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.
Your mom was a dear friend of mine. We taught together at the U of Mary Dept of Nursing. She was indeed wise and compassionate. Your writing reflects a wonderful light-hearted ness and reinforces an important message of being compassionate toward oneself. So relevant.
Hello! I know you taught together and you were her dear, dear friend. Thank you for saying so. Anytime you’d like to chat please send me an email. email@example.com. Not many people left who really knew her like you did. xo
Thank you for your candidness and splash of humor! Sometimes it’s ok to just be. Chin up and cheers!
This came at the perfect moment. My life is so freakin’ good with the job and house and dogs and person I love–so I have nothin’ to complain about and so much to be grateful for. Despite this gift of a life, plus eating healthfully, exercising, meditating, walking my dogs, & journaling, my nerves are feeling like a snapped guitar string with all the world STUFF, and last night I had bad dreams all night about election corruption–and I’ve been haunted all day with this ick-ick-ick feeling. That went on a little too long, didn’t it? Wrapping it up–THANK YOU for this, Anne, and for sharing your wise & loving self and mom! xo <3
It did not go on too long. Thank you for validating everything we’re feeling 🙂 Now, I’ll drop over some eucalyptus if you want. xo A
Ann, I don’t have to think about my answer. It’s definite YES!!!!
Let’ get cookies too. Soon!
Definitely! Thank you for reminding us to be patient with ourselves. This came at the perfect time!
For me too 🙂
Thank you for saying so.
I was literally staring out the window watching the squirrels with a glass of wine in my hand an hour ago. This came at a great time. Thanks Ann
What timing right! I hope you and the baby (family) are well. I think of you often.
I think we should all just get the vaccine when available and have an enormous sleep over.
Thanks for the encouragement. You always know what to say and when to say it!
I too feel the need to be productive every day. It makes me feel good. I’ve been having “low” days off and on during the pandemic and I berate myself all day – get moving, I say! I’m learning to let those days go because the next day, for whatever reason, I’m ready to go again. Thanks for validating these feelings.
I think we are so universally similar and human right now. Thank Goodness!!
I found myself wanting a minor hurt to be way more serious, so that…? I’d feel Life was taking me seriously.
Life is taking you seriously. Hurts are not relative.
Really enjoyed this and looking back on the part about your Mom. I wish I could dream about my husband being healthy- maybe I will consciously try to will it so…can’t hurt? He turned 72 yesterday in his 6th year of dementia. I sure do miss him.
Oh, Pam I so feel your pain. I will never get over my mom’s illness but, she is with me as herself every day. Love to you and your husband. xoxoxo
Ann you know me energizer bunny! Finding projects that have been lacking and getting stuff done. Rest on rainy day push through sunny ones always moving forward! Mikes quote. As he watches me…lol
You are a special kind of bunny!! Your energy is stunning 🙂
Today my sister had a brain aneurism.
We’ve never been very close. She’s 14 years older than me and moved away when I was 5. She was the sister that came home for Christmas in my childhood. She’d call me her “tail” when I followed her around, our little farmhouse overcrowded with all six kids home for the holidays. We’d play Yahtzee for hours.
But things got harder. I moved forward into the folds of my own nuclear household, working and raising three girls, one with a learning disability that defined my parenting energy for many years. When my sister visited, she had become someone who needed me to take care of her too. And sometimes I didn’t want to. Sometimes I just couldn’t.
I was resentful. I was tired. I know I didn’t love her enough, or at least that I didn’t show it enough. And now she may or may not leave her hospital bed. She may or may not be okay. And a global pandemic keeps me many miles away and unable to visit even if I stood right outside her hospital.
So I sit with this knowledge, this presence of fact like flour sacks on my chest.
And then I saw this post. You are too hard on yourself.
Yes, I am. Most of us are. I am imperfect. An imperfect parent, friend, wife. And sister. But I will choose forgiveness and understanding and allow myself its luxury. I will pray for my sister, for her path forward to be as it is meant to be.
Thank you for your post.
If I could I would come to your house and give you a real hug. I”d listen to every story you wanted to tell me. I would hold your hand if you needed it or drink whisky with you if you’d rather. We are all imperfectly perfect and the one thing we all have in common is pain and it comes from love in all forms. I can’t thank you enough for your letter. It gave me pause. Thank you for trusting me. I will think of you over and over again and please tell me how you and your sister are as the days progress. Much love to you, Ann
Thank you for your kind words of support. Your original post was powerful and thoughtful, and I’m so glad I read it today.
