Opening Up, Slowly – The New York Times

Want to get the At Home newsletter in your inbox? Sign up here.

Welcome. I received a letter recently from Karen Mencotti in Ona, W.Va.:

I’m overwhelmed with guilt admitting this, but I’m thoroughly enjoying being home for months on end. Not the fear and tragedy part, but the social absence part. As a reclusive retiree, it’s heavenly to realize I have no obligations to meet so-and-so for dinner, nor do I expect sudden visitors. Perfect! I rather dread going back to “normal.” I’m reading, indulging in crafts and saving the socializing for family get-togethers — every three or four months.

I’ve been thinking about Karen and others who’ve written — some sheepishly, others proudly — confessing to a preference for being at home and a dread of returning to pre-quarantine activity and industry.

Even those of us who are craving more human contact, more distraction and travel and general coming and going, may have found things to love in the slowness and interiority of the past year. If we’re lucky, our time inside and apart has still been culturally rich, full of things to watch, read and cook. Our clothes have been more comfortable, our calendars perhaps more manageable.

It’s a luxury, of course, to get to stay inside, away from the outdoors where the virus’s peril persists. I understand Karen’s guilt, her internal conflict. This year has been full of so much heartache, and isolation has been so brutal for so many.

But it’s natural to have mixed emotions about another existential twist, another unfamiliar transition: from closed down to opened up, from here at home to out there in the world.

So how do we do it? Slowly, with care. “I would say that we are less afraid, but not fear-free,” one person told the reporter Jennifer Steinhauer of life after being vaccinated. Small outdoor gatherings for now. Plans for travel down the road, as we’re still working out how the vaccine affects transmission. It’s a good time for dreaming and planning, plotting our futures, but still staying close to home when we can.

At home, where a man found what he insists are shrimp tails in a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Where we’re celebrating spring holidays and taking our fashion cues from costume designers. Parents are still primal-screaming, cinephiles are digging ever deeper into streaming libraries for something good to watch.

We’re peering out from behind the curtains at a world that’s stirring. How much of this at-home life will we preserve? How much will we leave behind?

Bianca Giaever is an audio producer at The Times. These are her top 5 documentaries that focus on a single person.

1. Mayor” (2020). This documentary follows Musa Hadid, the mayor of Ramallah, in the West Bank, as he manages a municipality under Israeli occupation.

2. “The Cruise” (1998). A love letter to New York City starring the tour bus guide Speed Levitch.

3. “The Show About the Show” (2015). The filmmaker Caveh Zahedi leads us through a deep exploration of his daily life, his relationships, and his own psyche.

4. “American Movie” (1999). A documentary about the filmmaker Mark Borchardt’s struggle to make a horror movie in small-town Wisconsin.

5. “Actress” (2014). The director Robert Greene finds inspiration in his neighbor, Brandy Burre, a stay-at-home mom attempting to relaunch her acting career.

ich elements of life during the pandemic will you be sorry to let go? Which ones will you try to preserve? Tell us: [email protected]. Include your full name and location and we might use your contribution in a future newsletter. We’re At Home. We’ll read every letter sent. More ideas for leading a good life at home or near it appear below. See you on Friday.

Sign up to receive the At Home newsletter. You can always find much more to read, watch and do every day on At Home.