Reflections on 2020 [by Chris Little]
Season’s Greetings and Salutations, fellow WhiteHatters!
We are approaching the final weeks of a year that has been extraordinary on a pandemic scale – forgiving the pun – we are often inclined to reflect on all that has come to pass over the course of the past twelve months. My year has been one in which I have experienced some of the deepest lows. It has been my privilege to survive through to date. My use of the word privilege will become apparent in due course, but for the moment allow me to provide a little bit of information in order to set the scene.
My ex-partner and I separated in 2017. We have two children, so have maintained contact for obvious reasons, and while this was tumultuous at the beginning, we eventually found common ground and became amicable once more. Fast forward to December 2019 and so amicable are we that we are considering taking steps towards reconciliation. The week prior to ‘lockdown 1.0’ we decided that we weren’t going to be apart for who knew how long, so I packed my things and stayed there. Around the middle of May, she and the kids went to see her parents – her mum had fallen ill – and when she returned, I was hit with the news that she and the children were moving to Lincolnshire (from Buckinghamshire).
While I have been most fortunate, to date, that there has been no direct impact upon myself or my loved ones throughout this year attributed to the pandemic, my life has dramatically and drastically changed as a result this set of circumstances. Receipt of the news above utterly devastated me. I hadn’t cried as much or as uncontrollably since losing my mom in 2016, and I sobbingly returned to London the next afternoon - to the very studio flat I’m sat in presently as we take this trip down memory lane.
Upon my return home, though I fell in love all over again as I always do when I return to Studio 5, I was a broken man. A shadow of my former self. I wallowed and wept, I brooded and festered. It seemed as though Covid-19 had somehow still managed to get me, despite the precautions and comparative improvements I felt it had otherwise made to my life. In truth, the only real difference it made to how I was operating under ‘normal’ circumstances was that I worked from home indefinitely and that suits me perfectly. This was my thing, my 2020 challenge. “I’ve been through harder times than two consecutive heartbreaks and the loss of my mother in the space of three years and I’m not dead yet.”
After speaking with a dear friend over a period of several days I licked my wounds. I decided that because I had all this extra time on my hands, the best thing to do was to occupy it. I was listening to a number of podcasts at the time, so I bought myself a microphone and started recording myself just talking at it. This got me thinking about needing things to talk about if I was going to pursue this – I’ve not touched the microphone for a while, but I do intend to get back to this in due course – and started thinking about all of the things that I’ve been reading about and interested in exploring further. Prior to my current abode, I lived in rooms in shared accommodation for a couple of years and I hadn’t had the means or my own space to do so previously.
I’d always been interested in herbalism. I bought a few books, a few kilner jars, some free-standing shelves, and I went to town making various blends of tea, experiments in cooking – I have no food allergies so I can go crazy (a little lavender in porridge is divine!) – and exploring aromatherapy making blends of incense and infused oils. I decided I’d try jogging, and the pains in my body those first couple of weeks made me acutely aware of my diet, as exercise without proper nourishment causes cramping and all manner of other “look after yourself or I’ll hurt you” things that our bodies do to warn us. I’ve made small changes in my eating habits, bought myself a Brita filter, and improved the overall quality of what I was eating (i.e. no convenience foods). Further, jogging also provided a means for my development of a better understanding of breath.
I have been a huge fan of Alan Watts for years, and I was listening to ‘Alan Watts Teaches Meditation’ wherein he explains that, “the idea is not to control your breath, but to observe its occurrence,” and goes on to explain that you allow it to fall in and out rather than pushing or pulling. This got me thinking about how I was breathing while jogging, and that I was hindering my progress because I was concerned with controlling the flow of my breath. Following Alan’s suggestion, I at last managed to discover the ‘zone’ that you hear athletes describe. It’s basically a state of flow, a state of pure focus, a state of zen. I started meditating, after years of listening to talks and reading anything I could find on it, but never ‘getting’ how to do it. A penny dropped. I was beginning to understand that while I’ve been researching all of these things in isolation, the sweet spot, the place where the magic happens, is when you put everything together. Harmony.
I’ve continued these practices, expanded my collection of herbs, and since joining WhiteHat have been introduced to the Ayurveda during a coaching session. I bought a book immediately after I put my ‘office’ (work laptop) away that evening and on reading it found that I had been introduced to a 5,000 year-old philosophy and holistic preventative health practice which in essence described and in practice provided a framework for near-enough exactly the expedition I had been making without the aid of a map or compass up to this point. This was in October, and my metamorphosis has progressed further still.
Thinking back on this all now, it’s difficult to comprehend how so much transition can occur in so short a space of time. For years I have been making a conscious effort to listen to and follow my intuition. I firmly believe that everything always works out for the best in the end, I put my trust in the universe and I put my faith in myself. I think that all things happen at the appropriate time for the appropriate purpose. Even in my darkest hours of this glorious year, I was learning. It was painful certainly, but it has brought me some insight that I thought prudent because it is applicable to anyone who’s ever been through hard times, and who amongst us hasn’t had at least one bad day?
Chatting with another friend of mine the other night who said, “I think we’re all a little broken,” which got me to pondering. I think that she’s right, and that maybe we are all a little broken. I related this to my reflection above about how the pain I was going through became a desire and a drive to change my circumstances. Sometimes we must be broken so that we can see what we need in order to grow. Within these cracks in our auric pottery lies our authenticity, our uniqueness. Akin to Kintsugi, it is the way in which we mend them that make us beautiful. Typing those words brings tears of joy to my eyes, and the thought that such joy is effectively the product of a traumatic situation fortifies my resilience.
I’m sure that there will be further challenges on the horizon, but I feel that I am overall in a far better place that I was in one year ago today. I’ve learned and discovered so much more about myself in the past twelve months than I have in the past four years. While not identical, I believe that everyone who is reading this will have had experiences this year – may still be having them – which have been difficult. No matter how dark it may seem to be at times, we are in tunnels not caves.