Six good things to come out of a bad bad year

Updated: Mar 10, 2021

I’m just looking at my diary entries for January 2020 and it reads like something from a fantasy novel. Choir practice. Hair appointment. Reservation at Slug and Lettuce. Elsie’s christening in Manchester. University term starts, Meeting Helen for coffee…


Ha! Talk about not knowing what was round the corner. I wish we’d never looked.


Now no-one in their right mind would say 2020 was a good year (apart from maybe the shareholders in Zoom or Netflix or Amazon). We’ve all been collectively grounded and its been hard hard hard. And as I write this, it doesn’t look like it’s going to get a whole lot better soon.


But – and here my fundamentalist upbringing rears its head (it’s never too far away) and tells me to COUNT MY BLESSINGS!!! And I have many. Even apart from a nice home, a wonderful husband (he’d better be reading this) and said Zoom, Amazon, Netflix.


I have identified six GOOD THINGS to come out of this Extremely Horrible situation for me…


1. Walking


Now I could walk before last March. I could put one foot in front of the other and keep going. Occasionally I even walked into our town centre – all of fifteen minutes and came home in self-congratulatory mood, as if I’d just traversed the Gobi Desert. If I wanted to ‘exercise’ I hauled myself to the swimming pool three times a week and shivered my way through twenty lengths, cursing under my breath.


But then our Boris told us we could walk for an hour a day in lockdown. So I did. And I haven’t stopped. Every day since March 23rd – apart from a couple of days when I was laid out on the sofa bleating ‘I think it’s Covid’ (it wasn’t) and a day when there was a monsoon outside and I would have drowned before I reached the end of the drive.


And now, I have withdrawal symptoms if I haven’t done my walk. I get twitchy, and irritable if the day is wearing on and I haven’t poked my nose outside (my husband may say I’m like that most of the time). I need to walk.


2. Noticing


(See ‘walking’) It’s amazing how you can go through life never noticing what’s around you. I’m something of an expert at that. Sometimes my husband grabs my hand as we cross the road to stop me from launching myself into the path of a twenty-ton articulated lorry. When I ask him irritably how he thinks I raised two kids single-handed for sixteen years, he answers ‘I have no idea.’


But now I’m noticing. Especially on walks. If I did venture off piste before Covid, I would be vaguely aware of feathery things in the trees, furry things in the bushes (always worrying) and pretty things in the grass verges but that was all. Now – move over David Attenborough – I can name several types of birds and butterflies, say ‘hello’ to a squirrel and confidently recognise an ox-eye daisy from a corn marigold. Who’d have thought!


3. Taking photos


(See – ‘noticing’) At the beginning of the pandemic, I traded in my old brick of a mobile phone for an iPhone. The old one was good for bashing a would-be assailant over the head with, but not much else. I wanted to keep in touch with my precious children, one of whom lives in Amsterdam. She may have lived on the moon for how it easy it felt to get to her when the world put up its ‘Closed’ sign.


And then I started taking photos on my daily walk and posting them on social media. I enjoy it and I think well over four other people do from the likes I get. I don’t think David Bailey’ needs to worry, but I like to think I’m improving. More of my pictures now are actually straight.


4. Daily Meditation


I was cxxp at this before there was nothing else happening. Now I like nothing more than to make nothing else happen and light my candle, play my music (nuns singing, not Bruce Springsteen) close my eyes and just be. Some may even call it prayer! Get in!


5. Living simply


I will hold up my hands and say that I liked shopping. Until it became akin to skydiving in this strange new world where fingering a nice top may land you in ICU. This was always going to be a struggle with my new-found Franciscan credentials. Until the government helpfully closed all the shops thereby thwarting one of my main hobbies (it really needn’t have gone to all that trouble for my postulancy). So I don’t shop. Well not much (see previous reference to Amazon). I’m working on it.


6. Building a website


Back in March, I was wending my way through an MA in Creative Writing and had to produce a final project which at least gave me something else to think about other than wobbly graphs and R -rates. I decided to make a website – which you probably know as you are on it right now. And not having much to do apart from walk and take photos, I had lots of time to research website building, swear at the computer and shout every time a click on the keyboard didn’t do what I wanted it to do.


So there! Six good things to come out a bad bad situation for me.

And I know I am ultra-privileged and haven’t lost my livelihood or my home or am attempting to teach bolshie kids in the kitchen. Or am an exhausted medic working desperate days and nights. I know. And I really feel for those out there who are. It’s horrible. It’s rubbish. AND WE NEED IT TO END (are you listening God?)


And now we are in yet another lockdown. It will end one day, honestly.


But until then I’m hanging on to my six good things.