Sea-sons Greetings, Bookwyrms!
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2020 is Finally. Almost. Over. There are signs of hope in the near-ish distance, but we’re still very much in the tunnel. Not Gonna Lie, I’m still having the occasional meltdown. So this is not going to be a post about faking Christmas cheer or ignoring what’s still wrong with the world. What follows is an overview of my year-long attempts to follow Madeline L’Engle’s advice (by way of her merry time-wrinkling witches) about “laughing in the dark.”
Not dismissing the bad, but paying equal attention to the good — because how will we get to the end of the tunnel if we can’t see the emergency floor lights (mixed metaphors FTW!)?
What follows are my coping mechanisms from the past year (mostly biblio-specific, of course), plus the usual look back at my most and least favorite books. Think of it as a guide to healthy forms of escapism when you’re living through a real-life viral outbreak story (anyone else cry-laugh while watching that one episode of DS9, or the 2013 Christmas episode of NCIS?).
January 2020 found me unemployed due to a severe flare-up of depression and anxiety, and then the universe decided that this was the perfect time to write us all into an actual global apocalypse with dystopian overtones. I had multiple meltdowns between March and July. Like a bookish mermaid version of Amelie, though, I somehow managed to put together a mental playlist of goofy strategems (a good portion of them involving cosplay) to keep myself sane and spread hope to my fellow Bookwyrms.
These strategems included:
- Starting the year with a nostalgic review of my favorite 90s PBS show about the magic of literacy (which was also my 200th post!), plus a four-part shell-ebration of my favorite finfolk-loric subgenre: SELKIES!!!
- Leaning into all of my creative sides, focusing not only on blogging and fiction-writing, but also challenging myself with literary baking projects, plenty of mermaid cosplay (see my Instagram for more photos), learning to make TikTok videos (@nerisiren358) and, most recently, attempting some analog visual art (I may share my results later). Because, as Austin Kleon says in Steal Like an Artist, sometimes the best way to recharge your inspiration station is to back away from the computer and make something with your bare hands.
- Taking on multiple reading and blogging challenges, including four book tags (plus my own caffeinated Christmas creation) and the year-long Armed With a Bingo game — which I’m super proud to have finished by September! I also created my own Finfolk Friday feature, an offshoot of Caffeinated Fae’s Fae Friday tag (see my Fae responses here).
- Turning my life into a literal musical. In addition to buying about ten CDs worth of meditation/sleep music, I added a playlist segment to my book reviews, having realized that the reading experience (whether during or after the actual reading) can be majorly enhanced with theme songs and ambient sounds. See my Spotify account for more bookish-musical mayhem!
- Leaning into my nostalgic side by ThriftBooking a bunch of my old Sweet Valley favorites and discovering a few new-to-me Pacific treasures.
- Searching for books that portray a future (or even pockets of the past and present) in which we’ve truly affirmed that Black Lives Matter.
- Attending an online mermaid convention where I learned about diversity, body positivity, water safety, and responsible myth-making in the fin-dustry.
- Celebrating Halloween early by starting a Summerween segment. This year’s theme was Magically Creepy Carnivals!
- Listening to multiple literary/folkloric podcasts, both goofy (The Babysitters Club Club, Double Love, and The Mermaid Podcast), deep (Fireside: the Irish Storytelling Podcast), and somewhere in between (I just discovered the American Girls pod) while taking long walks with my bernedoodle puppy.
- And, finally, (I promise this isn’t an obnoxious “alternative medicine” plug) doing solo yoga and zumba via DVDs (I HIGHLY recommend Yoga Shakti because it lets you create your own class from a menu of segments, all the way from solar meditation to savasana) and Wii games (Zumba Fitness FTW!).
Dancing and movement meditation have been two of my most personally helpful mood-lifters in combination with talk therapy and medication. And it worked best when I wasn’t focusing on the workout aspect at all. Yoga isn’t about burning calories or pushing past your limits. As one of my favorite instructors used to say: if you can’t smile while you’re doing a pose, you’re doing it wrong.*
* By which she doesn’t mean you have to be in a perfect zen state the whole time; you just have to pay attention to when something hurts or is so straining that you literally can’t smile. In those cases, pull back into an easier version of the pose or do a different pose that you’re more familiar with.
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Ultimately, I do think that sign I saw a few months ago was right in predicting that 2020 would wrap up at least somewhat like a mullet — the party was in the back. And by party, I mean the Return-of-the-Jedi-style celebrations after the election (see Mark Hammil’s gleeful Twitter post). We’re still not in full Happy Ending mode, but I’m looking for those floor lights wherever I can find them. And I’m confident 2021 is at least going to be better than the third Star Wars sequel. 😉
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Poinsetta clipart from Clipart Library.