Mind Fullness

It’s been all over the media that we’ve been in a pandemic for a year now (though the virus was likely floating around – and probably in a lot of places, it seems – for significantly longer than that). A bit over a week from now a year ago we started our first lockdown.

This past year taught me a number of things – some of which I’ve written about already (eg, that I can cut my own hair and make it look half way decent, but it’s not half as much fun as going to the salon) and some of which I haven’t, or not in any detail.

Gale force winds. This is a feature of living two miles off the Atlantic coast on an estuary. Don’t get me wrong – I love where I live. I don’t think I’ve ever lived away from water and I wouldn’t choose to be landlocked. In any case, it gets very windy when storms come in off the ocean and push up the estuary … verrry windy. I discovered after I moved here the first time this happened why people say the wind can drive you mad. Being stuck has raised this as an irritant exponentially. It’s a winter thing, so we should see the back of it soon, but it’s made me even twitchier this past year. My yoga teacher mentioned all this, about the gales making it hard to settle on things, on Saturday morning when she offered one of her hardest classes yet. Her point was to ground us.

Small change. One of the things I noted and then started to take serious notice of is how many little things I did by rote. So, over this last year I started to alter this and the result has been enlightening. I’m talking about things like my morning routine – ie, not doing things in precisely the same order every day. I’m talking dog walks – I stopped unthinkingly doing the same routes and also began to stop more for longer when Joe the lab wanted to investigate something and do my own investigating (eg, during the day just looking round me more and actually acknowledging what I was seeing; at night taking the time to really examine the night sky [we don’t have much light pollution] and fully listen to the structure of the silence).

Breathe and move. Specifically on Mondays and Tuesdays, when I have the client I actively hate, I started to get up more to move around, inserting a walk around the ground floor or a visit to the back door to stare at the garden, or a task (move laundry from washer into dryer) into the hours devoted to them as a means of actively taking myself out of what is basically a toxic working environment (I don’t understand how this company’s full time employees maintain their well-being). Recently I came to the conclusion that working for these people is not open-ended and found myself an end-point for them. This means I need to focus on finances in a serious way because once I have left them (and that’s how I’m thinking about the action) my income will fall. Still, I believe this is the right thing to do. It will give me breathing room and space to move more – in all kinds of ways. After being consciously restricted for such a long period I am very mindful of this being important for my well-being.

Masks. I am due my second covid vaccine within the next month or so. I’ve learned a lot about my own safety in the past year. Wearing a mask inside shops and shopping mindfully rather than wandering into some place and wandering about has resulted in no flu or other illness so far since the beginning of 2020. I have ‘underlying health issues’ and getting sick can be a big deal. So I’ve made the decision that even as we open up in the future I will wear a mask in public indoor spaces through the winter and maybe at other times if I feel it’s necessary for my well-being (eg, I long for museums and exhibitions and I look forward to hearing music live again – but I’ll likely be wearing a mask now). I got very ill at the end of 2019 (which may well have been an early case of covid). Very. Ill. I would very much like not to repeat that experience and I am willing to be a bit out of step with my fellow citizens in order to achieve that.

Smells. Finally, I’ve tried to be far more mindful of smells right close around me. That’s meant acknowledging the awful silage smell when farmers are spreading muck on fields rather than trying to ignore it. It’s meant tuning in to my neighbours’ food smells that leech through the walls sometimes (No 1 appears to have pancakes a lot – to the extent that I think I can now identify blueberry day; No 3 appears to leave the oil in their cast iron pan and re-use it, which causes nauseating vapours – but they have serious issues in other areas as well).

We’re a week off spring. I will definitely mark it on the day this year, take some time to consciously note the shift away from cold and dark, acknowledge loss and embrace renewal. Jewish people (of which I’m one) eat apples and honey on the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashonah (ancient Jews believed apples had healing properties and honey signifies the hope the new year will be sweet). I might transfer that to the vernal equinox this year … along with cake.

PS Poet Michael Rosen’s book on his experience of covid infection comes out this Thursday and I highly recommend his poem ‘These are the hands’ about the UK health service



  • Dina C. says:

    Cinnamon, I greatly enjoyed your essay today as you looked back on a year of lessons learned and wisdom gained. You did it so well, so beautifully. Thank you.

  • Marsha says:

    Cinnamon, I really enjoyed your post on mindfulness. I achieved the ability to be mindful in the early 1990’s. I was having terrible problems with depression and migraines. One night, we happened to be watching “Healing and the Mind” on PBS by Bill Moyers. During one episode, he highlighted a fella named Jon Kabat Zinn who was at the Massachusetts Medical Center. The doctors sent their patients who had chronic pain to JKZ because they didn’t feel like they could help them anymore. He taught them mindfulness meditation. When the program concluded I jumped up and said “That’s it!” I bought his book and ordered his tapes and they absolutely changed my life. My husband even said that he thought that meditation helped me more than all the antidepressants and therapy I was doing. My husband has passed on and I’m now spending more time with my brother and I am just amazed at how oblivious he is sometimes. Good luck to you!

