pockets of time. They give me a time out to recharge the strength and patience I need to get through it all with a positive attitude.”

Taylor D., 34, Cape Cod, MA

“Moving back in with my parents (temporarily) in my mid-30s has actually brought me a lot of joy. We get to have all this continuous time together that we might never have again. We cook together almost every night, and as of late, have been having really passionate and interesting dinner table conversations about the state of the world. We don't always agree, but we don't fight and we listen to each other earnestly.”

Melanie P., 25, Buffalo, NY

“Reading! By trying to ‘make the best of quarantine,’ reading has offered me a sense of distraction when I need to quiet my mind, but also an opportunity for self-teaching and awareness.”  

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Kayla I., 26, Brooklyn, NY

“As someone who has always turned to clothes as a form of expression, I’ve found joy in an unlikely place: sweats! There’s been something extremely cathartic about letting my mind go free from constructing daily outfits for an extended period of time, and beyond that, it’s allowed me to unexpectedly feel good in my own skin. I realized how much mental energy I was putting towards worrying how I looked in my clothes. Wearing sweats, and being comfy, at all times of the day has helped me feel free both physically and mentally, with not only what I look like, but also what I feel like.”

Alana B., 56, Conway, NH

“I haven't had both of my daughters home at the same time for more than a few days since they were in high school, and temporarily, they're both living with me. Sometimes the quarters feel a bit close for three grown women but we've had a lovely time all together and this has really cemented the nature of our relationships. It's just different when you're adult women and it feels rare that three women our age in the same family actually LIVE together at any point. So joy has been talking, over dinner, with my daughters. I'm lucky to have them.”

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Janet R., 62, Brooklyn, NY

“I’m retired so I haven’t really been free to attend protests as much as I would like to. I’m at a higher risk for COVID-19. But something that has really brought me joy throughout the last couple of weeks is watching the protests from my stoop. I sit outside with my sign and my pots and pans for banging and people cheer and it’s so hopeful and the crowds are so big and so diverse and so full of energy. I feel grateful to be a spectator.”

Raven E., 29, Queens, NY

“Doing the work. I know there are moments to participate and moments to engage in so-called ‘self-care’; but for me, right now, the movement is so invigorating. I'm watching change happen, I'm seeing bills repealed, I'm educating myself. And that's life-giving.”

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Lisa C., 32, New York, NY

“My parents live in Chicago and I’m in New York. We never ever used to FaceTime but once stay-at-home orders were in place, my mom started to FaceTime me all the time. And it has felt less lonely to see my parents’ faces even if it’s just for a few minutes — because my mom starts to point the camera at the dog so then I try to get my dog to also look. It’s a silly activity and the dogs don’t care but it feels like we’re together and that’s brought me joy during this time.”

Ray R., 34, St. Louis, MO

“Ice cream. That's it. It's the summer. And there are few simple, fabulous, delicious, rich pleasures like an ice cream cone in summer heat. We keep a few pints of Halo Top in the fridge at all times, and naturally, we always have a supply of cones on hand. That's all, thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.”

Carlie N., 25, Chicago, IL

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“I know this sounds just about as nitty gritty hipster as it can get, but I've spent a bunch of time developing my own film. Some of it is from Black Lives Matter protests and some of it is of empty Manhattan streets during lockdown and some of it was shot months ago when the whole world looked a little different. I have a chemical system in place that doesn't require a full dark room set up and it's been so thrilling to see my own prints come to life — with my own hands. Plus, on top of that, it feels like a way of interacting with the movement and the protests and processing my thinking about them in a way that's mechanical and hands on.”

Eva P., 73, Marblehead, MA

“I don't see many people who aren't family too often these days, but while we've been quarantined, my friends and I have started a ladies group. Every Tuesday at 9am we have coffee or tea and breakfast together over Skype and we chat and it's the first time I've gotten together with my particular group of ladies in a very long time. I'm hoping we can continue it because it certainly makes me feel young and joyful.”

Sarah H., 31, Berkshires, MA

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“Baths. Never before in my life have I actually had the time to draw a bath and, like, fill it with nice bath salts and listen to podcasts. Now, it's my heaven. I throw on a good audio crime serial, pour a glass of wine, and stay in there with the door shut until I start to prune.”

Anna V., 15, Westchester, NY

“I've been screen printing T-shirts for my band! We've only just started playing music together but I'm really excited about the stuff we've been working on. Anyway, we're called Summer Brother and my older brother used to screen print T-shirts a while back so I found all of his supplies in our garage and I started making some of my own and messing around with logos then I've been mailing all the different versions out to friends and family and then in return they've been sending me pictures of them wearing the shirts which is so cool to see!”

Carolyn N., 29, Baltimore, MD

"Like so many others, I fled my small city apartment and came home to my parents' house at the start of the shutdown. And now that I’m not living in a shoebox, and have a full kitchen to work with, I’ve been taking advantage and learning how to bake. It’s been wonderful to discover how to properly knead dough, make pastries from scratch and mix and meld ingredients. Plus the feeling of accomplishment when my family showers me with compliments after tasting my newest creations is a bonus!"

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Emma W., 27, Asheville, NC

“Spending the evening hours cooking a meal from scratch with my two roommates and eating by candlelight, listening to music. I think the past three months have taught me so much about what really matters, what I really need, and what I'm thankful for. I feel really at peace when we are nourishing ourselves and spending time together as ‘chosen family’ — my adult life had been lacking in this ritual and sense of community, but growing up we would almost always eat as a family.”

Angie P., 40, Seattle, WA

“I've been reading a lot of coming of age novels. Sounds weird, I know, but since I'm spending so much time reading heavier, denser material, it feels useful to me to return to some of the books that were really formative to me as a girl. There's something so simple and almost funny about looking at these things in retrospect. It's been comforting, charming even. I highly recommend it to anyone who is having trouble sleeping at night.”

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Tyra B., 32, Berkeley, CA

“For me, joy is getting dressed. I love dressing up. And while some would say that the fact that we don’t…go anywhere is a reason not to get dressed, for me, it takes away the practicality factor in a good way. I don’t have to wear practical shoes. I don’t have to dress for the weather. I don’t have to wear comfortable things if I’m going for a walk. I can do whatever I damn please outfit-wise, and I get to have my moment, take a stroll around the block, then take off the painful shoes.”

Naomi K., 29, Summit, NJ

“I have spent the last couple of months making pottery at home. I always worked in a pottery studio near my house for catharsis but mid-COVID the place shut down and so I decided to invest in a wheel of my own and I have to say, it has brought me so much joy. I haven't been able to glaze things really — the equipment I need is expensive, but it's not about the final products right now. The absolute catharsis of playing music and getting my hands dirty at the pottery wheel is the one time I can tune everything else out and just experience the joy of creativity.”

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Nikki M., 17, Lubbock, TX

“I have learned 14 different TikTok dances. I've made lots of videos and I post them on Instagram because I don't really have a big TikTok presence or anything but I think they're so much fun and they've made me a better dancer and I keep getting better at them. I get excited when I see new ones that I'm looking forward to learning.”

Emma H., 26, Brooklyn, NY

“Throughout quarantine, my childhood best friend and I have been working on a chapbook of poetry or poetic prose. We've always loved chapbooks so we've been emailing each other back and forth dropping poems or just little bits of creative writing with the date in a Google doc. The cadence kind of ebbs and flows but I’m truthfully proud of all this writing we've compiled at this really odd, unique moment in history. I think it's something we're going to cherish for a long time and I'm so looking forward to getting it printed whenever we decide we've reached a good stopping point.”

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