2020: What a year it has been…

Looking back on this year, I don’t think I made many resolutions last January.

I lowered my expectations on my book reading challenge from 40 books in the year to 25, and I’ve managed to read about 20, which isn’t too bad.

I aimed to get fitter and healthier, as I do every new year, and instead I’ve sadly put on weight again, which is annoying, and getting fitter and healthier just hasn’t panned out once again. I keep trying to make time for more exercise, but I get tired, or injure myself, or get too busy at work and make other excuses for not doing it. I am still as much an emotional eater as I ever was, and while I go through bursts of healthy eating and portion control, the fact is when I feel down, or bored, or tired, or lonely, or overwhelmed, I eat sweets and chocolate and cheese, and drink wine, and I haven’t yet figured out a way to just turn off my emotional eating tendencies.

Mind you, 2020 has been an exceptionally difficult year for everyone, and I think as a working single mum coping with lockdowns and not seeing friends, family and my support system, it’s ok to give myself a bit of a break too.

I’ve done lots of crafting this year, and made quite a few lovely things that I’m pleased with. Some knitting and some quilts, and odds and ends.

Back in June I returned to work after my adoption leave ended and I’ve settled back into my job and my routines and am actually enjoying my job a lot more than I thought I would, which is nice. We still have the usual stressful squabbles once in a while, but overall I really love my team and my boss, and I love that my job is super flexible and fits around my life very nicely.

I’ve enjoyed working from home, and while it has certainly been lonely this year it’s also been productive and quiet and calm. I do miss the every day interactions from being at the office, but I get more work done at home. Some days I’m so grateful to be working from home so I can keep on top of the laundry and cooking and cleaning during the working day. Other days I stare at the walls of my house that I haven’t left for days and days and feel cramped and confined. I’m grateful to have as much space as I do, and I have made a real effort to walk to and from nursery for pick up and drop off whatever the weather, to get a little fresh air into my day, but occasionally if it’s absolutely pouring with rain I’ll resort to the car. On those days I tend to feel more restless if I’ve barely left the house…

I’ve been on a journey of self-discovery this year, and have learned a lot about the Black Lives Matter movement, the anti-racist movement and my own white privilege, which I’m slowly starting to become more aware of. I’ve started actively seeking more diversity in the books that I read, and that my daughter reads, the tv shows I watch, and that she watches, and the Christmas decorations that I buy in a conscious effort to see things from a different perspective and try to understand different points of views. I get accused frequently of being incredibly stubborn but I have actively tried this year to change my viewpoint and see things differently, to understand a new perspective, and to slowly change my attitudes and beliefs. It’s a work in progress, but important work nonetheless.

This December it is also 10 years since my friend and former manager C offered me a job at a major charity/NGO. It was the start of my “real” humanitarian career, and if I hadn’t got that job, I would never have moved to Oxford, and met so many wonderful friends.
I wouldn’t have travelled to and worked in Senegal, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Kenya, Uganda, Iraq, the Philippines, or Jordan, and met so many awesome people along the way. Looking through my friends list on Facebook almost half of them are people I have met because of that one job offer, which led to another, which led to another, and here I am today.
I wouldn’t be living here, and also therefore would not have the amazing daughter I have today, or this house, and these cats.
It’s incredible to think that this one job offer took me down a fork in the road, and led to so many wonderful things, all of which could be traced back to that exact moment on that specific day.
I’m sure I’d have eventually gotten an interesting job somewhere else, moved somewhere awesome and met new and different friends, and had a different but amazing kid somewhere else.
But I’m really glad that I got that job that day.
This year, way back in January at the very start, my daughter’s adoption order was granted, and we had a wonderful celebration day in late February which was lovely, and probably the last time any of us unthinkingly gathered together in a large group indoors to celebrate anything momentous…. This July we also celebrated our first anniversary as a little family of two, and it was a nice moment to mark, even if it was small and uneventful.

I have really missed seeing my family this year. I miss my dad and my brother, and sister-in-law and nephews. I still feel bitterly disappointed that our trip to Australia was cancelled (twice) and that we have to wait another year to see them, and for them to meet my daughter. I miss my cousin and aunt and uncle, who we had planned to visit in France on 3 different occasions this year, all of them cancelled too. I miss my sister and her family, and the chance for my daughter to spend more time getting to know her cousins. I miss my mum, who I haven’t seen properly since August when we were last able to visit them up north. Even our one camping holiday this year was rained out and we had to cancel that too after 2 days. 2020 has been determined to suck the fun out of everything.

