No year in my lifetime has been simultaneously as unifying and divisive as 2020. I’ve been immensely fortunate with the opportunities in 2020 — the time to pause and take care of myself, the ability to pivot from event-based activities to remote creative work, and the blessing of reflection and partnership with my husband, Alexander.
I’ve learned more about myself in the last year than I have in many years — some of if deeply personal, some of it painfully obvious — all of it adding to my core in a way that I hope to carry with me for the rest of my life.
Anything can happen
This learning probably sounds unremarkably obvious for everyone reading. The move into our RV in 2018 prepared me for both welcome and unwelcome surprises and made it absolutely necessary to have a go-with-the-flow attitude, as we raced briskly down the highway attempting to score the last spot inside a national park without a reservation or driving through thick desert roughage and spending the night in a parking lot to have a beach-front view for Easter.
When lockdowns began in March and Alexander and I made the decision to quarantine, we were each running our own businesses, my primary work relying on in-person events with creators and nonprofits. This work was very quickly halted as we indefinitely postponed a few events, and I pivoted my work to focus on freelance design, development, and marketing for purpose-driven organizations and businesses. I’ve been built relationships, friendships, and grown a new business with purpose and passion, while developing opportunities for other creators.
Even Limitless was impacted. Limitless was intended to be a print magazine distributed to doctors, community organizations, and others supporting those with Rheumatoid Arthritis. However, during this uncertain time when skimming magazines at a doctor’s office can be treacherous, we decided to bring the content found in the print magazine to a digital format. Now, more people than ever can participate in the Limitless community.
Plans are important, but they can change. Being willing to accept and embrace the unknowns in life has allowed me to live more freely.
Hobbies are different for everyone
During the height of quarantine, people were picking up instruments, woodworking, home brewing, and gardening. Friends were participating in baking and art classes online and other physical hobbies, hobbies that I have never really had. I sat myself down to better understand what my hobbies are and what I do to bring myself joy and feed my soul. My answer to this was, and always has been, to learn and to process what I learn through writing. Sometimes that is an online course and notes meant only for myself, sometimes that is a documentary and a journalistic piece I share with others, sometimes that is a fictional book that inspires my own short story.
Hobbies look different for everyone, it doesn’t all have to be bread baking and crafting.
In our society, appearing busy and not having time to eat or sleep is admired. That and for other more personal reasons, I’ve always viewed naps as an indulgence of the sick or weak. To be healthy, we must forge on, suck it up, and do more. That doesn’t mean I didn’t take naps on weekends or when particularly ill, but I did feel shame with frequent napping. After engaging with the chronic illness community and embracing an even more flexible schedule, a daily nap doesn’t feel like a lazy or shameful activity, but a form of self-care, a way to recharge and refresh your body for the work and life you want to pursue. I’ve found that with a nap, I wake up feeling ready to take on the world and my body thanks me.
So, take the damn nap.
I wrote a few posts during our time quarantining about helpful ingredients, particularly shelf-stable food items that could be purchased easily online, during the food shortages in the spring. It has been clear to me, as with many of you, that diet matters and is the easiest way to control inflammation, gut health, and overall wellness.
However, I learned that food is much more to me than a way to better physical health, it is critical to mental health. Throughout spring and summer, Alexander and I had trouble accessing ingredients in a safe way, so we were limited to very few fresh ingredients and whatever we could easily get delivered to our door. Not having a variety of ingredients, not being able to choose our meals, not being able to cook creatively together was a huge loss during the early weeks of quarantine.
Food plays a big role in our lives that can alter mood.
Be a human
During the last nine months, we’ve seen more of others’ humanity, whether it be through civic action or medical care, bringing food to those in need or being invited inside someone’s home via a video call. In many cases, we have given each other grace. We have given each other the time and space to process and to react, to heal and to grow.
In April, I opened up to friends about my Rheumatoid Arthritis. One of the first questions that I received was asking how someone should speak with me about my illness. I didn’t have an answer and I pondered this off and on for several months. I felt the weight of it. I couldn’t pinpoint how I wanted someone to address my illness, whether I wanted them to ask me about it or not, whether I wanted them to consider it when planning an activity or to disregard my illness entirely. I wondered if I was simply being difficult.
Eventually I realized, I just wanted to be treated as a human, just like you interact with any other human in any other scenario. If someone asks me how I am, it should be acceptable for me to tell them one day, and to kindly let them know that I don’t wish to speak about it the next. We’re all fickle, we all have subjects that at times should not be broached, but we interact as humans and listen to our friends and their cues.
My answer — be a human, and I’ll be a human too.
Stolen from Alexander, as the world was beginning to open back up this summer, he mentioned to our friends that he planned to “unpause purposefully.” We used our time in quarantine to better curate our lives by eliminating, as best we could, the work and the behaviors that we detested, and by introducing work, behavior, hobbies, and schedules that brought us joy. Knowing that this time of quarantine wouldn’t be forever, and that the normal pace of the world would once again engage, we wanted to find a way to unpause with purpose and move forward with purpose, not losing all that we had gained during a strange year.