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  • Writer's pictureRuth Walker

The little things that got me through 2020

Back in my old newspaper days, I used to hate those inevitable reviews of the year. They felt so lazy; an easy way to fill space during “silly season” when there was nothing else to report but the babies born on Christmas Day (you called her Holly? Groundbreaking) and how many people queued up overnight for the Next Boxing Day sale (for reference, Next is what J Crew would be if it had a more mumsy British cousin with a penchant for hearts on sweaters and glitter on slippers).

However, this year, I find myself more reflective than usual. And, as I look back on 2020, it’s with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and hope. Even the lows – and, believe me, there were some real punches to the gut – have been tempered by growth, and the knowledge that we humans are astonishingly resilient.

So, while I acknowledge that, for many, 2020 brought genuine heartbreak and hardship, I’m celebrating a year that taught me to slow TF down and value the things that really matter. When I raise a glass at midnight tonight, it will be to toast the very best of times from a year I will never forget.

When I look back at my photographic memories of the year, it turns out that little things really do mean a lot.

Meeting a workout buddy on the pier for green juice, and dancing out the stress at Friday night Zoom parties.

Birthdays in the park, and escaping to the hills.

Embracing my inner plant mom and learning to reset, meditating daily, allowing myself to breathe, and letting go of the things I can’t control.

Cat sitting; cycling; catching the fireworks from the Empire State Building on the Fourth of July.

Finding new soul mates and spiritual sisters.

Leaning into old friendships and being blown away by their love, support, and generosity.

Swimming in a Phoenicia water hole, going to a Brooklyn drive-in, sliding down a Pennsylvania waterfall.

Finding tranquility in a Vermont lake house.

Marching for justice.

Going to MoMA and The Whitney when they first reopened, and having the galleries to myself.

My last beach day of summer, drunk on sunshine, margaritas, and love.

Discovering a roller disco in Central Park; dancing like no one’s watching.

The election.

Walking, talking, with cups to go (his a coffee; mine a tea).

Human connection. Exercise. Nature. I don’t have a PhD. I can’t tell you why these things work. But Emily Nagoski does. In the book Burnout, written with her twin sister Amelia (another reason I relate to them so much), they explain, in science terms, why we’re all so stressed, and the five things we can do about it. This is what they say …

Move the body. Dance. Go for a walk. Climb rocks. Any kind of physical activity ticks the box.

Breathe – long, slow, deep breaths. There. Doesn’t that feel better already?

Have positive social interactions – even if it’s just a friendly chat with your bodega guy.

Laugh big, hearty, pant-wetting belly laughs.

Hug someone for a full 20 seconds. Let your body relax and surrender to the physical closeness of another human. Feel the dopamine and serotonin flood your blood stream. If you’re missing hugs right now, I feel your pain.

This book, and Bruce Feiler’s Life is in the Transitions, have done more for my emotional survival this year than probably any other resource. Listen to Brene Brown’s revelatory podcast on Burnout for an insight into why, this year in particular, we’re really not so different from a gazelle being chased by a lion.

Sending you love wherever you are. You're doing great.

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