It’s fair to say that 2020 has been… interesting. None of us could have predicted it. Bloggers the world over are sat looking at blank “2020 in review” drafts wondering what the best thing to do is. Lament over a year that has been the toughest many of us have known? Be philosophical and talk about what we’ve learnt amidst all the difficulty? Talk about what we did get to do within a sentiment of what might have been if the world had been open? Lie about how everything will be different as the clock clicks over into 2021?
The last one of those is something I’m finding particularly hard today. The pandemic doesn’t go away because we don’t write 2020 in the top right-hand corner anymore. I’m not sure that 2021 is going to be much different to 2020 in a lot of ways, we’re certainly bringing in the New Year with a heap of restrictions, the threat of a deadly contagious virus hanging over us, and a lot of sadness over what has happened this last nine months or so.
But thankfully, 2020 hasn’t been all bad. I have been fortunate to have made some memories this year, and to have a reasonably sized list of things I can be thankful for. It might not have been all about the travel and the adventure (although there was a teeny bit of both), but there have been good times.
Yes, I’ve struggled with the restrictions. Yes, I’ve had plans cancelled. Yes, it’s been a huge drain on my mental health. Yes, I totally agree with those who have written posts about the hard times (I did… remember this one, or this one?). And yes, there has been a lot more than “just” the pandemic to deal with this year. But there have been things I could do. Things I have enjoyed. Things that have made me smile.
With that in mind, I wanted to write a gratitude focused blog on this last day of 2020, to remind myself of some of the small things that have made it a little more bearable than it might have been otherwise.
I offer the below list of twenty things in no particular order. This isn’t an exhaustive list, and it’s not philosophical or loaded with meaning. These are, purely and simply, things that made me smile this year. Small things. Very small things. But we all know that small matters.
Once you’ve read my list, maybe you should consider writing your own? Whether it is in your own head, or written down, or even blogged, make this something you do as we say goodbye to 2020 and head into the New Year.
20 Little Things That Made 2020 More Bearable
01. Scala Radio
Scala Radio has provided the sound soundtrack to my 2020. The digital-only station very much fills a gap in the market by playing modern classical music as well as the traditional stuff we all know by heart. They play a huge variety from well-known masters, film scores, video game soundtracks, musicals, choral, and more. That and Chris Country and I’m very happy indeed.
02. Motorcycle Adventure Videos
If Scala has been the soundtrack, Noraly from Itchy Boots has been the movie. She travels the world (and most recently explores motorcycling in her own country, for obvious reasons) and tells her story on YouTube. I started watching her because she went to Iceland, which is on my list, but have since watched her Patagonia series too. I love her ability to be cheerful at all times, and I think it’s okay for me to say I wish I was a bit more like her!
03. Weekly Blogging
Back in January 2020 I started a series of weekly blogs. The intention was that it would give me opportunity to write in more of a free flow form than the other review, bucket list and activity-led posts you might find on Splodz Blogz. They are a journal providing insight into the world of a busy outdoors-loving travel-dreaming full-time-working-now-40-year-old.
I’m really enjoying writing them and I hope you are enjoying reading them. I intend to continue the series into 2021 – I wonder what I’ll get to write about?!
While I’ve always enjoyed cooking, and try to cook from scratch where possible, and have always batch cooked meals so I’ve always got options in the freezer, I’ve definitely done more of it in 2020 than normal. I’ve tried to make the most of make-once-eat-twice meals, opting to spend a bit of extra time one evening to create meals that will last two or even three days. I’ve gone back to old favourites and tried some new things. Food is certainly at the centre of my weekly schedule and I don’t mind admitting that!
05. One Hour Outside
Spending a bit of time outside every day has been my solace, my sanctuary, and my daily routine this year – as in any other. The difference has been I’ve needed to be much more intentional about it, because the opportunities have been less obvious and less easy to maintain. Getting fresh air and natural light, along with a little bit of exercise, is vital for our physical and mental wellbeing, and I am grateful that the outdoors has remained open to us all throughout the year. One Hour Outside would make an excellent habit or challenge for 2021, if you’re looking.
06. Microsoft To Do App
I’ve always been a list writer, and I’ve been using Microsoft To Do for at least half the year, it’s a revelation. I find it allows me to keep track of things I need and want to do, without needing to rewrite my list regularly or use up all the post-it notes. I love how I can have lots of lists on the go for all the different parts of my life, identified by my choice of emojis, that all feed into one list I can work from each day. This means I only see the tasks I’ve decided I want to work on today, not the 100s of things in all the separate lists, and so as long as I am sensible with the number of tasks I add to My Day (the “to do today” screen in the app), I find the overwhelm I can feel from seeing ALL the tasks on a page is much less strong. Hooray for productivity!
07. My Garden
I am fortunate to have my own outside space, and I’ve been trying to make something of it this year. I found a new joy in curating colour in my garden, planting all kinds of things, and have been very pleased to have all kinds of loveliness growing in our little outdoor space. I’ve been purposefully choosing things that bees and butterflies will enjoy as much as us, and apart from the recent flooding meaning much of it is under water at the moment (I hope the plants survive!), it’s been an utter joy.
And thanks to a Christmas surprise, I now have the addition of a fire bowl in my garden, which certainly means it continues to be one of the things I am grateful for in 2021. I’ve not long come in from having my first personal garden fire in it, and I am very much looking forward to many more moments like that.
