Reflecting on 2020.

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I’ve been wanting to write about 2020. A year in review. A wrap up of the year that was. Some reflections.

It’s hard! I mean, how do you talk about a year that felt like a decade’s worth of stuff was squished into it?

It’s definitely been a unique year and one we will never forget (even if we wanted to). It is one of those years that will go down in history. Our grandchildren will be learning about it. I cannot begin to imagine what that will be like for them (they might be bored of our old people stories about the time we couldn’t get toilet paper). So much to unpack!

There have been big moments in news headlines. Devastating bushfires and other effects of climate change. A global pandemic. Black Lives Matter and similar anti-racism movements. Donald Trump (spew face emoji). “Karens” finding their moments to shine. TikTok. Conspiracy theories becoming mainstream (OMG). The glorious take-down of Pete Evans!

It’s been quite the ride.

I think that 2019 was really bloody hard work, but it prepared me for 2020 in so many ways (I’m sorry I can’t get into it or this would become a post about 2019 haha).

We (my family) were very lucky this year. My husband didn’t lose work (got a promotion in fact). We were not locked down due to the coronavirus as long as a lot of the rest of the world (or even the rest of the country) and for a few months we have been living very freely (although we are well aware that it can change so quickly if we aren’t careful).

In saying that, it’s been a lot of emotional and psychological hard work. A lot of things have been learned about myself and my relationships. This year we were forced to slow down, to remember what’s really important in life and to try to shed a lot of the bullshit.

A friend sent me some journal prompts from the Instagram account @dearmamaproject stories. I thought these questions were really interesting, so I’ll answer them!

What things have happened this year that I’m proud of myself for?

I am proud of myself for having the courage to seek out therapy. I had been holding back for several reasons – some fear of what certain people would think (and if they would use it against me – the stigma is outdated but still real unfortunately), whether we could afford it (thankful for Medicare) and if I had the energy to put myself through it. I am a big self sacrificer so knowing I’d have to ask someone – my mum usually – to babysit during my appointments was hard too (she has been amazing). It has been nerve-wracking and confronting at times, but I have been surprised by the topics that have come up and so grateful for the guidance. I feel better because I know that whatever happens, I have that support and it’s been really helpful.

The other day I was looking back in my Instagram stories archive. I was looking at December 2019’s hijinks. Wanting to remember what Christmas looked like for us then. I had shared a lot of quotes about how I wanted 2020 to be a year of accepting nothing less than what I deserve, carving out and pushing for the space I need to deal with my own stuff (it’s always about someone else) and to love and care for myself. To put my well-being: physical/mental/emotional on the top of my own agenda, as no matter how much I advocate for women and mums to do this, I had let it slip. I realised that while it’s been bloody hard work, I have stayed on that path in 2020. I’m proud that despite a pandemic and a few setbacks, I have kept that vision for myself. I did become stronger. I have started therapy. I have started exploring what it is I want for myself as in individual. I have pushed back and said no when people have threatened to eat up my self care time or to ignore my needs. I have a long way to go, but I’m on the right track. I’m glad I didn’t forget myself.

What did I learn about myself this year?

I always thought that I had stopped the whole ‘self sacrificing’ thing when I finished high school. I used to get so involved in other people’s problems. I was the shoulder to cry on. I tried to please everyone. I derived my self worth and value from how good a friend I was. How emotionally supportive I was. I don’t think anybody ever tried to take advantage of me or anything – not knowingly, anyway. I just chose that role for myself. At some point, I realised that people pleasing wasn’t always healthy for me and I decided to not be a people pleaser anymore.

Or so I thought.

This year, I was in therapy and realising that I have still been in self sacrificer mode all this time. ALL THIS TIME. Damn it!

I have revolved my own pursuit of my well-being around everybody else. My husband’s work. His exercise regimes. The kids’ schedules. Any emotional drama that arises. I have let myself become burnt out and emotionally wrecked because I wasn’t prioritising myself. I was putting off therapy because I thought there would be no time to spare for me to do it (among the other things described above).

I was letting others’ feelings, moods and agendas to dictate whether or not I took care of myself. I was not thinking about my own feelings, moods and agendas enough. I was not taking care of myself or setting healthy boundaries (despite thinking I was).

