Yarn Monster’s Year In Review: 2020

I’m still not entirely sure how to describe this past year. In so many ways, it was both the best and the worst year of my life. On a global scale, we all know how strange, challenging, and terrifying this past year has been. On a more personal level, I experienced setbacks and heartaches as well as love and personal growth. So much has happened, and it’s hard to believe that it’s all contained to just one year.

Cats: The year got off to a rough start when Mark and I lost our five month old kitten, Orla, to FIP. I have never experienced a loss quite like that before. She was our baby. Although Mark brought two cats into our relationship, Orla was the first cat that we adopted together. And since we do not have any children of our own, our cats are our children in so many ways. And it hurt so much that there was nothing we could do to help Orla. FIP is terminal and does not yet have a cure. All we could do was love her and make sure she was happy and comfortable.

In order to help cope with the loss, Mark and I went to a pet loss support group for some much needed therapy. We also made sure that we had pictures of her on the walls so that she would never be forgotten. And we each got a tattoo of Orla so that she would always be with us (both by the lovely Sebastian at Knux Studio). Even a year later, we both still miss our little Nugget deeply.

When Orla passed, we were put in touch with another pet parent who had lost kittens to FIP. Although she provided emotional support, she also helped us to get our next kittens. She and her partner were fostering five kittens at the time, and she had set one aside for us as she thought his personality would make him the perfect fit for our little family. I fell in love with him immediately. When we went to visit him, we also fell in love with one of his foster brothers. One thing led to another and it wasn’t long before we welcomed Finn and Bubs into our home. This now bonded pair has certainly been challenging to live with as they thrive on getting into trouble, but they are very loving. I am so happy we have them in our lives.

Relationships: Speaking of our little family, Mark and I finally got married this year! After a two year engagement of planning, it was disheartening to have to cancel our dream wedding. However, despite the obstacles in our way, we ended up with the best socially-distant pandemic wedding possible.

All of the chaos of the wedding also helped to put things into perspective in terms of my personal relationships. Over the course of the past year, I’ve been making more of an effort to spend time with friends – virtually, that is. I have to say, it’s a lot easier to plan hangouts when you don’t have to get dressed or leave your house. Thanks to my virtual hangouts, I’ve been spending more time this year with friends than I have in a long time. And because of all of the ups and downs of re-planning a wedding during a pandemic, it helped us to see who was most important in our lives because of the love and support we received from some of our family and friends.

Work: Like many, my work was impacted by the pandemic. My last day of work was in March, and I spent just about all of April in an unemployed/depressive slump. Once it fully sank in that this was the new normal, I decided to get back into transcription, which I had just been doing on the side to supplement my income whenever I had the time. Although it can be challenging, and the work certainly isn’t always steady or predictable, I enjoy it so much more than my old job. Although mental health issues this year have undoubtedly gotten in the way, I’ve been keeping up with transcription and my goal is to work even harder this next year so that I can fully rely on it as a source of income.

Once I had that chance to rest and switch gears after no longer being able to work at my old job, I became fully aware of just how stressed and unhappy I was there. No more twelve hour work days with next to no breaks, no more stress about getting paid on time, no more unhappiness caused by a toxic office culture. Although I had been aware of the impacts the job was having on my mental health, I hadn’t realized just how much it had affected my physical health as well.

I have also been spending more time this past year writing. My goal is to eventually turn this into a source of income. I have joined online communities, submitted to publications and contests, gotten some rejection letters along the way, and I’ve started taking online courses to learn more about publishing and self-publishing. I have high hopes for myself for 2021 as far as my writing is concerned.

Health: Thanks to the extra time at home, no more long commutes, and fewer working hours, I’ve finally been able to prioritize my mental and physical health. Because of long working hours sandwiched between long commutes, I didn’t have time to really focus on my physical health. Since the start of the pandemic, I have not only been able to work out every day, but I’ve finally been able to properly tackle existing health issues. For the past year and a half, I’ve been dealing with IBS that has been fairly aggressive at times. With more time at home and more time to put some thought into what I’m eating and what triggers flare-ups, I’ve been able to get my IBS mostly under control.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to be able to get both physio therapy and massage therapy. Before the pandemic, I only had a little bit of time once or twice a month to be able to get massage therapy for some neck problems that had been caused by a poor desk set up at an old job (if your boss ever asks you to work out of their dinning room instead of an office, don’t). Now, thanks to a combination of physio therapy and massage therapy, I have been able to put some work into fixing the problems in my neck. The process has also helped to uncover some issues in my shoulders and upper back, which I have been working to fix as well.

In terms of my mental health, I have spend the bulk of this past year reading self-help books in order to cope with anxiety, depression, and challenging family relationships. I was also fortunate enough to be able to start therapy, and I now have regular virtual sessions with a therapist. Probably the most impactful change I have made to my mental health is that I have started to practice meditation and mindfulness. After a particularly bad anxiety attack in the spring, I downloaded the Headspace app. That has been, without a doubt, the most useful app I have ever downloaded. I use it every day for meditations, focus music, sleep music, and more. Most importantly, I’m proud of myself for the way that I’ve been turning to mindfulness and meditation to help with my anxiety; I feel that I’ve made some good improvements over the past few months.

Hobbies: With the extra free time in my life this past year, I’ve had more time for my hobbies. With the ups and downs of depression that have hit me hard this year, I haven’t always had the mental energy for my hobbies though. Still, I’ve made an effort to keep up with the things I enjoy doing.

I haven’t done as much reading this year as that was the hardest thing to do when my depression got bad. Plus, even though I’ve been reading plenty of short stories and lots of non-fiction writing, I’ve been struggling to finish the same novel since January. I started reading Stephen King’s Bag of Bones right around the time that Orla passed away. In that novel, the protagonist struggles with the passing of his wife, so the subject matter struck a little too close to home and I’ve had a mental block every time I try to pick up the book. And I think that’s also why I’ve read fewer novels this year, because I can’t seem to get past this one. One of my goals for 2021 is to finish reading Bag of Bones.

In terms of my other hobbies, I haven’t worked on any new cosplays this year (since conventions aren’t happening), but I have done plenty of knitting. A number of friends have given me their yarn leftovers over the years and, combined with my own leftovers, my yarn stash was getting out of hand. I finally sorted through everything and set aside any yarn that I knew I would probably never use for a cosplay. I then used those scraps to start knitting scarves. Although charities really aren’t accepting clothing donations right now because of the pandemic, my plan is to eventually donate all of the scarves. I did luck out last month though when my local Starbucks was collecting donations for Hit The Streets Ottawa, so I was able to donate everything I had made up until that point.

Also, like many others, I got hooked on baking this year. I’ve always been a good cook, and I love spending time in the kitchen, but I’ve never been a good baker. Thanks to stress baking, I can confidently say that I have improved my baking skills. I even did some Christmas baking for the first time ever this year!

And, of course, I had the tv on in the background for a lot of my hobbies. I am guilty of more than a few Netflix binges this year. One thing that I only recently just noticed is that I’ve been watching more and more foreign language films over the course of 2020. Although I’ve watched more Indonesian horror films than I ever thought I’d watch, the frontrunners have been Spanish language films. I’ve watched so many Spanish language films (mostly horror) from so many different parts of the world, and I’ve really been pleasantly surprised by what I stumbled upon. I’m definitely going to have to keep an eye out for more. But, as I’ve said many times already this year, my favourite foreign language film from my 2020 watch list has got to be the 2016 Persian film Under the Shadow.

So, that’s it. That was my 2020. And it was an absolute roller coaster. I don’t know what else I can say other than: here’s to a good 2021 and hopefully this next year goes well for everyone.

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