2020.08.31

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After the third market of August, I prepared myself for a week off, then back to baking. Then I looked at a calendar and discovered August would have one more Sunday on the 30th. This happened in May, too, a fifth Sunday tacked on at the end. I was very bored that month—the first of my farmers market venture and barely two months into quarantine. But two weekends off has been a nice break this time around, at the end of summer and nearing the end of the market season.

At the beginning of 2020, I piggybacked on my friend, Elly’s resolution to keep the house clean. We became accountability buds when we tried to quit Twitter (she succeeded; I did not—though I’m reading it far far less now). Her idea was a simple one: do one thing every day that improves our living spaces. We report to each other in Slack and give a ✅ to celebrate the other’s accomplishment. Early on, this “one thing” became “wash the dishes” for me. If I can do it every day, even just a few plates and mugs or one cast iron pan, I can stay on track.

I’ve done Cognitive Behavioural Therapy before, so I’m familiar with this process. I’ve even succeeded before. My game zine, Depression Cards (which recently got a review in Broken Pencil 🎉), was built around this exact idea. (You can download the PDFs here.) Managing depression (and other mental illnesses) is about forgiveness more than effort. It’s 9:32AM as I write this, and I haven’t done any dishes yet, but I have put some clean ones back where they belong. I’ve brushed my teeth. I’ve made and eaten breakfast. And now I’m writing to you. I think that earns me a ✅ for the day.

These two weeks I’ve had off from baking and selling, I’ve spent taking our 2020 resolution to the next level. I stopped using my own Depression Cards once the habits felt solid—though I knew I would probably come back to them again. Depression is like that. But I didn’t need my cards this year because I had Elly. We were three months into daily check-ins by the time quarantine started. Our tidy homes were a serendipitous welcome. Now six months in, and no end coming soon, I want to make my home an even better place to work.

I built myself a baking corner, pulling out all the tools and ingredients I use for my bread and collecting them into one single space. Then I reorganised all my kitchen cupboards, moving the pantry closer to the stove and the casserole dishes farther away. That hadn’t been done since I moved into this apartment, almost six years ago, with a lot less stuff than I have now. After the kitchen was done, I did the bookcases, the bathroom, my bedroom closet. I’m working on the freezer this weekend, taking out mystery jars to be defrosted and eaten(?), then replacing them with cubes of basil pesto and roasted garlic & onion paste I made from my grandma’s garden produce.

None of that would’ve been possible this week if I hadn’t already spent six months doing my dishes every day just so I could get a ✅ from Elly. And I wonder how much of that would have even been possible if I wasn’t baking and selling for All Day Breakfast this year.

Remember the beginning of quarantine? I know it feels like forever ago. I know I was excited about baking and cooking, trying some new recipes with the time the pandemic gave me. But I also remember how that excitement died out in April. I remember how bored I was by May. Then June and July felt worse. I called it the “long dark night of my soul.” Depression, you know. You will feel good, and you will feel bad, and by the time you feel awful, bad feels OK enough that you just stop trying to get back to feeling good.

The winter of 2016 was an especially rough one. Here in the Lower Mainland, we had snow like I’ve never seen in my lifetime (it lasted more than a day!), and on top of that, the whole world was dazed by the results of the US presidential election. But in September of that year, I had started my yoga teacher training, and I’m sure it was the only thing that got me through to 2017. If I didn’t have that schedule, that goal, that group of people to focus my brain, the end of my 2016 would’ve looked a lot different. Yoga got me through those grey days and the everlasting snow. Washing the dishes is going to get me through this quarantine.

In the past, I’ve made big big goals and far too many at once. You know this. I’m an ambitious over-achiever—but the daydreaming kind. I’m actually incredibly lazy, though I’ve long let go of the shame of it. My ambition is about what I want my life to look like. My over-achieving is about never settling for less than exactly that. Elly and I started this year doing one simple thing to make our space more livable. We washed dishes. We swept floors. Then I reorganised my kitchen cupboards. Then she reorganised her bookstore’s warehouse. Then I started a thriving business during a pandemic??

Then those daydreams of mine don’t seem so big big after all.

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