Sitting down to write this feels so familiar. My surroundings are unchanged save from a lick of paint that took its place on the walls at the beginning of lockdown in March 2020. My laptop was updated around the same time to increase availability of devices for home-schooling, but there is a definite sense of stability.
When I take a moment to reflect on what has been one of the most tumultuous, unpredictable years of my life, it is this familiarity that I cling to. That, and an emerging sense of gratitude. Not the kind that requires a hashtag and a forced smile. Instead, it is a deep sense of peace that myself and my family are healthy. That we made it through the preceding 12 months with a limited number of bumps, and that somehow through all of this, the opportunity for self-development has been huge.
I’m not talking about online learning for myself or any kind of development that might furnish me with a certificate and additional letters after my name. In between work and home-schooling, parenting and housekeeping there has been next to no opportunity for that (aside from a beautiful brain break courtesy of The Writing Bootcamp). I am pondering, however, over something that sits more deeply, and is arguably more meaningful.
Previously my normal day would be a melee of getting the boys to and from school, keeping up with whatever they needed to take in for theme days, charity days, show and tell and the like, and attempting to juggle 3 different sets of after school activities. This came on top of working, volunteering, and managing my disability, alongside attempting to be a supportive wife and keep everything ticking over when Jacob worked away from home (a relatively rare occurrence, but one that felt pronounced all the same). I would like to say that come Friday evening I’d fall with grateful abandon onto the sofa and stay put, watching whatever might be on the television or grabbing a book mid-descent. Alas, Friday was also a night of extracurricular activities, Saturday morning was homework time, and Sundays were piano lessons. That pressed family time with a pop into Saturday and Sunday afternoons. We were grateful, but felt the squeeze.
Back in October I published a post of my lockdown silver linings. The focus on these has and continues to keep me engaged with the positives that 2020 brought. In particular, this element of personal development. Despite the snatched time in between to-do list tasks, for the first time in years I’ve written not only blog posts and chapters of my book, but poetry too. I have come to appreciate that the small things in life may be the big ones. That a night in front of the telly shouldn’t only be confined to the days when I am too exhausted to move. That ignoring the dishes and jumping into a fictional world in whichever book I am reading is almost as vital to my wellbeing as air and food and water. That putting everything on hold, ordering a take away for tea and having a family film or game night is not the stuff of dreams to be scheduled in at the next available opportunity, but an important way to spend time together that can absolutely be spontaneous.
My boys have gained a lot from these past months as well. A changed curriculum enabled time for making stop motion movies, building with Lego, baking, and tabletop (and garden based) science experiments. I shall never regret that whilst the world was being held together by our noble key workers, I got to spend that time with the boys watching their interests flourish in an independent and self-motivated manner. That momentarily the busy family life that had become so predictable in its lack of flexibility and time to switch off, was shelved for something that felt much more like my own childhood. That nature walks replaced homework, family exercise with Joe Wicks stood in place of cold weather side lines.
Meanwhile, the 2020 plans that I so diligently believed in, remain largely under the dust of change. The foreign travel that we so longed for didn’t happen, neither did a number of the activities slipped into gift envelopes I had lovingly planned out for Jacob at the end of 2019. The HR work that I hit the pause button on back in January resumed in April, as the employment world struggled to keep up with furlough and redundancies.
Putting all that to one side though, I turn my face towards the hope that the coming 12 months might bring. This year my list is simple and reflective of a different mood and pace of life. For once my to do list normally comprising of travel, writing, and a bucket list brimming with family fun is a little muted. If those things happen, I will be extremely happy, but if not, I know that we will get through and be brave and strong in the face of this pandemic and all the grief and disappointment that comes along with it. My dearest wish this year is for a mass roll out of the covid-19 vaccination against a virus that only skimmed the news 12 months ago. I also hope for herd immunity to protect the vulnerable and, fingers crossed, lots of hugs with our family and friends.
Happy New Year – here’s to 2021.