We are sitting here planning a holiday season without grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. We live in France in a community of international families. Extended family close enough to drive here for Christmas is the exception rather than the norm for our circle and we were going to have been one of the lucky few with family close enough to drive to Christmas lunch. It was going to take my parents-in-law three days of driving across three countries, but they were ready with their hermetically sealed new car to cross Poland, Germany and France to see us and be together at the end of this, the loneliest year on record.
However, even this Hurculean effort of family togetherness is increasingly unlikely. The latest news is not encouraging. Germany is going back into lockdown. The numbers are up and schools, shops and borders are closing for Christmas.
Macron is yet to announce the French post mid December regulations. Here in France, new cases hover around 10k per day and don’t look like they will drop to the 5k per day required to get us out of lockdown in time for Christmas.
So here we are, less than two weeks before Christmas Day, not knowing exactly how big a turkey to order.
Yet, in this same holiday planning conversation I found myself saying something that rang true and felt real.
“The gift of 2020 has been that we find out what we truly value.”
For me, what I have found can be summed up with one word.
The gift of 2020 has been seeing for the first time the true shape of the relationships that make up my life.
For all the rest has fallen away. Quite brutally.
I left my fancy job before we moved here. We live here in France in a house we don’t own and are not especially attached to. (The kids told me they would like to live in a caravan and I laughed and said “we have raised gypsies!”) We have lived in four different countries over the last decade away from the places that we both grew up in, Poland and Australia. The kids have been to a few different schools in a few different countries so they know that there isn’t just one way that schooling is done. We quite like our car (it has a nice stereo) but will replace it the instant we can make the numbers work on an electric car so we aren’t especially attached.
We are not defined by where we live, the job we have, the title we hold, the car we drive or by where our kids go to school. Our happiness is not dependent on any of these things when in confinement for months on end.
Assuming we have a safe place to live and enough to eat, it is wholly dependent on the relationships we have.
The relationship we have with ourselves, with our close circle, and with our close circle’s close circle.
In this way 2020 has been the gift I didn’t know that I needed, and frankly didn’t want.
Because this gift came with work; painful, tiring, hard work. And also joyful, awe-inspiring, beautiful work.
I had to be with myself without distraction for months.
I had to be with my husband without distraction for months.
My kids too. Ever present with their needs, hunger, moods, quirky sense of humours and beautiful old souls.
In this way 2020 has been transformative.
Don’t get me wrong, I have found some new distractions. I have not become a hermit or spiritual guru. But by and large in daily life the world out there has been replaced by the world in here.
We have been confined to our own snow globe and the glitter flakes have settled.
Unnecessary parts of my ego died this year and some of that was painful. The first lockdown stirred up a lot of painful stuff. All the loneliness of my life in fact came to the surface. All the feelings of not being seen or understood. The pain of many goodbyes. Many of them unsaid. Confusion; so much confusion about who I am, what I stand for and and how I want to spend my time.
And whilst this process hasn’t been fun, more of my soul’s self has been revealed. In fact, unlooked for parts of me that I had forgotten about have re-emerged, and blossomed.
In parallel my husband has found his calling and we have re-found each other.
We can work together now in a way that wasn’t possible before. And so much more just seems to happen with less effort when we hit our stride.
In the work we do together I have found meaning. We want to help people who feel stuck and unhappy find their calling and their meaning in their lives and in their work.
For my husband and I this has been a project of over a decade. Since we got together we have been prototyping our lives in different setups of jobs, projects, cities and countries. And whilst all this experimenting has led to loads of adventures and learning, it has been the unwanted gift of 2020, that has helped us to make our lives and work truly meaningful.
The gift of 2020 has been the gift of solitude and stillness, and the view once the glitter snow has settled.
What was revealed was the deep beauty of our connections.
Special thanks to Jen and GP
for the Christmas cake and so much more.
Go to www.prototypelife.org to join our pilot program and community
Image courtesy of https://www.aliexpress.com/i/32989522970.html