What 2020 Taught Me

Happy New Year.

Deep breath everyone, we officially made it through the hardest, strangest, most isolating and testing year in living memory. I choose to be of the opinion there’s nothing we can’t get through after that!

There’s a vaccine being rolled out, so even now, from the depths of this, my umpteenth endless lockdown, I think, I think there may just be a tiny chink of light at the end of this tunnel.

2020 was not the year anyone wanted it to be. I cannot sit here in the light of 2021 and swear I am going to be a changed person. If what we’ve all just been through should teach us anything, it is that we need to take care of ourselves, to be kind. The trauma last year brought was colossal and we are recovering.

2020 bought stress to the Fox household beyond measure. January was spent going to hospital to see my husband and his messy gall bladder, looking after Squidge and getting through the first trimester of my second pregnancy.

February bought the toil of Kev’s recovery at home but I dared breathe a little.

Then, in March, the world stopped. We hoped we were peaceful at the start, but stress and loneliness set in, shaping this weird new normal.

My beautiful Squidge is now 4 years old and that is so hard to comprehend because amongst all this, I don’t know where her last year of toddler hood went. I’m pretty sure we lost it around May time, when my baby bump rendered me too sore in too many places to even get off the sofa. That wonderful girl has suffered so and I’ll always wish I could have done more for her but I do know that I did my best. What more do any of us have?

Then August bought us our beautiful Baby#2 and our family was complete. She was 2 days old by the time I got to lay her in her big sister’s arms for the first time but from that moment to this, they have loved each other completely. No-one can make Gabby smile the way Squidge can, her whole face lights up whenever she comes into the room. The pride I feel is immeasurable. It sustains me a lot of the time. Looking at my two beauiful girls, happy to be together and to be able to say “I did that”.

But looking back on 2020 now, I can see such a desperate need for self-care. Before Squidge was born, I would have scoffed because I didn’t see, I couldn’t see that I deserved it. But it’s not a case of worth, it is absolute necessity to survive.

So I start this New Year trying to prioritise 3 things. No promises, no setting up for failure. Just an acknowledgement that these are the things that are important:

1) Self care

– I will do my best to utilise Headspace, to take a deep breath and be aware, really aware of when things are too much and I need to come back to myself

– All the massages and physio the Hokey Cokey of lockdown will allow me

– Sleep

– Remembering to check in with the people I love. I am, and have always been terrible at this and have largely avoided the invasion of Zoom because it triggers my social anxiety, but I will try my best to drop messages, to let people know when they are on my mind, because who doesn’t like to be on someone’s mind?

– More movement. I don’t know what fitness looks like for a woman with CP, but I will do my best to find out, to keep myself going and to hopefully find some energy, instead of watching the world go by from the same vantage point on my couch. Fresh air never hurt anybody did it? I will also be logging my calories for as long as I remember. I did this a few years ago, lost half a stone and became more aware of what went into my body. I need that again.

– Kev & his parents gifted me an all singing all dancing back stretching mat for Christmas, that will hopefully bridge the gap between lockdowns and massages.

2) Gratitude

I have a gratitude journal that I began using a couple of years ago when my mental health was at its worst. I haven’t been diligent with it t at all, but I know that it helps to be able to look back on the positives, however tiny. It’s just not possible to see them unless you have given yourself the the time to take stock.

I will remember to breathe when stress inevitably builds. I will look at my two beautiful daughters and remember how strong they have been through all this, how loving. That is to be harnessed and nurtured. Time is to be enjoyed because all too soon, Squidge will be at school. Take a breath, try not to get in the way of your own happiness. Take your time, it’s the only thing you have.

And for me gratitude transcends the things I have. It also encompasses the things I have acheieved, because there are so many I never thought I would. This year, all being well, I will become a university graduate at the grand old age of 32. I did that.

3) Kindness

I am the least proud of this realisation, but it is a truth. I have not been the kindest I could have been this year. I have tried to be so for my friends when we have spoken, but it’s easier then because they are removed from the stresses of my everyday life.

I know I have been a stressed mother and as a result, an often absent wife. My lovely husband has suffered this year, trying to keep me buoyed through the pregnancy and the pandemic. Poor Squidge has sat many a day with her tablet when her mummy was too sore to move. But if I keep to my self-care resolve, this will lessen and we’ll have lots to enjoy together. We are reducing her nursery days from June when I will have finally earnt my degree so I’ll have the time to cherish her.

So, I am going to take out my little purple book (my “crisis” book) and blatantly list out what matters. The answers are me, my husband and my children. Anything I plan to do must be to the benefit of the four of us…. with a deep breath and a smile.

I’m so sorry to have been such a grumpy ball of stress. Let’s try again. Because if at first, I don’t succeed…