Lately I heard someone say "Can we just all agree not to write the 'Looking back on 2020' articles". I get that, I really do. There is so much we would rather forget.
And yet, I like looking back, on the good and the bad. Maybe that is because, for me at least, there has always been good along with the bad.
I realise, of course, how lucky I am to be able to say that.
As I write this we are in another lockdown and Christmas is behind us.
Christmas this year certainly felt different, it was still Christmas, but it was different.
I have always loved Christmas. I remember as a child standing next to my Mom, with our hands behind our backs, warming them off the radiator in the hall, looking at the Christmas tree. I remember squeezing my eyes so all I could see was the colour of the lights. I still do it now to remember that feeling.
We always had coloured lights on our Christmas tree at home. It was only in the past couple years that I realised that I prefer coloured lights to the white ones we bought for our tree in our own house. One year I made the mistake of buying ‘brilliant white’ lights. In fairness not one neighbour complained but you could land a small aircraft by them...
I remember how my Mom managed to stand so many Christmas cards on the sideboard at home and somehow I never remember any falling over. No matter where I stand Christmas cards in my house they choose to lie down as soon as I walk away. Maybe Christmas cards were better behaved back in the day! Or maybe they just feel that little bit more tired this year.
When we were very young my three sisters and I shared one bedroom. Santy used to leave our presents on stools at the end of our beds. I remember so clearly the excitement when we woke overnight.
We weren’t allowed turn on our bedroom light, so we took turns where one of us would sneak out to the bathroom, turn the light on and so leave enough light shine down to the bedroom so that the other three could try to make out what the presents were.
I think it must have added hugely to the excitement, to only be able to partly see the presents in the barely lit room. Why we didn’t use torches who knows, but maybe we didn’t own them.
I have no recollection of how we decided who had to be first to co-incidentally need a bathroom trip once we realised Santy had arrived, but I imagine there must have been a savage amount of negotiations!
I always think of that when I see my children flick on their lights as soon as they wake on Christmas morning ... I can’t imagine them trying to make out presents in the dark.
And so another Christmas has passed. And ‘that year’ is finally over.
It struck me lately that in fact for many people Covid won’t be the first word that comes to mind when they think of 2020 ... hard though that may be to believe.
So much more happened in 2020, good and bad.
When I think of 2020, my first thoughts go to those who have lost people for whatever reason and who didn’t get to grieve in the way to which we are accustomed.
I think of those people a lot.
I think of my cousin who lost her son. I cannot begin to imagine the pain she is going through.
I think of one of my very favourite people and closest friends who lost his beautiful life partner in the past couple weeks. Their home is in Australia. Australia feels so far away. I would so love to be there to give him a hug. That hug will have to wait for now.
I think of the absolute cruelty of those situations and the heartbreak I know they feel. And of how many of us would love to help but feel like there is so little we can do. Except remind them that they are so often in our thoughts.
So many families I know, including mine, faced life changing events in 2020. So many families, including mine, have also been incredibly fortunate in 2020.
My eldest brother survived a very serious stroke this year. I am incredibly proud of how hard he fought and continues to fight to get better. I hope should I ever face what he faced that I would find the courage and strength he found.
I am incredibly proud of each and every one of my family for the resilience and strength and love they have shown to help us through these past few months. I am reminded yet again how lucky I am to belong to the family I belong to. I am reminded that we will remain together to face whatever life next throws at us.
When I look back on the past year I think of people.
The people I was lucky enough to spend time with, the people I wish I could have spent more time with and the people I missed so much this year.
More than anyone I miss a brother who lives in Cambridge and his gorgeous family. This time last year John and his wife, Julie, arrived in Cork for a visit – a visit we had no idea would be their last for so long. I hate still not knowing when we will see them next. But mostly I just want everyone to stay well.
What I look forward to most is a get together of all of our family, on a sunny day, at our house in Mogeely. With all the daftness and chatting and music and beautiful and cheeky entries to our visitors book and gluten free desserts that these get togethers always bring.
When I think of people I think of lots of other people too. Friends that planned visits and then had to postpone. Friends we didn’t get to meet this year. Friends who luckily live close by.
I think too of the loveliest bunch of people I met at an Alpha course I went to earlier this year, before everything shut down. In fact it was my second time going to that Alpha course. To be honest I surprised myself by going once, so if someone had told me a couple years back I’d go two years in a row, well I’m not sure I would have believed them.
It was not something I would have ever thought I would have taken part in. But I did. And I met some of the most welcoming, non-judgemental, fun people. I liked it so much I snuck back in a second time around. In fact I wouldn’t say it out loud but if it’s run again I might just see if I can sneak in again ... if I get away with it! I miss seeing those people and the sharing of different opinions and chatting and laughing. And of course the cake!
This past year has brought so much change. This has been the first year my husband has not been away with work. It’s been so lovely, through 2020 of all years, to have him home more.
And so here we are at the start of a new year.
Life carries on and will carry on. Life with all that is wonderful and all that is not wonderful about it.
Who knows what this year will bring? Maybe after the past year we know to expect the unexpected.
But maybe there are some things we can rely on.
There will be people to talk to, stories to be told, music to be listened to, songs to be sung. There will be arguments to be had, children to be refereed, New Year’s resolutions to be made and broken. There will be meals to be shared, walks to be walked, stones to be skimmed.
Someone, somewhere is busy writing lyrics that some of us will sing along to this year. Someone, somewhere is making musical instruments that some of us will painstakingly try to learn.
Someone, somewhere is coming up with a craze that the rest of us have never dreamt of but might just get caught up in.
I hope 2021 is kinder than 2020.
I hope when we don’t feel ok we remember it is ok to reach out, to tell someone, a friend or a professional. There are people who want to listen.
My wish for anyone reading this is that you find the time to do something you enjoy doing ... or indeed that you try something new that you might enjoy doing. A little over a year ago I started writing and it has become something I enjoy so much.
The Irish Examiner were kind enough to publish the first thing I wrote, many people were kind enough to give positive feedback and I guess it encouraged me to keep going.
The words we say to each other really do matter.
Just this morning I read a gorgeous article by Louise O’Reilly. She suggests that maybe 2021 could be the year when we tell people what they mean to us. I love that idea and couldn’t agree more. What a lovely addition that would be to a year that is starting off in the way that it is.
Wishing everyone good health in 2021.