Ten Things That Helped Me Get Through This Year From Hell (Sorry Santa, A Few Are Naughty)

Desperate times call for desperate measures and 2020 was possibly the worst (and best) year of our lives. Because Gina is high-risk we have both quarantined the entire year. We went out to eat (one time since February) for our anniversary—and only after I rented the entire restaurant to ensure a private dinner.

We put less than 1,000 miles on our car this year—to put that in perspective, during that same time, I put 650 miles on my bicycle, and I walked or ran an additional 850 miles—a total of 1500 miles.

The death of my father-in-law was indirectly related to COVID, he did not contract the virus at his assisted-living facility, but he died of loneliness. Even though the facility did a great job keeping their residents safe and organizing “drive-by” visits—because Jerry could not see, hear, or walk—the six-foot social-distancing requirement rendered it impossible for him to hear or see us in our car no matter how hard we tried.

All of us have endured more than our fair share of heartache and stress this year. The volatile political landscape alone would have made for a terrifying year, but all the other factors contributed to a year from the depths of hell.

However, ten things helped make this year a little more bearable. I suppose a few of them will land me on Santa’s “naughty” list—but so be it. As I said before, desperate times call for desperate measures.

1.) Lulu 7+Amazon describes it as an Upgraded Personal Wand Massager with Memory – Premium with 5 Speeds 20 Patterns – Cordless Powerful and Handheld – USB Rechargeable for Back and Neck Relief – Color: Black. Let’s just say it is NOT just for the back and neck. Who knew after 41 total years of married life, one little device could conjure up so much new fun…and sheer pleasure! I am so naive.

2.) Whiskey—Lots of whiskeys. Particularly, a new discovery thanks to my friends Nathan and Brad, Weller 12 Year Wheated Bourbon. Oh, my. And yes, I drank an entire bottle to celebrate (well, Gina helped a bit) the day Biden won the presidency. I’ve never done that before nor will I ever do it again, but it was well worth it.

3.) Clone-A-Willy Kit—A very close friend whose name will go unmentioned sent me this unusual gift as a surprise. The Clone-A-Willy website says this kit allows you to make the most personalized sex toys on the planet and one-of-a-kind mementos. It is the original DIY dildo kit—who knew? I sure as hell did not know something like this existed! Did I mention I am so naive? The website goes on to say: They’re fun to make, sex-positive, and completely body-safe. Well, why not?

This gift has provided endless fun—particularly when someone has (as I do) a companion who is ready and willing to assist. It is very empowering and enlightening to see, hold, and use a part of yourself in a whole new way. And never fear ladies, there is a version for your part as well.

Fair warning guys, if you happen to be a bit larger than the average bear (I know, I know, aren’t we all) you will need to substitute the provided tube for a large smart water bottle (1.5 liters) or similar and for sure you will need to order extra casting powder and silicone. As they say, it ain’t bragging if it’s true.

This “little” gift smashed religious boundaries, taboos, and shame I had been carrying for years. And that is a very healthy thing.

4.) Screened-In Porch and Backyard Oasis—We had no idea when we had the architect draw up the plans in early-2019 for our backyard retreat that it would prove invaluable for 2020. We have spent endless hours in our outdoor personal garden of Eden (the perfect protection against the vicious Florida mosquitos) and it also provides the ideal venue for an occasional and much-needed socially-distanced visit by friends.

5.) Cannondale H-300 Hybrid—Three friends, Dave, John, and Terry, gave me this amazing bicycle twenty-seven years ago. It hung unused and exposed to the elements in our old barn while we lived at the farm and I have lugged it literally all over the southeast during Gina and my 12 different places of residence. When we moved to Florida I took it to a bike shop to knock off the rust and tune it up—the owner (a bike aficionado) freaked over my “vintage” Cannondale. He said “I will give you $300 for it this minute.” I said, “No Way!” Fortunately, he was able to restore it as good as new.

With our nearby access to the extraordinary Pinellas Trail which takes me (among other places) to the pristine beaches of Honeymoon Island, each time I hop on the bike, particularly this year, I feel as if I am flying free…and more importantly, safe.
 
6.) Cooking—I have never cooked this much in my life. You can probably say the same thing. For me, it has been cathartic. I hope it has for you. And we saved thousands of dollars by not going out to eat.

7.) Television—I’m not much of a television guy but this year changed everything. Gina and I have enjoyed Schitt’s Creek, The Queen’s Gambit, The Haunting, Succession, WestWorld, Hamilton, and various YouTube videos and concerts, to name only a few.

8.) Reading & Writing—By year’s end I will have read about 40 books this year, I know that sounds like a lot to most of you, but for me, it is a normal year, with the exception that the books this year were not for the faint of heart: Jung, Tomkins, Campbell, Nietzsche, Sartre, Pollan, Nabokov, Tolstoy, and Nin; deep and wide research for my new book, The Quest; and iconic and lengthy novels such as Magic Mountain, and Swann’s Way.

And I have decided to take plenty of time writing my next book because I feel it may be the most important of my life. It will have only ten chapters, but this year I have already iterated six different versions of each. I have enjoyed writing immensely when not succumbing to a new 2020 addiction that I call “news porn.”
 
9.) Art—Retreating to my beautiful studio The Sandbox and painting the nude body with graphite and watercolors brings me healing, pleasure, and catharsis, and results in “flow” states, which is the closest thing I have yet found to a state of enlightenment.

10.) Kayaks—Who knew these would be impossible to get in 2020? They are the perfect social distancing vehicle. We ordered two, and four months later they arrived. And ah, the peace, quiet, beauty, and camaraderie they have provided to Gina and me. Sheer bliss. It was a challenge to transport them and work out a system to get them safely on top of our Kia Soul, but an ingenious YouTube video provided an inexpensive solution.

As I write this, I realize how fortunate Gina and I are to not worry about finances, medical insurance, going to work, and having children in school—my heart goes out to you guys that have to be concerned with all these things. It has been a traumatic year for us, but not nearly as much as so many of my friends and acquaintances.

And finally, as I recount the many friends and the gifts they have given me that have helped make it through this unsettling year, I am grateful beyond words for them, and particularly for Gina, who is always a good sport with this wild and free-spirited artist she now calls her husband.

Here’s to 2021 and a better year.

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