Do you remember, back in March, when we all thought this would last two weeks?
The snow was melting in Winnipeg, I had a new boyfriend, I was almost overwhelmed with freelancing work, I was going to the gym regularly and loving it.
“Two weeks without seeing my family and friends, two weeks without going to restaurants, two weeks without going to the gym?” I panicked.
Oh, how innocent and naive I was. How blissfully, ignorantly unaware.
March passed slowly, and I made lists of things to do. I’d start canning, I’d start cross-stitch. I’d finally do that 12 week HIIT program on YouTube. Maybe I’d start up yoga! Oh and I’d read two books a week, practice the piano every day, and write – minimum – two blog posts a week.
None of that happened.
Today I sit in my office, the first day of snow in Winnipeg. It’s been seven months since I’ve seen many of my friends, eight months since I’ve been on an airplane. I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve sat down in a restaurant. I’ve gone to the gym a smattering of times. I’ve lost all my freelance opportunities, I haven’t washed my hair in five days, and guess what? I haven’t canned a goddamned thing.
So as I hear my boyfriend – who has since moved in with his Bernese Mountain Dog, as it’s easier to isolate together – playing Call of Duty downstairs, I thought what better way to spend a cold afternoon than to list all of the things I didn’t do during this almost year of self-isolation. I could, you know, wash my hair or pitch a new publication or finally, finally vacuum under the bed, but, because I’m a masochist that strangely relishes in detailing my own procrastination, this seemed like a lot more fun.
Without further ado, here are all the things I didn’t accomplish so far in self-isolation (and a few that I did).
Please note: I do not mean to trivialize what is happening in the world today. It is scary and terrible. After a very tough few days here in Winnipeg in terms of number of cases and new restrictions, I just wanted to write something fun and light-hearted. Please stay home, wear a mask in public, support local businesses with takeout and online orders, and limit all social contacts, k?
-As mentioned above, I most definitely did not start canning anything. I also did not pickle anything. When IKEA opened up again in spring, I bought a ton of glass bottles and jars, hellbent on the fact that I was going to become a wizard of preserves. This, dear readers, did not happen.
I even half-heartedly picked up a bag of pickling salt the other day at Canadian Tire (they really do have quite the array of merchandise) but put it down in favour of a pair of hideous yet warm gloves for better control of two leashes and 180 pounds of dog during long walks.
And although I’ve been experimenting with cooking for the past few years, meaning nothing changed in that regard, the one thing I did absolutely nail was making my own Limoncello. Oh yes. Turns out the only thing more magical than drinking boozy, icy Italian liqueur on a hot summer’s day is drinking boozy, icy Italian liqueur that you made yourself. (Interested in the recipe? Here’s how to make Limoncello at home. Enjoy!)
And I mean… how many canned preserves would I eat, anyway?!
-I did not start yoga, nor did I end up miraculously falling in love with HIIT (high intensity interval training, like burpees and box jumps and other exercises designed to torture and/or induce the fetal position in grown adults). Way back in spring I asked for good home workouts on my Instagram stories and was flooded with ideas. And despite about 300 recommendations for Yoga With Adriene, I just couldn’t seem to find any online workouts I liked, nor could I find ones that were actually beginner level.
In January of 2019, I decided to change my entire life. I decided I’d start looking at food as how it could benefit my wellbeing. I started making sure that I was drinking enough water, sleeping well, getting enough vitamins and minerals, and being active every day, whether that was an hour of intense weightlifting or a quick walk around the block. I also started therapy because I wanted to work on my mind’s health just as much as my body’s health.
And doggone it, it worked. Over the course of a year, I got into the best shape of my life, and felt better than I ever had. My skin cleared up. My sciatica disappeared. I stopped struggling with anxiety and panic attacks. I had more self-confidence than ever in my life. I was happy, truly, freely happy, for possibly the first time in my life.
And then two things happened.
- I fell in love with a man named Jon, and falling in love is just as wonderful as I had hoped. I credit my lifestyle changes for finally being ready and open for a loving, healthy relationship.
- The gym closed, for obvious reasons. I am not complaining about that; anything that helps keep people safe is a-ok with me.
When I say it was pretty much all booze and all burgers and no working out, I’m not exaggerating. Jon and I both love to eat, love to drink, and love to binge-watch TV and movies. In the new throes of romance, coupled with having to isolate, we became hedonistic monsters. And don’t get me wrong, drinking beer and ordering pizza every other night is fun. It’s super fun, in fact… until it isn’t.
Around July, with nearly five months of eating poorly and being fairly sedentary, I knew I needed to change again. I felt so sluggish, unmotivated, and irritable. It took me a few months to get back into a healthy rhythm, but I’m slowly getting back to eating well and being active regularly.
