I just spent the better part of 10 days at home, doing very little.
But sometimes, doing very little leads to realizing a whole lot.
Christmas was different this year for a lot of people.
Ours was much different than normal too. Aaron and I stayed home, made ourselves our first Christmas dinner in our now 99% complete kitchen (it’s been in a state of renovation for months), and watched Christmas movies in our pyjamas while enjoying a nice winter stout in our fancy beer glasses. The light from the candle I’d lit flickered gently on the coffee table and our multi-coloured Christmas lights glowed on the tree and across the wall unit.
It was quiet and simple. There was no rushing here and there, going from one place to the next. There was nowhere to be and no one to see. There was just us, and the peace of being home. New Year’s Eve looked about the same.
And while I thought I’d be upset about missing out on all the usual holiday festivities and traditions, I was surprised to find that everything felt alright just how it was.
It was different, yes, but it wasn’t necessarily different in a bad way.
Rather than focusing on all the things we weren’t doing because of Covid-19 this year (big family dinners, seeing friends, watching my dad sing at the Christmas Eve service), I just tried to allow myself to enjoy what I was doing.
Even though what we did wasn’t much, it felt good.
We slept in and woke up slowly on the couch with coffee in hand, went for long walks together daily in the snowy winter wonderland, did more cooking than usual, read, watched Christmas movies, drank delicious cups of hot chocolate with marshmallows curled up under blankets, spent time designing and planning our dream home and building it to scale in different computer programs.
We dreamed and talked about the future we’re creating, searched for pictures to add to our vision board, and made plans for what we want to accomplish in 2021.
This is hands down one of my very favourite things to do. I love brainstorming and thinking and dreaming and talking and focusing on the life I want to create. I probably could have done this one thing for the entire holiday break, but I would have driven Aaron insane. (The poor guy just wanted to relax and game, not plan out our entire life. Again.) Fair enough.
There was one other thing we did over the holidays, though, which ended up being the most meaningful of all.
We took some time to reflect on the past year, and I wrote a summary of 2020.
What I discovered by doing this surprised me.
Before sitting down to start, I really thought there hadn’t been much good to come out of 2020. The whole year had just felt like a blur of disappointment and stress, topped off with a constant sense of overwhelm.
Despite the pandemic slowing everything down, life for us somehow seemed busier than ever. It appeared that we were constantly working, but I couldn’t see what we were accomplishing with all this busyness. It felt like we were getting nowhere, yet running faster than ever.
That sense of overworking and underachieving had really been a source of frustration for me in 2020, but the act of writing down what actually happened opened my eyes to the truth.
I separated our “year in review” into two categories: what didn’t go well in 2020, and what did go well in 2020.
Then Aaron and I recalled the events of the year as best we could, and I categorized them accordingly. We recorded anything that was disappointing or difficult (things like my sister’s wedding getting cancelled, getting laid off from my job, and having to cancel all foreseeable fun events and travel plans), as well as what we were excited about or what felt like an accomplishment. These were things like renovating our apartment, getting clearer on the career I want to create for myself, and getting our new car.
When we were done, I was shocked to see that the “things that went well” list was actually much longer! Everyone said this was the year from hell, and yet, we had found more things to be excited about and proud of than we had to be disappointed about.
I might have believed that we weren’t getting anywhere, but the proof on paper said otherwise.
I realized right then and there how valuable this type of review really is.
It changed my outlook on an entire year of my life, and brought me back to a place of feeling satisfied and grateful for all the things we did make progress on, even when I couldn’t see it at first. My mind had been clouded by thoughts of lack and despair, but making this list helped to clear the storm clouds away so the sun could shine through again.
Reflecting on this list, I could see just how much progress we’d made in the span of one year. The tricky part was that some of these accomplishments won’t actually benefit us all that much until years down the road, so they didn’t necessarily feel like progress now.
Some of our actions felt counterintuitive, like spending a lot of money to upgrade our current living space when our goal is financial freedom as soon as possible. This made it seem like we were going backwards on our journey, but that’s only because we’re looking at it from our current lens instead of our financial situation a decade from now.
That’s how life works sometimes.
You feel like nothing is happening, even when you’re actually making huge strides and taking big leaps toward the life you want to create.
That’s why reflection is so important.
If you don’t take the time to stop for a few minutes and really take stock of each year (yes, even a year like 2020!), you’ll end up missing the good that always exists somewhere, even if you have to search a little harder for it sometimes.
If I hadn’t written this review of 2020, I would have carried that feeling of frustration and hopelessness forward with me instead of leaving it in the past, where it belongs.
Doing this one simple exercise helped me clear my mind and heart so that I can begin 2021 with the wonder and excitement I’d lost in 2020.
Whether they are huge accomplishments or small wins, there is good to be found in every year, if we are willing to find it.
I hope that you, too, can find the good hidden in 2020 by writing a review of your own.