susan-paul susan joy paul mug for northwest notes column woodmen edition


For the vast majority of us, social distancing has been a challenge. Keeping to one’s self eliminates a lot of activities. No shopping, no dining out, and no going to the movies. No bars or nightclubs. No libraries even. And only emergency grocery store visits, during the slowest times of the day and armed with a handful of sanitizing wipes.

So what do you do when you can’t hang out with other people? As a lifelong introvert and INTJ on the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator, I’m eager to share my No. 1 skill: being alone. Here are my 15 Ways to While Away the Days until the dreaded COVID-19 completes its rounds and we are once again free to coexist:

  1. Read a book. I’ve gotten into the habit of reading for an hour every evening between 7 and 8 p.m. and it’s been life-changing. I can’t believe what I’ve been missing. Top picks: anything by Daphne de Maurier, from “Rebecca,” to “Frenchman’s Creek,” “Jamaica Inn,” “The King’s General,” and more. For the sci-fi buffs, Dennis E. Taylor’s “Bobiverse” trilogy is not to be missed, beginning with “We Are Legion.” I’m almost done with book No. 2, “For We Are Many,” and if someone doesn’t make a movie out of these books there is something very wrong in the bob, er, universe. By the way, many of Du Maurier’s and Taylor’s books are available digitally and on audiobook, so download a story and start reading — or listening!
  2. Read a chapter book to your kids or grandkids. My favorites are the “Watership Down,” “Harry Potter,” and “The Lord of the Rings” series, but use your best judgment, based on the kids’ ages. If you don’t have any kids, read them to yourself. They’re great stories!
  3. No money for books? Download one from the library. The Pikes Peak Library District’s CyberShelf has thousands of digital and audiobooks that you can borrow for free. Visit their website, or download apps like Hoopla, Freegal, and OverDrive to gain free access to books, movies, music and more.
  4. Do a jigsaw puzzle. Like reading a book, putting a puzzle together requires focus and takes your mind off whatever’s stressing you out in the world. You know, like being alone.
  5. Get out the board games and challenge your partner to a round of Battleship or Clue, or find that old chessboard and teach the kids to play chess.
  6. Clean out a drawer.
  7. Do an art project. You probably have paper, crayons, glue, and other supplies tucked away in one of those drawers. Dig it out and have some fun. You can clean the drawer another time.
  8. Organize all those holiday decorations. Heck, I may even take down the Christmas tree!
  9. Call people you haven’t talked to in a while. No texting — actually look up their number and see how they’re doing. Compare Costco stories.
  10. Install a bidet in your toilet and a water filter in your sink. Next time there’s an emergency, you won’t have to stock up on toilet paper and bottled water.
  11. Do a little yardwork. It’s too early to plant anything, but general cleanup will get you out in the fresh air and away from the 24-hour cycle of social media and news.
  12. Find someone who’s having a tougher time than you and help them out. People are using Nextdoor to reach out to neighbors and offer assistance such as running errands and picking up groceries. Of course, practice safe interactions with everyone.
  13. Go for a hike. It’s pretty easy to keep your distance on the trail and you’ll feel better surrounded by nature, too.
  14. Check in on the news to stay informed, but don’t immerse yourself in it. If you remember 9/11, many of us got so caught up in the constant chatter without realizing all the stress it was putting on our children. Give them a break and give yourself a break, too.
  15. Finally, be kind to your friendly neighborhood news reporter. The media takes a lot of flack during the tough times, but they keep showing up to write stories and report on the news so we can all stay informed. Whatever TV station you watch, radio station you listen to, or newspaper you read, remember that the people putting these stories together are people too, with lives, loves, and families. They’re all going through it, too.

Susan Joy Paul is an author, editor, and freelance writer. She has lived on Colorado Springs’ northwest side for more than 20 years. Contact Susan at

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