Five Things 2021 Taught Me

At the beginning of 2021 I looked back over 2020, the strangest of years, recognizing the difficulties and appreciating the positives. All while hoping for a better year in 2021.

And, although 2021 wasn’t all bad, it wasn’t all good either. The most I can say is, it just was. In all honesty, in a lot of ways, it felt like 2020 on repeat.

As we enter the third year of the pandemic, it’s sometimes hard to articulate exactly what the past couple of years have been like. All that we have dealt with practically, logistically and emotionally. How the moments of frustration have been balanced with moments of joy. How it’s not the life we would wish for, but it isn’t a bad life.

Life in a pandemic is full of contradictions.

Generally at the start of the new year I like to set some goals and intentions. I’m not a fan of resolutions, very few of us stick to them, I certainly don’t! For me, a general intention is more likely to stick. This year though, I’m keeping it even more simple. My intention is to take each week as it comes, and do with it what I can. Right now, getting from one week to the next can seem like challenge enough – the continued uncertainty playing havoc with motivation and goal setting.

I do want to look back at 2021 though, and see what I can take with me. It was a tough year. In some ways more so than 2020. Fatigue of the whole situation, the inability to make plans with any kind of certainty, the disappointment of cancelled events.

But, like 2020, it held many lessons. So, what has year two of the pandemic taught me?

Flexibility is an underrated life skill. 2021 was a masterclass in remaining flexible and accepting our current reality. Recommendations, mandates, rules. It was all-change, all year. Managing this change, and expectations; dealing with cancelled plans at short-notice; finding alternatives and making the best of it? We became champions at all that.

Resilience is also underrated. I know that in an ideal world we wouldn’t have to be this resilient, that none of us would have had to deal with the stress, uncertainty, isolation and anxiety of the past two years. Especially our kids. But, I am so proud of my three. I mean, I won’t lie! There have been some awful, sad days. It’s been really hard, and the burden that we have expected/needed them to bear is mind-blowingly awful. But they’ve borne it. They’ve navigated it. They’ve taken a deep breath when needed and got on with it. With a lot more grace than some adults.

Perspective is important. But, just because someone else has it worse doesn’t invalidate our own feelings. We are allowed to feel sad, even if someone else is sadder. However, we can also use that perspective to see the positives in our own situation. Being able to see things from all sides can only ever be helpful, in understanding ourselves, and others.

Tolerance should be a given. This past year has brought out the best in people, but also the worst. I have been shocked by some of the things I have read online, in my own community. I completely understand how hard these past two years have been, and I get that there have often been no good choices, just lots of bad ones. But, we’re all doing the best we can with the hand we’ve been dealt. Arguing over who is the ‘most’ right is never going to end well. Be kind, be thoughtful, be understanding. Don’t assume you know enough about anyone’s situation to comment on their choices. And, on that note, I have muted many conversations and groups online. For my own mental health, I can’t watch people argue in the comments anymore!

Slow living suits me. As life gradually moved back to almost ‘normal’ it sped up again and honestly, I’m not keen! I need to find a way to slow things down again, and attain a better balance in encouraging the kids to do all the things they want to do, while finding time to breathe between activities.

So, what will 2022 hold for us? More of the same, or will we finally begin to see some light at the end of the tunnel? Honestly, I’m not sure, and I also don’t think it’s all that helpful to second guess what comes next. That hasn’t gone so well for the past two years!

I’ll just keep doing the best I can in any given moment, and hope that’s enough.

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