Is your glass half-full or half-empty?
I am asking this because this year has been so challenging and destabilising for most of us. It has shaken our confidence, the settled ways of living, and the adopted norms. And yet, it has been a year of enormous growth. And the process is far from over – most is yet to come. Are you ready for it?
Looking back at my year 2020, to be frank, shivers go down my spine. And I see it so crystal clear: I could be depressed and in agony, or grateful and cheering right now, depending on my personal attitude. I am grateful to God that I have the strength and the optimism to swing towards the latter.
Well, see for yourselves.
Family. Being a mom of two children (at the start of 2020 they were 4.5yo (girl) and 1.5yo (boy)) and having an almost full-time job to which I had to commute using train and metro taking 1 1/4 hours each way each working day, at the start of 2020 I was a nervous and physical wreck. Add to this an online course, and the irreversible deforming of my 5th Lombard vertebrae – thank you, arthrosis. It was a hard way to live, but I was trying to make the most of it.
This year brought a number of unexpected surprises to add to the mix. Firstly, our son visited the emergency three times. The first time he had seven stitches in his forehead (without anaesthesia) which took time to heal, and the scar has not yet fully disappeared. The second time he slid from the toilet top while having his evening ritual and pierced his lower lip with the tooth. The third time he fell off the small table he climbed on and split his lower lip open. The two latter times he was not treated, as the doctors judged that he would heal without any intervention.
This year our daughter first brought stomach warms from school. I don’t remember the last time I had stomach warms, but at least I knew that it could happen, and that there are ways to deal with them. They of course spread to the entire family, so we all had to treat ourselves. As I thought it was over, they came again, so we had to doble down on the medication. Personally, I felt unjustifiably invaded and had an emotional reaction to the event, but hey, do you think the stomach warms care?
The very same summer my daughter brought lice from the summer camp, which also passed on to the youngest, and then also to me (my husband was spared miraculously). It was the first time I had to deal with lice, so I felt even more nervous and scared. I knew that my friends’ kids also have lice at least once in their lives, and some of them deal with the problem on a regular basis. I got encouraged by my friends and started the treatment… except that with lice it was super-complicated. It took me about two months to get rid of them. I really do not wish this kind of pest invasion to anyone! Tip: use natural ways to fight lice, and once they are gone, apply a drop of lavender oil to the back of the neck and behind the ears of your children daily to steer the undesirable attacks away while your kids are at school.
Invasions aside, I started working from home as of mid-March thanks to the first COVID-19 related confinement. Kids were at home, too, because both school and creche were closed. This was absolutely challenging in every way. It felt like a mockery to my motherhood, to my humanhood. As of then, I was working from home full time, and in September, when kids went back to school and creche, it felt like a great relief. It was at least easier to concentrate on my work during the working hours. I did not even feel any difference when the second confinement in November came, because kids could continue going to school and creche (thank you, Government!), and I was still working from home.
At least I am still working! My husband was moved to technical unemployment at the end of 2019 and spent the entire 2020 looking for a job, taking qualification tests and trying to explain to the authorities that he does not want interim night-shift job, but a permanent day job, because he has a family, and needs to function accordingly. The story seems to be closing to a successful end, but with the no end in sights to confinements, it drags on and on.
Business Project. The year started with one business project which I launched as the next step in my studies. It was going well, and I was gaining momentum, however, with COVID-19 entering the scene, it fell into the water. I did not despair and started looking for other ways to realise my business idea. I pulled a few people together and we started a project together, but really without a solid base, apart from my enthusiasm. Three months later, coinciding with the end of the first confinement, the project fell into bits. I started despairing and spent a month or two wondering how I could go around realising my business idea. At the end of summer, a friend suggested following a totally different path. I liked the idea of starting afresh, so I dived in. In the beginning, it was going ok, but as months passed, I realised that I simply have too little time to devote to the business, and it is not taking off simply because I am not focused sufficiently on it. It was a hard truth to realise that I simply cannot pull it off, so by the end of December, I decided to put it on pause. My friend was not happy with me, which added to the grief.
House. The house we bought two years ago was being gradually renovated and by the time 2020 came, we felt like we settled well in. With more time freed thanks to the confinement, and the amazing weather in spring, we attacked our garden: pulled out the weeds, extracted the undesirable plants, and started working on a piece of the garden which we wanted to convert into a loan. It was a lot of hard work, but it felt very welcoming, as the movement outside the house was restricted due to the COVID-19.
