Jot it down

The Captain America sticker has a few ink marks on it and and the edges are a little frayed. It is not quite final battle of Avengers: Endgame battered, but it was a lot shinier when I stuck it on the cover of my 2020 bullet journal.

That bullet journal, which is actually a black, A5 size, dotted grid paper Moleskine, looks a lot different than I expected it to when I first cracked it open late last year. When I started the process of setting it up, transferring important dates into the future log, setting up spreads to track the books I’ve read and quotes I want to meditate on, I expected it to be a place I went to plan. To plan my days. To plan vacations. To plan random adventures that I never actually take, but maybe this would be the year.

Well, 2020 said “fuck your plans. Fuck your plans for that bullet journal, fuck that trip to Boston for SummerSlam, fuck those races you planned to run. Fuck you and fuck your plans.”

(Sorry for foul language. 2020 is a real asshole).

Turns out, my only plans for 2020 have been to not get sick, make sure my family stays healthy, and find a way to comfortably work from home. On March 16, I left the office with my work computer, set it up at the dining room table (it has since been moved to a folding table in my bedroom), and I haven’t done much else in the following 217 days. Well, that’s not exactly true. I’ve run almost 800 miles, including three virtual races. I’ve read 20 books (not a lot, but a lot for me). I’ve worked five shifts per week, wrote a few blog post, watched more baseball than I have in a long time (even during a shortened 60-game season), and watched more YouTube than I’d like to admit.

But plans? No, I haven’t made any plans. Not in the midst of a pandemic. Sometimes it feels like I’m the only one who hasn’t made any plans, but I’m all about playing it safe.

That bullet journal, though, is by my side daily. I scribble something in it every day. This morning I opened it to page 143 and jotted down a few things related to today.

Without any plans, without anywhere to go, or any big events on my schedule, why exactly am I’m still keeping a bullet journal?

Because it helps me keep my head on straight.

A few days into the pandemic, when I started working from home and a stay-at-home order was just a few days away, I started taking notes on how I was feeling and what I was thinking during the pandemic. I’d start by writing down a few things I wanted or need to accomplish that day (• work • laundry • run 30-45 minute) then as I made my way through the day, I’d jot a few notes.

For example, the first such entry I wrote on March 17, my birthday and the second day of work-from-home: “Today is my 46th birthday. I basically spent it by myself. I’m mostly, sort of, not really, OK with that. Talked to Mom. Texted with a lot of people. That helped. I’m self isolating probably more than anyone I know, it just feel it is the right thing to do.”

Almost every day since, I have jotted some notes to myself about the pandemic, about what is going on in the world, about the sports I’m watching on TV, about the work I’m doing at home. I have had a morning journaling habit for about six years, but that tends to be more of a chance for me to vent and get all of the noise out of my head before I start my day. My bullet journal now serves that purpose a little bit, too, and it has helped me get rid of some stress when the world feels like it is falling apart (Real life makes Thanos look like a walk in the park).

And it has made my bullet journal much more valuable. I have a stack of four old bullet journals in one of the bookcases in my bedroom. I can look back at those and see what events I had on the schedule or what I might have done on a certain day, but there is nothing in there about how I felt or what I was thinking. There are no notes about something I enjoyed or something I really hated. It is just lists, to-dos, events. My bullet journal in 2020 is all of those things, but it also tells a story.

I sat down on Thursday night and started setting up my 2021 bullet journal. I am not trying to rush 2020 to be over, as much as it has sucked, because 74 days is a lot of time to accomplish stuff (even if I’m stuck at home) and there is no guarantee 2021 is going to be better. A new year is just another day on the calendar after all.

No, I set it up because the new notebook showed up in the mail and I was looking to see how I might improve my bullet journaling in that new notebook. Hopefully, at some point next year I will have plans to make, but regardless, I will use it not only to track my to-dos, but to tell a story.

2020 has been a real asshole, but at least it encouraged me to start this beneficial new habit.

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