When I started this blog, nothing in the wildest imagination of 2020 Jim Schneider could have conjured that the Jim Schneider of one year in the future would be writing the 365th consecutive daily post of a blog whose concept occurred to me while making a smoothie, and whose first post I wrote as a goof a few hours later. The scene captured in this photo used in my first post may have played a role in inspiring “Parenting, Productivity and Quarantine” as a concept.
More than that, I know that 2020 me would not believe the things that 2021 Jim Schneider saw along the way. Here’s the scene one year later.
It has been a year. All of us have been through the wringer. I am currently working on a book, using my writing along the way to try to make sense of the journey we had in the last year, and it is been quite surreal looking back on posts from the first few weeks. A few things I discovered in the first few weeks worth of posts that I had long forgotten include:
- One very early trip to the grocery store, I was stressed out and terrified about touching surfaces and then touching my face. I constantly washed and sanitized hands, but this was before masks were a thing and I wasn’t wearing one.
- FenceBat! My kids invented a sport that involved sticking a foam baseball bat through our fence. The first of many, many games, sports and activities they would invent in the coming year.
- The Howl. People in and around Denver used to howl like werewolves at 8:00 every evening for some reason.
- Easter: Everything was going to be TOTALLY normal by Easter. I was dubious of that claim even then, because I figured it’d probably be more like early May when things got back to normal.
- I didn’t write about this, but I remember Henry’s evaluation for Austism Spectrum Disorder being done over telehealth, a pretty new thing for most of us back then. I also remember thinking he probably wouldn’t land on the spectrum, and wondering if we’d have to do another evaluation in person to get a better idea.
The year has been a rollercoaster, and looking back on it, all of us deserve some credit for keeping it together at all. Our shared experience with COVID was frightening, confusing, lonely and uncertain. Hope would come and go. But beyond that common stressor, all of us saw our own lives, complete with their own problems, anxieties, joys, challenges and victories, go on.
For our family, processing Henry’s diagnosis and trying to get him support during a pandemic was hard. At the beginning of that journey, I struggled writing this blog and, for maybe the only time in the last year, gave serious thought to stopping. I struggled with my own fears and feelings and also had a hard time knowing how to write about our lives in a way that left that out. Back then, I thought I was defending Henry, but the more I learned and further I came along, the more I understood that all we were defending Henry from was perception. Perception is formed by what people think, so why should we contribute to negative labels? Why shouldn’t we celebrate who our son is so others can see that too? We would never want him to think we are anything less than bursting with pride for everything that he is.
Honesty was something I was trying to work on in writing this blog, and being able to write about Henry has been an important aspect of that. While I might have started this as a goof, it did become an important path of development for me, as a writer and as a person. First of all, for years I hid from writing because I convinced myself there was never time and I couldn’t do it. Showing up to do this every day has taught me that it is possible to build positive habits. It’s also taught me that not every word I write has to be a masterstroke. It’s OK to just write something, the process itself has meaning.
And it has taught me to be more honest in my writing, and with myself. I’ve always hidden behind wit or something wit-adjacent in my writing. In many ways, writing has been how I concealed myself, and this has taught me to use it to express myself instead.
Finally, it has taught me how damned important it is to write things down. Memory is a faulty apparatus, and I think it’s hard to overstate how much many precious memories fade into forgetfullness for all of us. This is why great leaders, artitsts and other successful people keep journals. Reading back on posts of the last year and seeing the pictures, I’m struck by how much I surely would have forgotten if I hadn’t written it down.
“But why the hell would you want to remember THAT year?” I understand why many would ask that, but I look back and am extremely thankful for all the days along the way, and how much everyone in our family has grown throughout it.
I really want to thank everyone who has read this blog, whether it was once, twice or 365 times. It means more to me than I can express, and the accountability of knowing there are people out there reading has kept me honest and kept me going. I am also immensely thankful for all the kind comments and messages along the way. And a shout out also to Katie, Tom and Amelia, who were all generous enough to contribute guest blogs last year. You each have a perspective I enjoy and appreciate. And thanks also to Kristin, who designed this website and helped me along the way.
Of course, I most of all have to thank Erin, Amelia and Henry, possibly the only people on Earth I could like even more after a year locked up in quarantine together. Without your encouragement and support, I couldn’t have done this or much of anything else, so I thank and love you all beyond measure.
A funny thing I realized about this moment. I do feel a sense of accomplishment for having done this. I am proud about it. I remember spending years of my life feeling like I hadn’t accomplished anything celebration worthy in a long time. I would remember the feeling of accomplishment and pride I had after passing my LEED AP exam over a decade ago and wondered when I might do something like that again.
There are two dumb things about this. First of all, like probably most all of us, I was looking right past the fact that we accomplish things every day. We just need to do a better job of noticing them and celebrating them.
And second, I was waiting for an external thing for me to accomplish. Like that exam, or applying for jobs I wanted but didn’t get. What I realized today was that I feel this sense of accomplishment about something no one asked me to do. And that I never asked anyone else if I could do. This made me recognize that pride and a sense of accomplishment aren’t external things at all. It’s something inside me and everyone reading this. Challenging ourselves, setting goals and doing things that bring joy to ourselves and those around us are infinitely more celebration-worthy than anything any test or award.
Ages ago, when I was struggling with some pretty tough depression, I used to say to myself, “Every day has its victory.” And then I would list off whatever that day’s victory was in my mind. I didn’t know it then, but I was doing mantra and an affirmation. Today, I keep a gratiude journal and write affirmations every day. On purpose! Seriously, try it, it’s awesome.
“Every day has its victory.” I think this particular matra has a lot of resonance in the time of COVID. Because even days where the kids have us pulling our hair out and we just want to scream or crawl in bed or scream from bed, we still accomplished something. It might be having a particularly sharp Zoom meeting with minimal kid screaming in the background. It might have been a smile of gratitude from your child when you take a moment to play with them. It might be a good dinner you made, even if no one but you eats it.
Finding those victories has been a big part of my staying reasonably sane in the past year. And writing this blog has helped me chronicle those. And you have witnessed it and made it real outside of my head, and for that I thank you.
Amelia just the other night asked me how long I planned to keep doing this blog. And the answer is that I don’t honestly know. I did mull stopping after the one-year mark, but the fact is that we are still living in relative lockdown and this story isn’t over yet. It will be at some point. Maybe after we’re vaccinated? I suppose at some point where I feel like the “quarantine” part of Ps and Q is officially over and we’re able to be together for real again.
But until then, onward I go. Thank you for hanging with me. And now if you’ll excuse me, I may crack a beer, play a game of FenceBat and give a good, loud howl.