It’s the end of March as I write this post; yes that means the year is a quarter over already. I don’t know about you but I don’t feel as though I have a grip on 2020, it feels instead that it has a grip on me and I don’t like it one bit. As I write I feel aimless, a bit anxious and am wondering where to turn next. Indeed wondering what might hit us next. I seem to have turned from a Pollyanna to a nervous Nellie. But I also know I can’t go on like this, I need to look for the silver lining.

In saying that, I am in no way dismissing the reality for those who have lost loved ones, homes, and livelihoods. And I acknowledge that we still have many challenges ahead of us.

But stay with me because perhaps there is a light at the end of this tunnel and I promise I am not going to write 1,000 plus words of negativity. But let’s recap the year and then I will move on to some positive thoughts about the future and some tools you might find useful.

2020 in summary – the ugly

For us the year started on New Year’s Eve with the news that Mallacoota, where we lived up until 2 years ago, had been struck by bushfire. It was a horrific time for that community with over 100 homes lost. The good news was that no lives were lost. But still the loss of homes affected a number of people we knew, including some dear friends. And yes it’s easy to say it’s just a house, but no, those were homes full of memories, cherished objects and love. And of course there were fires in several states.

The year starts with bushfires in several states

Perhaps as a result of this, January started for me with daily migraines; headaches and visual auras and dizziness. There were times I could barely get off the bed and when I did I was at times bouncing off the walls like a drunk. I went through a raft of tests all of which were clear and to this day I still have no idea of the cause other than stress. I still have some other weird symptoms but no clues on those either. But right now I am physically functional and not wanting to bother stressed medical staff.

We planned a road trip in March, Rowan set off in February to Victoria and I met him in Canberra. As I was leaving, Australia was becoming aware of COVID-19 but it was fair to say we as a nation were still fairly naïve. But yes, handwashing and hand sanitiser was already well in vogue and we began to see the start of the great toilet roll brawls. Rowan and I continued our trip long enough to catch up with some Mallacoota friends but then cut short the rest of our trip, very happy to head home.

2020 in summary – the good

Yes there has been lots of good and there is definitely more ahead.

The fires showed Australia at its best. No not exclusively, and I am not talking about our various politicians, but rather the generosity of our communities as funds were raised, beds were offered, op shops were deluged in quality donations, tool libraries were set up. There was more to praise than to criticise and, as is typically the way, the positives generally came from the grass roots. We are good at this stuff.

And again, as COVID-19 began to really impact we have seen generous acts and, most noticeably, community action. In our area we have seen social networks spring into action to provide moral and actual support to our community. We have seen food businesses pivoting to takeaway and home delivery, and neighbours checking in on each other. People have been buying meals to be sent to our local hospital for the workers there. A local restaurant offered free meals to out of work hospitality staff,

Creativity has come to the fore as well and many of us are rediscovering lost skills and forgotten interests as we find ourselves at home more than usual. There has also been a rash of spring cleaning (not something I am currently guilty of) and finishing off small projects around the home. Personally, we have chosen to have some work done around the house; projects outside, or inside in areas we can stay out of. We know the impact on the economy is already severe, so whilst we are far from super wealthy, we have chosen to bring forward some work that might keep others employed a little longer.

The use of online conferencing tools like Zoom has grown, as we are all seeking ways to connect without being in the same physical space. Museums and galleries around the world have opened up their collections for us to visit online – what a wonderful thing for those who might never have been able to travel to see these treasures.

Butterflies appear in profusion

There is anecdotal evidence too that the air is cleaner with less cars on the road and more industry shutdowns. Whilst that is undoubtedly short term, and yes there is economic impact, it’s great to be able to breathe fresh air. And what if more businesses realised they could operate with remote workers and/or online? Locally we have seen an enormous increase in the butterfly population – yes butterflies not cabbage moths 😉 – and are wondering what has caused that to happen. On a side note, butterflies are seen as a symbol of resurrection or transformation. Is that what 2020 will be about for us?

You may be reading all this and saying that’s all very well but why am I still feeling like crap. Don’t get me wrong, we are all grieving our old ways of being and I don’t for a minute want to suggest that I am full of energy and enthusiasm at the moment. But I do have some tools at my disposal and I want to share some of those with you.

Tools for the months ahead

Given it seems the COVID-19 situation is going to be with us for quite some time yet, you might like to try some of the following tools and techniques. These are just a very few recommendations, you will find many more online or through talking to your friends.

Acknowledge your grief, this post might help and also your emotional state; you might well find yourself feeling very depressed. I highly recommend journaling to help with the heavy emotions and I am a big fan of Julia Cameron’s The Morning Pages.

Practice gratitude, however it works for you. I like to recall 5 positive things from the day just as I put my book down at night and get ready for sleep. Some days I have more, some days I am challenged, but if I look hard enough, I can always find five.

Is singing for you, or learning a musical instrument?

Learn a new skill, there are so many opportunities to learn online. We know that learning a language is good for our brains, and you can do that online for free with Duolingo and it’s fun.

Join an online community – have you always wanted to sing in a choir, then maybe The Viral Choir is for you. One of my favourite online communities, that also comes with tools to help retrain my brain, is The Reach Potential Study Circle which you can click through and trial for free. And of course there is our very own Retiring not Shy! group, we would love you to join us.

Stay connected – if you don’t already know how to use online tools to connect now might be the time to learn. Think Facebook Messenger, Facetime on Apple, WhatsApp and Zoom for ways to have a ‘face to face’ chat without being in the same room.

Stay connected via the Online world

So how are you coping in the world you find yourself in? What tools work best for you? How are you staying connected? What is your greatest challenge?