Today I want to tell you what I did to feel better.

Home isolation has its ups and downs. One day you’re flying high and cleaning the baseboards with a Q-tip, and the next day you’re drinking tequila and watching squirrels out the window. There is no in-between.

I didn’t create those two sentences (and I can’t find who did) but, I could have if I wasn’t so damn busy watching squirrels and streaming Fleabag on Amazon Prime.

The days when I’m flying high when I write, remember to shut all the burners off, remove the half-eaten rawhide stuck on my sock, and retrieve the warmed-up coffee in the microwave instead of leaving it for two days, I think to myself, Finally! I’ve got this pandemic-quarantine-work-from-home thing figured out. Whew!

Then, a thief in the night steals my energy and I wake, pick up a paper clip, and think, yeah, that’s all I’ve got.

A little fatigue and lack of motivation would be fine if I could let it go at that. But, I don’t. I pick at myself like an itchy mosquito scab, like a hang-nail, like a popcorn kernel stuck in my molar. I don’t allow low productivity days for Ann Garvin. I’m not kind to myself when my energy goes belly-up.

As my friend, and because you are a nice person, you might ask. “Why?” And then you would probably say to me, “If I confessed being too wobbly to work you would support me, tell me to take a nap, slip eucalyptus leaves under my door while wearing a mask. You would not berate me.”

I’d say, “You’re right,” and I’d stop picking at myself for a minute and feel better. But then one of my other writer friends might text they wrote 2000 words and made the New York Times Bestseller List when showering. Showering…remember that? Sigh.

I am a result of the productivity culture and being quarantined has highlighted this in a particularly pushy way. We can talk about the misery of feeling like what I get done is who I am  … but not today.

Today I want to tell you what I did to feel better.

I stopped moving and I sat in my writing room. It was fifty degrees and raining outside. I had one swollen gland under my jaw for some unknown reason, and my hip hurt because I danced on that one-energy day, aggressively wiggling to Club Can’t Handle Me which irritated my joint (and my dog and my daughter). I was waiting for my COVID test to come back (I’m negative!!) and my dog had just barfed on my newish carpet.

And then, out of the ether, my mother’s voice came to me. She said, “Annie, what if you decided to enjoy this moment?” (More of my mom here)

That’s it. Just that. My mom had quiet, to-the-point wisdom when she was alive. I miss her. To be clear, what my mom was saying was that I should shoot for enjoyment and if I land in just ok that’s enough.

Relief washed over me. She was telling me I have a choice: I can decide to harass myself or I can decide to enjoy this up-and-down thing called life.

I get to pick.

I get to decide.

I don’t have to be a dick to myself on days that I’m unproductive.

I don’t have to support the anxiety that creeps in when I’m not getting my stuff done.

I always get my stuff done and if I don’t, it probably wasn’t important.

I can trust myself. I can feel better.

Then I found this book, The Buddhist on Death Row: How One Man Found Light in the Darkest Place. It’s about Jarvis Marsh who was on death row, in solitary confinement, for two decades who found peace with his thoughts.

If he can do it in San Quentin in the hole for twenty years, I, Ann Garvin, can find peace in my bedroom with my dog and favorite pillows. I can’t fix my ups and downs but I can decide how I think about them. You’ve heard this before. But the question that took me there was….Annie, what if you decide to enjoy this moment?

And I thought, yeah. What if?

Before you scoff because enjoying life when it’s super hard is not on anyone’s radar, as Jarvis Marsh knows better than all of us. But, he found a way.

So, I gave it a try and I did, in fact, did feel better in moments in all of their imperfections; moments that would have worn on me in the past.

I’ve decided next time picking up a paper clip wears me out I’m going to call you and chat about my glands and then take a nap with my lovely pillows and remember my beautiful wise mother. Maybe I’ll read a book or maybe I’ll just stare at the clouds. Let me know if you want to join me.