I was sitting at my desk this morning, drinking my coffee, skimming the news headlines (if that’s what we are calling them these days), and trying to fix some things in a chapter I am writing for my book. My mind wasn’t in it, and neither was my focus.
While writing, I got stuck on the word tired. I’m tired of the word tired. I didn’t want to use it because I’m over it. 2020 wore tired out, and besides, I don’t feel tired anymore – I feel shattered.
broken into many small pieces
impaired or destroyed
dumbfounded or thoroughly upset
informal tired out or exhausted
If you examine the definition of the word shattered, you’d see it has four meanings. During the past ten months, I could have applied any of these descriptors to my daily mental state. There’s no doubt I will remember 2020 as the year when the ceiling caved in, and the floor fell out.
Covid-19 was the ultimate disruptor. It has radically modified our way of life in pretty much every way possible. We have continually shapeshifted in an attempt to keep up with our bipolar reality, and it’s been mentally and physically draining. The idea of ‘Netflix and chill’ has reached an incomprehensible level of couch potato proportions. Our masked faces can no longer trade smiles with strangers on the bus. Instead, we hesitate to share an elevator with a fellow shopper and compulsively disinfect our hands out of fear because we accidentally touched a doorknob.
We now work remotely, learn virtually and socialize distantly. In less than a year, people have become isolated, separated and lonely in a world that was way too close for comfort. It’s made others feel confined and overwhelmed by spending too much time with family, roommates or their abusers. Businesses have closed their doors and people have lost their jobs, while others tirelessly work their asses off to help care for the sick. Worst of all, it’s taken an unfathomable number of lives far too soon without a chance to say goodbye.
Many of us have been holding our shattered selves together with sticky tape and perseverance. We’ve been worn down by the fatigue of constant cooking (who knew my kids could eat so much), never-ending cleaning (because we don’t go anywhere) and questionable thoughts of deciding whether or not we really need get out of our pajamas and take a shower (the answer should always be yes).
I gotta admit, living in Switzerland, we have not had to deal with as harsh of restrictions as other countries – especially when it comes to schooling. I feel fortunate that my kids have been going to school since the beginning of the school year. The school continues to modify its operations to keep the doors open. But it doesn’t mean I’m not feeling the effects of all things Covid related.
My energy level is low. Like I’ve been driving around with the fuel warning light for many miles low. I’ve been doing everything I can to keep my motor humming along without using the last fumes of energy that I’ve got tucked away in the reserves. I haven’t felt fully fueled since my visit to the US last Christmas (2019). I usually go home to the US each summer with my girls to fill up the ASS tank for another year of expat life. I decided not to go back this past summer. Even though I know it was the right decision for me, I feel cheated out of being able to saturate my soul with Diet Coke from a fountain, the white sand beaches of Lake Michigan and a trip (or ten) to Target.
Since my tank is nearly empty, I have had to develop some creative ways to get myself gASSed up. (I love a good pun. Damn, am I funny.)
I’m enjoying the silence. I’ve been trying to get up 45 minutes early each morning to give myself extra time to enjoy the peace and quiet before my entire family wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. Instead of listening to a podcast or a book while I’m walking my dogs, I try to hear the sound of the forest groaning from the snow (or is that me?). When I’m cooking my umpteenth meal of the week, I don’t listen to the news or have music playing; instead, I focus on what I am making (mostly so that I don’t burn it). My mind is always absorbing sound, and sometimes it just needs to feel like a four-year-old and have some quiet time.
I’m drinking good wine and using the nice dishes. I have never fully understood why people save the ‘good stuff.’ I’m 100% guilty of doing this, but I’m trying to be better about it. Recently I was given a really lovely bottle of wine, and the person who gave it to me said, “Save it for a special occasion.” My response was, “Every day is special.” I finally pulled out my wedding china that’s been sitting in its original boxes for the past 18 years and used it for the first time. They were being punished for being ‘too nice,’ and it really wasn’t their fault. What if we don’t get a chance to use the good stuff? I sure as hell don’t want to let it go to waste. Today is as good as any other day to use the expensive perfume, the nice underwear and the fancy purse. So, I’m no longer saving things.
I’m putting my phone down. This is a major struggle, but I’m really trying to be more mindful of this. My phone literally sucks my energy – social media, email, news notifications, instant messaging, etc. The damn thing dings and chimes all day. Yes, it’s fun and totally mindless, but it’s a major distraction from what’s important and really matters in my life. I try to give myself a few breaks here and there during the day to zone out and scroll through pictures, updates and messages, but that’s really it. I even installed a new app called Moment. It tracks my phone usage – how many times I pick my phone up, total screen time, app usage, etc. You’d be surprised how many times a day you pick up your phone. It’s downright embarrassing.
I’m making an effort to re-connect. Whether it be meeting a local friend for a coffee or sending a text to someone I haven’t spoken to in ages, I am making a conscious effort to let others know I am thinking of them. I have met so many amazing people in my short 43 years. Even though I don’t see some of these people anymore, I still value the time we spent together and want to know what is going on in their lives. If there is one upside to social media, it’s reminding you of the people in your life – past and present.
I’m focusing on me first. This might sound a bit selfish, but it’s not in the least. If I don’t take care of myself in the best way possible, I won’t be the best version of myself. I don’t like it when I am grumpy, harebrained or exhausted. And I’m sure my family and friends don’t like it either. I exercise at least five times a week (it’s for my sanity’s sake). I’ve been taking a few moments out of the week to do something that doesn’t have anything to do with anyone else (read a book, get a facial or take a long hot shower). I order takeout for dinner instead of cooking. I drive around by myself looking at Christmas lights (I love Christmas lights). And, I order French fries instead of salad with my lunch. These are just little things, but they make me happy. French fries always make me happy.
When I think about charging my expat battery this season, I think about the Christmas lights I love so much. I’m stealing the energy from those lights to pick up all the shattered pieces and glue them back together. I’m telling myself those lights are a sign of good things to come. I’m not trying to usher 2021 in without properly kicking 2020 in the ass as the clock winds down. But I am also careful and realistic. Yes, I hope (says the woman with every extremity crossed for luck) that 2021 brings back some of what we think of as normal. If Justin Timberlake can bring sexy back to a bunch of Chardonnay drinking sleep-deprived soccer moms on a girls’ night out, then 2021 can do anything – good or bad.
So, as this dumpster fire of year winds down, I urge you to make time to recharge your shattered self. We all deserve to feel energized and ready for whatever life throws at us, whether we are living through a pandemic or not. This hot mess isn’t over yet, so we need to rally, folks. If we can get good at restoring ourselves amid a pandemic, just imagine the kind of ASS-kickers we will be when this Covid crap is only a memory.