2020 – Looking For The Shiny Bits In Dark Places

28 Dec 2020 – Looking For The Shiny Bits In Dark Places

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 28.12.20


Back at the start of this ridiculous year, I wrote a new show and debuted it at a festival in February in the glorious Hamilton Gardens. “2020 Vision”, I called it – as a nod to the year and also because it contained my predictions of the big issues. It was a preposterously grandiose title meant mostly as joke. But there was a lot in the show about new beginnings (personal and universal) and hope for global action on climate change, with a couple of amusing lines about the threat of a new pandemic that would probably turn out to be nothing very much at all. 

The sun shone. Allan, the stage manager, could not have been kinder or more welcoming. People arranged themselves on white plastic chairs and someone told me later that, throughout the hour, Tūī – my favourite of all my favourite birds – sat still and quiet in the trees behind the stage almost as though they’d bought tickets. Afterwards, I explored the gardens with friends who had come along, and we shared a drink and some stories on the lawn. What a terrific year this was going to be if this was any indication.

It wasn’t. Ha! This year has not been terrific for anyone much except maybe vaccine researchers and conspiracy theorists, both of whom have had plenty to be going on with. Heaven help you if you’re a working mother (note: all mothers are working mothers), or you own an international airline, or work in hospo, entertainment, or tourism. Hugs and thanks if you’re a supermarket worker or in healthcare or anywhere on the frontlines of dealing with this virus. Warmest thoughts to those separated from family, and to those still recovering from the long effects of Covid. Special love to the families of the twenty-five people here who have died.

If 2020 was a person, I’d want to spit in its eye. Okay, no spitting, but I’d want to shove it out the door and suggest we never speak of it again. But also (and forgive me if this sounds contradictory) as an anxious person who is always waiting for the other shoe to drop, I’ve learned from my experience of quite a few other years that it helps me to take a breath and look for the shiny bits in dark places. I consciously make lists of things to be thankful for, otherwise I’d never get out of bed.

In no particular order, here are some things I liked very much in 2020: swimming before breakfast with my granddaughter on her birthday, finding the filter on my Zoom app so I don’t have to wear makeup for meetings, learning how to make paella, discovering a new (to me) Dolly Parton song and singing it, nailing how to wear a mask without my glasses fogging, working out that I prefer a vodka martini to one with gin, and also noticing I sleep better when I go to bed sober.

If I cast my mind back, I can see that my life is different from the way it was a year ago and in some ways (though not all) it is possibly better. I survived the existential angst about “Who am I if I don’t produce anything” when I couldn’t work (I’m a māmā, nana, partner and friend), and also survived the very real financial stress. (Thank you, Government Wage Subsidy.) Those months of no work cleared the decks in a way, and I’ve been mostly able to put things back thoughtfully, keeping space for friends, riding my bike and going for walks. I also recognise that I am greatly privileged to be able to do this – I’m older and have fewer people dependent on me now, and all kinds of things make my life easier than other people’s so my job is to be grateful and to pay it forward.

I constructed a questionnaire to get me started on my list – feel free to use it. If you happen to find yourself in the middle of a lazy afternoon, roll these ideas around in your head and see what you come up with.

Your Best Meal, Best Moment, Favourite Person, Best Purchase, Most Moving Musical Experience, Favourite View, Happiest Surprise, Favourite Show, Most Spectacular Sunset, Favourite Book, Best Movie, Finest Gift (Given and Received), Greatest Achievement, Funniest Story and The Nicest Thing Someone Said To You This Year.

You may have more than one answer to any given question. Excellent. Just write them all down. It may make you feel more kindly disposed to 2020, and less inclined to slap its silly face or give it angry space in your head. Hug it, thank it, say goodbye. This “unprecedented” year will never darken your doors again. Turn around and greet 2021. And keep that questionnaire handy.