Just a year ago I wrote with excitement about Ringing in the New Year: Kettlebells and Lyrical Prose. Looking back, that was a time of innocence, before COVID, before Dan’s cancer treatments ceased working, before George Floyd’s death, before Trump was acquitted of the very crime he has just committed, again, this time in Georgia not Ukraine.
That was a time when life had a certain structure, a predictability, a schedule. I hoped that with practice I could master my gym’s new 45KG kettlebell, just as I hoped that with consistency I could hoist my blog from obscurity to a respectable if modest following. I hoped to finish the first draft of my memoir, applying the same diligence to working on it that I displayed in the gym. Instead, 2020 put me through a different kind of strength training.
I’ve been humbled, not by a failure to lift 45KG, but by my need to step away from goals, schedules, outward measures of success. I’ve always been dogged, terrier-like, just the same as this guy. But as we all know, things changed radically beginning in March, especially for those of us in New York City. My writing class began to meet via Zoom, my gym closed and for nearly four months I only left my apartment to walk the dog in beautiful Riverside Park along the Hudson.
At first, I was energized during quarantine, believing as did so many of us that if I could just keep going until summer things would go back to some version of “normal.” I didn’t blog as often as I wanted to, but I made great strides in research for my book, wrote three new chapters, revised several and kept up a modified version of my exercise routine.
And then August happened. Dan’s health took a dramatic turn for the worse, I sprained a knee, then suffered what became a series of migraines. One extended family medical situation after another ensued, but at least no-one got COVID.
However, I, whose motto has been for years “Trish gets it done” — the gal who never missed a deadline, always showed up on time, handled every bump in the road with a smile — found that forcing myself to pretend that things were “normal” wasn’t working. Trying to do it all, be it all, just as in “the before times,” was really weighing me down. I needed to back off. To take a break from being who I have always been. To admit that life, right now, is hard as hell.
Lifting the weight of expectation, of habit, of the need to be perfect, of the anxiety and guilt that has threatened my equilibrium in these last months has been the hardest strength training I have attempted in recent memory.
I’m trying to cut myself a break, to escape the guilt that I feel for not responding quickly (or sometimes at all) to comments, emails, texts, phone calls. I feel the weight of that guilt every bit as much as if it were that 45KG kettlebell. But I am trying to lift it.
I’ve pared down my life. Instead of continuing with my writing class, I am working on my memoir at my own pace, not needing to present chapters at a predetermined schedule. I’ve taken the time I would have used reading the work of others to plan out a course of action for myself, with the full understanding that I can change it as circumstances dictate. I’ve turned off email notifications on WordPress and pared down my subscription lists. I’m allowing myself to post at a frequency that meets my bandwidth.
For all of us, 2020 will have been the year that changed so much of what we thought was immutable, testing our resilience, our perseverance, our equilibrium. Because I wish to be fully present in 2021, savoring each day with the one I love, I am choosing to do less in order to be more. One of my wise yoga teachers always reminded us as he sensed our stress rushing into class, “Slow down, you are a human being not a human doing.” May all of my readers find less stress and more joy in each day of this new year.