Once we finished brushing through the garden, we discovered that the house was attacked by mice. Clearly, we have disturbed their nests while bringing the garden in order, and they started looking for a new place to settle. They first attacked the garage. When we found the hole and fixed it, and then chemically treated the place they were nesting in, some of them died, and those who did not, found a different way to enter, through the kitchen. This is when I saw a mouse running across my living room for the first time. You need to understand, that when mice run in the garden, I just find it not very pleasant, but I accept it, thinking “we are surrounded by fields, and our direct neighbors on one side are very messy and dirty, so no wonder”. But when your house is penetrated and invaded… it becomes a story of horror and panic attacks. I realised that I have a serious problem with mice, in all kinds of ways. As much so that I even went to see a psychiatrist (who deemed me totally sane and normal by the way). To cut the long story short, we had to pull down the entire kitchen, down to the brick, and my husband spent three months straight, building part of the brick wall, re-doing the ceiling, bringing back the panels, painting everything, fixing the electric plugs and the heater. During these three months, I had to cook in our dining room, and wash the dishes and the food in the garage (cold water). Luckily it was in summer, so we could pull it off somehow.
However, the problem did not finish there. When we pulled down the kitchen, we realised that the electrician, who was installing the electricity in the entire house two years ago, left a giant hole in the brick wall (masked by the panels) which mice used to pass into the rest of the house. So we had a problem of mice living inside the walls (pro tip: never use panels to finish your walls unless you really have no other option!) To this day, we are fighting with this problem. There are ways to solve this problem. However, if you have not filled the wholes which serve as passages for the rodents from the outside, it is utterly useless. With time we discovered that there are more holes in the brick walls closer to the roof of the house. The only durable solution now is to make a new coating of the entire building (and we also discovered that we have to replace the roof of the garage sooner than we anticipated because it is made of asbestos). You can only imagine the cost of this endeavour. We are pulling our forces together to find a way to deal with the issue.
Personal. Like most of us, I have lost the pleasure of the presence of my friends. We have no more guests at our house, and we cannot see almost anyone with the rule of meeting just one person. Being a family, this rule simply means “do not see anyone”. We miss our family. We miss our friends. My kids are fed up and we are tired of the isolation, too.
This year has been nothing short of fascinating.
At personal level, some needs have been met thanks to COVID-19, such as the ability to work from home. While it can be a lonely business, working from home allowed me to sit in the chair that is best for my back, avoid crowds and commutes, and plan my time better. It brings more efficiency somehow.
I tested a few business ideas and understood what works, and what does not work. For one, having a fixed idea about doing business in a constantly changing world is a recipe for disaster. For another one, one should allow for half of the projects to be able to fail half the time (thanks to Vishen Lakhiani and his observations of how Google works). If you think you will succeed from the first time you try, then don’t even start, because otherwise, you subscribe yourself to frustration.
I discovered the world of highest quality essential oils, which literally transformed my life! Most of the time now I don’t use pharmaceutical products to ease headache, fight colds, soothe muscle pain, improve my mood, sleep better. I stopped buying facial creams, because I am making my own, and home made ones, including the essential oils I know have at home, work better than any other purchased creams! Big wow!
Regarding the house, thanks to the fact that my husband was unemployed, we managed to fix our kitchen (and render it even warmer, lighter, and more beautiful😉) within the budget we had. If we had to engage workers to finish it off, we would not even be able to start the works.
At the family level, we spent SO MUCH time with our kids! Both my husband and I have been feeling rather guilty ever since becoming parents for not being able to spend quality time with our children (if you are interested, here is what we think of the importance of a family). All kinds of articles and books were written saying “it is not how much, but how well” you spend time with kids. And I get the point, however, if you only have an hour in the evening, and you are already exhausted by the duties and responsibilities, then no matter how much you try, you simply cannot make it. Thanks to the events of 2020, we had a chance to bond so much better with both our kids and start developing an amazing relationship with them. On top, our daughter learned to bike, I finally weaned him from breastfeeding (it took three months, but it worked!) and he is now actively learning to talk in the three languages that we operate here.
A special place in my heart is with my husband. A very strong, kind and patient person, who cares for his family and the nest we live in, he took in strides the curve-balls life kept sending him, and – in my view – came out a winner of it all. May he be blessed!
Furthermore, our family grew this year – we adopted a lovely kitten! Being rather a dog person, I could never imagine my life with a cat under the same roof. But enters Kitty! All full of character, playful and curious. And now I cannot imagine my life without her.
Last but not least, we learned to pay attention to, and appreciate, the little things. When the big things are taken away from us (cannot celebrate birthday in a restaurant, cannot take kids to the playground, cannot see friends, cannot shop in a real shop, etc), little things come into play. And I find it ever so important to be able to focus on everything that surrounds us, not just the big flashy screaming neon lights. Life bas become more real.
So, thanks, COVID-19! While taking so many lives and scarring the lives of so many others, you bring invaluable lessons of flexibility, attention, gratitude, respect and humility. There is no bigger gift that we could receive this year!
What was 2020 like for you?