I spent the first part of my life in Northumberland, which is in the very far north of England, surrounded by the bracken of the Pennines. The leaves of ferns have long since held my fascination, and for me have carried this symbol of familiarity, of home.
The would look just as magnificent when they died as when they were alive, and provided a real fascination as the new buds grew, like funny little gnarled hands.
Ferns are incredibly hardy, and I had often thought of their magic in terms of resilience and ability to survive in different conditions. Perhaps though, their real magic can be found in their ability to start over, to begin again. They are often the first plants to show signs of recovery in wildfires.
This year has given us more than most of us could really handle, certainly more than we expected or could have ever predicted. Whilst the wildfires of 2020 (metaphorical and actual) have brought a lot of devastation for many, they have also made many of us ask some of the questions that we hadn’t been asking ourselves. That questioning has made many of us rethink our ways of living and loving and see if we can do a little better, and like the ferns do so well, to begin again.
I write this at a time when we are all being presented yet again with new data, with changes to what we had understood the rest of our year to hold in the UK. I understand just how hard that can feel, and how crushing to have things shift it can feel and be for our hearts and for our pockets, in the case of so many businesses.
What 2020 gave me
I started this year with the intention of being over doing. Essentially, to do less and be present more. I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it, but the intention was there nonetheless.
If you read my blog often, you will know I talk a lot about meditation, and have had a daily practice for a number of years – though I don’t say that lightly, it was hard fought. Even with that, what has blown my mind is exactly how many activities I was still using for escapism.
This year, living alone and spending much of the year solo, I have had to stop running at last. I have finally learnt how to stay. I have finally learnt to allow my emotions to speak to me and tell me what they need me to hear.
Whilst I might have stopped running, it doesn’t mean that I outran my demons. It just means that when emotions and feelings occur, I have learnt how to invite them to come and take a seat next to me, and explain to me why they are there.
Being able to sit still with myself and be peaceful with whoever and wherever I am in that moment has been a big shift for me this year, and the ability to hold myself and to cherish myself through it.
The ability to begin again
The end of the year is the time when many people tend to have a time for reflection, to look back on what they have achieved and where they want to be next.
What I take from this year, and have seen when I look around me is the incredible human ability to begin again, to start over. Just like those magical ferns. Here are five of my 2020 favourites:
- The way that I have seen new life in communities, closer to home and otherwise. When things get dark for us humans, we light up and get closer. To do anything else is counter to our instinct. Togetherness is what we were made for and should be the thing we fight hard for in 2021.
- That the world has been shaken awake to realise that Black Lives Matter, at least in part. The conversations have become louder and have started to happen across tables where they hadn’t before. This is just the beginning, but the door is starting to open. Let’s fight for this collectively in support of togetherness even harder in 2021.
- That we have loved and cared for ourselves and for one another in our darkest moments. The random acts of kindness, the selfless acts of service and even the simple smiles amongst strangers have taken on a whole new meaning. Many companies now have an unapologetic focus on employee wellbeing, in a way that has been needed long before 2020.
- For the innovation stories. This year has been brutal for businesses, but through the ashes I see strong ferns growing in their place. The work is far from done, but to my entrepreneur friends, I am so proud of all of you and the way that you have pivoted based on what the world has thrown at you this year.
- For the fact that closer to home, COVID has brought me new love, and my own chance to begin again. I connected with an American boy by chance on Tinder (when they let everyone Tinder across the world for free) and we formed a friendship, which over time blossomed into something more. We found a way to meet IRL after three months, against all odds, and our love continues to grow. He’s been with me for Christmas and it has been the most beautiful gift of all.
Somewhere amongst the flames of 2020, our recovery as a species has begun and we have seen a renewed focus on togetherness, of community and of love. Our 2021 needs us, and this for us all to thrive together.
This is just the beginning my friends, and it’s going to take all of us working together to give us the full bloom our species really needs.
Sending love and light to all of you.