I am in continual awe at your ability to express your thoughts and feelings so freely. So easy to relate. But this is a particularly lovely gift. Thank you.
Thank you. That is high praise.
I just figure we all need a little best friend grace.
Thank you so much for this, Ann! I know I’m not the only one, but this came to me when I needed it so badly all I could do was take a deep breath, sit down, and cry. The truth is, sometimes we need to stop doing, just breathe, and cry if we need to. I’m feeling like I (the student) was ready, and the teacher appeared. Thank you friend/teacher!
Oh my gosh I get it. Sometimes I read something and I just feel validated and I cry!! In relief and community and kindness. I’m so glad we find friendship together. xoxA
My energy was so zapped today, and the weather didn’t help. So, I gave in and took a nap.
Still had some productivity, but not everything I thought I was going to do.
My serology test was negative, but it’s not definitive, either. My doctor thinks I did have it, which would explain why I was so sick for four months, three rounds of meds, and I now seem to have “Long Covid.”
I’m glad your results were negative. Hope your daughter is feeling better.
Long covid. Wow. I’m so sorry, I didn’t know you were struggling with this. Four months is such a long time.
Sleep away, my pretty.
Thanks for writing this, Ann!!! I needed it!!! I miss you & your honesty no matter what the situation.
Oh my gosh I miss you too!! We should get together. I’d love to hear how you are!
I am the queen of naps (or maybe it’s denial). I think it’s a way to reset and it helps so much.
Let’s start thinking naps are part of productivity. Let’s put it on our to-do list.
Great idea! Thanks.
As always you cheer me up thanks! It is so hard to motivate these days. When I do finally scrub the bathroom or vacuum I think hurrah! Most of the time I feel like a sloth. I miss what was my life. I cry easy and stress about what is happening in our world. I am grateful for all my blessings and that my family and friends are well. Anyways Ann I will try to head your mothers advice and just be still and enjoy the moment. Thanks
Linda, Thank you – these kinds of comments keep me writing. Let’s both just live. xoxox Ann
I’m reminded, yet again, why I absolutely freakin’ love you! You hit the nail on the head, again! I agree that the timing is perfect after that shitshow of a debate last night. One of your reader’s comments was absolutely true: ICK. We all feel a little better when we “curl up” with you! Thank you, once again, for reminding me we’re all in this together and with each other’s support, we CAN do this!
Susan you are a bit of sunshine on this day.
Where are you? Let’s finally get together unless you moved far away. I can’t keep track.
Great blog, Ann! Love your style. Keep on keepin’ on!
Thank you!! Hope to see you soon!
Fortunately, we have a lot of wildlife to watch in our backyard. This morning brought a teenage hawk perched in the pin oak hunting a squirrel. Our two feral cats were fascinated and staring till the little one tried climbing the tree the hawk was perched in. Hawk flew, cat fell, squirrel chattered madly. Today I feel no guilt. Thanks for your validation that the days I feel guilt I can just let it go.
This sounds like heaaven. Thanks for sharing and letting me in on the fun. 🙂 We can just let the guilt go. It changes nothing.
This came at that perfect moment. I am having a seriously low energy day today. I was just checking my email between books and cups of tea and came across this one. I am glad I gave myself permission to just “be” today. I did water the plants so they didn’t completely die already. I fed the cats because they complain otherwise and I’m about to let the dog out while my tea water heats. This is the extent of my ambitions for today. And I’m okay with it. Everything else will still be there to be done tomorrow.We are too hard on ourselves. We aren’t Wonder Woman but we’re still wonderful. We’re also human and need a break occasionally.
Exactly and I’m so glad you are opting out of everything but animals and tea. Bravo you.
Wow, I thought when I read your email, I’m not the only one who sometimes can’t do even one of the things on my apparently infinite to-do list. You made me feel better instantly, and I’ll remember your words the next time I sputter and stop moving forward. I’m so grateful!
Well, that’s exactly what I wanted when I sent it! I’m so glad Diane!
Still laughing about q-tips and squirrels!
I was introduced to you by Deborah Coonts, who is a huge fan of yours. She sent out an email today and I’m so glad I took the time to read it and click on the link to find this wonderful, new world of yours. During these trying times I try to be kinder to others and try to spread some laughter. I am so thankful to you for sharing those same things with everyone, especially me! Looking forward to reading more! Thank you again. Stay safe, stay sane and love life! 🙂
Ohhh Kim, what a wonderful note. Thank you so much and I’m so glad you found me through Deborah. I’m so happy to know there are readers like you.