10 Things I Learned in 2020

10 Things I Learned in 2020, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, 2020, 2021, new year, restrospective, learning, lessons, moving forward
Photo by Alex Green on Pexels.com

Finally– the year that we all wish had never happened is over! If you were lucky enough not to suffer the full brunt of 2020, you’re still probably feeling that the entire year was a waste. And in so many ways, it was– wasted time, wasted opportunities. It’s been frustrating, to say the least. The one thing 2020 did offer us, though, was a chance for introspection and reflection. I’m sure we’re all coming out of this a little wiser than we were at this time last year. Here’s what I learned in 2020…

1. People Are Awful

Call me naive, but I always believed that in a disaster, people would pull together and help one another. Maybe I’ve seen too many movies. But the first thing that 2020 taught me is that some people are truly selfish. They scream about their rights or pretend they don’t understand what’s happening, while blithely spreading a deadly and debilitating disease wherever they go. I don’t think I’m the only one whose faith in humanity took a hit in 2020.

2. People Are Awesome

Luckily, most people aren’t selfish twits, and many are truly amazing. Those in the medical and care fields working around the clock to help the sick and dying. Those who have kept working under trying and dangerous circumstances so that supply chains aren’t disrupted and the rest of us can still eat and get the things we need. Those who stay home, even when they really, really, really want to get out of the house. Leaders who are actually leading and keeping people as safe as possible. Thanks to all of you ♥

3. How to Be Resourceful

When some things were in short supply or unavailable last year, I found ways to manage, either by making do or doing without. If I couldn’t get help when I needed it, I worked around it or figured out how to do it myself. Going forward, I’ll be embracing more of an attitude of resourcefulness, because you never know when you won’t have a choice about it.

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4. I’m More Competent than I Think

Having to be more resourceful, having to endure difficult circumstances, having to rely on myself more than I ever have– all of this has shown me that I can do more than I  thought possible. I need to remember this lesson.

5. Clarity

This past year has given me time to figure out what I’d like my life to look like going forward. I might not be able to do all of it, but I know what to work towards and what to let fall away. Having a clear direction is something I didn’t realize I needed.

6. There’s No Limit to Learning

When I decided to take French (and later Greek) lessons using an app, I approached them with a bit of trepidation. Learning a language is easy in childhood, but not so much in adulthood (at least, that’s the popular opinion). Maybe it helped that I already had a start in both languages (eventually I hope to try learning a language I don’t know anything about). The lessons have been fantastic, not only because I’m learning a lot, but also for my mental health. They keep me busy with something that’s actually useful. If there’s anything you’ve been wanting to learn, I highly recommend going for it.

7. Introverts Need People Too

I’m about as introverted as they come, which has been helpful in getting through lockdowns and avoiding crowded places. But even I miss people. I miss my family and friends, and I miss the places people gather, especially museums, coffee shops, the zoo, the mall (memories of a misspent youth), and just generally seeing people without worrying about whether they’re merely clearing their throat or are hacking up deadly germs. For someone who used to dream of the hermit life, actually living it has shown me that I need to socialize sometimes. Who knew?

8. Keep a distance

I don’t mean physical distance, which I’ve also learned to do and is important for other reasons. I’m talking about a mental/emotional distance. I’ve learned not to rely on external factors because they aren’t reliable. I don’t know if this is cynical, or if it’s something everyone else already knew and I’m just late in figuring out, but I’ve had some major disappointments this last year, and I’d like to avoid more of the same in future.

9. I Have Value

It turns out there are a lot of people in the world who can’t wait to tell you how little you matter (a lot of them are the same people I mentioned in my first point). They’re wrong. I have value just by existing, and so do you. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

10. There’s a Light at the End of the Tunnel

…even if it’s faint and sometimes flickers.

10 Things I Learned in 2020, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, 2020, 2021, new year, restrospective, learning, lessons, moving forward, aspasiasbissas.com, light at the end of the tunnel
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What did you  learn in 2020? Share in the comments…

Looking to start 2021 with a good read? I’ve got you covered…

Love Lies Bleeding by Aspasia S. Bissas, Blood Magic by Aspasia S. Bissas, Tooth & Claw by Aspasia S. Bissas, books, free books, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, gothic, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

More Awesome Literary Embroideries

More Awesome Literary Embroidery, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, needlepoint, cross-stitch, cross stitch, crossstitch, needlepoint, embroidery, books, bookish, reading, literary, crafts, free patterns, patterns, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

