I’m working on learning how to do the things I don’t much like doing.

Every day we are all expected to do things we don’t want to do. We have to make a living. We have to feed, clothe and care for loved ones. We have to live in a society. Every day we are all expected to look like and behave as if we are someone else entirely from who we are with entirely different wants and needs than we have.

More often than not it’s for the best, but more often than I realized before the pandemic, it’s at the expense of my mental and physical health. Still, the world is what it is and there is only so much boundary setting and advocating I can do against capitalism and culture. These hours aren’t mine. I am not mine.

Not a lot of the time anyway, but looking back at the way I used to complain and struggle, I wonder if it might be easier to just give up and give in. Sometimes the fastest way out of doing something boring, uncomfortable, undesirable or difficult is to simply do it and be done with it. Sometimes in trying to change something, you only manage to prolong your pain and stroke your anger.

Each of us, it seems, has to find our compromise with the world.

It takes actually getting up and getting to work. It takes turning off or at least tuning out the critical areas of the mind and letting your emotions, your instincts, your ideas run things for a while.

Stop being so damn rational all the time. Stop finding so many obstacles and excuses. Stop getting in your own way. Stop turning a blind eye to your own bad behavior.

Put the phone in another room. Make a list. Set a timer and do as much as you can before it’s up. Open your planner, your journal, and your notebook and mine the ideas there. Keep a notepad next to your laptop to write down the little thoughts and to-dos that pop into your head before they become distractions.

This is the way I would like to work and for a time today I managed it, but not enough to make the progress I’d hoped. Still, it was many times better than most days last year. I suppose that makes today a success. Of course, but before I could celebrate the accomplishment, my thoughts returned to tomorrow again to replace my pride with new obstacles and excuses, fresh failures and bad feelings.

This month it seems, at least until I’ve practiced the art of mindfulness and positive thinking, will be a long and hard battle with myself. I always have been my own greatest enemy. Maybe 2021 is the year I learn how to believe in myself? The year I realize the problem hasn’t been my lack of motivation or focus, but my lack of encouragement and faith.

The year is already moving much too fast for me. My mind keeps jumping ahead to tomorrow and from there it’s easy to start worrying over Monday too, and while there I may as well obsess over the rest of the work week, right? Once there the month is practically half over and with so much to do and fail at before mid-month today starts feeling like a good day to give up.

The calendar might only say the 2nd of January, but as far as my anxiety is concerned, it’s weeks from now and nothing at all is done, different, or better for it.

I can’t seem to stay in the present. I can’t seem to focus on today’s tasks and troubles alone and though my mind insists this jumping ahead is for my own good, I can see from the missing check marks and empty pages in my planner and journal, that way of thinking is killing my motivation and productivity.

More than that, it’s killing my joy. Why is it when I think about the future I can only see all the problems and all the ways I will fail? Why can’t I see good things? Why can’t I imagine success? Perhaps this should be another kind of mind shift for me: for every worry or failure you can conjure, imagine a victory. Imagine happiness.

I’m a realist bordering on pessimistic so I have my doubts that thinking one way or another can impact an outcome or future event, but what I hope is that it will help the present, and what happens in the present has a direct impact on what happens in the next hour, the next month, and over the course of the next year.

It’s been a slow introduction to the New Year this morning. It seems staying up to celebrate the occasion makes for a poor start to your resolutions. I should have known, though. Staying up late has rarely felt worth the loss in energy, motivation, or focus the following day. I have a suspicion this may be the end of that tradition, or I’ll at least establish a new one: the New Year’s Eve Evening Naptime.

So, I’m giving myself a day to do only the bare minimum and just the basics. Hardly any of my resolutions this year require a dedicated daily practice and the ones that do I have marked off already. I got my 10 minutes of mediation and stretching in before sunrise, and today’s journal entry is complete. All I have left is to write for so many words and read for so many pages before the end of the day.

THe greatest excitement today will be getting to fill in the first page of my planner and preparing for the first weeks of the month by scheduling my time and working out my “to dos”. This analog system feels good and my hope that having everything written down in front of me and not on my phone I’ll have a little more focus and with just a little more focus over the next 365 days, I think I can get a lot done!

My specific resolutions aren’t quite done yet, but that’s okay. I’m taking a different approach this year. I’m letting this 2021 version of myself become rather than expecting her to emerge today fully formed and perfect. This 2021 version of me isn’t sure who she is or how best to express herself or move forward, so she’s taking the year slowly and I’m giving her permission not to know yet and to change her mind when she does work it out.