I really found this was highlighted when we were in lockdown. My husband went out to work, was our designated supermarket shopper (it made sense because of the fact he was out working anyway and his work had good leave supports in place for if he had to quarantine for any reason) and I was at home permanently. I didn’t have any out-of-home outlets to rely on. Couldn’t go and get my nails done or meet a friend for a chinwag. I had very little time or energy to pursue anything of my own. I felt like a trapped little 50s housewife, despite having a pretty progressive household any other time. It wasn’t anyone’s fault but I realised I had probably lost myself along the way before the pandemic hit.

If I hadn’t done the work to realise I deserved time and focus in 2019, I would have been even more of a mess. I was frustrated as hell, but at least I knew where I SHOULD be. Where I wanted to be. That flame was lit inside of me.

I still don’t exercise enough. I still overthink other peoples’ emotional messes. I still feel burnt out. BUT…I’m working on all of this. I am doing the work that will lead me out of the situation I’ve put myself in. It’s confronting and scary at times but I am using my voice and I am pushing through. If people don’t like it, then they don’t have my best interests at heart and that’s a relationship that has to change.

What lessons/wisdom did I gain?

I learned that my anxiety surrounding FOMO and comparing my social life/parenting life to other peoples’ experiences prior to the pandemic was bloody unnecessary. When we got locked down, nobody could socialise. Most kids were learning from home. Extra curricular activities couldn’t be done. School holidays were about trying to find fun and entertainment in our own homes and backyards.

I didn’t sit on social media, looking at everyone else’s magical play dates wondering if I had done enough with/for my kids. I didn’t worry about whether not meeting friends for coffee enough or going out more meant I was not trying hard enough to connect.

For once I didn’t feel like a loser on the school holidays, in particular (I struggle mentally sometimes during the holidays). I stopped comparing. I stopped worrying about doing/being enough. I stopped feeling bad for living life at a slower pace and doing what was best for us!

I was kind to myself about the fact that my toddler is a LOT and it’s OK to be tired.

Everyone was in the same boat and we all got through it. Our kids found other ways to socialise and so did we. Nobody I know fell into a hole of social pariah status because they didn’t go out and see friends (we were all trying to save each others’ lives). In fact, I now make much more conscious decisions because I learned what is important and who I really want to make time for. I don’t make decisions based on the FOMO (fear of missing out) or because I don’t want to feel inadequate. I divide my time the way I want/need to. If I have a quiet week, I don’t beat myself up. I have a certain amount of hours in a busy week and I am not Beyonce. I am OK with that! What I need and what my family needs is just fine. We will go with that and stop comparing, thank you!

In 2020 I have also been reminded that life is too short to waste my energy on emotional vampires. People who manipulate, act shady, make me or my family feel bad or uncomfortable, are inconsiderate or selfish etc. I refuse to be scared of people who quite frankly should be working on their own issues. If someone is toxic, I refuse to indulge them any more than they deserve. Have I nailed it? Nope. But I’m very aware of how I want to move forward, setting healthy boundaries and trying to stop overthinking every exchange and gaslighting myself after an interaction that didn’t feel good or even made me angry.

As I mentioned above, I have now realised I was in self sacrificing mode with people like this and it’s not healthy! Having healthy boundaries is NOT mean. It is important and it shows self respect. I have learned that you have to treat people accordingly and stop trying to save them from their own consequences, because that’s called enabling. Letting my fear of being misjudged, or not liked, influence my decisions is a BAD choice!

So there you have it. My reflections on 2020. What a year! I had hoped the growth wouldn’t be so painful (because 2019 exhausted me), but I am a lot more philosophical about it this year, as opposed to last year. It had to happen. I’m OK with that. But just like every year, I hope 2021 will show me the fruits of my labour.

I hope that ending 2020, you are able to realise how much you’ve learned and survived. I am sure you’ve made progress in areas of your life you aren’t giving yourself enough credit for. I am proud of you for reaching the end. The fall out of this year may last for a lot longer yet, but I am hopeful. ❤️

What did you learn this year? What are you proud of?

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