08. Disney Plus
It’s no secret that I’ve had my money’s worth from Disney+ this year. I took advantage of the pre-order offer, and I’m glad I did. I’ve been making my way through the old classics, singing my way through the musicals, watching some films I didn’t get to see when they came out at the cinema, enjoying random Disney and National Geographic documentaries, and am very nearly done watching the Simpsons from where we left off when we got rid of Sky a few years back. The Mandalorian has been hugely enjoyable, and most recently I loved the new Pixar movie, Soul.
09. Chatting on the Phone with Dad
A recent addition to my weekly routine has been phone calls with my Dad. They’ve become something of a weekly lunchtime treat, a quick chat when Dad things I ought to be having a lunch break, and he’s normally right, we often chat as I am out on my lunch time One Hour Outside. Actually during the most recent one I was in something of a whiteout on Cleeve Hill hunting for pebbles – maybe something for my weekly blog on Sunday (read all my weekly blogs)!
10. Learning I’m a Highly Sensitive Person
I wouldn’t go as far as saying I’ve found myself this year, but learning about and understanding that I have the Highly Sensitive Person character trait ingrained within me somewhere has made a huge personal difference. I worry much less about why I feel a particular way in certain situations, and find I can just go with it.
11. Cotton Bed Linen
2020 was the year we upgraded to 100% cotton bed covers, and what a lovely thing that turned out to be. Pure cotton bedding is so nice to have, it really does make a difference, more than I had imagined. It’s clean, crisp, cool, looks great, and feels lovely to sleep in. The White Company will be pleased I found them this year; I’ve just purchased another set in their sale.
12. Sage Green Bedroom Walls
This was probably our biggest at-home project of 2020 – we finally redecorated the bedroom. And I absolutely love the green on the walls. I chose the Farrow and Ball Calke Green (No.34), which is a super chalky deep sage green. It’s dark and cosy but not light sapping, calming, and exactly the right colour for the room. Coupled with our white and dark grey furniture it has helped us create a lovely space. Yes, I’m grateful for paint.
13. A Ceiling Fan
One of our first DIY projects of 2020 was fitting a ceiling fan in the bedroom, and boy are we glad we lost a weekend to that thing! I mean, it’s not air conditioning, but it made such a difference through the hot Spring and Summer months (remember that, we had actual hot weather this year!). Time and money very well spent, and much more convenient than having a fan stood in the corner in the way.
14. Audio Books
I swapped struggling with printed booked for enjoying audio books a couple of years ago now and I recommend this to anyone else who doesn’t enjoy sitting and reading very highly indeed. I might not sit and read a book in a chair for hours, but it means I can access great stories (real and fiction) when I’m walking or painting the garden fence (or colouring in a map…), and get that escapism and interest. This year’s favourites include Matt Lucas’ My Life from A-Z, Bill Bryson’s One Summer, Marianne Power’s Help Me (utterly brilliant), and Stephen Fry’s Heroes.
15. Mushroom Soup
Another food entry into my list of twenty things that made 2020 more bearable. This time the very simple act of nailing home made mushroom soup. Mushrooms, onion and stock, that’s it. I love the stuff. It’s super healthy, very nutritious, and surprisingly creamy even without the addition of actual cream or evem potato. I must make sure I put it on my menu for the first week of 2021.
16. Road Tripping the UK
I might not have been able to explore some new-to-me parts of Europe as we planned and hoped this year, but we did manage a week-long road trip here in England and Wales (when restrictions were less onerous). Road tripping really is my favourite. I also got away on a handful of smaller camping trips in the car, too. Oh and I gave riding on Salisbury Plain a go for the first time, too, and absolutely loved it – we’ll be back there next year, for sure. I think this is my favourite photo of me taken in 2020, too.
17. Comfy Clothes
2020 was the year I ditched uncomfortable trousers. Oh yes. I’ve not worn jeans or tailored trousers since February, and I don’t miss them. Since I’ve been working from home in the main, I’ve had the pleasure of doing so in my joggers, no-one knows, or cares. And the times I have been in the office I’ve donned my walking trousers – much more me. Almost always my comfy legwear has been teams with a cosy sweater or relaxed tees. Perfect.
18. Space in Restaurants
I’ve mentioned before that one of the positive side effects of these strange times of social distancing, for me, is that restaurants are quieter, calmer, and more spaced out. This makes dining out, one of my favourite ways to spend an evening, an even more pleasant experience. And while I completely understand that restaurants could certainly do with being able to get more people through the doors in order to make some much-needed money, I have to admit I quite like being in pubs and restaurants when it’s quieter. Although, of course now we are in Tier 4 we can’t do that anymore, but you know, when we could!
19. My Orange Computer Chair and Massive Monitor
I am very fortunate that we had a comfortable study set up at home before the pandemic hit, so that when the work from home request was put into place, I had somewhere to work effectively from day one. I did have to share it with my husband, and so the dining table also became my second home, but it was an absolute godsend most of the time. I honestly don’t know how those who have had to work in their kitchens or bedrooms have done it this year. Neither my bright orange desk chair, nor my massive monitor (were 2020 purchases, but current me is very pleased that past me spent the cash. Who’d have thought I’d be using them quite as much as I have?
20. Good Shoes
I don’t think I’ve ever written a gratitude post, a Currently Loving (read my latest here), a gear guide, or any other kind of general recommendations post (such as this one dedicated to camp shoes) without mentioning the fact that I love shoes. Good shoes make me happy, and I don’t mind who knows it. I started 2020 by having a massive clear out of my footwear “collection”, my local charity shop seemed okay with that, but I’ve ended it having added a handful of new pairs. Hooray for shoes!!
And there we have it. Twenty small things that made 2020 more bearable. I hope you have found yourself nodding to at least some of these, and can add a few of your own to the list, proving that life can be okay even in the toughest of years.