Mum confession: 20 smaller and bigger lessons 2020 ended up teaching me
Happy New Year!
2021 is here – finally – and we can all put the mess that was 2020 behind us.
When you stop and think about it, though – doesn't it strike you how insane it has all been?! I mean; think back to this day last year – January 1st 2020. How utterly clueless we were about the chaos that lay ahead? I do think not being able to predict the future really is a blessing – because had anyone told us what we'd have to endure this year, none of us would have taught we could do it.
But – we did. We muddled through lockdown after lockdown. We homeschooled, we entertained, we played games and went for four million walks up and down the same streets. We cooked and baked and learned how to use Zoom to both socialise and conduct board meetings and even attend yoga classes. We finished most of Netflix and probably Disney+ too. We took up new hobbies and rediscovered old ones. We persevered. We made it, hour by hour, through this crazy year, and now we are here, on this brand new day of this brand new year, and by God, are we ready to fill it with good things.
However, while I think we are all more than happy to close the door on 2020, can we at least take a moment and appreciate the lessons it taught us – for better or worse:
1. ANYTHING can happen
I mean; if someone had told us this time last year the year that lay ahead, NOBODY would have believed them. And yet here we are.
2. Humans are resilient
For most of us, our lives have changed beyond recognition this year. We have muddled through nine months no-one would have thought they would manage – and yet, we somehow did.
3. Teachers are a GODSEND
Having homeschooled for three-and-a-half months this spring, let me tell you this – I don't know how teachers do it – but by lord am I glad they do!
4. Banana bread is overrated
Since about May, I haven't felt like even looking at banana bread. And I can't see that changing anytime soon.
5. Hugs are beautiful
Hugging friends and family is the loveliest thing, and much I have still hugged friends and family this year, I certainly have hugged a lot less than I normally would. And I miss it. Hugs are good for us – for our mental health, for our happiness and even for our immune systems, and I can't wait to go back to a day everyone can hug freely again.
6. Having something to look forward to is so important
Even the smallest thing. During that first lockdown in spring, I even looked forward to grocery shopping or a walk to my local coffee place that stayed open and did takeaway coffees. I started buying myself flowers every Friday and we started new traditions like Pizza Friday and Pancake Sunday. Having these to look forward to, no matter how small, makes life instantly more enjoyable.
8. Commuting into the office is precious me-time
I miss my half an hour on the Luas in the morning, Airpods in, world tuned out.
9. We are so much more creative than we think
Zoom quizzes, drive-by birthdays, you name it, we came up with it this year.
10. We can’t, actually, do it all
I’m a chronic over-extender. But with the lockdown, I was suddenly taking on even more new roles. And soon enough, I came to realise that as much as I want to “do it all,” I am not a very good teacher/mother/journalist/house cleaner/chef/playdate planner/laundry expert/daughter/friend when I have to do it all around the clock. I actually need help on occasion, lockdown or not. And that doesn’t make me a failure. It makes me a human.
11. Fresh air helps
Getting out every single day during this year – even if it was for a 20 minute run around the neighbourhood or local park, or a three-hour hike up our favourite local hill, it kept me sane. And kept my children healthy and happy. Fresh air really does heal and empower you – and this year made me realise just how much.
12. Water works too
When my children were babies, I used to put them in the bath if they ever were just really cranky and nothing else would cheer them up. Water seemed to wash away their troubles and make everything OK again. This year, I have realised this holds true for me too. Just add water – a shower, a sea swim – heck, even a good cry, and you'll soon realise you start feeling so much better afterwards.
13. The right food can change your mood
I am not really a drinker apart from a glass of wine whenever out or in someone's else's house for dinner, as I always feel less than 100 percent the next day, even if I just had a glass. But this year, I also really learned the difference eating good and clean food can have on my mind and mood. Plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, berries, beans, lentils, spices all make me feel well – both mentally and physically. And last, but not least, drinking enough water will change your life, trust me.
14. It’s okay not to be okay
This year was HARD. And much as it also had its happy moments, and I am not one to linger at hard things or negativity, I also learned this year that it is OK to admit some days suck. They do for all of us. And realising that make us appreciate the good days so much more, I think.
15. We need community
If little else, I think we will all walk away from 2020 with a deeper understanding of our own vulnerabilities. And our deep, primal need for community. It’s the feeling that we’re not the only ones struggling. It’s the feeling that we don’t have to walk through darkness or fear on our own. It’s knowing that when something happens, good or bad, we have someone to share that with. We all need community. It makes us human and holds us together.
16. Prioritise sleep
Finally, with my FOMO relaxing during lockdown knowing I wasn't missing out on anything as nothing was happening anyway, I learned to make time for sleep. And having seen the difference it makes, I am not going back now.
17. We need less than we think
This year has really given us all a crash course in what really matters – family, friends, health, work, community. Little else matters – and everything after that is really just icing on an already very beautiful cake.
18. Boundaries are important
When suddenly your living room or kitchen also becomes a home office and a classroom, learning how to set boundaries and make some healthy routines really becomes important. The thing is, you’ll never relax if you’re always online, and that’ll make you less productive. Learning how to switch off and setting more rigid boundaries around what is work time and what it home time really helped me this year.
19. Life's too short not to have fun
For most of this spring, my sofa was a fort for my six-year-old. We had more movie nights than I can count. We camped out on the living room floor a few nights too. We did a lot of arts and crafts and made a lot of mess. And it was worth it in every way.
20. Never miss and opportunity to show someone you love them
After a year where so many of us have been separated from those we love physically, I am SO ready to show my love and care for people with hugs and kisses and hand-holding and touch again.
I am naturally a very tactile person who hug my friends and family and tell people I love them regularly, but by lord, this year has made me even more determined to never miss an opportunity to kiss and hug my friends. Hold hands with my mum. Or dad. Embrace someone who needs comfort. Shake hands with work colleagues. Physically assist and help during a yoga class I teach. Touch is human and warm and important, and we all need more of it than ever now.
What lessons are YOU taking away from 2020? Let us know!