September has always felt like the “new year” to me, much more than the first of January, with its post summer holiday back-to-school feeling of everything starting over again. But this year, not so much. Of course this is in part due to Covid, but even last September felt more… hopeful?… with several tapas bars reopening after an extra long lockdown. It felt like things were getting better and people were still more or less pulling together. But I have to say that in these past twelve months I have been feeling more and more discouraged. Not so much by Covid, which is still proving to be a serious daily issue, but because people have been showing themselves to be… well, themselves. I do cling to the hope that there are still good people out there, simply because I know a few myself and so there must be more, but there are days when I truly despair.
But the way I feel most let down by this past year is how I’ve let myself down. I mean I knew – we all knew – that things weren’t about to get back to any semblance of “normal” until we had a vaccine, so I put off any chance of being able to work again until spring 2021 at the earliest (turns out my first tapas tour in 18 months will be this week). So I knew there was all this TIME there that needed filling. I looked at people I knew doing stuff like learning a new language, taking online courses, getting extra fit, and working on other various “self improvement” projects. Me? I did fuck all. And now I am rebooting my life again with nothing to show for the past year. Where did it go? Where did I go?
I have cut myself slack for those first six months when nobody really knew what was going on, and I admit that I kind of bottomed out a couple of times, feeling alone and overwhelmed by everything. But once last September came and there was talk of a vaccine on the horizon, with shops and restaurants were reopening, and people travelling again… wasn’t it time for me to pull myself together and get on with things? Especially as there was actually a whole year looming in which all I would have is time. Remember last January when I came up with The Schedule? Honestly, if that wasn’t a cry for help then I don’t know what. Having to schedule basic daily tasks just to make sure I got SOMETHING done during the day. What the hell is wrong with me?
There’s also the fact that I have barely slept for the past 18 months. I reckon I average about 3-5 hours a night, but hardly ever all together. This means lots of tossing and turning, phone scrolling in the wee hours, getting up and down, and then maybe catching another blessed hour of sleep after sunrise. Which means I am seldom up before 10 am and then most of my morning has gone after I’ve had coffee and pulled myself together again. Thing is, I keep thinking that I could have fought this, and I probably could have, if not “won”, at least done better. I could have improved my Spanish (which has deteriorated during lockdown simply because I never talk to anybody in Spanish), I could have lost some fucking weight, because I only had ALL DAY to get out and walk and stay active, and I could have worked on what I was actually going to do next in terms of work, once the Covid cloud cleared. I could have fought. Instead I languished.
I fucking languished.
I’ve often compared this whole pandemic experience to when I had cancer, which was something that actually helped me through the initial lockdown. I didn’t feel as constrained as others as I had already been through the whole not being able to go out thing, etc, but this time I wasn’t sick, so that actually felt like a bonus. I knew how to stay home, take my time, not push myself too much. But I never gave up back then. So why did I give up this time?
Anyhow, here it is September 1st. Again. The New Year. And I’m scared I’m just going to keep fucking things up. How are things going with you?
Really Shawn don’t beat yourself up over this! We did nothing very much either…..and I felt bad about not improving my Spanish, doing more to progress my Irish citizenship, cooking up a storm (though I did a bit of that in fits and starts), improving myself with new interests and skills. But no, we watched English language tv, lazed about on the terrace when the weather was good and had small walks on the beach when we were finally let out and indulged in a few lunches out…..which did nothing for the lockdown weight gain. But you know what, it got us through lockdown and the last year with only a few “ wobbly” moments! Not everyone is the same and not everyone has the same energy. It might be that, if we had done morewe would be feeling better about ourselves now. But it was fairly obvious that COVID was a world changing event like 9/11, and that it was going to be a marathon rather than a sprint. I am resigned to a quieter life than before but the essentials of good friends, good food, music and taking time to enjoy each day haven’t changed. Guess I am a tortoise not a hare!
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Well I also think it’s different for people like you and Paul who are retired and can live comfortably. I’ve got to reinvent myself once again and keep going, which adds to my stress considerably. All of the “not getting stuff done” is compounded by the fear of not making it in whatever “new normal” we end up living in. Otherwise I’d be happy to sit back and not worry about what I am achieving, because it wouldn’t be directly affecting my life. Bottom line is that I should have been working harder on the bottom line.
Deb Barnes said:
I sort of get where you’re coming from. My experience of 2020 was very different from yours as I was lucky to be able to work very effectively from home. This freed up around 2 hours a day just in commuting time, on top of which I got in the habit of only walking the dog in the evening (he was old, he didn’t need two walks with me home all day), so although I slept an extra hour every morning, I still had a good 1.5 hours a day of extra leisure time. Plus, because I didn’t feel like I was getting up at the crack of dawn all week, I got up earlier at the weekend so had more hours there. In effect, about 13-14 extra hours a week.
Fast forward to now, when I’m just back to being in the office full time, and I’m a stone heavier, MUCH less fit, my house needs maintenance, my garden is overgrown…it seems I also have languished.
You know what I accomplished last year? I discovered The Big Bang Theory last August and within three months I had managed to watch all 288 episodes – twice! I really wish I’d taken up a proper exercise regime and tried to improve my very sparse Spanish, but nope – I’ve watched a lot of TV and done a couple of jigsaws.
From about August last year it’s felt like the pandemic has been sucking the life out of me which makes it very difficult to motivate myself. I appreciate how lucky I am in my job situation, I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like for you 😦
Basically, we had one job in this pandemic year: make survival possible. For ourselves, for the people around us. Being terrified and surrounded by idiocy is not a recipe for a sabbatical. Sure, it seems as if oodles of uninterrupted, compulsory free time would be the ideal environment for heroic personal achievements. How heroic can you be when you’re getting five hours of sleep a night? (I know exactly what you mean.)
Thing is, just by hanging out on social media here and there you realize the world is full of people dunking on themselves for not writing a novel or losing 20 pounds or learning a new language. You’re not well groomed for these mental achievements on 5 hours of sleep and little physiological fact, lack of sleep steps on weight loss too.
We’re surviving. And I will never forgive the assholes who’ve spent the last18 months making it more difficult for us, by ignoring facts, by making ill-advised decisions affecting whole communities, by just being fucking selfish. They should be the ones beating themselves up. Whenever you feel that way towards yourself, roll it into a big ball and throw it at them through the Great Psychic Continuum. Maybe some of it will stick.