I’m still not into HIIT (and probably never will be) but I did at least find out that I like the yoga workouts on the Nike app; there are quite a few general workouts on there that are good, and they’re quick enough that they don’t feel too intimidating. Other than that, it’s daily walks, home workouts with dumbbells, and dancing to this beginner routine once a week, because I can actually keep up with it. There’s nothing more humbling than trying a Zumba, hip hop, or salsa workout online only to discover you can’t even keep up with the warm up choreography.
-I did not write two blogs posts a week. Not even close. In fact, after I lost all of my freelance writing gigs – I was even ghosted by one I’d had for over seven years… as in, they just straight up stopped responding to all of their freelancers’ emails – I didn’t want to write at all. Nothing.
I tried journalling and lasted all of one day. I tried editing that old book I wrote that now is a convenient doorstop in the office. I tried sending pitches to a few old contacts. Writing felt overwhelming and awful, which broke my heart.
To compound that heartache, all of my blog traffic tanked. I always knew that one day I’d make the leap to full-time blogging and writing for myself, and back in February, my blog was earning enough to pay my mortgage and bills. I was on the way. Today, it barely pays a quarter of that. I’ve seen a lot of other bloggers write that their traffic is basically back to normal, but mine is still in the pits.
I’m not saying any of this for sympathy, but more of a: hey, if you are super sad and frightened and anxious and angry, it’s ok if your brain isn’t working the same way. In fact, it’s normal and natural. I have cried more than I ever thought possible about losing everything I’ve worked toward for the past decade. I’ve cried over turning down paid press trips because I simply cannot promote travelling right now, it doesn’t feel right to me. And despite losing the majority of my income, I’m one of the lucky ones: I still have a roof over my head and a solid savings account.
No, I didn’t write as much as I wanted over the past seven months, not at all. But I’m starting to forgive myself for it. I’m starting to forgive myself for it, and best of all… I’m starting to write. Who knows what the future holds for my career, but trying to write 1000 words a day is helping in so many ways.
-I did not learn to cross-stitch, make polymer clay earrings, start stretching every morning, read two books a week, or practice the piano every day. I did not start a gratitude journal or participate in Zoom hangouts or finally start meditating. In fact… I don’t really know what I have been doing for the past seven months when I haven’t been working. I know that I watched a lot of TV (currently: 30 Rock, The Queen’s Gambit, Breaking Bad, Fargo, Truth Seekers, and Schitt’s Creek. I don’t mess around). I know that I cook a lot, and drink a lot of local beer.
But on reflection, it’s been a year where I’ve spent even more time with the people I love: my boyfriend, my two best friends, my immediate family. My bubble is very small, and we socially distance (and wear masks if we can’t hang out outside) when we do see each other. But the time with them is priceless, and the connections stronger than ever before.
So what have I actually accomplished during self-isolation?
I fell deep into a depression again and I worked through it. I started to read again (currently: Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore, Gold Dust Woman: The Biography of Stevie Nicks by Stephen Davis, Five Little Indians by Michelle Good, and Toni Morrison’s The Last Interview). I gardened. I tried to spend whatever money I have to spare every month in the community, supporting local businesses. I’m cooking healthy meals, and being active daily, and learned a new song on the piano. I organized my back hall, my bedroom, my kitchen, and redid my office. I’m still making limoncello, and still drinking lots of it.
The bottom line, and the entire point of this post, is that it’s ok if you don’t do any of the things we all said we’d do with this apparent “extra time” at home. It’s ok if you’re not working out every day, or making crafts, or organizing your house. It’s ok if all you can manage is to make cereal for dinner. Honestly, with all of the chaos – with unemployment and home-schooling and a HORRIBLE PANDEMIC THAT IS KILLING THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE PER DAY – it’s ok if you just focus on putting one foot in front of the other.
When we finally have a vaccine, nobody is going to sit around reflecting about how many DIY projects you accomplished, how many home workouts you did, or how many books you read. Nobody is going to care how often you washed your hair or how many days in a row you had sandwiches for every meal. None of that matters right now. Right now, what matters is staying as safe as possible, and as sane as possible.
I watched one too many Instagram stories back in spring and felt under such pressure to use this time productively. But for me, for my sanity and my health, I realized that perhaps the most productive thing is to just do nothing sometimes. To just sit with my boyfriend and drink a beer on the back porch. To FaceTime with my sister and laugh about childhood stories. To be so utterly grateful and privileged to have my health.
I’m scared about the future, of course I am. But I’m no longer kicking myself over what I did or didn’t accomplish this year. If having to stay home and rewatch 30 Rock for the sixth time means that I’m helping slow the spread and keep my city safe, of course I’ll do it. Limoncello optional, though always appreciated.
Have you felt any pressure to accomplish a lot this year?