In January 2020, I wrote about reflecting on 2019 as I looked forward to setting goals for 2020. (You can read that article here.) I was hoping to see my life with 20/20 vision this year.
Reflecting after the new year began, however, seemed like I missed the boat as it sailed into the new year. It felt too late, like I should have been looking at the year the last week of the year – not after the new year began. And so, this year, I am following my instincts: I am reflecting on 2020 as the year comes to a close.
WARNING: Reflection is messy, and so, as I write this, I want you to know that this article is messy in thought.
I STARTED with clear vision, but COVID entered my life and derailed my intentions.
- Writer groups stopped.
- Orchestra rehearsal and concerts vanished.
- Playing fiddle on The Square on the first Friday of the month was cancelled for a while.
- Our two month camping excursion plans came to a screeching halt as the rallies became cancelled and the dialysis centers closed their doors to transient patients.
With nothing else to do, I should have been able to deep clean, sell/donate items I haven’t used since we moved, moved items for crafts to the clean crafting storage area, and trashed all things that were just junk. In addition to deep cleaning, I was going to inventory the stuff in my house.
I should have been able to get this done because I was going nowhere – and neither was anyone else.
I have no one to blame here but myself that I didn’t accomplish my goals for 2020. I have no one to blame her but myself for letting a certain amount of depression set in.
2020 was a difficult year for most of us: COVID, financial stress, unemployment, political tension, tension from lack of human contact was the ruin of many people’s emotional well-being, physical well-being, and sense of unity. Lock-down – open up – lock-down. COVID case spikes and the media instilling a sense of panic. Many of us could call 2020 our “Year from Hell.”
As I reflect on 2020, however, I see that I learned (or rather realized) three important things about myself: too often, I have gone out in public when I have been sick because I had been conditioned over the years that being sick is no excuse to not participate in my job or life – I need to stay home when I feel sick; I need face-to-face human connection more than what the occasional trip to the store gives me; and finally, I need to light the fire of passion for every project I face so that I can see it through to completion.
But there were good things in 2020 as well. We did take our 7 week camping trip (I’ll write more on that later.), but it was a trip with social distancing. We did meet up with our former neighbors via a camping trip and reminisced over the campfire while enjoying moonshine. I did make a second trip back to my home town for a drive-by baby shower given for my twin grandsons who were born in December. Hubby was accepted and placed on the kidney transplant list (and now we wait). We cancelled our gym membership which we struggled to use even before COVID lock-downs and bought a elliptical machine.
My biggest take-away from everything that happened in 2020 was that I needed to de-clutter and eliminate from my home everything that I don’t use or want so that I will not be leaving the struggle for my kids. Since we live outside the city limits here in Tennessee, I opened an Etsy shop (Muletown Vintage) in December, and weekly, I am working slowly to stock it. (You can check out what I have available so far HERE.)
Moving forward to 2021
There are far too many organizational habits and trick I that I stopped following in 2020 that I am working to re-insert into my daily routine and habits.
LISTS: I used to make lists for EVERYTHING. I was going nowhere, and the groups I was involved in were not meeting. I didn’t feel I needed lists. As my hubby put it, I had all the time in the world to get everything done I thought that I needed to do. The only lists I really created and followed during 2020 was the packing list for our 7 week trip. December found me craving my old list making habits.
PLANS: At the beginning of 2020, I had some lose plans for my writing. Because I was less than focused, I faltered. I decided about half-way into November and National Novel Writing Month that I needed to go back to planning my writing projects like I used to write lesson plans.
LABEL: I have relocated my labeler and am now working on labeling what is stored in what box or tote.
CALENDAR: Because we had fewer appointments, group meetings, and get-togethers, my calendar seemed to be an unnecessary addition to my purse. I found, however, I missed out on webinars I signed up for because I had not put them into any calendar. I missed deadlines. I missed giving violin lessons to my one student because I would forget to enter the time into my calendar. NEVER AGAIN! My calendar (and not an online digital calendar) is now an essential part of my life.
MORNING PAGES: Thanks to Julia Cameron and her book The Artist’s Way, I am once again exploring morning pages on a consistent basis in my “Everything Notebook.” This notebook came about in my early days of teaching high school. I had a spiral notebook for each course I taught (that would be anywhere from 3 – 5 courses), a notebook for staff and department meetings, a notebook for theatrical productions and drama club, a notebook for my own personal life. It only took one slip, bringing the wrong spiral notebook to a department meeting, for me to say enough and move everything (notes, checklists, and plans) into one spiral notebook. (You can read more about the “Everything Notebook” HERE.)
REPEATING A MORNING AFFIRMATION: I began 2020 with a bang. I set a morning affirmation and said it to myself as I looked in the mirror every single morning. Then, I missed a day here and missed a day there. No worries. I’ll do it the next day. Sometimes the missed day moved to two or three days, and finally into weeks and ceased altogether.
THE 45/15 (or 60/30) DAY: My second year teaching, I found myself buried under stack after stack of assignments and essays to grade. It seemed as if the paperwork would never end. It was the research papers that nearly did me in. I’d slog through one after another and feel that I was never going to get all 60 or 90 of them read. I sat one night wondering how many I could actually complete in one hour or so. I stacked the papers by groups of five. I would do five papers before I would get up to do something else. I could do five. Then, it became the idea that I could sit and work on grades (think the years before you had computer grading programs) for 60 minutes before taking a break and maybe complete one of the five classes I needed to do progress reports or quarter grades for.
Two New “Hacks” I am Adding to 2021
In addition to reclaiming the above list of organizational “hacks” and tricks, I’m adding some new ones.
DRESS FOR THE DAY: Back in my personal high school years, my mother expected me to get up and get dressed for the day even if I was going nowhere. Since I retired from teaching in the classroom, I have found that there have been days where I throw on some jeans and a shirt and pad around in my bare feet. In fact, 2020 has had me wearing the same six or seven shirts over and over again. I need to get back to dressing for the day: That means to choose my clothes for the day with thought and make sure to include socks, shoes, and jewelry. In my mom’s teachings, the better you dress, the better you feel.
PICK UP FOR 10 MINUTES BEFORE BED: I have started sometime after 9:00 pm to make my rounds of the house and pick up the clutter so that I wake to clean surfaces. It feels good to wake the next day and feel like I complete the day before.
Two “Hacks” I will NEVER Adopt or Re-adopt
MAKE MY BED FIRST THING IN THE MORNING: I know there are a number of self-improvement gurus that stress the importance of making your bed as the first accomplishment of the day. I learned, instead, from my grandmother that it is best to let the bed air out and make it after breakfast and your shower. Up until 2015, I tried to make the bed in the morning, but in November that year, I gave up. I’ll make a bet that none of the self-improvement gurus have a dog that likes to nest in a freshly made bed. It never fails that when I make my bed in the morning, my plott hound/pit bull mix jumps up and pulls on the comforter and the sheets and creates a nest around him. Even when I make the bed right before going to bed, I have to watch him so he doesn’t undo my job.
EXERCISE FIRST THING IN THE MORNING: Although this may change since the elliptical resides in my bedroom, I enjoy the quiet of the morning to gather my thoughts, sip my coffee, and write my morning pages. Exercise comes as a break from sitting at my desk and writing – either right before lunch or before I get started preparing dinner. Does that take away from my success during the day? I don’t think so.