Like many people I really went into 2021 with the hope that things were going to be better than 2020, they had to be, in what nightmare turn of events could things possibly be worse, and then it was like the universe set out to school us all in the startling variety in ways things could be worsened.

Now that we’re about to collectively put 2021: THE WORSENING in the calendar rearview, I am for sure not jinxing a single goddamned thing by announcing any big self-improvement plans for the new year. If you even see me twist my mouth to start to say the words “manifest” or “vision board” or “wellness journey” I’m giving you full permission to slap me across the face with a printed-out and spiral-bound copy of every single media mention about Will Smith and Jada Pinkett’s marriage.

I’m not sure I’m ready to look back on 2021 in any sort of meaningful self-reflective way, at least not yet. This was mostly a year of getting through it, not getting on top of it. On the personal good news front, I quit a toxic habit in mid-December of 2020 and I have stayed clear since. I found a new counselor who I adore and trust. I believe I’ve been nicer to myself this year than I have in years past, but I also have the sense I’ve been mostly frozen in place. Trapped in the amber of things that no longer are.

Well. Life continues, if we’re lucky, and things keep changing. Christ, do they ever.

One of my most cherished coping mechanisms is devouring both streaming TV content and a steady influx of highly processed carbohydrates, but aside from that I can also recommend the following:

Reading The Work. I love what she says about there being three kinds of business: mine, yours, and God’s (God can mean outside events or nature or the universe or whatever resonates), and the grounding effect of bringing yourself back to your own business. There’s a whole (worksheet-based, I have not graduated to this and probably won’t) system she advocates for working through your shit but the simple act of stopping to question certain thoughts (“Can you absolutely know it’s true?”) has been enormously beneficial to me, because my brain is always trying to sabotage me with my own custom blend of fake news. (e.g. “This just in from the You’re A Piece of Shit Gazette: WHY EVEN TRY YOU’RE JUST GOING TO FAIL!!!”)

Of course my website editor is currently borked and I can’t add links or format worth a damn:

Re-reading Untamed. I’ve read the other Glennon Doyle books but this is the one I think every woman should read. Her personal life anecdotes in this don’t always land perfectly for me (I view them more as … well-crafted vehicles for messaging, rather than accurate portrayals of things that happened exactly as described) but overall I find this to be a great source of female-centric inspiration.

Yoga. I started doing yoga as a 30-day challenge last January and I never stopped. I can’t say I legitimately got in a full yoga session every single day in 2021 but it was pretty damn close, and I cannot possibly recommend this enough. Not the every day part, exactly, but any kind of regular yoga routine is almost certainly going to improve your lif—okay I realize I have gone skidding right by “This is what works for ME” and into “…And therefore YOU should do it TOO,” but I have Very Strong Yoga Feelings now and I cannot help myself. In short, yoga has helped me:

• Feel better physically, and
• Feel better emotionally

I could go on and on about how good it feels to have full mobility and increased strength and flexibility and how dedicating that time to myself feels so important and how breathing is kind of fucking magical and how my tricky lower back is no longer a lurking enemy waiting to strike when I bend over to pick up someone’s motherfucking sock, but enough already. Yoga is awesome, Yoga with Adriene is particularly awesome, and she has a brand-new 30 day series (free, on YouTube) starting on January 1st.

Maybe this is calling you? You never know, I sure wasn’t a yoga person before, but something changed in those 30 days and now I can’t imagine my life without it.

Joyful Movement. I don’t know how else to categorize this, but I get it nearly every day and I know it makes a difference. For me it’s via the Oculus Quest 2 — excuse me, the Meta Quest — headset, I play a lot of Beat Saber and Synth Riders. These are VR games that involve music and rhythm, and a whole lot of moving around trying to strike/avoid things.

Basically playing these games is like dancing, because of how you’re moving with the music. I dance all the time now, and I realize from the outside it looks like a middle-aged lady in a clunky helmet swatting wildly at a cloud of gnats, but who fucking cares, it feels like dancing. It is so fun and exhilarating and as a person who never had natural rhythm or was a born athlete, it’s honestly the first time I’ve felt the physical intuitiveness and reflexes I always assumed were outside of my capacities.

Anyway, I guess just really recommend moving to music, in any way you can, as often as you can. It feels like a love letter to being alive.

I was thinking that I should have taken a photo last weekend when the four of us were watching the annual Ducks/Beavers matchup (formerly known as the Civil War game but both colleges recently agreed to stop calling it that so now it’s the game everyone still thinks of as the Civil War but is referenced awkwardly in the newspaper). There we were, after all, sitting together and doing a thing, or at least 3 of us were properly attuned to the gameplay while I repeatedly said things like “Whoah what just happened?” because I don’t understand shit about football except that I enjoy the part right before the snap where one dude in the back just, like, darts around like a dog with zoomies?

Our family photos have really dwindled, I don’t put the effort into it like I used to. The kids tend towards an extreme dislike of having their pictures taken, I mean most of the time if they even catch me aiming a lens in their direction they react as though I have betrayed their deepest trust, which is an exhausting emotional journey to embark upon for a quickie capture.

On the one hand I find this intensely irritating; on the other, I can’t say that I don’t understand. I personally need an enormous amount of preparation before being photographed and even then it kind of feels like getting a tooth pulled in that the moment itself is highly unpleasant and there is a LOT of relief afterwards.

I’ve been backing off from hovering-documentarian mode, but I miss it. I miss when the taking of pictures wasn’t so complicated, I miss the pictures themselves. There’s nothing like aging to drive home the power of images and their ability to bring back memories.