I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that 2020 has been the weirdest, craziest, scariest, most existentially-challenging, emotionally-draining year of my life.
A lot of bad things have happened and, at times, whilst caught in a Matrix-style existential mindset, I’ve become convinced that I’ve probably been living in an unpublished Lemony Snicket novel without being aware of it.
The whole year has felt like an extension of that strange period between Christmas and New Year when you lose all track of time and end up eating an excessive amount of chocolate whilst engaging in a nostalgic Julie Andrews movie marathon because you’ve forgotten your purpose in life, there’s nothing else to do and at least Julie seems happy about things.
It takes one crazy year to mess with both the foundations of society and the concept time itself and it’s a bit weird to think that it’s coming to an end, almost like stepping out of some surreal alternate reality.
Months, weeks and days have melded into one another and become one long unstructured mass of time and, looking back, it’s hard to believe that I’ve achieved anything or done anything significant.
As a result, I thought it would be useful to write a post to remind myself that I have done some things this year, aside from of sitting on a sofa in my oldest tattiest hoody, staring into the existential abyss whilst stoically making my way through a family size bag of Doritos.
LIST OF 2020 ACHIEVEMENTS SOME THINGS I’VE DONE
- Survived 365 surreal, weird, stressful 2020 days.
2. Watched several of Boris Johnson’s ‘addressing the nation’ speeches and only considered punching the TV once or twice (exhibiting considerable emotional control).
3. Recovered from a spiraling Amazon addiction after realising that buying loads of things to help with stress (candles, incense sticks, meditation journals etc.) was only making me more stressed about the state of the high street and also the state of my bank account.
4. Managed to keep in touch with most of my friends, despite being confronted with my own face on Zoom more than I would have liked.
5. Didn’t shave my legs for the entirety of Lockdown 1.0.
6. Didn’t wear a bra for the entirety of Lockdown 1.0.
7. Briefly considered wearing a bra when going to the supermarket…
8. … and then didn’t (I’m sure that’s feminism or something… and by ‘something’ I mean extreme laziness).
9. Became closer to nature by taking lots of relaxing walks in the park.
10. Became closer to my dogs by taking several distinctly less relaxing walks in the park.
11. Ran out of perfume and avoided buying more from Amazon by discovering a cheaper alternative.
12. Learnt to juggle (3 balls, not general life responsibilities)
13. Shaved my brother’s head and briefly considered becoming a barber. #RethinkReskillReboot
14. Resisted a sudden impulsive urge to shave my own head whilst bored and looking for something to do.
15. Briefly tried to eat more healthily to counter an increased amount of sedentary sofa time but then decided that it was a difficult time and I deserved to treat myself.
16. Did yoga like 10 times and only broke one item of furniture in the process.
17. Discovered a brand new way of burning calories.
18. Discovered a new comeback that has proved useful for whenever I get yelled at by groups of youths in the street.
19. Got bored and built a really tall tower out of used toilet rolls.
20. Took up mindfulness and meditation and stuck with it even though my body seemed intent on conspiring against me.
21. Survived several mental breakdowns.
23. Had more time to write and draw (it may have been an awful year but at least I’ve got a few decent cartoons out of it!)
All in all, I may have entered 2020 with a fresh rush of energy and a resolve to strive to become the best version of myself that I possibly could be. And I may now be ending it by dragging a significantly less impressive version of myself towards the finish line.
But, all things considered, I reckon that is the biggest achievement I could have hoped for.
In 2016, I spent six months working on an outdoor education camp in Canada.
In the Spring season, the site was often rented out by various groups of people who wanted to use the camp’s natural beauty as the backdrop for their events.
As a result, in May, I found myself working on a weekend Yoga Retreat full of people who had found their chackras and could bend their bodies into a variety of complex positions.
At one point, I remember talking to a man who informed me that setting time aside time to connect with his inner self had enabled him to gain control of his mind and banish negativity from his life – or, as he put it, to ‘tell all that sadness and self-doubt crap to piss off’.
The man in question had dreadlocks and was wearing a ‘Live, Breath, Yoga’ singlet so I decided that he was probably a reliable source of wisdom.
I’ve never really been the kind of person who particularly likes spending time with myself but, like most people, I’ve had significantly more free time in 2020 and I thought that it might be useful to spend some of that time attempting to improve my connection with my inner spiritual world.
So I started meditating in April, full-on expecting to have some sort of transcendent experience where I would suddenly feel at one with myself and the universe.
However, my first few meditation sessions were quite underwhelming – as far as I was aware, nothing happened.
I felt slightly disheartened – I had actively attempted to get in touch with my inner self and it seemed I had been put on hold.
This feeling wasn’t helped by the fact that the meditation music I was listening to sounded a lot like the sort of music that often plays when you’re put on hold in what I can only imagine is a vain attempt to make you less likely to get stressed and swear down the phone.
Despite this, I decided to push onwards with meditation, reasoning to myself that nothing worthwhile is ever easy and that the transcendent joy of being at one with my inner self would be worth it in the end.
I guess I assumed that my inner self would be this wise oracle who, once found, would help me transcend above the concerns and stresses of everyday life into a state of zen-like peace.
A few weeks into lockdown, I started to become aware of a part of myself that I hadn’t noticed before.
I was initially excited and intrigued, thinking that I had finally got in contact with my inner self.
However, if I had, she was in no way the peaceful oracle-like being I was expecting her to be.
In fact, if anything my inner self more closely resembled a moody teenager who wholeheartedly resented living under my roof and, needless to say, wasn’t as sold on the concept of working towards meditative enlightenment as I was.
