joyHaving trouble finding joy in these socially-distanced days?  I admit, I’m a hugger…and not being able to reach out and squeeze so many people I care about has brought me profound sadness.  Today, I am so pleased we are joined on the blog by Mia Durairaj – co-creator of Mindful Return’s Balancing Career with a Special Needs Child course.  Mia has battled – with success – to find joy in a world turned upside down.  Here are her instructions for us.


I am no stranger to social distancing.

For 2 1/2 years, my family lived a modified version of what most of us are living today. My daughter Ada, who passed away this September of congestive heart failure, was very medically fragile and lived most of her life at the children’s hospital.

We had to be constantly aware of our hand hygiene and limit visitors to reduce the risk of Ada’s catching a virus that could be fatal to her. Despite this enormously challenging situation, and Ada’s ultimately tragic end, we were able to craft amazing memories together that I will treasure forever. Through her strength and exuberant personality, I learned how to find moments of joy, even when it felt like my world was falling apart.

Because of that experience, the California lockdown felt intimately familiar to me. And I wanted to share how you also can find joy, meaning, and mindfulness, even in the most scary of times.

The poem below is my “how-to,” an instruction manual for how to find pockets of felicity during the pandemic.  It also offers a glimpse into my life and how I am framing this particular moment.


How to ride out a pandemic in San Diego

First, wake with a clenched jaw,

and then:

try and imagine a Sabbath for the world.


Dust off your littlest, most ordinary dreams.

Call your grandmother on the east coast.

Worry with unbridled generosity.


When malaise strikes,

luxuriously trek the length of your porch like a tourist,

marvel at the sun’s reliable warmth.

Watch the tree sprout blossoms,Orange Tree

branches tangoing in the wind.


You have the time,

So give your spouse a lingering kiss,

or craft new recurring jokes.

And when that fails, eradicate dust bunnies from unseen corners.


When your kids ask you to play,

really play.

Tickle with abandon too.

Swear as you trip over their puzzles and Mickey Mouse figurines;

Then forgive your children instantly.


Don’t rush through the pandemic,joy

eyes skimming headlines, breath stinking with panic.

Or, do but also be sure to

concoct the ways you might help.

(And then— and here is the important part—



In the afternoon, zest the oranges your neighbor dropped off

in a brown bag in front of your door,

make muffins with the juice

and eat them until your belly is nearly sick as your heart.


At night, stare with fresh eyes at the stars in the city.

See the soft sky now undressed of its usual smog.


Lean into the vulnerability of this tender moment.


don’t miss it.


Can you relate to any of these moments? I sincerely hope that pausing and cherishing tiny slivers of your day can also bring you encouragement and joy when it may feel like everything you hold sacred is crashing all around you.

Be safe, be well, hug your children, and whenever possible, please stay at home.

(How to ride out a pandemic in San Diego was first published on Motherwell Magazine’s Facebook page.)



Amialya (Mia) Durairaj is a writer and co-creator of Mindful Return’s Balancing a Career with a Special Needs Child. Mia works as a Marketingjoy Writing Manager at Dexcom in San Diego where she lives with her husband and surviving daughter. You can read more of Mia’s work at

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