I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a crap year, which is why my newfound sense of gratitude has been somewhat surprising.
This year, my husband and I, along with many of our friends, turn 40 and we certainly didn’t expect to start off the decade watching catastrophic fires ravage much of Australia or experiencing a pandemic and spending months at home while people lost jobs, the economy tanked and whole industries were decimated. On top of all that I have been dealing random health issues (because apparently things start to break down as you get older). Oh, and there was that weird shortage of toilet paper too. It would be forgivable to be upset and angry this year with so many big birthday plans put on hold, holidays and weddings postponed, and being unable see aging family members.
In March, as it became more apparent that this virus was becoming a global concern and we dutifully began staying at home whenever possible, it also became obvious that South Australia was not experiencing the same hardships as other places around the world. Yes, people got sick, lost relatives and lost jobs – I don’t want to diminish that – but after watching the news and speaking with family back in the States I began to realise just how lucky we were. By May, I read an article on CNN proclaiming that “South Australia ought to now be considered among the safest places in the world”. At the start of September, that still rings true.
South Australia’s total number of coronavirus cases – currently 464 – is far less than many places have seen in just one day and we have gone weeks at a time with no active cases. Our state and international borders have been closed for most of the year and the requirements around social distancing change from time to time, but in June I returned to working from the office and life resembles something close to pre-covid normal. The reality is that we currently live in bubble, and for that I am incredibly grateful.
Five ways the pandemic has taught me gratitude
1. It has forced me to slow down and realise what is actually important
Our 21st century lives make it so easy to get caught up in worries about work, paying the bills, and keeping up with whatever amazing lives we see others projecting on social media. It is so easy to hurry from one thing to the next before crashing on the couch in order to find some energy to do it all again the next day.
During the three months we stayed at and worked from home, I learned to savour the times we left the house and be grateful for what we had available in our area. I found I was more patient and grateful for the work other people were doing. After all, we were all stuck in the same crappy situation and there wasn’t anything anyone could do about it so there was no point in getting annoyed because someone else wasn’t moving at my pace. I was just glad they were still working at the supermarket so that I could get some food.
2. It has given me time to build a mindfulness habit
Working from home meant I gained two hours each day by not commuting to the office, so I was able to add things into my morning routine that I had been unable to cram in before. My favourite addition was meditation. I have even managed to keep the habit now that we have returned to the office. I have found that mindfulness practice has helped me maintain a positive and grateful outlook on things.
3. Running races were cancelled so I had to run for the sake of running
For years, I’ve been stuck in a trap of focusing my running goals around improving my personal best race times, which has led to burnout and chronic overuse injuries. However, in March there were no races on the calendar and exercise was one of the few reasons to leave the house, so I was forced to let those goals go for an unknown amount of time. I ran simply for the sake of running and it brought me a lot of peace during the hardest months of the pandemic. Running next to the ocean reminded me that I was fortunate simply to be fit, healthy and able to move outside.
4. It has made me very aware of the privileged position I am in
I have a job I enjoy, and both my husband and I have kept our jobs throughout the pandemic from the house we own with a fantastic view. We are healthy and our families have remained healthy. I used to take these basic things for granted, but when you hear every day about people who aren’t in that position, it really hit home for me how lucky I am.
5. Things could be a lot worse
Watching other places around the country and the world go through hard lockdowns or experience soaring infection and death rates makes it really apparent how much worse things could be. That I don’t have to worry about those things fills me with gratitude.