Although my spiritual awakening wasn’t going as smoothly as I had hoped, I kept trying to get in touch with my inner self, thinking that eventually she would open up to me.
However, the more I tried to connect with her, the more I irritated she became.
I had dragged her out of my subconscious against her will and she was NOT happy with it.
As lockdown dragged on and I spent more and more time with my inner self, our relationship started to feel quite tense and I noticed that I was reacting to setbacks in an emotionally dramatic way.
Anything, from receiving a job rejection to dropping a piece of toast butter side down, would make me irrationally upset.
I felt like I starting to lose control over my inner self.
It is strange and unsettling to feel like you are being bossed around by a grumpy teenage version of yourself but I tried my best to be mindful about the whole situation.
I decided that I would sit quietly with my inner self and try and have a calm, logical conversation about how she was feeling.
It soon became apparent that maintaining any form of calm logical dialogue with my inner self was going to be a near impossibility.
Instead, I thought that I would try strengthening my connection with her by engaging in a variety of relaxing hobbies.
Unfortunately, she didn’t seem as committed to the activities as I was.
Dragging my inner self through a series of mindfulness activities made me feel inauthentic and, as a result, my ability to reach a state of meditative calmness was compromised.
Eventually, I decided to leave my inner self to her own devices and instead tried to focus on everyday practicalities.
I thought that if I tried to get on with my life in the way that I had before, she would eventually calm down and my mental state would return to normal
However, as soon as I tried to concentrate on anything, she seemed to experience an inexplicable urge to hang out with me, distracting me from whatever I was doing with a seemingly endless stream of irrelevant and anxiety provoking information.
All things considered, spending more time with my inner self this year hasn’t been the easiest thing in the world.
Just as spend you can only spend so much time in another person’s company before you start to get on each others nerves, spending too much time with yourself can cause things to become a bit tense.
Being a human is complex, confusing and not always comfortable, especially this year and, for me, things became a bit easier when I stopped trying so hard to force my inner self to behave and communicate with me in the zen-like way I expected her to.
Maybe being in touch with your inner self isn’t about achieving a state of eternal chackric calm; maybe it is more about accepting your inner self exactly as they turn up, no matter how annoying they may be.
I’m not very good at dating
This is for several reasons.
First of all, flirting does not come naturally to me.
For me, flirting is one of the most awkward and contradictory forms of communication that you can engage in as a human being – you are trying to play it incredibly cool whilst simultaneously caring intensely about what the other person thinks of you.
Under these conditions, my brain tends to short circuit and I normally end up with something that is the complete antithesis of cool spurting involuntarily from my mouth.
I also spent a lot of my teenage years reading teen romance novels and watching period dramas and, as a result, my expectation of love is unrealistically high.
Although I feel I have matured a lot since my Twilight days, some part of me still expects a potential romantic partner to declare their feelings for me in an elaborate display of affection, something involving a series heartfelt handwritten letters or a moonlit guitar serenade.
Unfortunately, the language of love nowadays instead seems to consist mainly of a series of strategically constructed WhatsApp messages – I always feels like I’m playing a highly tactical game which normally ends with me lying awake at night, debating whether I should substitute an ‘X’ at the end of a message for a generic smiley face emoji to avoid coming on too strong.In addition to my general inability to engage in romantic communication, I also have quite a severe nut allergy which means that I have to be careful before I kiss anyone to make sure that they don’t have any traces of nuts in their mouth.
Needless to say, this doesn’t do much for creating an atmosphere of spontaneous romance.
In an ideal world, I guess it would be easiest if I could find someone who also has a nut allergy, partly because we would understand each other’s dietary needs, but mostly because I’ve been waiting for years for an opportunity to use the phrase:
Overall, I don’t really mind being allergic to nuts that much.
I mean it kind of sucks that I can’t eat certain things, like Nutella for example, mostly because everyone’s always telling me how good Nutella is.
I was once seeing a guy and things were going quite well until we walked past a Crepe stand on a date and he asked if I wanted to share a Strawberry and Nutella crepe with him.
I told him that I couldn’t eat Nutella and he looked at me with an expression of raw shock and anguish, as if I’d just told him that one of my close relatives had died.
As I was speaking, I saw it slowly dawn on him that he couldn’t eat Nutella in the afternoon and then get off with me in the evening – the two thing things couldn’t co-exist in the same reality and he would have to choose.
To cut a long story short, he chose Nutella.
A few weeks later, one of my friends came to me upset because her boyfriend had left her for another girl.
This, of course, was awful and terrible thing to have happened but I found it hard to feel too much sympathy for her.
I mean, at least her ex left her for another sentient being…
One month into quarantine and self-isolation is really starting to get to me.
I know this because this weekend I found myself watching classic Christmas romcom ‘Love Actually’ in April.
You know you have too much time on your hands when you find yourself watching a young Thomas Brody-Sangster legging it across an airport whilst crying into a bowl of Doritos because you’ve got bugger all chance of finding yourself in an airport departure lounge for the foreseeable future.
I’m finding romcoms quite difficult to watch in general at the moment because they really drive home the fact that my own love life has taken a massive nosedive since lockdown started.
Finding true love is hard enough in regular life, let alone when your search has been somewhat impeded by the fact that you’re confined to your house 24/7 and spend the majority of your time in sweatpants and your old school leaver’s hoody from 2012 – needless to say, I’m not exactly exuding irresistible goddess vibes at the moment.
Times just aren’t as exciting as they used to be but I suppose we all have to remain mindful and make sure that we’re still appreciating the small things in life.
For instance, we currently have an adequate supply of loo roll in the house, something that would have seemed inconceivable this time last month.
After all, in the words of Hugh Grant, if you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspiscion that loo roll actually is all around…