beverly t.

My normal was disrupted in many ways, but a lot of it was a continuation of major disruption from late 2018 through 2019.

I assumed that in 2020, I would get back on the normal path, or a normal I recognized. Y’all, I had actually planned and arranged to return to work “behind the chair” [cutting hair] starting in March. I almost sent out an email to my clients announcing my appointment schedule. LOL.

For the first 6 weeks of the initial lockdown, I was worried my kid had Covid. Maybe they did, we will never know. My child splits their time 50-50 with their dad. However, for 7 weeks they stayed with me. Their dad did sidewalk visits and they gave each other air hugs. Watching two of the most significant people in my life unable to hug each was heartbreaking for all of us.

My child officially turned into a teenager in 2020 – with all the wonder, attitude and olfactory overloads included. My child has the privilege of a stable home life, no change to parental income, health insurance and access to health/mental care, school, and strong internet. And yet, I’ve watched them sink into depression, anxiety and challenges specific to 2020/pandemic that despite ongoing mental health care, they are struggling beyond anything normal. Thanks to excellent insurance and full access to care, my child is making tremendous strides in self-empowered mental wellbeing. This is hard.

For myself, slowing down allowed me to question and thoroughly answer my self. Was I making the most of my quiet time, my alone time? Was I making the most of my opportunities at hand? Could I make my surroundings 5% more comfortable or beautiful? How can I help people in my community? Am I using my resources to make the world a better place than how I found it?

In the early days of the pandemic, I took up mask making. I had so much free time, I went through my tubs of incomplete projects. I let go of projects that were not a “hell-yes!” and I finished some lovely pieces. I started to love sewing again. I found a way to volunteer with a hospice by making memory bears and pillow for surviving families.

In 2019, my parents moved from the foothills to a home 1 mile from me. I’ve been able to grocery shop and run errands for them to keep them safe. I’ve been able to see them (masked) and be a part of their lives through the pandemic. I am so lucky they are nearby and have remained healthy.

I started connecting with neighbors with the local Buy Nothing FB Group and was able to Covid-safe meet people online and with porch-pickups/drop-offs. I checked in with Buy Nothing each day to see if there was an item I had that I could share with a neighbor, and I posted many items to clear out space in my home for someone else to love. One time on my porch, I laminated school workbook sheets for a parent while their kids waited in their car. I gifted Christmas items to a young couple expecting their first child. I shared too much produce from a CSA with 7 different families. I gave away a bag of elastics to another mask maker. The giving list goes on and on.

I met a few neighbors and we later went on 6′ distance bike rides exploring the Wide Open Walls murals around Sacramento. I never would have met this wonderful woman and her BF without Buy Nothing. My need to connect also led me to a widows’ support group (Modern Widows Club) with a weekly “local” zoom meeting and I can call 12+ womxn close confidante friends. Three of us also met for a masked / social-distanced walk around Land Park.

I became more engaged in politics and social justice. My privilege as a CIS-gendered white female could no longer “choose” to ignore the news and pretend I did not play a part in my silence to keep systemic racism in place. I know I do not do enough and I can always do more. I do not post my activity on FB or IG because I am not looking for a “cookie” or pat-on-the-back attention. Instead, I call and write to my Senators and Rep to voice my support for human rights (no more people in cages!), BLM, climate change, and universal healthcare for all. I have difficult conversations with people in my social circles. Out of respect and responsibility, I acknowledge that I reside on colonized land stolen from the Nisenan people. I donate money to organizations (food banks, Navajo Nation, RAICES, etc.).

By summer, I started to evaluate my relationship with the (now-ex) BF that had started in late 2019. Although we shared the commonality of surviving our spouses, our core values and communication styles were at odds. By odds I mean his refusal to accept responsibility to take action to dismantle systemic white supremacy, denial of cultural appropriation, and boss-level hidden functional alcoholism. During 2020, I had normalized daily drinking. Consuming alcohol was something I might do on the weekends or most likely on vacation, but never every damn day. I laughed over the memes and the BS of pandemic-coping-with-wine. The habit became mindless. The habit became routine.

