Recapping the Year of Back to Basics

Time to do a brain dump, buckle up!

Longtime minions know that I don’t like resolutions but find a lot of value in yearly themes and tracking the current one was a long running series. It fell off in the last few months – and I have zero guilt about that – but I’m going to be resurrecting it because it’s fun, it keeps me writing, and I’ve learned a few things worth documenting.

The Year of Back to Basics…oh hell, is this whole thing my fault?

Never could I have imagined that the universe would take me so spectacularly at my word. It’s hard to be more back to basics than literally being locked in your own small space for nine months with only your significant other for company, and an utter loss of the sense of time. That’s pretty basic.

I tried to be consistent in my blogging and goal keeping but towards the end of summer I just gave myself permission to not worry about progress. For someone with my personality type, this is huge. Being extremely goal and achievement oriented in a situation where a lot of the kinds of growth or change I wanted simply wasn’t possible (on a global scale) was A LOT. I struggled mightily.

No one is driving this bus!

A sense of control. L. O. Bloody. L, amirite?

Nobody is in charge. That has honestly been one of the great revelations of adulthood for me, and while upsetting, it’s also pretty freeing. 2020 was one long exercise in watching people, whole governments, and industries really just do the best they could–or stubbornly refusing to. There is no grand design, no comforting conspiracy theory, and no cheat code. Shit just happens sometimes.

I think my generation was sold the idea of formulas for success: do X, Y, and Z and you will be successful. Our entire adult experience has been debunking that notion over and over again and while that’s cosmologically scary, there is also some strange benefits to finally letting go of this idea

Accepting that “control” is too often a myth and you won’t prevent shitty things from happening releases you (or me at least) from the vast amounts of energy expended trying to control various situations. Bad stuff happening isn’t a punishment for a lapse of character, failure of skill, or faulty plan…it’s often just the universe doing its thing. Meaning that doing the best you can to manage the circumstances you are in is okay. It doesn’t keep you from making goals or progressing, it just makes setbacks or failure so much less wounding than previously felt.

It took me months to find some kind of balance and come to terms with the fact that far from losing weight, I gained it. That’s what happens when you go from walking two to three miles a day just living your life to being confined to a one bed apartment. On the other hand, my relationships thrived and our money situation improved – for the moment! I don’t preclude the possibility of future disasters!

In a year where we couldn’t go anywhere or do much, this was an important personal lesson from me and one I want to explore more in 2020. To slightly adapt the words of the motivational poster that probably resided in your middle school guidance counselor’s office somewhere, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail because failure is a faulty construct anyway?”

Setting down the psychological load

One of the most concrete realizations I’ve had as a result of the Year of Enforced Basicness was that there are a lot of things I just don’t want to have to carry around with me anymore. I’ve been thinking a lot about this thanks to therapy–and being confined in a small space for the better part of a year has certainly kicked this along too. My world has gotten very small. This has had a lot of unexpected positive benefits. In a similar way that reducing your physical space helps you understand and prioritize what you truly value and what’s just junk, reducing my psychological space has undergone a similar examination.

Like most people I have a small bundle of traumas that I like to keep a close and watchful eye on, cuddling some of them tightly because the known pain feels more secure than the great unknown of what could slide into their places if I let them go. This is, of course, a supremely stupid way to live but in my defense I don’t know a single person who hasn’t done some version of the same thing. I just think I’ve done it for too long and don’t want to expend energy in this way.

There’s a lot of negative self imagery that feels, with the benefit of hindsight, more like emotional masochism than anything.

There are a lot of old grudges or anxieties – some more valid than others – that have too much power over my day-to-day psychological state. There is a difference between symptoms and habits and with mental health, it’s really important to understand which is which and what you’re actually experiencing. My anxiety and depression are real and managing them takes a lot of effort. But I also have practices or habits that are within my control, and a lot of them are thought patterns which I’d like to break.

At the end of the day…

Like the Spanish Inquisition, no one expected 2020 but even though my regular posts on the topic dried up, I’m going to call the Year of Back to Basics a success.

Did you have a theme? Did 2020 force you to change it, recontextualize it, or update it?

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