ode to 2020

it has definitely been A Year. i don’t need to tell you that. during one of my last therapy sessions of 2020, i was flicking through my journal and reading excerpts to “prove” to my therapist just how horrible it had been. & she said well that’s not fair, you’re just picking out the bad parts, i know that you’ve had many moments of joy this year, you’ve shared them with me. and she was right (she always is).

so here are some of the good parts from my year. an excerpt from every month. some months there was only one entry. some months there wasn’t so much joy, as there was a deeper connection to my self and emotions. which can feel shitty at the time but is better in the long run. so anyway, here we are. an ode to 2020.

17 january 2020

i am sitting at the dendy cafe & my arm is covered in cling wrap and sticky tape because i just impulse-got a tattoo. i had a good day today, i was feeling feelings and smiling. halsey’s new album came out & it makes me feel like i’m 17 & on the bus to school. i was alone for most of the day at work so i just listened to it on repeat through my headphones. went for a walk around the block listening to 929 and felt close to tears. i had therapy today and tried to catch d– up on everything that happened during the break. i told her i feel good and i think it’s true. anyway that’s why i caved to my tattoo impulse today. i felt happy & damn it i should get to remember that! so i called up a place & started scribbling the word ‘tendre’ down in my green journal. it’s a way that i want to start feeling about myself again. soft. loving. full of warmth & gentlessness & endless compassion & forgiveness & patience & love, so much love. i’m going to read anne carson now.

09 february 2020

the first week of february came & went without much noise. the newness of the decade is beginning to wear off & i have been losing track of myself in thoughtless moments here and there. on friday i couldn’t remember what had happened in the days before it. which is usually a sign i am dissociating, detaching, avoiding. i am so tired & am beginning to feel i may never not be. so i am trying to find space in the crevices of time to come back to myself. as i was shaving my legs in the shower this morning i had that thought that i feel abstractly in my skin from time to time — that life is nothing but the process of coming back to yourself. the wave returns to the ocean. i don’t have thoughts to fill up the rest of this page. solange is playing & the rain outside hits my windows.

21 march 2020

circle back to love in the evenings. trying so so so so hard to be soft when i am scared. sorry these fragments are all i have to offer.

18 april 2020

i really mourn the parts of me that felt compelled to document everything. i forget what it feels like to have a feeling so strong i couldn’t resist writing i down. i think at the root of all of this is: i feel unacquainted with myself. i’ve just given myself over to this monotony, to this okay ness with just waking up & doing a series of nothingnesses & falling asleep & forgetting it all & doing it all again.

i was scrolling through old instagram posts & i found a screenshot from my blog (remember when i used to blog?). i think it was around early 2018. i wrote:

“all i know is that i’m motivated by these ultramarine flames in the pit of my stomach to do what i’m passionate about, and no less.”

ultramarine isn’t a word i ever really use. maybe i was painting at the time, who knows. but it really jolted me, the thought that i used to have feelings so strong they weren’t just blue, they were ultramarine.

a couple of days ago my therapist asked me to describe this fogginess i had floating around my head and the only colour i could think of was beigey-grey. more of an absence of colour than any real colour. or maybe i just don’t have the words any more. maybe i felt more connected to my life simply because i thought about it & wrote about it more often back then.

04 may 2020

i’m always scared that i’ll walk up the fire trail & feel nothing. maybe that’s why i’ve put it off for so long. but walking around the corner, it always feels like home. it’s quiet the way it always is. only birds & trees rustling in the wind. the sun is setting & everything (including me) is golden. this is a reminder: you are allowed to feel good. you are allowed to keep this feeling close to your heart & return to it, always.

23 june 2020

i dyed my hair orange the other day. god it feels good to write in this journal. i read the opening lines of my last entry (“I have been thinking often of campos”) & smiled because i visited campos right before my hair appointment. i was running late & frantic because i couldn’t find parking, but i thought the cafe would close soon & i wanted to stop by, so i dropped in for a “large soy mocha please” at 2 in the afternoon. the barista smiled when she served me. i looked around, looked for my table in the back corner, took a picture of the light filtering through the window, and left for my appointment. i have been smiling a lot lately, and i have that feeling in my body like i just want to dance? i don’t know how to explain it, but things feel lighter.

18 july 2020

it’s 11:23pm & i have one of those foggy headaches i get when i’ve been watching too much tv & sleeping in too late. lately i haven’t wanted to get out of bed. but then at night when i rest my head my heart is racing & so are my thoughts and i have to take a really deep breath to try to calm myself down, and then i think wow this is the first conscious breath i’ve taken all day and that makes me sad. i have been very deliberately avoiding my emotions these past few days and i feel gross & sluggish about it but too numb to care enough to change. but i was looking through old photos & found this quote from rilke & it made me miss those little impulses to capture & romanticise life —

“take refuge in those subjects offered by your own day-to-day life; depict your sadness & desires, passing thoughts & faith in some kind of beauty — depict all this with intense, quiet, humble sincerity and make use of whatever you find about you to express yourself, the images from your dreams and the things in your memory.”

and god that sounds like something i’d rather do & someone i’d rather be.

