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Shameless’ Michelle Andrews on how ‘look good feel better’ is never more accurate than now

Writer and podcast host Michelle Andrews reflects on doing what makes her feel good, and makes her feel like herself, in this time of COVID-19.

Right now, one part of me wishes to resemble something you’d find down a drainpipe.

She wants to wear nothing but fluffy grey jumpers and trackies, paired with the worst possible bun my hair can manage, and lie under a big fat doona that may or may not be covered in spaghetti stains. She considers watching twenty-seven episodes of FRIENDS back-to-back as a great use of my time, and a full box of Barbecue Shapes as an appropriate dinner.

This part of my personality is fine. She’s just… perennially sleepy. A bit sloppy. A very big fan of dry shampoo. Whenever I have the urge to do something productive — say, take the bins out, or find any of the 11,000 bobby pins that have disappeared into my couch — she whispers shit like, “Or you could download The Sims 4,” and “You haven’t looked at TikTok since lunchtime”, and “HOW GOOD WOULD A NAP BE?”.

When the world went weird in March, I slumped into this half of my personality. I curled up into the gentle hum of her routine sleep-ins and cosy comforts, too anxious to consider anything beyond the latest curveball in Tiger King.

And for a little while, that was okay. I was snug and warm, and each day was passing just like the identical one that came before it. Sure, my lifestyle resembled an elderly sloth’s, but that’s the only way to get through a global pandemic, right?

Riiiiight?

Well, no.

You see, I was doing everything that I *thought* would make me calm, but retreating to my couch every day didn’t make me happy — it conjured a tsunami of anxiety inside my chest.

It took seven days for the reality to smack into me; while I needed some time to adjust and absorb all of the disruptions, I couldn’t live like this for much longer. I couldn’t keep rolling out of bed and working in my pyjamas. I couldn’t stand another day of staring into a mirror and seeing my most depleted self. If this ‘new normal’ of lockdown was going to be hanging around for many weeks, maybe months, I needed pep and zest and LIFE. (See also: coffee that was not homemade.)

As the wonderful Jules Von Hep (the founder of Isle of Paradise — try their tans, they’re game-changing) told me in a Shameless interview once: “Your life i s not a dress rehearsal. This is it. This is the main show.”

Enter: the second part of me; the part of my personality that pushes me out of bed in the morning with the gusto of Gordon Ramsay yelling at a Masterchef contestant. This part of me reaches for the purple shampoo, does a handful of squats while the kettle boils, and says, “Let’s go for a long walk”, at the end of the working day. She was quiet when COVID-19 first ravaged the world. But as the days go by, her voice is growing louder. And I’m so glad she’s back.

What I’ve realised over the last few weeks is that despite everything, I Need To Keep Showing Up. As in, I need to emulate my best self — physically, emotionally, spiritually — if I want to feel happy and fulfilled. So between Monday and Friday that means business as usual; getting back into my once militant skincare routine, putting on an actual outfit (slippers allowed, because I’m not a psychopath), wearing jewellery, applying a dab of concealer, my Hourglass bronzer, eyebrow pencil, mascara and blush, walking to my local cafe for a soy latte with my favourite podcast in my ears, eating breakfast before I open my laptop. It means sticking to the rituals that structured Life Before, and help me feel like myself in Life During and After.

You don’t need to be creating empires in the midst of a pandemic. And, of course, there will be days where you collapse back into that inner sloth (we call these times “Friday Night”, “Saturday” and “Sunday”). But filling your day with the stuff that makes you feel good and that reminds you of not everything you’ve lost, but everything that you still have?

That’s where the sunshine is.

Michelle Andrews is the co-founder of Shameless Media, alongside Zara McDonald. They host the podcast Shameless.

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