2020 In 100 Good Things

I had been avoiding my email inbox for ages, but yesterday, when my first poem of the year was refusing to come together, I found myself sneaking in to have a peek around and found an unread newsletter from the brilliant Austin Kleon.

At the top of the newsletter was a link to Austin’s 100 Things That Have Made My Year. After devouring his post (I always find a good list such a treat) I told my poem I’d be back later (I wasn’t) and started to write down everything that had made my year special. (I think everyone should do this…especially because 2020 was the way it was.)

Due to being kept in a stranglehold by depression for pretty much the whole year, not much happened in my life. I didn’t finish a new poetry collection, I didn’t move to the far north, I didn’t get into the best shape of my 34 years. I didn’t read many books, or listen to much music, or experience a lot of new art. But that makes the good things about 2020 extremely special to me. I should mention this list is in no particular order. So, without further ado, here goes.

  1. The fox I saw sat in the road that wasn’t hit by a car. It darted into the undergrowth in the nick of time.
  2. Listening to Hemkomst by Forndom on repeat. There was so much I found I couldn’t listen to, or didn’t want to listen to in 2020. Depression stole away my passion and left me finding it almost painful to experience music. But Faþir by Forndom was an album that found its way in, especially the last track Hemkomst.
  3. My creativity coming home. In early 2019 when my most recent depressive episode started – yes, it’s really lasted until now – I could quite literally feel my creativity leaking away from me. Over a matter of weeks, I gradually lost my ability to function as a creative. My notebook entries became more and more sparse until I was putting down nothing at all. I’d never known panic or fear to such a degree before. While it briefly made an appearance back in Spring of 2020, it wasn’t really until Mid-Autumn that I began to start making things again. Creativity has saved my life dozens of times over the past three decades, so when it left me and didn’t come back, I imagined that was that. That we’d never rekindle again. So when, slowly, slowly it crept back home, I stopped questioning why it had been gone so long and just welcomed it back.
  4. Banana sandwiches. Sometime back in September, when I was at an all time low, I started eating banana sandwiches for lunch. I think it became a thing because I didn’t have the energy or will to make proper meals. They became a comfort thing and I started looking forward to lunchtime. One day my dad suggested putting a pinch of salt in when I mashed them up, as apparently he used to do that as a kid. My humble banana sandwich suddenly had an entirely new depth of flavour and since then, every banana sandwich I’ve made has always been finished off with a sprinkle of salt.
  5. Finding out I didn’t have cancer. Back in 2010 when I was in my final year of University, I had a mental breakdown when a migraine led me to believe I had a brain tumor. Almost overnight I developed a case of hypochondria so severe that I was at my GP’s surgery almost every day of the week, convinced I was dying of something or other. I was diagnosed with bipolar and psychosis (I already had a diagnosis of depression) and put on medication. Over time, the hypochondria became manageable and for a few years I lived with only a few scares. But in 2020 it returned with vengeance. I landed upon an article about a woman who had a cancerous mole on her nose, and it led to me checking my own moles…of which I have quite a few. Several of them fitted the criteria for skin cancer, so I frantically made an appointment to see my GP. When I turned up for the appointment I was told my moles looked sinister and was given a a two week referral to see a dermatologist. I was handed a leaflet that said that while I had been given a two week referral, that didn’t necessarily mean I had cancer. But in my head it did. In my head I was already dying from it. The following two weeks were unbearable. My family could hardly cope being around me because I would constantly be begging for reassurance that I didn’t have terminal cancer. I didn’t eat. I didn’t sleep. I ended up at the local psychiatric unit where I was given sedatives to last me until I had my appointment with the dermatologist. When the appointment came around, I was certain I was going to be told that yes, I did have skin cancer. I was shaking when I was asked to take off my clothes and when she told me none of them were cancerous, my legs almost gave way. While I thought getting the all-clear would mean that hypochondria would do one, it would be several weeks – and numerous tests for other cancers – before I would stop worrying.
