Sharon Randall: What makes you feel most alive?

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 24, 2021

By Sharon Randall

You might think a garage is only meant to hold a car. But a garage is like a heart. No matter how much you store in it, there’s always room for more.

I once knew some friends with four little children, who bought a house that was so small they couldn’t put on a coat until they went outside. But it was all they could afford. So they turned the garage into a family room.

This meant they had to park their cars on the street, or on the next block, if need be. It wasn’t always convenient for them or their neighbors, many of whom had also turned their garages into family rooms and had to park on the street, too.

But to them, it was a matter of survival — not ideal, but the best that they could do at the time.

Two years ago, my husband and I sold a four-bedroom home in town and moved to a valley to a house half as big, surrounded by mountains. We love it. It’s like being permanent campers in a remote national park.

But when the pandemic began and we stayed home most of the time, the walls began closing in a bit, and we felt the need for a little more space. So we built a carport and turned the garage into a place where my husband can store his instruments and play music to his heart’s content. Talk about happy.

I wish you could hear him.

Maybe you can. I still hear him through the wall, practicing a song over and over. No matter how much you love somebody and his music, it can help at times to be a wall apart.

He stays connected to his music. And I stay connected to writing or phoning or playing FreeCell or whatever.

A garage keeps cars cleaner. And rats might be less likely to chew wires in the engines. But we needed a place for music more than a place for cars.

That is survival: Doing what works best for now. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow may never come. Now is all we have.

What makes you feel most alive? For me, it’s being in touch — with myself, with my God, with nature and people I love.

I also find it helpful — OK, I’ll just say this — to bake cookies. (Here’s my favorite: Mix a cup of peanut butter with a cup of sugar and an egg, spoon out on a baking pan, sprinkle with salt, bake at 350 for 10 minutes or so, then cool until firm so they don’t burn your mouth. Try not to eat them all at once. You can thank or curse me later.)

I need time to be alone, to hear myself think and to pray. As a child I worried that I didn’t pray enough. But my granddad, a preacher, told me prayer isn’t just asking God for things. It happens every time we smile and say “Ahh!” at something God created. I do that a lot.

But I also need time to feel connected. I try to keep in touch with family and friends. I hear from readers who say my stories are their stories, too. I talk and laugh with my husband and we marvel a lot together at birds and sunsets and grandkids.

Lately, I’ve been hearing lots of stories from people who, like me, long to stay connected and are finding ways to do so:

Bookclubs that met for years in person, and continue to meet (and sometimes invite me to join them) online with Zoom.

Children who stayed home, but went to school with distance learning and kept in touch with friends through FaceTime. Or a widow who meets every Friday with neighbors to sit in chairs 6 feet apart around their cul-de-sac talking for hours.

We survive by doing what’s best for us and those we love. By taking time to be together, and time to be alone. By knowing when to talk, when to listen, when to apologize and when to pray. By keeping connected to ourselves and to each other. By sharing stories, playing music, baking cookies and feeling alive.

What works best for you and your loved ones? How will you survive and feel most alive this day? I hope you keep in touch.

Sharon Randall is the author or “The World and Then Some.” She can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924 or at