Things That Helped Ease 2020

The year 2020 will go down in history as a tough one for so many people. It seems like everyone I meet has a difficult story. Some people have lost jobs. Others have lost loved ones. Still others live alone and feel the loneliness and lack of in-person contact, while some people working at home with kids have experienced overwhelming amounts of stress.

My own journey has included caring for loved ones with serious, debilitating and life-threatening illnesses, the death of my mother-in-law and a close friend, working in crisis communications during a pandemic and months of physical therapy for chronic wrist problems aggravated by a fall.

Despite the difficulties this year has presented, looking back I am grateful for the things that got me through 2020. I would love to know what helped you survive last year.

Here are some of the things that got me through:

Nature: Being in nature almost every day, whether for a walk on the trail near my house or farther afield, reminded me that the world continues on, no matter what is happening in my small corner of the universe.

Movement: Putting one foot in front of the other, working up a sweat, everything from yoga and dance to walking and swimming, exercise helped improve my mood and keep me calm.

Meditation: I made habit of meditating for 10 minutes on most days this year. I found that the feeling of calm often followed me into the rest of my day.

Pets: My cat and dog have been my constant companions, and I have become even closer to both of my furry friends. I play with the cat and take long walks with the dog almost every day.

Family and Friends: Virtual walk and talks. Visits with people within our bubble, back when it was possible to have a bubble. Physically distanced but in-person chats with colleagues. Knocks on the door with cookies and eggs left on the doorstep followed by a cheery conversation. The moments I spend with others lift my spirits and make me realize how much I miss that daily contact. Special bonus: my relationship with my husband has only become stronger during this most stressful year.

Reading: I read 52 books in 2020 – a book every week. Books have expanded my horizons, opened my imagination, made me laugh and cry and grow. I owe a debt of gratitude to my mom, my aunt, my neighbor and a dear friend who all sent me books this year. And a special thanks goes to my daughter-in-law, who got me a Book of the Month Club membership for Mother’s Day.

One of my favorite reads of the year.

Music: I began listening to more music on Spotify this year. I also bought a well-used piano and I’m now re-creating the music I learned as a child and teenager. Creating and listening to music has brought me great joy.

Gardening: I planted a summer vegetable garden and harvested tomatoes, butternut squash and bell peppers. I also put in my first winter garden, with lettuce, kale, spinach and broccoli.

Food: I discovered some food limitations in 2019 and became a pescatarian in 2020. Both events inspired me to try new recipes in 2020, most of which turned out to be delicious.

Greek lentil and spinach soup – great for chilly days.

Vegging: Some weekends, it was all I could do to get out of bed. Getting out of pajamas felt like too much. I let it happen, from binge-watching shows to reading a whole book to laying in a hammock and napping in the sun. Vegging helps.

Vegging done right – cup of tea, comfy slippers, manatee socks and Hello Kitty pajamas.

Zoom: That much-maligned meeting platform has an up side. I hosted a surprise birthday party for my cat the day she turned a year old. Sure, she ignored all of us, but family and friends came through and we had an enjoyable time visiting. I also planned a surprise Zoom birthday party for my husband and a Zoomsgiving. We were able to bring people together from Florida, North Carolina, California, New York and Washington State. Curt and I even played the board game Pandemic with friends who live 1500 miles away.

TV series/movies: My husband and I made our way through The Americans, Fleabag, Schitt’s Creek, The Queen’s Gambit and countless movies. I also caught up to the end of the current season of The Crown.

Correspondence: I increased my letter writing this year, and enjoyed renewing the feeling of connection through correspondence. I found fun cards and stationery and looked forward to checking the mailbox once again.

Laughter and tears: Sometimes I need a good laugh. Sometimes I need a good cry. Sometimes it might be both at the same time. I let the emotions flow as they will; it’s what will get me through this.

Laughter pictured – I will spare you an image of the ugly cry.

Looking back, I feel fortunate to have had multiple opportunities for comfort and joy this past year, despite all the sadness. I hope that you did too, and that you can find some in the year to come.

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