My advice for the week: If you’re feeling down in lockdown, put on a (fake) happy face.

Heather wearing fake smile mask
My new facemask (like an actual face. mask.) from Anouk de Vries Design.

I haven’t blogged about the lockdown for a couple of weeks, and I feel like I’ve built up all these lockdown thoughts and ideas but haven’t been able to share them. So here they are, in no particular order.

1) I can’t believe this pandemic is still a thing.

The lockdown has been going on for so long that I no longer feel nostalgia for the pre-lockdown days. Instead I feel nostalgia for the days right after the lockdown began, when the whole idea felt exotic and justified, and we thought it was only going to last for 21 days, and I didn’t have any decisions to make about anything.

Last weekend I found myself walking laps around my house — my old exercise routine during Level 5, when leaving home was prohibited — rather than going for a walk on the street. Walking in circles, which seemed ludicrous four months ago, now feels oddly comforting and safe.

For the first 100 days of lockdown, I kept track of what day we were on. I now feel nostalgic for that too. Counting days gave a shape and a frame of reference to this strange experience. Now it’s just another day, another week, another month of nothingness. I wake up every morning disoriented, struggling to separate dreams from reality.

2) I love podcasts.

While I was walking circles around the house on Sunday, I listened to an NPR podcast called Hidden Brain. Hidden Brain is one of my favorite recent discoveries, and the most recent episode about creativity and diversity was an epiphany for me. I don’t think I could survive this lockdown without podcasts.

One of you recently asked me for podcast recommendations; I’ve peppered them into various posts before but here’s a comprehensive list of my top ten favorites, covering a variety of genres, from the past year or so:

  • This American Life for exceptional all-around storytelling.
  • The Daily for clear and digestible news. Don’t miss the special weekend editions.
  • Radiolab (and Radiolab’s fantastic offshoot, Dolly Parton’s America), for more exceptional all-around storytelling.
  • Criminal for a unique angle on true crime.
  • Fool Me Twice (new discovery – thanks Ruth), for an excellent serialized story about online romance scams.
  • Reveal‘s American Rehab series, for in-depth investigation on the history of drug rehabilitation.
  • 99% Invisible for interesting stories about design.
  • The Shrink Next Door for a totally insane, serialized story about a real-life psychopath psychiatrist.
  • Ear Hustle for interesting tales from San Quentin Prison.
  • Unladylike for a fun, humorous, informative take on modern feminism.

There are so many more podcasts I love and can recommend. If you have questions about a specific genre, please ask.

Disclaimer: My podcast preferences are extremely America-centric. I’ve been trying to find South African podcasts I like, and while there are a few good ones I have yet to find a local podcast that cracks my top ten list. I’m eager for recommendations.

3) Knitting is my escape.

Thank god I learned to knit before this lockdown started. It’s one of the few activities I look forward to every day, and my second scarf is shaping up to be way better than the first. Knitting has become my evening meditation.

I’m still slow but I’m getting good.

4) Taylor Swift is a genius.

This is not a totally new observation on my part, as I’ve always enjoyed Taylor Swift’s music. But if you’ve previously dismissed Taylor as a vapid millennial mega pop star — or if you are part of an older generation and don’t really know who Taylor Swift is — I implore you to check out her surprise new album, Folklore.

I downloaded the album on Saturday morning and listened to it on repeat for basically the entire weekend, while crying. It’s so good, and isolation has clearly provided Taylor with an unexpected creative spark (a feeling I can also relate to).

Folklore, along with Fiona Apple’s new album, which I blogged about recently, are my feminist pandemic anthems. I feel like these women get me, and I get them. Their music makes me feel like we know each other, and that is a rare and special feeling.

Incidentally there is also a very good documentary about Taylor Swift on Netflix — highly recommended.

5) I’m still trying to write a book.

I’m still toiling away, slowly, on my memoir. It’s a crazy time to be thinking back over everything that’s happened in my life over the past decade, and especially to my relationship with Jon.

Fern tree in Melville
I came upon this series of images of the fern tree in my old garden, taken in the months after Jon died. When I look at them I can literally feel the way I was feeling back then.

I’m rereading things I wrote many years ago, and feeling surprised and dismayed by how many events and feelings I have completely forgotten. It makes me realize how subjective memories — and the lack thereof — really are.

Thank you to everyone who recently signed up to support my memoir project, and to those who increased their monthly pledges:

  • Julie Neogy
  • Itumeleng Nomlolo
  • Giuliana Bland
  • Margaret Fauchier
  • Catrina
  • Kathleen Martel
  • Caprice Barbour

And for anyone who still doesn’t know, I’m creating premium content every week for those who support me on Patreon. Every week I make a short voice memo and one premium blog post, with stories from my memoir that haven’t been previously told in the blog.

My Patreon income has become a small but reliable financial lifeline for me during these lean COVID-19 times. Thank you again. Find more details at patreon.com/2summers.

6) My mask fashion love affair continues.

Is it weird I can’t stop taking these creepy fake-happy-face selfies?

I don’t think so. Not only are these masks funny, they are a perfect metaphor for these super weird times. We’re all moving about in the world, trying to appear normal, when in fact we’re all completely losing it under our masks. We’re all faking it ’til we make it. What else can we do?

Heather in mask
In case you don’t feel like being a weirdo, it’s reversible too.
Anouk de Vries facemasks
…and comes in a variety of colors. Order at Anouk de Vries Design.

That’s all for now, folks. See you next week.

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