One of the things that’s been getting me through the long months of COVID isolation has been needlepoint (you can read my thoughts about my favourite craft here). Books are, of course, one of the other things. I doubt I’ve ever been so grateful to be an introvert. I’m not sure whether needle crafts have been catching on during this awful time, like baking and gardening have, but stitching is an excellent way to calm your mind while making something lasting. Another great aspect of needlepoint is that it lends itself to any subject matter. Anything from simple quotes to intricate scenes can be rendered with needle and thread, and you can really get creative with it. No surprise I’m partial to bookish designs, so I decided to share some links to patterns. If you’re already a stitcher, I hope you’ll find something you like. If you’ve never stitched before, maybe you’ll be inspired to give it a try (you don’t even need to be isolating!) Which pattern is your favourite? Share in the comments…

Perhaps this sentiment isn’t as relatable under current circumstances, but you can’t deny that Austen has a point. Free pattern.

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Louisa May Alcott gets the credit for this somewhat negative take on book lovers. I wouldn’t change a thing, even if my brain is turned. Pattern.

 

I have a fondness for fairy tales, and Sleeping Beauty was always one of my favourites. Fairy tales tend to have an appealing aesthetic, as well– perfect for needlepoint. Have fun with this free pattern.

 

From fairy tales to something a little more adult. Cross-stitch (curse-stitch?) for when you’re really f@#*!%g into books 😉 Pattern.

More Awesome Literary Embroidery, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, needlepoint, embroidery, cross-stitch, cross stitch, crossstitch, patterns, free patterns, books, reading, bookish, literary, aspasiasbissas.com, read a fucking book, subversive cross stitch

 

A sweeter sentiment we can all get behind. Pattern.

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Throw out those old scraps of paper and make yourself a bookmark worthy of keeping your place. Free pattern.

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Free pattern.

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I love this design because in one simple image it cleverly expresses my entire reality: books are my world. Pattern.

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When you need to let people know the movie didn’t quite cut it. You can even stitch it three different ways. Pattern 1.

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Pattern 2.

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Pattern 3.

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Lastly, if you’re looking for more inspiration and patterns, check out these online archives of vintage embroidery books:

Embroidery

Cross-Stitch

Needlepoint

Need a break from embroidery? Download my books!

Love Lies Bleeding by Aspasia S. Bissas, Blood Magic by Aspasia S. Bissas, Tooth & Claw by Aspasia S. Bissas, books, free books, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, gothic, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Currently Reading

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It turns out the book I mentioned in my last Currently Reading post isn’t meant to be read straight through. The author actually instructs not to read more than a chapter a week, to make sure you thoroughly understand the subject matter (makes sense). This, however, is not a satisfying situation for any reader, especially since a book on anxiety and phobias isn’t exactly one you can lose yourself in, even when you’re not limited to perusing small chunks very slowly. So I’m picking up a book on the side. Something fun and distracting (which I think is as much therapy as any self-evaluation or visualization exercise). I don’t usually read mysteries, but it’s hard to resist one with witches and vampires.

What are you reading these days?

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

(P.S. If you’d like to see what else I’ve read, check out my Goodreads page.)

Currently Reading

currently reading, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, anxiety, phobias, panic, reneau z, peurifoy, books, book, reading, book reviews, reviews, free books

You might remember that I’ve shared some of my experiences with anxiety and phobias (here and here, for example). Although I’m not generally a fan of self-help books (which I rarely find helpful), I’ve had this one taking up shelf space for a while and thought it was time to give it a go. Maybe it’ll help (or maybe I’ll end up wishing I’d read a good novel instead).

Speaking of good novels…

(See what I did there?)

Have you read and enjoyed any of my books? If so, please take a moment to leave a rating and/or review (links below).

Love Lies Bleeding by Aspasia S. Bissas, Blood Magic by Aspasia S. Bissas, Tooth & Claw by Aspasia S. Bissas, books, free books, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, gothic, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding

Amazon

Goodreads

Download Now

Blood Magic

Amazon

Goodreads

Download FREE

Tooth & Claw

Amazon

Goodreads

Download FREE

Feel free to leave a rating/review on any other book sites too!

(If you prefer paperback to ebook, you can order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop  – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Cheers,
Aspasía S. Bissas

Mental Health Break: 11 Coping Techniques to Try

Like so many people (especially those of us in creative fields), I struggle with anxiety and depression. Usually it’s manageable (I’ve actually found that some mild anxiety helps me write). Every so often, though, for reasons that aren’t always clear, the scale tips from manageable to overwhelming. If you’ve ever had severe anxiety or depression you know the feeling of deep despair that leaves you searching for a reason to get up in the morning. If you haven’t experienced that kind of bleakness, then consider yourself lucky (and also please don’t give advice on something you don’t understand– it’s never helpful).

