I like to consider myself a reasonably well read individual. I have always taken great pleasure in writing. It follows that when I find myself pondering the mysteries of life, quotes from the great authors often spring to mind. One particularly iconic passage seems to be resonating as we move through a year that has proved quite extraordinary. The opening phrases of an epic novel penned by Charles Dickens in 1859.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair….”
Whilst our modern day tale is not specifically one of a Charles Darnay or Sydney Carlton in the lead up to the French Revolution; we are similarly living a tale of chaos and upheaval. A snapshot of world events that will possibly also be spoken of by future generations under the the label of epoch. The epoch of a pandemic, social isolation, economic crisis and remarkable political events. The twentieth century saw its share of plague, war, poverty and political conflict. In the emerging third decade of this next century we have seen our globe tip once more with events experienced by former generations. Pandemic, economic depression, mass unemployment, racial tensions and landmark political events. History it seems really is inclined to repeat itself.
How will we as citizens of this time be remembered by future generations? Perhaps more pertinent to us as individuals … how will we ourselves remember this chapter of the 21st century?
From my own view point, I have found 2020 to be the year of defining moments. One of which happened in the little garden you see above. Without wishing to become all ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ (not my style of literature or philosophy), I have found 2020 to be the year of being extremely grateful. It hasn’t been a year of great career achievement, earning potential or social events. It hasn’t been a year of sumptuous shopping, travel and adventure. It has been a year of realising what matters and realising the value of what you have. Realising that what we all need most just might be a hearty dose of perspective.
On one of the first warm Spring afternoons of the year, I was sitting in my little courtyard with my dogs at my feet enjoying a sneaky wine. Some months ago now I purchased my ‘forever home’ and I have been working on my gardening skills (which are questionable). I have an outdoor space once more. Having moved several times since I left my marriage and after some juggling, 2020 brought the time when I ultimately settled into a place to call my own with my name on the deed. An oddly solid event in a universally uncertain year. As I smelled the newly planted jasmine and watched my dogs slumber in the sunshine, I was overwhelmingly struck by a wave of gratitude and happiness. I had a secure home, was not in poor health and had funds to feed and care for myself and my beloved pets. Joyfully, I had a hard won safe place to enjoy all of those things. COVID isolation, the close of a long standing career and fall out from various old life traumas were all undeniably part of the broad canvas of my 2020 landscape. But my painting had all the hallmarks of the famous Dickens quote.
You really can have the best of times and the worst of times melded into one experience. One might surmise that the end of a long career in one industry with a pandemic hot on its heels impacting your next career choice would be the worst of times. Perhaps, but that circumstance for me has meant an opportunity to study and discover my love for the law. It has resulted in extensive time spent with my little dogs. Indeed, one passed unexpectedly in May and that was the very worst of times. I was gutted. Yet the former circumstance meant she had many months by my side night and day before she left .. those are memories I would not have had otherwise. The best of times and worst of times are interchangeable.
Dickens’ words continue to resonate. 2020 is an age of wisdom with isolation forcing us to examine our unacknowledged selves. An age of foolishness watching humanity tear itself apart over such ridiculous choices as panic buying and refusal to adhere to social distancing. An epoch of belief in a cure for this virus with a return to better times. An epoch of incredulity seeing world leaders behave as children and our peers behave in ways that redefine selfishness. A season of light as we see heroes give of themselves for others and a season of darkness as millions fall victim to the pandemic with loss of life or livelihood. It is the spring of hope as we see good fortune in our own circumstances and the winter of despair as we contemplate the road back to a global recovery.
My faithful study companions (inclusive of my newest family member) are my three little dogs. I did not intend to increase my fur brood after the heartbreak of Bunny’s death. Yet her tiny cream grand daughter determinedly wormed her way into my home after being fostered last month … and who was I to say ‘no’. The pleasure of their trusting canine love is part of the deep gratitude felt sitting in a little garden on a warm Spring day. 2020 has given the opportunity of perspective and the view of a bigger picture which might have been missed under better circumstances.
I’ve never been one for lentil and incense laden philosophies, but there is one mantra I do keep in my repertoire. Abraham Lincoln famously once said, “This too shall pass”. Wise words. I strongly doubt that President Lincoln was particularly herbal. The well loved mantra he utilised is an ancient Persian adage and those guys were impressive philosophers. Who am I to argue with Dickens, Lincoln or the Zoroastrians. We are living in some of the worst of times which can oddly translate to some of the best of times. This too will pass and I certainly hope to take from this COVID era some gratitude for having the means to live, study and spasmodically work in the midst of a global disaster.
We’re a generation who will be remembered for how we came out the other side of a major catastrophe. One of my enduring memories will forever be that glass of rosé, the afternoon sun on my face, the sight of my little dogs peacefully asleep and the knowledge I am lucky to have a little place to call my own in the Lucky Country. Who wouldn’t be happy. What’s not to be grateful for.
Stay safe. xx
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Words of wisdom and experience. 2020. The year that we survived.
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