A few times, I did a dry-10-day diet (no sugar, no booze) as a “healthy reset”. Of course I felt better. Then, the day before the anniversary of my late husband’s death, I severely injured my knee. I had to go to the ER at UCDavis Med Center. I was terrified of exposure to Covid, but I had to get my knee examined. I had to cancel a trip to my hometown San Diego (oh, the privilege – sigh) and instead the (now-ex) BF and I went to Calistoga for a long weekend. I used the excuses of crutches and my injury to binge drink in Napa County – like ya do (insert: face palm). I was so disrespectful to my body to consume toxic ethanol, aka wine, when my body was already working so hard to heal my wound. A week later, I was diagnosed with a blood clot and placed on blood thinner. I was terrified and relieved. I finally had a medical reason to quit the habit of drinking for 90-days.

Funny enough, the first day I would be able to consume alcohol was NYE. Two weeks in, I decided to become a non-drinker for life. 90-days wasn’t going to give me a reset and make me a “normie.” The only thing that would make me ME was to stop consuming toxins. When I announced that I would never drink again, the (now-ex) BF told me I “wasn’t fun anymore.” Without the veil of alcohol, I started to see the dynamics of the relationship. I thought I would mourn the loss of his company. Nope. I was too busy gaining my life back.

More searching for support groups, I found a twice-weekly zoom meeting for womxn that are sober and sober-curious (The Sober Sisters). Coincidentally, one of my friends from Modern Widows Club also is a member of Sober Sisters. The “isolation / social distancing” of 2020 actually forced me to and allowed me to become more connected. The monthly Misfit Stars zoom meeting brought me even closer to new friends that I hope to soon meet IRL. In sobriety, unable to work (no live theater, salons closed or limited) I had nothing to do except build memory bears and parent a struggling, non-binary teen. Ok, that is more than a full time commitment.

I decided I could not live a full life unless I was pushing myself to the very edge of my comfort zone. I enrolled in an 8-week playwriting class through Capital Stage and I enrolled in a 12 month series class with Soil Born Farms to make the most of my garden. I don’t have any goals to be an author or farmer for money, I am not carrying any risk if I fail. I’m investing my time because the payoff is unlimited in the way it fuels my other creative endeavors.

I restarted the 28-day workbook by Layla Saad, “Me and White Supremacy” (also check out her podcast Good Ancestor) and started reading “Embrace Yoga’s Roots” by Susanna Barkataki about the cultural appropriation, exclusiveness (race, financial, ableist) and watering down of yoga, ignoring the spiritual and social justice limbs.

The more I engage my brain, spirit, and heart, the more I have to share with my child, friends, and the world. My soul aches to hear live music and work/attend live theater. I miss the energy given and received hanging out with other creatives. I was connecting with as many people as I could with FB, IG, Zoom … but ugh. It isn’t enough.

In January, a friend posted about renting a studio space at an artists collective in downtown Sacramento, Dwellpoint. I was intrigued. It runs like a gym membership, so you pay a base level to have access to tools/machines/equipment (carpentry/printing/screen print/photography/sound room/rehearsal space/painting, etc) and the option to rent a designated work area for an additional fee. I decided to rent a studio space and I moved all my sewing gear and wig making/styling supplies out of my garage over to Dwellpoint. It’s a commercial space, so I can use the address for a bonafide business as a sole proprietor, LLC or S-Corp. I am not sure what I am going to do with the opportunity. For now, I’m crafting all my memory bears and pillows there, and taking on a few custom clothing orders.

None of my awakening, unlearning, examining, exposure, vulnerability, growing, adapting, advocating, community, and celebrating would have happened without the pandemic. Just a few self-centered things; it is obviously not enough. January 6 was the litmus test. I believe in Dum Spiro, Spero: “while there is breath, there is hope.” I know breath isn’t enough – action, and only educated, informed, purposeful, impact-centered action, will make change. All I can do is know better and do better each day – this is the lesson of 2020.

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