The last while has been difficult for me, both on a personal level and because of events in the wider world. It’s no secret that Covid is having a negative effect on many people’s mental health. Just the anxiety of going through a pandemic is enough to cause widespread distress. Add to that economic insecurity; the stresses of quarantine and isolation (or going to work or school when you don’t feel safe); people spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories while displaying zero empathy or intelligence; certain so-called leaders and governments content to let the virus run rampant; and countless other things that are making life scarier and more difficult than it needs to be– and the stage is set for more people than ever struggling mentally and emotionally.

I wish I knew how to break the cycle of depression and anxiety. I do my best to deal by working on it when I can and trying to work around it the rest of the time (with varying levels of success). If you’re suffering from any kind of mental illness or distress, the first thing you should do is see a doctor and get a proper diagnosis. Don’t be afraid and don’t be ashamed– there is help, from support groups to therapeutic techniques to medications, and more.

If you’re in crisis, you can get help right now (always keep your local hotline number nearby).

In the U.S., the National Suicide Prevention number is 1-800-273-8255 (find out more here: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org.)

In Canada, the National Suicide Prevention hotline is: 1-833-456-4566, or text 45645. You can also chat here: http://www.crisisservicescanada.ca/

There’s also good info here: https://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/
If you’re not in crisis but are having a hard time and need something to help you through it, here are some things that work for me. It’s a good idea to experiment to find what works best for you.
Read a Book: I know, I suggest this a lot. But a book can help distract you, and provides a feeling of accomplishment when you finish it. Make sure to pick one that interests you, preferably something lighthearted or uplifting. If you’re feeling up to it, try a book designed to help people cope with mental illness (there are many to choose from, but Mind Over Mood is one that’s highly praised by mental health professionals.)
Shower and Get Dressed: It might not seem like much but it can make a noticeable difference to your mood. And if nothing else, you can say you got up and faced the day. On bad days, that’s a major accomplishment.
Leave the House: Many people (myself included) withdraw when they’re depressed, which isn’t helpful. If you’re isolating due to COVID (or feel like you can’t deal with other humans at the moment), go for a walk on your own. Somewhere green and peaceful is ideal.
Get Something Done: Pick a task to complete, no matter how small, and do it. It can be anything that makes you feel like you’ve achieved something. To avoid being overwhelmed, keep a short and easy to-do list handy for times like these.
Indulge Yourself: Do something you enjoy (as long as it’s nothing harmful). If you have a tendency to feel guilty about “doing nothing,” then try interspersing the fun with simple, but productive, tasks (see above).
Spend Time with Pets: You’ll both feel better. If you don’t have a pet, try hugging a plushie. Don’t underestimate the therapeutic value of a soft doll or pillow.
Avoid Things (and People) that Make You Feel Worse: This won’t work long term, but for a day when you’re already feeling crappy, it’s a necessity.
Write a Letter: Sit down with pen and paper and write a letter to someone you like but haven’t spoken to in a while. Think of some positive things you can share (they can be as simple as a great movie you saw or your thriving houseplant). Or, if you prefer talking to writing, give them a call.
Plan a Trip: It doesn’t matter if you can’t go because it turns out planning trips makes people happier than actually going. So distract yourself by planning your dream vacation (or research anything else you’re interested in).
Find the Humour: Being depressed, down, or anxious doesn’t exactly lend itself to laughter, but a bit of dark humour can actually help lighten the mood. Try looking up memes about anxiety or depression, or chatting with a funny friend who gets it. Darkly humorous shows and movies can also be good (I like the 1964 Addams Family TV series, as well as the movies from the early 1990s, and the “Adult Wednesday Addams” series on YouTube.)
Mental Health Break: 11 Coping Techniques to Try, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Create Coping Cards: This is an idea I got from Unf#ck Your Brain. When you find a technique that works for you, write it down on an index card. When you’re struggling, you’ll have a handy set of coping techniques ready to go. You can even put the cards on a key-ring and keep them with you.
Have you tried any of these? What works for you when you’re having a hard time? Share in the comments…
Stay safe,
Aspasía S. Bissas
PS: Apologies for the spacing issues–they’re thanks to WordPress’s fabulous new editor that no one asked for. Hopefully such issues will be ironed out over time.