What I Learned from 2020

Here’s a photo that for me, sums up 2020. 

There’s so much wrong with this picture if I went by my previous “high” standards; in this photo, I’m mismatched, my legs are unshaven (trust me on that…) and I’m wearing socks with sandals. (Apparently, it’s a fashion no-no. Don’t even start on the whole stripes and polka dots sock disaster.)

But I’m working at home, trying to stay focussed, and getting ready to exercise indoors in the hopes of defeating the bout of depression that is lurking just around the corner. 

Yep, this was the year that I stopped giving a crap about the stuff that didn’t matter. 

And there was so much about this year that taught me what did matter. 

So yes, let me chime in and add to the plethora of articles, blogs, facebook articles, instagram posts, etc. that look at the year that was, and in a lot of ways, wasn’t. 

Herewith, what I learned: 

When I first “moved” back home from my cosy office, I’d sometimes keep the tv on for company, letting CNN play in the background as I did work that didn’t require my complete concentration. 

But pretty soon, I realized I’d rather hear episodes of Let’s Make a Deal or Wheel of Fortune, than reports of dire statistics about the spreading virus and other bleak news. 

I wanted to create my own bubble, where good things happened to people who spun a wheel or picked the right door, taking chances that weren’t defined by wearing a mask or washing your hands for three minutes after a visit to the supermarket. 

I’d wonder how I could forget to go outside — something that never happens when you commute to an outside office but was so easy to do when you worked at home. Somedays, I’d venture into the living room after a day at my desk, realize the radio had been on since breakfast, and that my world consisted of my office, the kitchen and the bathroom. 

My highlight of the day was taking the garbage or recycling down to the bins behind our apartment building. 

Exercise had become my best friend and the relationship is still going strong. I’ve written before about my new found love of indoor cycling, and how addictive watching avatars of other riders had become for me. My fitness level has improved and that continues to lift my mood most days. 

Yet I also allow myself to not work out, to take a day off without any guilt. Or to sit in front of my computer for an hour or two and binge on Netflix entrees like “Emily in Paris” in between work assignments. Or to take mental breaks doing crossword puzzles on the New York Times site — and yes, turning “auto check” on so I have at least a chance of finishing. 

I’ve had one haircut in 9 months, and dropped the hair colour routine. This period in our life has become all about austerity. Like so many of us, I’m nervous about the future, and I’ve been working as much as I can, hoping to maintain some stability. 

I don’t need to spend $100 to banish the grey hairs that now pepper my hair. And I’m not about to stain my white sink with hair colour. Who cares! There’s a pandemic going on. I can let those grey strands show on Zoom. 

I’ve also been reaching out to old friends, people whom I haven’t connected with in the past. Apparently, it’s something many of us have been doing; starved for connection, we schedule zoom or FaceTime chats with friends from our past. I confess that this didn’t happen that often prior to 2020; we’d all be too busy for that cup of coffee at a local cafe, or a quick chat on the phone. Or at least that’s what we’d tell ourselves. 

This year, time was on our side, even if the pandemic wasn’t. It’s hard to turn down invites to Zoom, when people know where you are 24/7.  Teaching on-line meant looking at myself for hours a day, and that was weird. I’m the kind of person who often forgets to do a mirror check, even when visiting the washroom. And now, here I was, in close-up, every day. And still, I wanted more. I FaceTime with a best friend in Ottawa on the daily. Because we need connection. And my iMac camera offers a nice soft focus…

This year, too, I started attending virtual conferences. The introvert in me has been thrilled. I’m not a “networker by nature” and even though I teach a class that covers this vital aspect of professional life at a local college, I much prefer to stick to a quiet corner at an industry event and hope that someone will talk to me, eventually. Or I take my husband with me; he’s great at bringing people over for a chat. By contrast, on-line networking events are a breeze. I can show up without having to dress up, I learn a lot, and I’ve even (bravely) sent messages to panelists or other attendees. 

As for having diabetes during a pandemic, I’ve stopped worrying (too much). In the first few weeks, the cautionary words of my doctor friends scared me; “Make sure you take care!” “You have to be extra careful!” “Don’t go out. At all!” 

Of course, I’m still very very very careful. And yeah, I’m also still scared of it. But pretty early on, I realized I also had to “live”, even if it is with the restrictions imposed on ALL of us by this virus. 

And yes, I did jump on the baking train. I have a lovely  “No-Knead Bread” sitting on the counter. And I have three slices of chocolate chip banana bread in a container. There’s a bowl of chia pudding in the fridge…. And three over-ripe bananas, just waiting to be mashed into another creation. 

All of the above also points to the gratitude I feel these days. I am fully aware that I am here. With food. And able to work at home. I don’t take any of that for granted. I know that others are not so fortunate. 

When I started this blog, I imagined sitting in a cafe next to the college where I teach part-time, writing entries on a weekly basis. I’d outlined 40 topics to ponder for the future. And for the first few weeks, I kept to my schedule. And then, as the world slowed down, so did I. I came to a complete stop. I shut down that part of my brain that was creative or at least creative for ME. I continued to edit, direct, do work, but suddenly, writing a blog seemed trite. Selfish. Indulgent. 

And yet, for the artist in me, there was that pressure to create. We finally had so much time, as we waited to see what the future would bring. Wasn’t this the perfect time to: Write that novel! Write that movie! Write that pilot for a tv series! Or even, at the very least, keep going on my blog! 

Well, ten months in, and I’ve barely been able to add an instagram post. How do you write cheery upbeat entries when so much crap is happening around you? And yet, isn’t that the point of writing; to take us out of ourselves and our current situation, if only for a paragraph or two? 

This next year, I’m going to keep writing. I need the space to reflect, to challenge myself, and hopefully, to bring even a tiny glimmer of relatability to others dealing with diabetes as a grown up. 

Here’s to a wonderful 2021! 

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