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Our Daily Breather: Half Waif's Favorite Couch

Tonje Thilesen, Courtesy of the artist
Courtesy of the artist
Half Waif's Nandi Rose has been spending time on her couch during the stress of the coronavirus pandemic.

Twenty seconds of hand washing. 60 to 90 percent alcohol. Five to 12 (14? 21?) days of incubation until the dry cough comes. People worldwide have absorbed these guidelines as the coronavirus pandemic has closed its fist around the world. At least hygiene directives are quantifiable. There is also the question of how to care for the psyche.

It's a deeply personal matter. Some turn to prayer, or to a song, a story, a ritual, a favorite corner of the house. Psychic health is not just about becoming calmer, either. Anger and frustration and fear have to find their channels. Humor has to be preserved. So, somehow, does joy.

Humans need to keep the spirit moving, as did Charles Dickens — who lived through a few epidemics — by taking a daily "breather" in the fresh air. Our Daily Breather seeks recommendations for psychic health from people who go deep into their own hearts and minds: artists and writers. Creative people have been uniquely affected by the onset of the current pandemic. Still they continue to dream, and to create. They can help us understand how. —Ann Powers

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Courtesy of the artist[/caption]

Since self-isolating began for me last week, I've hardly stepped foot into my music room. Normally a place of solace, I can't bring myself to go in there. It's like this unprecedented time of global fracture is too big a burden to place on that sweet small space, where I've written so many songs about the thorns in my life. What served to soothe me in the days when my problems were my own seems ill-suited to this greater task. Instead, I've found myself gravitating to the couch in the living room. This is my temporary sanctuary, and an odd choice at that.

The living room is cold and doesn't get much light. An ugly pellet stove — long defunct — juts out from the stone molding, and squirrels scamper inside the walls, their nails clicking ominously around us. Despite our attempts at making it cozy with jade plants and a turquoise braided rug, the room feels dark and awkward. And yet this is where I'm drawn day after day, folding myself into the corner of the couch where I write now. On a metaphorical level, I guess this makes sense: Take the most inhospitable space and claim it, just as the world around us becomes increasingly hostile and we scrabble to find our place in things. On a more practical level, being on the couch allows me to stretch out. It's a gift I give myself — a luxurious full recline — and a strategy for taking better care.

I also think switching up my safe zone in the house has helped me ritualize this particular time, recognizing its weight and separating it from the rest of my life. What worked for me before will not work for me now; what works for me now will not work for me when this is over. We are collectively in a state of becoming. As Haruki Murakami writes in Kafka on the Shore, "When you come out of the storm you won't be the same person who walked in. That's what this storm's all about." So I close the windows and board the broad arms of this couch, a piece of furniture that will deliver me into our future.

Half Waif is the musical project of Nandi Rose. Her new album, The Caretaker, comes out March 27. She recently had to postpone tour dates, but will be livestreaming a set from her home on the March 27 at 7 p.m. Eastern.
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