07 august 2020

i am writing this by candlelight & can’t see the words on the page. maybe that’s a good thing. maybe that’s something i need. kitten is on my lap in my ball chair, and he thinks my pen is a toy. i can hear dad making tea downstairs. i just finished a yoga practice. i haven’t practiced in a while, but i could feel myself starting to tune out, so i thought it might help to focus on my body. i am tired. generally just low energy lately. i guess what i am trying to say is that i feel quite sensitive. i cried about an hour ago.

07 september 2020

i just did a ‘yoga for vulnerability’ practice which started by lying in the foetal position. my brain was very noisy and my heart was very fast but i thought some comforting thoughts. i looked at my tattoo of big em hugging baby em and i thought about how i wanted to feel that way, like i was giving myself a hug. and then i thought about how even if the me-right-now doesn’t feel capable of that kind of tenderness towards myself, there are infinite other emily’s that do. the baby em in my tattoo is every version of myself that doesn’t feel loved, feels wrong in some way, or broken. and big em is embracing all of those parts. i have been big em before, even if i don’t feel it now. so anyway i was just thinking about how there is always tenderness out there for me to take in. if it’s not coming from within, it’s still there from other em’s for me to accept.

15 october 2020

it is my 22nd birthday. i don’t have any particular feelings towards 22, i think. i am resolving to be kinder towards myself. i want to be more fully present & alive in my life. and i think some of these things are within my reach. maybe all of them.

i went to therapy today. we spoke about how all of the progress i’ve made over the past few years is never ‘lost’, even if i feel like i’m going backwards or stagnating, because it is always something i have achieved. there will always be a version of emily who has accomplished those things. which means that emily right now is capable of that too. it’s like that comic —

“what a nice day”
“but everyday won’t be like this”
“no, but just remember that today came after some of your horriblist days, and the path between the two can always be found again.”

everything i have ever done still lives within me. and nothing is ever truly lost. deep down i believe that, i really do. happy birthday lil em, i love you.

01 november 2020

the past fortnight i felt like there’d been a shift. i am beginning to feel a little lighter, a little more sure of myself. i’ve been working out more consistently, i’ve started yoga again, listening to guided meditations as i fall asleep. i started a manifestation journal. and i know these are all ‘things’ but what i mean to capture on this page is that i’ve reconnected with a sense of purpose. these ‘things’ are all helping & are self-fulfilling in a sense, but there’s a deeper /something/ behind it all. i’ve been more compassionate towards myself lately. i’ve been present with emotions & more ‘in’ my body. the other day i felt the need to cry & then i just cried.

04 december 2020

i had a horrible migraine today. woke up all throughout the night in pain & then i spent the day just half-existing, trying to forget myself, waiting for it to fade away. but it didn’t, the pain just kept getting worse. so i had my fifth shower of the day & i laid on the floor & i felt like crying & then i had the thought: just acknowledge where you are and extend compassion to whatever you find there.

i think for the first time i realised how cruel i can be to myself when i get migraines, how i reinforce this idea of ‘don’t feel the pain, just get over it.’ i thought about how hard it can be to exist in a body that is in so much pain so much of the time. how i feel like it’s a punishment for something. how it makes me feel like i’m at war with the parts of myself that ’cause’ this pain. and i’m thinking all of these things and then in my head i hear ‘it’s not a punishment, it’s just a signal.’ and i burst into tears.

i spent a while just breathing into my belly & trying to let my resistance to migraine go. to give it the space to exist. to acknowledge what it is telling me. i realised that the pain in my head & jaw feels very similar to the pain of when you are crying and get a lump in your throat. it feels like a blockage, like an unwillingness to express. and i think that thought shifted something in my relationship with my body. i thought about how difficult it is for me to cry these days, and can i really blame my body for expressing emotions & sending signals in the only way i really allow it to? so i softened, a little bit.

and then i started thinking about spiders. about how i used to dream of them all the time, and i thought of them as signals — as a part of me reaching out through my dreams and saying hey em, pay attention to this. and i felt comfortable around the spiders back then, but these days they always bring a sense of unease. i remember when i was a kid & saw a spider & the adults would always say “they’re just as afraid of you as you are of them.” and it really sunk in for the first time, that the parts of me that i’ve neglected because they feel scary to me — they feel scared themselves. and it’s probably magnified by that neglect & loneliness.

i just sat with that for a while, thinking about past em’s and future em’s and endless compassion.

i realised later on that my migraine disappeared somewhere in all of this. i feel quite soft and mellow right now. i also feel more at peace than i have in a really long time.

By em

a sometimes poet, sometimes painter, always philosopher


  1. It wasn’t easy but of course there were good moments last year… Let’s hope 2021 it’s better and we return to the normal! Happy new year and greetings from Portugal, PedroL


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