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On Stillness and Gratitude

Sunflower faces against a bright blue sky

A wee burn runs along the back of our garden. As I sit in our bedroom, it runs towards me from behind the block of flats up the road. Then it curves gently to hug the steep slope of woodland before shifting to curve the opposite way and glide under the road.

We do not live by the sea. Yet this tiny stream that bubbles by most days, and rages in a rush after a heavy rain, is enough.

There’s a calm to being by water. The sound of its motion, the connection it offers to places near and far.

small stream - known as a wee burn in Scotland

On Stillness

This year has been one of stillness for me — for many of us.

The world keeps spinning at its normal pace, yet most of our daily action has been halted, altered.

My own daily life has actually changed in a very minimal sense.

I worked from home by myself already. And, as an expat, I’m quite used to not seeing my family and friends in person for extended periods of time.

I lost the independence of a driver’s license when I moved overseas, so I’d already adjusted to a lack of mobility.

I often joked this year that everyone else’s quarantine is my normal!

I try to strike a balance in everything I do. I suppose my self-imposed version of quarantine is the balance to my slow travel.

When I take trips, they tend to be quite long. In 2019, I spent over a month in the US, a month in Portugal, and more than three weeks for a Christmas holiday with family.

I also spent a week in Latvia, a week in southern England, and took multiple trips around Scotland in 2019.

So the balance to all that travel is to otherwise — apparently — self-quarantine!

On Losing My Balance

This year has been different, of course, because one side of my balance has utterly disappeared.

I have not been able to travel.

In fact, I have barely gone anywhere since February.

In addition to this pandemic screeching all motion to a sudden halt, my other half had a bad skiing accident in February. Just weeks before total lockdown and the cessation of most non-essential surgeries, he managed to do serious damage to his knee.

I’m talking: He has an ACL rupture, a meniscus tear, a bone fracture, and “significant” bone bruising. The specialist said his injury is “uniquely bad.”

So we’ve been stuck at home for reasons beyond the pandemic. The pandemic, of course, created an incredibly long wait for medical facilities and personnel to be able to attend to him.

On Gratitude

Despite the chaos that this year has wrought, I feel incredibly grateful.

We were lucky enough to move into a new flat last autumn. This place has an enormous back garden fringed by that wee burn.

Green lawn, bright blue skies, and spring growth on trees

Within this beautiful space, my other half has finally put his green thumb to the test.

From seed, he has grown sunflowers that rise above the roof and zucchini (courgettes) galore.

Tall sunflower against a bright blue sky

He grew tomatoes and strawberries, wildflowers and sweet peas. There’s purple-sprouting broccoli, potatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, and peppers.

We even have a row of corn nearly ready to harvest!

Watering corn beside a greenhouse

In this space at this time, with stillness and a loss of balance, we have all had to recenter ourselves in this world.

Nothing, and nowhere, is perfect.

We cannot control what happens to us nor what goes on around us. But we can control our reactions to it all.

I choose gratitude. For this quiet time to reflect on my life, my priorities, my goals, and more.

I appreciate our good health, that of our friends and family, and our ability to stay safe at home while protecting those we love.

Our privileges are plentiful and the gifts we enjoy far exceed what we need.

I may have lost my balance this year, but it is temporary. And this altered normal has enabled me to consider alternate ways of being.

Maybe I was moving too quickly to notice them before. Or maybe I just adapt well to new circumstances, after years of training as an expat.

Sunflower faces against a bright blue sky

Whatever this year has thrown at you, I hope you’ve been able to find something good in it. It has been horrific for so many. This time is not filled with joy and lighthearted laughter.

Nonetheless, there are good things happening and this time is filled with opportunity.

I am grateful for the stillness and the way it has highlighted so much within my personal world. I hope your year has offered you reason to feel grateful, too.

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