2020 will, hopefully, be one of those years that we look back on as a bit of a standout; an unwonted sentinel of how terribly wrong things can go when humanity chooses not to heed the advice of science and the groans of our fragile planet. This time last year I remember thinking that the fires in south eastern Australia were a calamity; not realising that their devastation and destruction would become simply a curtain raiser to a year of far greater global anguish and suffering. The beginning marked an end, and the end a beginning….
“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.” T.S. Elliot
November 2019 | August 2020
As this year of pandemic caused chaos draws to a close I find myself sitting alone in my little flat on the north Essex coast quietly contemplating the rollercoaster that the past 18 months has been. There has been much time and space for contemplation, and action, in 2020. I share the pictures in this post as a graphic insight into my journey of physical, mental, spiritual, emotional transformation since an epiphany visited upon me in the gardens of Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace 12 months ago.
The moment of revelation came in the form of the sudden death of a dear friend and mentor. As I sat in the grounds of this ancient Ottoman Palace grieving Tom’s sudden death on the other side of the world I had a visceral moment of realisation at how short life can be. I made a conscious decision to live better, to strive towards living more authentically, to live as full a life as possible rather than accepting that living a half-life was the best I could hope for.
Before I could get my head around just what this all might mean for me, Covid19’s viral veil unfurled across the planet; life changed dramatically and suddenly for all of us.
I spent the months of the UK’s first lockdown in my flat above Frinton-on-Sea’s High St, thousands of miles from family & friends – feeling loneliness and isolation, ennui and despair like I have never felt before. My moiling mind attempting to process the parallel narratives of the dystopian shit-storm that appeared to have been unleashed upon the world and my desire to live a better, more fuller, version of my life. Evening walks, then runs, along the seafront were the only salve I could find to calm my thoughts and distract me from the existential crisis I appeared to be facing all alone. As I ran, I not only maintained a functional level of mental health, but began to feel fitter and lighter. I established virtual connections with good people who kept me fit and moving, others who kept my mind occupied, and others who provided advice, support, affirmation, encouragement and hope. In the process I lost 20kg and developed a level of mental and physical fitness hitherto unknown in the first 50 years of my life.
I found myself unexpectedly falling into a positive feedback loop where the better I felt the more active I became, the more active I became the fitter and better I felt. Running, physical training and the gym has given me health, perspective, a positive self-image and new friends. My life – that had been soaked in shame, addiction, and denial – has been transformed into one that is moving on a positive trajectory towards peace, healthy consumption and acceptance. I reckon the physical transformation I have experienced is an outworking of my internal transformation; mental, spiritual, psychological. As I have stripped away layers of negative thought from my mind, I have stripped away layers of fat from my body. It appears to have been a symbiotic process where each needed the other for healing, growth and better health to manifest.
As I spend the eve of 2021 alone (like most of the rest of the population of these British Isles) I sit much more comfortably in my own company than I did at the start of 2020. I raise a glass (rather than a bottle as in previous years) to celebrate all the good things that have come out of this crazy year and toast all those who have shared the journey with me. I have much to be grateful for.
All the same, I wouldn’t wish another year like it on any of us again anytime soon.
Pre | 2020 | Post