Yearnotes 2020 pt. 1

As I started these, sharing the couch with The Chef, she looked up from a Facebook idea to share the 12 positive things she’s done in 2020. It’s an excellent list. Then she asked for mine and I froze. I couldn’t come up with 12 for the year. I was stuck, not with a long dark night of the soul, but certainly a tepid evening of the couch. Subtly and incrementally, lockdown had bound me to stasis.

The year started—as year’s tend to do—in January. I was settling in with new boss and getting ready for a switch-up of projects. Covid put the brakes on that.

Instead it was months of remote visits. Made easier by the ridiculous spring weather. The restrictions on the shops forced us into behaving like adults and planning our meals. I upped my cooking contributions, but The Chef—by name and nature—still does most of the cooking. Her food is just nicer than mine.

Unable to travel abroad, to mark the end of maternity leave we took Piglet on her first camping holiday and heard the legend of Steve. We all but lived on the beach.

And despite everything we were lucky. Our close family and friends have all stayed healthy and safe. I got to have so much more time with Piglet that I wouldn’t normally get. We could bubble with the grandparents and we were never lonely.

But throughout the year there was a lingering malaise.

I spent too much time roaming the house by myself singing songs about poor mental health to a jaunty tune. The joke wasn’t funny anymore. If it ever was funny. I wasn’t depressed, but I’d lost resilience over the course of the year year. A bad mood was only a small shove away. It was too easy to feel attacked by innocuous comments and to look for fault where there was none.

Where I started the year imaginatively playing with Piglet, as time wore on, I found myself following the same tropes.

At work, being permanently in the house meant I was missing out the hard half-hours. They little gaps which get filled in an office. And they add up. I started to believe my own hype that I could do work without, you know, actually doing work. I’d lost my diligence, which is probably my primary saving trait.

By the autumn I needed self-intervention. Cutting back on caffeine helped my anxiety. As did regular paper to-do lists. And Piglet’s sleep, thankfully, took a turn for the better. But the vulnerability of my mood made the changes too fragile.

The upshot of all of this was that, by Christmas, I was left with a lacuna; I was beginning to feel too ashamed to be a proud dad. That couldn’t go on.

To fix it with a grand gesture would be a mistake. I’m better with small effort, done often. I sweep the hallway more when I let myself do it half-arsed. But half-arsed every day is cleaner than perfect once a week. (Sweeping the hallway? Covid has made my metaphors so small).

Piglet is too small to notice the lack of diversity in her play and my boss is still happy, so I’ve time to fix things. I’m taking a leaf from Instagram motivational posters. 1% better each day is 1.01^365=37% better over a year. Baby steps are the way out. I’m breaking the habit of a lifetime and making some January resolutions.

Here’s to a proud 2021.

1 January 2021


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2020 Reads Men very much get the better side of the pregnancy deal. The impact of this and Kindred make me think I’m going to read everything Butler has
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Yearnotes 2020 pt. 2 Discussing feelings in part one (not a thing easily done by a middle-aged, centrist dad), it felt trite to finish with a big ole list of the year’s