Where do I start this? Why I am bothering? And who will read it? So many questions and so few answers. The only things I know are that it’s been a year, my 53rd on this earth, and one I will never, ever forget! I also know that writing things down is always good for my mental health, and I know that the memories are not all negative, which you will discover if you read a bit further on.
Join me on a 2020 memory lane…
Friday 31st of January 2020
I have coffee with my long-time friend Lihn who is visiting from New Zealand. She mentions that her son Zac is holidaying in Asia with his girlfriend, and her parents want them to come home early because of some rapidly spreading virus. We agree that they are probably over-reacting.
Thursday 12th of March 2020
I run a workshop on Understanding & Managing Mental Illness In The Workplace at a conference centre in Edenvale. One person didn’t attend as her company was cutting back on all non-essential expenditure due to fears about the impact of the virus coming from Asia. At the end Tracey and I chat a bit in the parking lot and we wonder if this corona virus (it’s got a name now) is going to affect us here in SA? We agree that we hope it doesn’t but we know that we are both quite concerned. Could we be in denial?
Friday 13th of March 2020
My scheduled workshops and work capacity assessments start to get cancelled indefinitely. All events that I was due to attend, both professionally and privately, soon follow suit.
Monday 23rd of March 2020
Our President Cyril Ramaphosa makes an announcement on national television – we are entering into a three-week lockdown. I don’t think I need to say anything more about this.
Thursday the 26th of March at 24h00 the lockdown begins
And so, started an extraordinary period in my life, and for the lives of most people around the world. While I certainly think that it started with an element of denial, this was short-lived and probably came to an end before the 23rd of March 2020. It was followed by some anger, which was rather aimlessly directed: at who or what, in fact, could I really be angry? I think I was just angry that my life as I knew it was no more – work, family, social and recreational activities were all completely taken away from me, so why would I not be angry? Thankfully this too was fairly short-lived, as I moved toward accepting my circumstances and planning how to attend to the things over which I had some control.
Here are some of the things I did:
- I started to learn about virtual technology platforms, something I knew very little about pre-March 2020. I knew of Skype but had never really used it, and I had never heard of any of the other platforms, such as Zoom, MS Teams, Webex, etc.
- I taught myself how to use WordPress, so that I could work on developing my website for future marketing purposes.
- I developed some new workshop material focusing on how to assist employers and employees in dealing with mental health matters specifically related to what their teams were going through as a result of the pandemic and lockdown, and I learned how to present these on Zoom.
- I started attending webinars in order to learn how other people use this virtual platform for presentations.
- I converted all of my existing workshops to webinars, making them as interactive as possible within the virtual world.
- I employed the services of a social media expert to assist me in understanding platforms such as Facebook and Linkedin, and to try to optimize my marketing efforts. Part of this was starting to write articles and to produce short video clips on various matters related to mental health in the workplace. I had never previously taken a video of myself doing anything!
- At home we converted our dining room table into a table tennis table and we started playing every evening around 17h00.
- We got out the Wii sports and started playing tennis most afternoons for about an hour.
- I continued to ride my exercise bike every day for 45 minutes.
- We started playing online scrabble with friends most Friday evenings. We met on zoom with one device and played the scrabble on a second device. We usually played the best of three and were together between 18h00 and 22h00 with our drinks of choice, dinners, snacks, etc.
- I joined a few Houseparty and Zoom socials and even went to a houseparty birthday party! I had never heard of Houseparty prior to March 2020.
- My brother set up a WhatsApp group with my mum so we could video chat on a regular basis. I had always previously been quite averse to video calls.
- I donated what I could to a few charities that I had not previously considered.
- I spoke with my Financial Advisor and cut back on all investments that I could on a temporary basis, without incurring any penalties.
- When it was allowed, we started walking our dogs Jonty and Franki around our neighbourhood. We had not previously walked our dogs in the neighbourhood and had instead taken them to parks.
- When it was allowed we started riding our bikes around our neighbourhood. We had not previously done this as we were more off-road riders, therefore parks really were our thing!
The long and the short of what I have learned from 2020? Well, I think the biggest thing is that we can be extremely adaptable as humans when forced into a “situation”. But also we can be very hard on ourselves. Despite my list above, there have been many times this year where I have felt that I ought to be doing more – speaking with my mum more often, working harder, exercising more vigorously, contacting friends more regularly, watching less television, sending more e-mails to clients, donating more, cleaning the house more, grooming the dogs more, planning more… and this list goes on and on.
As I wrap up 2020, I want to emphasise how grateful I am feeling (the reasons for this I will not make a list, as I would surely leave out important elements). Suffice it to say, my loved ones and I have made it through probably our most challenging year ever, when many others have not. I want to congratulate myself for my efforts and I want to thank everyone who has helped me, most of whom probably don’t even know that they have done so!
I would also like to encourage you to reflect on all the achievements you have managed this year – from small to big – and to give yourself a moment of credit for having made it through, using whatever methods you had at your disposal.
Finally, I would like to reflect on my belief that 2020 has made me a better and stronger person, and I hope that 2021 is just as good to me… with great anticipation I look forward to what this next year is going to bring on all fronts.
Take care everyone and everything of the very best for 2021!