Last Sunday evening, as per my usual cool kid routine, I sat down to organize my planner for the week. It’s a whole thing — the colored pens come out, lists from the previous weeks make an appearance to be condensed into one space, and by the end I am feeling so full of organized life that I can’t help but scoop the cats up for a dance party.
Typically this is how it goes but last Sunday, with my colored pens and lists at the ready, I realized I didn’t really have anything to fill in my time after work. And then my brain immediately turned into this …
It was like a dam broke. Looking across the barren lines of my planner, usually ripe with after work calls or happy hours with friends or project roadmaps, I felt myself hesitant to fill it all in, suddenly hyperaware of the fact that I had taken little time in the last two months to just be.
I probably don’t need to put it on the record that I am someone who isn’t great at taking it easy. I often think I’m taking it easy and then proceed to realize otherwise when met with my family’s confused expressions when I tell them about my day. Now being at home so much more, I’ve been constantly trying to find the line between productivity and self-care, when to motivate myself to be productive because it feels good and when to take my foot off the gas and switch off.
This time has also led to me realize that previously, I have had a very select description of what I considered productive. Deadlines, emails, writing, cleaning, phone calls = productive. Drawing, baking, reading, yoga, music, nothing = Not productive. Now, my priority is taking time to be present in things, to give them and myself space to breathe, to do things just for the joy of it.
That Sunday night, I cried. A lot. I cried onto my cats, I cried sitting on the floor, I cried in the shower. I cried thinking about how much I missed aspects of my life before Covid and how selfish that felt. I cried over all the horrifying racism and discrimination and senseless violence happening in this country, and for those other acts of violence happening daily that go unpunished because they were not filmed or reported on nationally. I cried because I want Fitz to stop scratching the sofa and because I miss my loved ones and because it’s hard work at times keep my brain from guilting itself into being over-productive as a coping mechanism. And I cried because sometimes all you can do is have a good cry and start again. If this is you right now, I’m sending you lots of love. Make sure you drink water once your eyes have lost enough water pressure because lord knows you’re about to be real dehydrated.
To my own surprise, even after all the crying, I closed my planner and left the space blank — a relatively un-revolutionary move for anyone not currently wearing two pairs of socks with a cat named Hem sitting on their lap. Each day I’ll fill in something after work to look forward to — whether that be a call with friends or baking or a reading night — but otherwise I am just letting it breathe. It feels good.
Through these months of self isolating, I have been learning more and more the importance of the little things. Right now especially, the little things are the big things and this week, I’ve tried to slow down enough to really experience them. While the problems of the world can easily overwhelm with their magnitude, I am reminding myself daily of the things I can control, turning down the static of the world and focusing, when I can, on little joys — like these:
- Making loose leaf ice tea from different teas I’ve bought or been gifted from around the world. The act of pouring myself a mug full and sipping it while reading before work on the couch feels so gloriously delicious.
- My hand wash rack that has been the most game changing thing during self isolation.
- Photographing wall murals and street art along the streets of my neighborhood where I’ve walked a million times and never taken notice.
- Going on walks. Short, long, in my neighborhood, in the park, over to Victor’s — after months of being asked to stay inside, every opportunity to safety get out feels like a gift.
- Having a homemade dessert on-hand to snack on after dinner or around 3 p.m. when the work dregs set in.
- A stocked fridge.
- Taking time to really enjoy the barrage of cat love I receive from waking up in a cat hug to falling asleep with a cat on my pillow and another cat on my feet.
- Sitting down to ready the newsletters I subscribe to and all those “to be read” articles open on abandoned tabs.
- Standing in front of my bookshelves and choosing my new book.
- The personalized care packages my family have been sending me with my favorite treats and teas and random books appearing at my door.
- Mailing homemade cards and birthday gifts to friends.
- Baby Yoda memes.
- Friday nights after work, now being able to walk over to Victor’s to cook a new recipe that we debated about all week and watching a new movie.
- Playing Animal Crossing: New Horizon for hours.
- Taking actual breaks during my work day and going for a walk or reading or staring out the window.
- Finishing a deadline or getting to check an item off my (achievable) to do list.
- Receiving thinking of you texts from friends and making thinking of you calls in return.
- Clearing out my closet and under-the-bed storage.
- Coffee cake and lemon bars.
- The sun and sometimes, even the rain.
- Putting on mascara and spraying perfume.
- Sitting down and watching new shows without distraction. Same with reading.
- The hand-knitted socks Amy made me.
- The taco truck reappearing on Union.
- Glimpses of the city from across the river.
- Getting to go on socially distanced walks with a friend — can anything beat that?
- Sliding into bed, Hem jumping up to sleep on my chest, and reading snuggled in between the blankets.