I haven’t really missed pubs and restaurants that much, as I haven’t really been out much at all since becoming a mum, but I really do miss occasional treats like the theatre, live comedy, and ballet. I miss the casual, unthinking trips to pop into town on the bus to go shopping. I’ve only been on a bus twice since March, and both trips were carefully thought out and essential, and I didn’t go near the shops at all. I miss wandering aimlessly around town seeing the Christmas lights. I miss casually having friends over for tea, or dinner, or drinks, or to watch a movie. I miss fun playdates with other children and their parents, getting a chance to talk to other grown-ups while the children play. I miss going to museums and art galleries.

I don’t think I’ve been aware of how lonely this year has been as it was passing me by, I think I was too focused on just getting through it, but looking back at the emotional rollercoaster of lockdown (and then 2nd lockdown), and reflecting on the year overall, what strikes me the most is how lonely and disconnected it has felt. More so now that it’s dark, and cold, and grey and damp, suddenly I feel the loneliness and sadness and monotony creeping in.

The constant disappointment of almost-holidays, and almost seeing people, the cancellation after cancellation of fun things that were planned. Attempts to book fun outdoor socially-distanced things to alleviate the boredom and miserable nothing that’s going on, only to have everything close and shut down because of lockdown, or the tier system, or Covid. So many disappointments this year. No family visits, no museums or galleries, no fun. Just stay at home, stay at home, walk up and down the same streets over and over again in the grey fog and the rain, get damp and cold and muddy, then go home again. It wears down even the most optimistic of us into a sad, grey, slump. It’s very hard now to remember what a fantastic year it has been weather-wise, with several months of glorious sunshine and lovely long hot walks outside during Easter and the first lockdown.

I have spent more hours sitting alone in my house than I ever have before, and sadly no amount of phone calls can really make up for physically seeing and touching other people. I miss hugs. I miss not having to think and to plan every trip out with precision. Thinking where can we go to be outside, even if it’s cold and wet? Where can we meet someone where there won’t be other people? How can we see X or Y person within the context of the rules. Our lives have shifted this year, first into fear and panic, and then into carefully thought-out excursions, and constant re-assessing of the ever-changing rules. Can we do xx? We could last week but I think now we’re not allowed anymore. Can we meet up here? No they’ve just moved into a different Tier. Can we have a coffee, or go for a walk, or meet at the park? What can we do on the weekend without breaking any rules? Does anyone remember what the rules are anymore?

We don’t use buses anymore. We go to new and different parks and national trust places just to alleviate the boredom of being outside in the cold damp rain and fog because everything indoors is closed this winter. We don’t do anything casually anymore. Every trip to the supermarket is carefully timed to be when it’s quiet, or when I don’t have my daughter with me, to avoid exposure, to avoid infecting others. Nothing is simple. The back of your brain is on constant alert and it’s exhausting to the bones.

Like everyone else, I can’t wait to be rid of 2020, and hope against hope that 2021 will be better, even though I know we still have a few difficult months ahead. I doubt things will ever fully go back to normal again. Right now, in the cold, damp, dark of winter I feel sad, and blue, overwhelmed and miserable staring at the never-ending relay of bad, and then worse news on the tv. It’s heartbreaking and so, so awful.

2020: The year of the pandemic. The year of Covid. The year of fear, and panic. The year of isolation. The year everything changed. I find myself struggling to feel optimistic about the new year, struggling to look forwards with hope while we are still dragging the ragged remains of this awful year around with us.

1 thought on “2020: What a year it has been…

  1. Thanks for your really honest assessment of this year. It sounds aweful. We too have gone through a little bit of those emotions but it has been ten times easier here in Daejoen, Korea. We have had no lockdowns and school has progressed almost normally. Anyway your sharing has made us aware of our blessings and makes us stop feeling sorry for ourselves. You are doing a great job with your daughter and it is nice to see you are thinking about BLM and other issues. Cutting out watching the TV for a week at a time has helped me cope.

    Brian and Jo-Anne

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