I’ve been walking around barefoot a lot. Outside, in the yard, to the mailbox — no matter the temperature or weather. It reminds me of that opening scene in Die Hard when John McClain’s seatmate tells him “After you get where you’re going, take off your shoes and your socks…walk around on the rug barefoot and make fists with your toes. It’s better than a shower and a hot cup of coffee.”

It turns out, that’s pretty good advice.

In the article “This Die Hard Relaxation Hack Is Actually Brilliant,” podiatrist Ernest Isaacson explains, “Being barefoot is a great way to feel one’s way around new surroundings, and by removing the protective covering of our shoes it also establishes a level of trust to the new digs, which is comforting, relaxing, and just feels good….Walking barefoot takes us back to our primordial roots, and allows the many nerve endings on the bottom of the feet to make contact with the ground, thereby establishing a real tactile connection to our new surroundings.”

New surroundings like these weird, scary, sad, difficult pandemic surroundings? I don’t know about you, but I’ve got anxiety on a constant feedback loop. Adjusting means processing a lot more information, being OK with a change in routine and expectations, and settling down into not know what happens next.

Walking barefoot, wiggling my toes in the wet grass or on the cold pavement, reminds me to be in the moment.

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.” — Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai, The Teaching of Buddha

Living wisely and earnestly for me right now translates into surrounding myself with the things that immediately bring me comfort: phone calls with good friends, my cat Lola, homemade meatloaf, living room yoga, walks in the woods, writing, and books.

I realize I’m lucky in that. I’m not on the front lines, working in a hospital, striving to keep our communities safe, managing a houseful of little ones. For each and everyone one of us, these are hard and difficult times, in vastly different ways.

So, how are you spending your pandemic days? Are you safe and healthy? Are you balancing worry with wonder? Getting enough rest, movement, breath, prayer, food? Reaching out and digging deep? Have you found what brings you comfort?

Here is a gentle reminder from one of my go-to comforts, Winnie the Pooh:

“You are braver than you believe, you are stronger than you seem, and you are smarter than you think.”

We will be Okay…and YOU will be Okay.

Take off your shoes. Wiggle your toes. Breathe.

Love, Jen

News from My Living Room


Friends of the Blackstone Memorial Library board member Alpha Coiro recently featured me and my books in the library’s spring newsletter Marble Columns. You can read an advance copy of her article by clicking here.


Hankering some comfort food, I looked up recipes by cooking goddess Ina Garten and found her recipe for Meatloaf (click here). I had to ad lib a little: I didn’t have tomato paste, so I used sundried tomatoes in oil; and a crumbled Bisquick biscuit stepped in for bread crumbs. I served it with canned peas and macaroni and cheese and was immediately transported to my grandmother’s kitchen circa 1972. Ahh, comfort.


If you’re looking for something else to read, visit my Etsy Shop where you’ll discover both print and NEW! ebooks for sale.

“Salvation is certainly among the reasons I read. Reading and writing have always pulled me out of the darkest experiences in my life. Stories have given me a place in which to lose myself. They have allowed me to remember. They have allowed me to forget. They have allowed me to imagine different endings and better possible worlds.” – Roxane Gay

Essay ©2020, Jen Payne. Illustration by Ernest Howard Shepard, “Pooh and Piglet walked home thoughtfully together in the golden evening, and for a long time they were silent,” illustration for A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh (London: Methuen; New York: E. P. Dutton, 1926. Quotes from This ‘Die Hard’ Relaxation Hack Is Actually Brilliant , by Dan Myers, The Active Times. Winnie the Pooh Quote by Karl Geurs and Carter Crocker, Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin.

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