Dec 29

Review of 2020

new-year-5856706_640This is a long post, but then it’s been a big year.
Do you write Round Robin letters at Christmas? I don’t.  I’m too lazy, and I can’t imagine that anyone else would be interested in my year. My late cousin Janet was an absolute master at them; hers were always informative, engaging and fun.  I miss them.  Perhaps her memory is inspiring me to write a little about my year today.  On the other hand I’m also inspired by coach-extraordinaire Julie Creffield, who wrote a rather marvellous review of her own.  #iblamejulie.
We’re all accustomed to hearing how this year has been the most difficult ever for a lot of people, and how they are miserable.  That’s led me to keep quiet somewhat, because the truth is, although I can’t claim to have been super-successful in terms of either my professional or my personal life, I’ve been happier this year than I’ve been for a very long time. I had intended for 2020 to be my best year ever.  I’m not sure that it quite makes the grade, but I can think of a great many years that were far, far worse.
I think this is mainly for two reasons.  During the first lockdown, when I was on my own in London, I felt useful.  I was part of a massive effort to provide meals (or in my case, baking) for key workers.  I shopped for vulnerable people.  I was part of a group effort to raise money for Echo, a charity for children with congenital heart conditions which I’ve supported for many years.  I certainly didn’t work tirelessly (except during my sponsored bake) and I know that what I did probably didn’t make much difference.  But it felt useful and important.
lunchtime-live-1This was also the year I started ‘Lunchtime in Lockdown’, my live cookery series on Facebook.  Every weekday during first lockdown, I would cook a quick, healthy meal with the ingredients I was able to find in the shops (there were some shortages during those first months).  I had a great time, and I know that people enjoyed watching.  At the moment, I’m only making occasional recordings, but I’m working on a ‘Lunchtime in Lockdown Cookbook’, which will include my best recipes, and tell you a bit more about my experiences during lockdown.
The second reason things have improved with me this year is that in July, I moved to Scotland.  The move isn’t permanent, but until I need to work in-person in London I’ll be staying here in the Highlands.  This is where my heart has always been.  I never thought I’d get the opportunity to spend any length of time here.  Living here for almost 6 months has been a joy, even with the restrictions.  Yes, there are things we can’t do, but having more living space, better quality air and food and an abundance of nature on our doorsteps has been a godsend.  My husband is happier and more relaxed here, and that makes things easier for me.  It has truly been a wonderful opportunity to experience a new way of life, and I’m so grateful to have been granted it.
I tend to be like the child who comes home from school whose parents ask them what they’ve done that day, and they reply, “Nothing”.  I tend to feel like that about my life; nothing has changed or improved, and it’s all a bit hopeless. But when, as part of my planning for 2021, I had the opportunity to look back on 2020 I realise that’s not entirely true.  I know that I’m not where I want to be in terms of life or career, but I haven’t entirely stood still.  Here are some of the things I’ve achieved.
  • orange-woman-photo-cooking-food-one-liners-cardBecome clearer on my niches of healthy eating for early-stage high blood pressure and for depression, all within a size-friendly framework.
  • Written and delivered e-courses on meal planning, and on nutrition for hypertension.
  • Written two e-books on nutritious food for people who feel too depressed to cook.
  • Become nutritionist-in-residence for two large and popular social media groups where potential clients – and generally really awesome people – hang out.
  • Taken the first steps on the road to becoming a professional speaker by delivering paid talks online (and in person at the start of the year) to the Women’s Institute and the Croydon Seniors’ Association, as well as being a regular speaker for the Athena network.
  • Launched ‘Kids in the Kitchen’, my healthy (but not preachy) cooking club for children aged 7-14.
  • Devised a range of recipes which I’m sharing online, in my cook book and, when it’s permitted, at my retreats.
  • Started teaching 2 new language classes with the most wonderful group of students.
  • Connected with some fantastic women (and men) who’ve supported me in my business and kept me going with ideas, inspiration and support.
  • Gained some truly wonderful and special clients, who are getting results, because we ‘get’ each other and work well together.
  • Furthered my own professional development with a combination of e-lectures and self-study, and made a plan of action for professional development focusing on my special areas of interest in 2021.
For a ‘nothing year’, that’s really not too bad.
auditorium-86197_640Of course, it wasn’t all plain sailing.  I was supposed to appear in two amateur shows this year and was thrilled to have my first principal roles since returning to acting last year.  I was devastated when they were cancelled. This might not seem like much in the great scheme of things, but for those of us who eat, sleep and dream theatre it’s a huge blow.  But I’m confident that the shows will return, and so shall I.
I’m continually concerned for my mother and was torn between returning to London to be closer to her and remaining in Scotland.  I know she is well cared for or I could not be here, but this is much harder for her than it is for me.  Bear in mind that my mum has just turned 88 and is writing her autobiography and still running her own business.  When people say that ‘the elderly should shield’ they assume that older people no longer have an active and gregarious life, when, in many cases, nothing could be further from the truth.
I worry, too, about the asylum seekers who I used to volunteer for.  Our volunteer centre has had to close during the pandemic and our guests, who rely on our support, have had a lifeline taken away.  I’ve been able to speak to some of them and have been so inspired by their courage and positivity. I look forward to being with them as soon as it’s permitted.
I’ve also had to shelve something that would make a major positive difference to my life, which can’t be done in lockdown. That’s been so, so hard, and I’ve shed many a tear over it.  However, the extra thinking time and ability to focus on myself has made me more determined than ever to carry out this plan as soon as it becomes remotely feasible.
As in any year, there have been losses.  These can be even more difficult to cope with when you don’t have a chance to say goodbye.  We’ve lost family and friends both to the coronavirus and to other causes.  We miss you deeply.
tea-time-3240766_640And yet, there have been personal gains too.  For example, I have:
  • Appeared in e-plays and readings with my community – including a memorable evening filming in the woods.
  • Supported neighbours and friends with shopping and a smile during first lockdown.
  • Started studying in a language class again and met some lovely people.
  • Started reading for pleasure again. And, yes, it’s a pleasure.
  • Kept up with my dance, taking between 4 and 7 classes a week.
  • Explored some beautiful areas of the Highlands on foot.
  • My mental health has been better than it’s been in years. For someone who’s spent the majority of the last few years feeling worthless and suicidal, I can’t tell you how good that feels.
new-years-eve-5211187_640Of course, I have plans and aspirations for 2021.  These include:
  • Publishing a book – a real one, not an e-book.
  • Writing and launching my signature e-course on nutrition for depression.
  • Re-starting my retreats. Some of them are already almost fully booked – people can’t wait to spend time in the Highlands!
  • Making ‘Kids in the Kitchen’ the best online cookery club for young people.
  • Starting a new project in my Scottish garden.
  • Continuing my growth as a professional speaker and writer.
  • Getting back on stage again as soon as it’s allowed.
  • cave-5809754_640Getting the most from life and having some FUN!

My word for 2021 is ‘Indomitable’.  If there’s one thing this last year has taught me is that there is so much that is beyond our control.  But what is within our control is not to be beaten by it.  I know I am incredibly lucky in so many ways.  But there are also ways in which I am not lucky at all. Sometimes the tough things in my life are overwhelming.  It’s fine not to be fine.  As long as not being fine isn’t a permanent state of affairs.  God willing, this too shall pass.

I wish you light at the end of your tunnel, and everything good that you wish for yourself and others in the year ahead.

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