    • Cinnamon says:

      I tried mindfulness via a book etc and that didn’t actually work for me. I’m very glad that it has helped you, though, and makes the point that we all respond to different things differently. Yoga and movement are my things. The more I do both (regarding movement I mean walking — lots of walking — and gardening) the better I feel in all kinds of ways. Ah, oblivious. It’s too bad, but you can only do what you can do.

  • Portia says:

    Hey Cinnamon,
    I love that you are taking time to let the dog and yourself see and sniff the world, especially as you are taking them on different routes. My boys love to go somewhere new, sniff it up and then wee all over it.
    Good luck with leaving the job. It will open up space for something wonderful, in whatever form that takes.
    Portia xx

    • Cinnamon says:

      Thank you, Portia, but it’s not leaving the job, just the specific client. I mostly enjoy the other stuff I do. This company is just bad at everything it does. I would say it’s flummoxing but it’s not. I think the changes to walks is good for both of us. It makes me think: where shall we go today (ie, creative thinking?) rather than simply aimlessly doing the same thing.

  • Musette says:

    “fully listen to the structure of the silence”. You know I am here for all of that! What a lovely post – I feel as if I’ve gotten to know you more in this post than I have in any other – and I like what I’m getting to know xoxoxo

    • Musette says:

      and I’m totally Pro-Mask, even though I am now fully vaccinated. This thing ain’t over – and it’s taking lives across all generations. I think we’ll be seeing masks for some time to come.
      Stay grounded – and Happy Pesach! xoxoxo

    • Cinnamon says:

      well, thank you. my parents lived in southern New Hampshire for a while which was the first place I’d ever been where you could actively hear silence. It was extraordinary. Yup, yup on masks. Tx on Pesach. However, I’m more of a mark it person than celebrating as I’m not really religious — but certainly do identify myself as Jewish. We always do the apples and honey at Rosh Hashonah 🙂

  • Kathleen says:

    Happy Spring! I’m glad for you ending work with your hated client, that must feel like a weight lifted.
    I had been wishing for masks and instead using my scarf as a mask for several years while riding on the light rail train to work downtown, especially in winter to prevent getting sick from the crowded train with people coughing etc. I will definitely continue to wear masks in the future in crowded public places to prevent any respiratory illness, whether the common cold, flu, or covid infection.

    • Cinnamon says:

      We were meant to go to Japan last summer for a holiday (sadly this didn’t happen) and while reading about the country I learned that people wore masks when they were unwell to keep others from getting sick. That seemed so considerate to me, so aware of collective responsibility.

  • Calrayo says:

    Wishing you health and happiness as we move into the new season! Like many of us here, I’m fairly sensitive to smells – and today I spent a chunk of the morning de-stinking things: washed the dog beds, and did a serious deep clean of the fridge. I feel so productive, ha. Now I’m making tea and thinking about my knitting. It feels like the right time to cleanse the house.

    • Cinnamon says:

      Oh, the fridge. I’m right with you. It’s especially maddening when you can’t figure out what precisely is causing smell and thus have to empty and fully clean it. My mother tried to teach me to crochet decades ago. Never got the hang of it. Always very impressed with being able to knit or crochet.

  • Tara C says:

    I’ve been focusing on awareness as well this year, although lately I think I’m having awareness fatigue. I seem to want to just rest in mindless distraction. Perhaps pandemic fatigue plays into it as well, although like you it has been very pleasant not to have been sick this past year. Doing a lot less shopping and public activities certainly reduces how hard our immune systems have to work. I doubt after this episode anyone will worry about wearing a mask in public any more. One of the things I always hated about flying was how often I ended up sick afterwards, but I felt too self-conscious to wear a mask. Not any more.

    I love the ocean too but I could not tolerate regular high winds, it feels emotionally distressing. Since I am moving to a new place near the ocean this year, I am going to be very mindful of choosing a location that is not frequently subject to high winds. And I definitely want a place where there is low light pollution so I can enjoy the night sky.

    Good call on finding an end point with your hated client. Life is too short to deal with that on a regular basis. Wishing you a sweet and happy Pesach!

    • Cinnamon says:

      Indeed about flying. I recall a flight back from NY around 4 years ago half way through which I had the worth cold in years. It’s like the plane just sped up the whole physical process. I had never experienced gales like this before. It’s a trade off I guess — be landlocked or live with high winds. sigh. best wishes with your move.