I don’t have to start everything today, and it’s probably best that I don’t. That’s the fastest way to feel overwhelmed and the surest way for me to fail. The new year has arrived but I I am not arriving, I am growing.

New Year’s Eve is a strange day. It’s a day of preparing, of wanting, and of waiting and as that waiting goes on, and the body and mind fill with nervous energy you grow anxious, impatient, and quite feverishly, hopeful. You are simultaneously excited to leave the last 12 months behind and terrified to begin the next.

There are many hours left still before the end will come and the new beginning arrives finally. Here we are keeping our celebrations quiet and, most importantly, safe.

We aren’t marking the day as we usually do: with family or friends, drinking and partying. It’s just my wife and I softly ringing in the new year together and considering how much we’ve been through in these last many months, I couldn’t think of any way or with anyone I’d rather celebrate.

I’m practicing a lot of self-reflection and managing my expectations of what 2021 will bring. I remember New Year’s Eve before the start of 2020 I thought I was about to enter the a time of great joy and productivity. I imagined so many successes and experiences, and within months I the whole world was turned upside down.

I have no such expectations of 2021. I do not even believe it will be a better year than this last. All I hope for is that I will be better at coping with pain, disappointment, change, loss, and anger. I hope I will find ways to make the best of whatever I have and wherever I am. I hope to endure better, and that is all.

We’re just a day away now from New Year’s Eve and everyone keeps asking me what I’m doing to celebrate the holiday. I am absolutely doing nothing at all. I’m not even sure I’m going to stay up long enough to watch the calendar date roll over. The New Year feels more like an event to accept this year than to celebrate. A thing to get on with than to spend any time acknowledging.

The truth is too; I feel guilty for how much I have been out shopping and visiting with family over these last few months. I took some precautions, but it’s hard to break from norms and old traditions and isolate yourself entirely.

It doesn’t help how starved I have felt for anything to get out of the house, to see people, to laugh, to talk, to feel normal again. The cold and dreary weather and this awful monotonous routine of work, then home, then work, the home, then work is wearing on my willpower. I gave in to these needs and, quite surprisingly, to the holiday spirit.

So for the next few weeks at least I plan to stay in and stay away from anyone outside of my household as much as I can. Unfortunately, I still have to work, though even there I will do better to social distance.

The news broke yesterday that the first U.S. case the new, even more contagious strain of the coronavirus was found in my state and in someone who apparently had no travel history, at least not to the United Kingdom. That means it’s already spreading through the community and knowing this, my state of panic has been restored and my resolve renewed.

“I just think that we’re at this incredible time of mourning as a world. We’re all grieving our lives and grieving the lives that we’ve had before and worried about what’s going to happen in the future, and we’re all sort of stuck in a state of suspension. And some of the grief therapists that I talk to, the counselors, they say when you lose someone you love deeply, you want the world to stop. And the world has stopped. We’re all like in this collective place of reflection.”

This hasn’t been as smooth of a morning as yesterday was, but for me that’s to be expected. Unlike almost everyone else in the workforce, I’m always at my best on Mondays and as the week wears on my energy levels, attention to detail, and efficiency seriously deteriorate.

I know it’s only Tuesday, but this has been a hard week already. It hasn’t been due to any particular external stressor but simply my own anxieties. I have to teach a class tomorrow and the worry of it has been building since at least last Friday. I know the material, but I’m co-teaching with different people than I’m used to working with and the material has been updated, making me doubt my knowledge.

The week’s decline is also greatly accelerated by the wintery weather and some concerning effects of my the last in a series of iron infusions I had to undergo. The dosage was higher, and I ended up having a slight adverse reaction, leaving me feeling more fatigued than usual and generally icky.

Still, I am proud of myself for mustering the willpower to leave the bed early and work in time for meditation and a good stretching session before beginning the day. Taking those 10 to 15 minutes for myself every day really makes a difference. At the very least, I arrive to work with a sense of accomplishment already instilled.

I had thought to skip going in entirely and staying home, but today is scheduled to be a very, very short day and the worst part of it, the getting up and getting ready, is already over. All I have now left are a couple of quick tasks, a short bout of work outdoors, a bit of preparation to make for the next day, and a few emails to send off.

After that, it’s just breathing and remembering the blue sky until bedtime.