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The Gifts of 2020

Let's be honest, 2020 was quite a crappy year. December 31st 2019 held so much hope for 2020. For some reason there was a hyped-up energy of expectation for this year. Maybe it's because it was the start of a new decade, maybe because the numbers seemed really cool, maybe because we realized that we were well and truly in the 21st Century and the potential it held.

I don't know exactly what is was, but the energy as we entered 2020 was electric, full of hope. But we all know how the celebrations of the New Year ended….. within a couple of months, the world was shut down and we were thrown into one of society's biggest health and economic challenges for decades.

I will not sugar-coat things. For many of us 2020 has not been kind.

Whilst we know there are things to be grateful for every day, the overwhelming feelings of the uncertainty of life, the instability of routine, the disconnection from each other and the loss of things that we take for granted, has shaken us all to the core.

It took me to our second lock down in September to realize that EVERYONE was suffering. EVERYONE has experienced loss of something or someone, everyone has had to find ways to adapt, everyone has had to draw on strength, patience, energies that they didn't even know they had.

So whilst I could write a long post about how challenging these last 10 months have been for myself, my family, my friends, my community, I chose to do something a bit different as I return to writing a monthly blog. In and amongst all the difficulties, the breakdowns, the frustration, the endless days with kids at home, the lack of personal space, I have actually identified 4 gifts that 2020 gave me. Life lessons that have deeply changed the way I think about things now. I share these not to be heroic or idealistic about my experiences, but because I think if you can't learn something from life's challenges, from the unexpected, then you have missed an opportunity to turn life's challenges into life's lessons.

Lesson 1 – Take one day at a time. As a Yoga Teacher, one of the key lessons we learn is to be present in the moment, on the mat. Connecting to your breath, being present, focusing on the here and now, listening to your body. I use these words when I teach my classes and I thought I had internalized them. But until I experienced the overwhelmingness of lockdown, the repetitive nature of daily life, not being able to prepare for anything too far in the future, of knowing that lockdown meant juggling all the new daily demands and finding time to do my own work, I realized I hadn't actually deeply connected what it meant to be present in the moment. What does it really mean to take 24 hours at a time, to not think further ahead than the day that is in front of you right now. And once you are able to really do this it is so freeing.

It allows you to drop all the expectations, it allows you to take every hour as it comes, to not plan what will be tomorrow. Now obviously in life we need plans, vision, dreams, structure. But it's also nice to not feel attached to them. To go with the flow of day and not worry about what will be tomorrow.

Lesson 2 - Every woman needs to find time for herself.

Now this is a lesson I did NOT need Corona to teach me, as I had consciously made changes to my life over the last few years to make sure I had scheduled time for myself.

However, during the first lockdown, when we went into personal and communal shock at our new reality, when life got turned on its head, I did loose myself.

With a family of 7 to look after 24/7, dealing with our physical, emotional and mental health and wellbeing needs, I forgot the most important lesson of all…… If you are not feeling strong, balanced and healthy, you can't give anything to those around you who depend and rely on.

Once I realized WHY I was not showing up in the way that I wanted, I was able to make changes, to give myself the time and space I needed so that I COULD show up for everyone else. And by the time it came to the second lock-down I was able to put strategies in place to support myself, and therefore make the experience much better for myself and everyone at home.

Now this does not happen automatically. It needs to be planned and implemented with intention. Otherwise it is way too easy to let the overwhelm suffocate you, which unfortunately it will do every time unless you are prepared.

Lesson 3 - Don't wait for the right moment.

One of the most important lessons of this time has been that there is never a perfect moment for something to happen. If you are waiting for the "right moment" to make a decision, to say something, to act on something, to make that phone call…. Well you will be waiting a long time. Every day over the last ten months has brought new guidelines, new restrictions, new numbers of diagnosed cases, new despair. Just when we thought things were getting better, then the new lockdown restrictions were imposed. Just when kids went back to school and we thought life was returning to normal, the numbers shot up and everyone is back on Zoom. We honestly have no idea what tomorrow will bring us, and so if you want to do something, don't wait.

Don't procrastinate, don't let fear dictate your actions.

The Nike slogan of "Just do it" has never been a more true life lesson!

Lesson 4 – The gifts of 2020.

This has been the most fascinating lesson of 2020 for me. As a small business owner, still trying to establish myself in the field, you would assume the events of 2020 would not be favourable to business growth. In fact, January-March 2020 was setting the stage for a great 2020 for my business. Until the bottom fell out in April and May and everything stopped! However in December I met with my Business Accountability Group – 6 other women who are all entrepreneurs growing their own businesses. We talked about our business successes over 2020 and guess what……. Each of us had moved out of our comfort zone. Each of us had over-come fears we had held that had stopped us moving forward in the past. Each of us had experienced unexpected clarity and growth. Despite the challenges and limitation, each of us had grown both professionally and personally. Two sayings came to my mind during this meeting when we shared our stories. One is the Benjamin Franklin's saying: “Out of adversity comes opportunity"

and the other is Victor Frankl's saying: "When we are no longer able to change a situation -

we are challenged to change ourselves." 2020 has asked a lot from us. It has challenged us more than was fair. It has also taken a lot from us. The question is has it gifted us something too? And despite the knee-jerk reaction to say "of course not", I actually think it has.

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