How I spent my pandemic lockdown

Last week Susan wrote a beautiful post about the lost year that wasn’t really lost. She invited others to talk about what we’ve gained over the 16 months of covid we’ve lived with — this frightening, confusing, cosy, exasperating, awakening, exhausting, languishing, enraging and clarifying year. (BTW, in case anyone’s counting, we’re still in full lockdown in Toronto. We’ve now had the longest continual “no restaurants (even outdoors), no hair, no gathering, no toes, no gyms, no swimming, no touching, no non-essential shopping, mostly no schools, NO TOUCHING” lockdown in the world. Our third wave is now behind us and we’re vaxxing like mad, but our premier is now locked in his own paralysis of doing the wrong thing. But never mind about THAT).

So what am I taking from this year? What were, as they say, the unexpected gifts?

  1. A stupid little daily walk really does help my stupid physical and mental health.

Cheryl posted this meme in our 221 in 2021 workout group a few months ago, and we started using the hashtag #slwfmspmh in our group for our daily constitutionals. It’s a thing. I do it almost every day. I feel better. It counts as movement.

2. It took a pandemic to really lock my body down into menopause. My now three year old post on still menstruating at 53 continues to be in the top 10 most read posts every month, but I am no longer the menstruator emeritus. Being trapped at my desk in zoom while being lashed with 20 hot flashes a day eventually drove me to hormone replacement therapy (and let’s not even speak of the vaginal atrophy — more on that horrifying phenomenon later). But I’ve crossed a milestone into cronishness, and I like it. As a friend said on facebook the other day, “the less estrogen I have, the more honest I become.” I concur.

3. Time really does move along like a son of a bitch, so you’d better get on with the things that matter. Facebook memories kept popping up this year reminding me of the Before Times, and they were always waaaay longer ago than I remembered. Wasn’t that trip to Bhutan just last year? Have I really had my little Georgia cat for four years? That — plus, you know, global doom — triggered a little tick tick tick in my head of time passing, and I finally — finally! — started working in earnest on a book I’ve had in me for a long time, about my experience with the project I’ve been running in Uganda since 2008. I’ll be blogging here a little less because of it for a while — from once a week to once a month — so I can really focus. It’s in my head even when I’m not working on it, which is the best place to be.

4. Little latin dance workouts are actually fun, and it doesn’t matter what I look like. I got a new apple watch a couple of months ago, and I was immediately enamoured. I like being bossed around by the rings, and I like the illusion of accomplishment even on days when I’m essentially pacing like a hamster in a cage. I didn’t leave my house, but I closed my rings!

I already knew I was motivated by “badges” — what I didn’t know is how much I would appreciate the free three months of apple fitness + that came with the watch, I quickly flicked away the yoga (I got my own peeps for that), the strength training (the beloved alex), the core, the spinning. But the dance workouts. The dance workouts! 20 minutes with Jhon doing a fake merengue and I’m transported to a carnivale in my head. And I’m alone, so I can pretend I’m even good at it. I feel like an 8 year old dancing completely unselfconsciously. That, I did not expect.

5. Cats can get eczema from stress. That’s not really about me and my body, but it’s really interesting, isn’t it??! Poor Emmylou had all these gross head scabs until I got a little pheromone thing to destress her. It works.

6. When you’re 56, your body needs careful tending. Over the past year, I’ve developed a shoulder impingement, Morton’s neuroma in my left foot, an unnerving infection in a finger after I had acupuncture for an arthritis node and something got in the wound, two different rounds of sciatic pain (different sides), and occasional knee pain. On top of the hot flashes, insomnia and other unsavoury menopause symptoms. But I’m a little less … annoyed… by these things this year. I tend to them — with chiropractic, stretching, release, rest. I thank my body for letting me do the things it does. And I’m grateful — so grateful — my good, strong body has gotten me through this pandemic.

My hair was so much shorter in January!

7. Yoga is always a good idea. I’ve written a lot about doing the Yoga with Adriene January program, and my teacher Amanda, and learning to do bakansa, and how the concept of drishti really helps me stay focused. I’m not always 100% consistent, but my mat is almost always ready in my living room, and that continual invitation has brought me so much deeper into my practice, into my comfort with stillness, into my body. My body has changed this year — age, menopause, stress, lockdown. All the little fiddly problems. My summer clothes from last year don’t quite fit. With my current pandemic ponytail, greying roots and cat’s eye glasses, I look like my own great-grandmother. But yoga is always there to bring me back to the essence, to show me my strength, my resilience, my adaptability, how I can keep growing no matter what.

My beloved bombtrack, with the coca cola I only drink when I’m on a long ride.

7. And finally…. my bike will always be my best friend. I got through the winter riding a spinning bike more than 2000 fake kilometres through the simulated world of zwift. I was so grateful for that. But when I got on my bike and pedaled alone on country roads last weekend? Found a place that was willing to sell me a curbside cheese sandwich? Ticked past 55 real kilometres for the first time this year? Then I was really home. That will not change.

What about you? What were the unexpected aha’s you experienced this year?

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who is still in lockdown in Toronto, but was able to go on a solo adventure near Beaverton last weekend.