In March this year I was about to get on a plane to Alaska to start a cycle journey through North and South America. I had saved enough money over the past few years, taken a Spanish course, and was fully prepared with gear to ride my bike in extreme cold Alaskan temperatures. I was also well prepared physically with yoga and a lot of running and cycling outside. If someone had told me then that this was not going to happen at all and even more crazier, I was going to be in lockdown for the entire length of this planned journey, I would have thought this person was completely insane. It would be too much to accept, too much of adjustments from my own reality, too harsh a truth that would take some time to really be able to sink in.
For me, the penny dropped when someone attented me on a press release about some news from Trump. Europeans could enter the United States no more! And the rest is history. Adjusting came first, which was fairly easy, but accepting came later for me. The new reality soon hit in very hard because we would have to deal with this COVID-19 for a long time.
The outlook is better now, at least I think 2021 will hopefully be a year with more possibilities than 2020, although that’ll be something to wait for.
In 2020 I learned an awful lot because some sort of identity crisis I was in. I quitted my job and instead of being able to cycle I ended up in a sea of time without really something to go for. It was an intensive year, especially emotionally. But in the end I only found out who I really was when all forms in which I identified myself a long time suddenly disappeared so unintentionally.
I will share more about the things that seemed important in this year.
Fear can be very dangerous.
Conspiracy was and is still present a lot. When something big happens that is inexplicable, we tend to look for an explanation and that’s how different truths come on the market. I believe most of them arise from fear and can grow into something that is turning into a believe that also creates a superior feeling. Something that evolves with a sense of meaning because a deep connection is forming with a clear purpose and something to fight for because others don’t want to see the truth for who she really is. Finding purpose can be a wonderful thing, but if it is fear-driven I believe it can be dangerous.
I have learned not to pay attention to the great, incomprehensible and complicated things and reasons why it is like this because I think it is of no use.
I found the truth in nature during the lockdown. I have spent a lot of time in nature. When I was in nature I started to feel its presence. It’s the wonderful silence that’s out there and I’m starting to recognize this silence in myself. The presence of a tree is also in me. With this realization, I feel connected to some larger universe. Everything that is uncertain, that I do not understand, all resistance for anything in life falls away. All fear disappears completely. I think this is a very nice essence of being and has given me a lot of peace this year in a troubled time.
Discipline doesn’t just come from willpower, mostly from creating habits.
My willpower and productivity became less and less as the length of the lockdown became longer and longer. I quickly made a schedule to fill my time so that I would not become lazy or even end up in a victim role from that laziness. The first thoughts I had were optimistic, because I now had plenty of time to do things that I had wanted to do for a long time! But the longer I was home, the more effort it took to be really productive. It became more and more important to stick to a routine of habits, and I set small rituals more and more precisely. I rewarded myself emotionally when things went well and was not too disappointed in myself when things didn’t work out.
In my digital agenda I made a plan for these habits in which I planned everything in blocks. My sleep rhythm, a yoga session, running, e-mail, work, writing. I made this sacred and I remember that especially going to bed and going out the bed early as the indicators of how I managed to follow this schedule.
Alcohol and caffeine are no longer friends of my.
In making this routine sacred, I found myself starting the day with full courage early in the morning with a cup of coffee. I just love the smell and taste of coffee. But later in the day, I noticed that my attention was weakening and my productivity was not getting much better. I once tried without coffee for a few days and the result was amazing. I felt much calmer and my energy became much more stable. I could stick to the routine more that I had so neatly planned in the agenda.
Making it an exception (or even a reward) allows me to enjoy it more. It’s absurd how long my body has to recover from alcohol consumption and how deeply it affects my sense of aliveness in the days that follow. The same goes for the aftermath of coffee, I only really became aware of this by doing more yoga and meditation. Days without coffee made it easier for me to be in silence and to find more peace.
I have underestimated the adaptability and resilience of our society.
I see our Dutch society functioning particularly well in a very difficult time. Although this is partly due to the financial support packages from the government, but I see solidarity growing. It is very special to see in this process how great our adaptability is. Many people I know who speak out activist and some even anarchist against our society and the government, I see these people taking perhaps the greatest responsibility to get COVID-19 under control together. To be there for their communities and to help them emerge stronger from out this crisis.
No cry for anarchist protests, no big protests against our government’s measures, the energy goes a lot towards caring for one other. I think that’s such a beautiful thing to see this year.
Slowing down is a good thing.
I often underestimate how my thoughts unintentionally make me restless. How I come up with all kinds of things to escape that restless feeling. I sometimes have it in the evening before I go to sleep because that is an important moment of silence. If I have avoided the silence all day, I notice the restlessness especially at this moment.
In the crisis this year, when I ended up in lockdown without a job and without a journey to go for, I eventually had the time to heal, to really feel the emptiness that arose and to make room for it. It was that for a long time I had a purpose to really go for but suddenly there was all this time and I had to slow down and let myself zoom out. I experienced this as very important and wonderful, but not before I had felt that heavy emotional feeling of emptiness. With learning to do nothing, I was able to emotionally close one chapter in my life before letting myself go completely into a next one.
Life is what you make of it.
It wasn’t until I read Nietzsche’s biography that I really started to understand something. My need was to feel more emotionally stable and I tried to do this mainly through avoiding stress and confrontation. I confused comfort with happiness. I think this is also how the capitalist system conditions me. More and better has become ing a central thing and that I unintentionally attach a lot of value to it instead of being content with what is.
Whatever the circumstances, I have learned that freedom forms in my mind and not outside it. I learned to appreciate the little things, came to myself more and after a few months in lockdown I really felt more emotionally stable and mentally stronger.
An important insight for me is that as with any setback in life, I always have a choice of how to deal with this setback. And I firmly believe that, whatever the circumstances, it is always possible to continue to dictate your own life, and that also applies to these exciting times.
A hopeful future is very important.
I started cycling at the end of November to end the year in a kind of positive flow. I really love the mountains and the cold and that together with being alone on the bike is some gold combination. I thought about being on the bike as much as possible and sleeping in a tent all the way in order to do a kind of quarantine on the bike. This worked out very well because soon after cycling I felt a lot lighter. Purpose was there again and some hopeful few weeks ahead of me. In these weeks all the severity of the pandemic fell away from me, which was a very nice feeling.
And I think this is very important in order to stay sane in this time, a hopeful future and that is why I hope that 2021 will show itself with new possibilities and that being together will soon be possible again and will feel better than ever.