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I feel like I'm making progress. It's happening so slowly — like drips of water wearing down rock — that I want to scream. On the outside, it looks like I'm doing nothing. Sometimes even I wonder if I'm doing anything or going anywhere. For my own sanity, I'll compile a list of the many small changes I've made over the past year.



Driving Again

When I moved back to my hometown, I had to start driving again after 10+ years of being a pedestrian. I spent that first year driving within the town limits, mostly during the day but eventually at night as well. I managed to park at the gas station and at the self-serve car wash without hitting anything. When parking near a store, I chose the most empty space available, far from the front door and from other parked cars. There were a number of times when cars honked at me for my fuckups on the road, which was quite embarassing as you can imagine. Good times. I left town just once to attend the 12-km trail race I'd signed up for.

By 2020, I had a better handle on things and could get around without pissing anyone off or screwing up directions. I used that year to expand my comfort zone. Keep in mind that after March 23, I stayed within my own municipality. I'm in a small town with very few cases of COVID-19, and I only visited places that also had few cases. I stayed away from the major cities that had been hit harder. So with those restrictions in place, I made the following trips:

  • PS, a 20-minute drive along Highway 11. Went once to visit a friend (before lockdown), then again (during lockdown) to buy jars at the hardware store.
  • CL, a tiny beach that was maybe 30 or 40 minutes away. Went there for a day trip with someone in my social bubble.
  • SR, about an hour's drive and easy to get to. Very small town, went by myself to visit a museum. 
  • O, a 1-hour drive mostly along Highway 11 and then briefly on Highway 12. I went by myself to go shopping, mostly for myself and partly to look for Christmas gift ideas. Bought my lunch there and ate it in my car. Got there and back without incident. 
  • BB, a town roughly the same size of my own and about 20-30 minutes away. Went there once before lockdown to shop at the second-hand bookstore, as we don't have one here. Went twice more after that to 1) sell old books for store credit and get a few more books, and 2) do my Christmas shopping.

I'd been hoping to visit B, but there are too many cases there, plus I'm not ready to drive on the 400-series highways. Highway 12 was intimidating enough. I also managed to visit BB without the use of GPS on that third visit. Overall, I think I did well for 2020. 

I'll see how things go this year before making any more driving plans. I do want to visit AP for a solo camping trip. That's low-risk since I wouldn't interact with anyone aside from the reception desk at check-in. I just need to practice starting a fire (I know how but I suck at it), and either borrow camping gear from my brother or invest in my own tent and sleeping bag. But that's a whole other topic, one to think about closer to spring.

Living More in Line With My Principles

I already mostly do this, but I'd been putting off certain things that are a real pain in the ass. Most of the changes I made were in 2020:

  • Switched from disposable cotton facial rounds to reusable cotton and bamboo ones.
  • Found replacement tips for my gum stimulator, so I don't have to throw out the metal handle (they were surprisingly difficult to find).
  • Bought more cloth feminine hygiene products.
  • Bought two reusable piping bags so I won't need to use plastic ones.
  • invested in one of those reusable baking mats that you put on your baking sheet instead of parchment paper. 
  • Figured out where to recycle my used pens, highlighers, and so on. Took a bag of them to the drop-off location instead of throwing in garbage.
  • Figured out that those puffy bath poofs can be recycled. Threw my last one in the Blue Bin instead of the garbage.
  • Attempted to fix a battery-operated lantern that had been exposed to leaked battery fluid. Did this by cleaning out the dried up acid (which is actually alkaline) with vinegar, which neutralized it. Then I scraped the corroded bits off the metal conductors. The damn thing doesn't work after all that effort, but at least I tried. I'll drop it off at an e-waste location.
  • Bought a small carton of coconut-milk coffee creamer in an attempt to cut back on dairy. I don't like it, but at least I gave it a shot.
  • Switched most of my makeup products to brands that don't test on animals. I'll do the same for my foundation when my current bottle runs out.
  • Figured out which type of ink refill is compatible with my pens. Bought a pack and refilled said pens instead of buying new ones (thus reducing the use of plastic).
  • Turned a used coffee bean sack into reusable gift wrap for Christmas gifts. Don't know if I'll do this again, as it was time-consuming and my sewing skills are mediocre, but it was worth trying.

I still need to cut out products with palm oil. The way it is harvested is terrible for the environment, according to every rainforest conservation website I've visited. This task feels Herculean in my mind, but maybe it won't be so bad; I mainly buy and eat whole foods already. I also want to cut back on cheese, which I suspect will be more difficult to give up than the palm oil.

Getting Over My Writing/Creativity Block(s)

I still haven't met any of my writing goals, like submitting a short story to a horror podcast or to one of the websites or magazines I read. I also haven't updated my blog or attempted to write anything for pay. However, I did take steps to unblock whatever is in my way:

  • Completed the 12-week guide in "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. I did my morning pages nearly every day, went on an artist's date every other week, and did at least half the tasks at the end of every chapter. I'm now going through the chapters again to complete the tasks I didn't finish the first time around.
  • I still write morning pages even now that I'm technically finished the book.
  • I occasionally write at night, though it's mostly gibberish that never sees the light of day.
  • Added some brighter clothing to my wardrobe
  • Finished a few creative projects I'd been putting off doing. Eg: made a two-headed snowman outside, made Buffy the Vampire Slayer cupcakes (topped with a homemade chocolate scythe and knife), fixed my faded swimsuit by dying it, made another Halloween display despite the record-low number of trick-or-treaters.

I don't know how to list all my accomplishments when they're so miniscule, but generally speaking I feel better able to express myself creatively. The real challenge for 2021 will be to keep up what I'm doing. It's easy to get "too busy" with other things that "matter more." I have a new strategy that involves a giant Master List and a monthly planner that so far is helping me stay on track with my long-term goals. Hopefully, I can keep it up when the work season starts up again in the spring.

Dealing With My Ex-Relationship Baggage

Yeah, I don't think I'll be over it anytime soon, even though it has nearly been two years since we broke up. I'm still mad at him. I don't want to be, but I am. Thankfully, I did manage to do a few useful things:

  • Started cooking recipes again that remind me of him. 
  • Started re-watching the series we had watched together. We didn't get to see the very last season together, so I'll watch the whole thing from start to finish by myself so it feels more like a "me" thing, not like an "us" thing that I'm stuck doing alone.
  • Reflected on some memories with a bit more introspection than usual. Came to some conclusions that have helped me to feel slightly less angry. Instead of wanting to burn down a certain person's house, for example, I only want to leave a dead fish under the bedroom window. 
  • I no longer want to talk to him, because what's the point. He'll probably just lie to me.
  • I've been burning this huge scented candle he'd bought for me at the start of our relationship. I'd felt guilty about never using it while we were together, and I didn't (don't) feel right about throwing it out or giving it away. So, I'm burning it. It's more than half gone. It hurts my heart each time I light it, but this is the best thing to do. Hurting is part of life. No point avoiding it.

I also found an item of great sentimental value to both of us. It belongs to him, and I somehow ended up with it, so I'll have to mail it back. After talking to a friend, I decided to write a straightforward, non-emotional note explaining why I was sending it back. I need to send something else back with it, something I can only get to by opening the cardboard box of "us" stuff I shoved in the closet two years ago. I've been putting the whole thing off. I do plan to send it by the end of this month. It won't do me any good to drag it out too long.



I could probably write a few more lists. Considering the number of drafts I've written up and left unpublished, however, I think I'll stop there for today. Best to stop while I'm ahead. I don't expect much to happen in 2021, but if I keep going the way I am, I should at least have a productive year.