Looking Back, Looking Ahead
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!)
1/6/2021 07:01:03 am
My mom once told me as we were doing household chores together," As important as housework is, nothing is as important as socializing, because housework can always wait a bit. It will always be there. If you get a chance to meet with someone, or have drop-in-company, put housework aside for a day." Every now and then, I think about my mom's lesson. There's some irony in it durring this pandemic. If we'er lucky enough to socialize in person durring this pandemic, we must keep things sanitary by wearing masks and social distancing. Then we can go back home, spray alcohol on everything while house working, and drink a little alcohol too. :)
1/6/2021 07:34:05 am
Your mom was a wise woman, Tonya. Thanks for sharing the wisdom -- and levity!
1/6/2021 09:44:39 am
Your observations and reflections got me thinking of what I didn’t accomplish. There are many more things I did accomplish than didn’t. I did do more art, sewing, gardening and organizing the house. I didn’t learn more about herbs and herbal preparations. I did join an herbal community but haven’t used the resource much. I do want to learn more about the plants and their healing properties that are growing in my area. I also thought I would learn more about astrology, but that overwhelms me when I start to read about it. Thanks Nan 😉
1/8/2021 06:14:56 am
It sounds like you've made wonderful use of your time, Sue. And you still have interesting avenues to explore going forward. Thanks for taking time to reflect on the questions raised here.
1/6/2021 07:08:40 pm
I love this topic. It’s interesting to reflect on how others are asking themselves the same question ... how am I using my precious time and is this how I want to use my time? Although I’ve been faintly aware of the topic/question, this recent time of disruption and isolation crystallized its importance. I learned that when I am asking myself that question it means the answer is no. For example I recently had the choice to make work changes that would significantly increase my compensation. BUT it would also use a lot more of my time. Voila answer smacked me in the face :)
1/8/2021 06:18:16 am
That's a very insightful observation, Sandy -- that if you're asking whether a new direction or commitment is how you want to use your time, the answer is no. I have found that, too, in some situations. If there's internal tension, I usually know on some level what the right answer is for me. I just have to listen to my intuition or whatever that guiding force is.
1/10/2021 04:18:59 am
I shuddered when I saw the topic. When I look back, I don't feel I have been productive on many fronts. The one accomplishment was finishing my memoir after 4 plus years of writing it. But when COVID first hit, my mind could not focus on writing or much of anything. Baking yeast bread and making cinnamon rolls soon became my objective. Alas my dough never raised the way it was supposed to. I never went on to cinnamon rolls! I have enjoyed taking time to play in the kitchen making tasty meals. A plus when the restaurants were closed. Interesting topic, Nan. I enjoy reading the answers.
1/11/2021 06:19:15 am
Finishing your memoir was a HUGE accomplishment, Janet! And maybe you weren't satisfied with your breadmaking, but I saw pictures of some mighty tasty looking pizza and other good things. Whether or not we accomplished any of the things we thought we would, just making it through the past year is a big deal.
1/24/2021 12:45:20 pm
I never took for granted the luxury of safely spending time with the little grandsons. Helping my daughter by taking on as much as I could of homeschooling the five year old, was priority. The house is neater when they aren't here, but I feel like I'm just biding time. I've read comfort books (which include memoirs of course), I've completed sewing projects and am always knitting away my anxiety. I thought I'd enjoy doing a jigsaw puzzle featuring Creede, CO where our cabin is, but its become more of a chore than pleasure. I want sunshine and warm weather and enthusiasm for gardening!
On October 30, 1985,
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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.