Around mid-December, a friend posed this question on Facebook: What’s something that you thought you’d do this year during your changed world due to the pandemic, but turns out you didn’t do?
She got things rolling with her own confession that she’d intended to learn and practice tai chi using a DVD that had been recommended, but after trying it couple times, she never returned to the practice.
In the comments under her post, a few other people said they’d planned to learn something new—a language or a skill like baking bread—or spend more time doing something they already enjoyed, like painting. Or something they perhaps didn’t enjoy so much—working out, for instance—but resolved to do. Yet even in their changed worlds, days filled up with routine tasks like bill-paying, yard work, and household chores, on top of which some had the added responsibility of teaching homebound children.
Then there were those who were sure they’d use their extra home-time to finally get organized. Garages, closets, storerooms all would be neat and orderly by the end of 2020. That didn’t always happen, either. Turns out those tasks are no less tedious when you have time for them than when you’re occupied with other things.
I made that discovery myself. After an initial blitz of cleaning out cabinets, drawers, and closets, culling stuff, stuff, and more stuff, I hit a wall. Or maybe it was that warm weather arrived, and outdoor projects had more appeal.
About those outdoor projects: there again, I had big plans for finishing the landscaping we’ve been trying over the past few summers to complete. I did make progress, but finish? Nope. Maybe next summer.
What about you? What became of your intentions for 2020? What got done, and what got left undone? Does the answer to that question reflect a shift in priorities, or merely an adjustment to reality?
My answer to that last question is, a little of both. Working on my novel-in-progress became a higher priority than cleaning out every last file drawer. Organizing Zoom readings of my memoir took precedence over reorganizing my wardrobe. And some days, watching movies, playing Scrabble, or going for a long drive with Ray—compensating for the concerts, readings, and other live events we could no longer attend—felt more important than accomplishing anything at all.
Now, a new year lies ahead, but life isn’t likely to return to normal (whatever form that takes) for at least another few months. So how to spend the remainder of our reconfigured time? Tackle more tasks or take advantage of these more spacious days to let our imaginations wander and our creative impulses reign?
I gave some thought to that question as 2020 wound down. While I had no trouble coming up with lists of household projects to finish and other business to take care of, I realized my choices for the past year pointed to the way forward for the next. The things that yielded satisfaction—writing and other creative work, keeping in touch with friends, spending time with Ray—are the things I want to devote the most time and energy to.
Not that I’ll ignore the rest. Checking off mundane tasks brings its own kind of satisfaction. But this time next year, I have a feeling the number of chores I’ve crossed off won’t matter nearly as much as the kind of contentment that comes from creativity and connection. (Oh, hey, that sounds like a catchy tagline for a blog!)
Written from the heart,
from the heart of the woods
Read the introduction to HeartWood here.
Nan Sanders Pokerwinski, a former journalist, writes memoir and personal essays, makes collages and likes to play outside. She lives in West Michigan with her husband, Ray.