  6. Coming off aripiprazole. Most of the medications I’ve been on in my life have had names that are a bastard to spell. This one is no exception. The numbing effect of this particular med was catastrophic, and I started to notice a change in myself in a matter of weeks after coming off it.
  7. “Home means more to us in cold weather.” – Nigel Slater. 
  8. Discovering Niundi. I can’t remember how this band came into my life, but I’m extremely grateful they did. I recommend their entire discography, but Gullveig Is My Name is an absolute favourite.
  9. Big Magic. A damn important book that every creative ought to read.
  10. Theodor Kittelsen pin badges. I needed them.
  11. Winter: An Anthology. Gorgeous writing and currently only £1.99 on Kindle.
  12. Writing letters to myself. I spurred myself on by writing letters of encouragement to myself. 
  13. The Darkest Days project. If you’ve been coming here for a bit, you’ll have seen my Darkest Days posts. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, it was basically a 31 day photography project where, with the intention of growing as a creative, I attempted to capture the ‘essence’ of the dark traditions, stories and folklore that surrounds Yule, winter and the darkest days of the year. I’ll be doing a post soon featuring all the photos I took during the month of December as well as some news about an upcoming book that I plan to create, inspired by the project. 
  14. Thrifting a leather jacket. I was missing my leather jacket (it was handed down to me from my mum) which is currently living in Sweden and so scavenged in the charity shops with the high hope of landing on one. After a few weeks of searching, and feeling ready to admit defeat and pay a ridiculous sum online, I went into the Salvation Army and found one for £8.50. And it fitted. The joy, I can’t even tell you.
  15. Releasing The Dark Has Teeth. In Spring, when my creativity flitted back into my life for a few weeks, I frantically wrote what I could and came out with some songs, which were then used for the second Cave Mouth album The Dark Has Teeth. 
  16. Publishing two anthologies when I was at my lowest point. And the generosity and patience of the friends who helped me achieve this.
  17. “It is one of your duties in this life to make your own happiness, self-esteem and satisfaction a priority.” – Michelle Thomas. 
  18. Blackout poetry. It was Austin Kleon who inspired me to try this. His blackout poetry is fucking exceptional. My blackout poetry is not. But it helped me feel something again. I recommend it, especially if you’re depressed. 
  19. Jonna Jinton. Her vlogs and music let the light in when very little else could. 
  20. Writing a poem again after over a year. When I wrote Marzanna the other week, I wasn’t expecting it. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. 
  21. “If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much.” – Mary Oliver.
  22. Creating magick with Synty
  23. Talasbuan. One of my favourite YouTube discoveries of 2020.
  24. Receiving a hair pin that had been hand carved in the Arctic. I’ll do a post where I tell you more about it and you can see it.
  25. Good films. I didn’t watch many: Backwoods, Arctic, Midsommar, Hereditary, November and What We Do In The Shadows. All good. All worthy of your time. If I watched any others, I’ve forgotten what they were. 
  26. The Folk Horror Revival Group on Facebook. My sanctuary and my favourite place to spend time on the internet. 
  27. The Pine Tree by Hans Christian Anderson. I fucking wept. Read it.
  28. My dad fixing the soles of my ten year old Birkenstocks.
  29. “Guard your time well, do fewer things well.” – Donald Roos. 
  30. Finding a great stick in the woods. And bringing it home. 
  31. Making my own props for my photos. I made crowns and broomsticks and antlers and creepy fingers and a Krampus tongue…
  32. “Never sit down to write an excellent first draft. Just go from nothing to something.” – I wish I could remember. 
  33. Investing in my photography. Getting lights, a backdrop and Photoshop were some of the best things I invested in this year. I wrote more about it here
  34. A Year And A Day Magazine
  35. Though death is howling at our backs and life is roaring at our faces, we can just begin to write, simply begin to write what we have to say.” – Natalie Goldberg. 
  36. Vegan eggnog. A tradition which started last year. I was looking forward to it more than anything. Okay, not more than snow, but you know.  
  37. Gather Victoria. Probably the most beautifully produced blog I’ve ever seen. 
  38. Encouraging comments on social media. I’m going to do a post dedicated to them.
  39. “Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it well and serenely with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson. 
  40. My mum’s mulled apple juice. She even cut out little apple stars to go in it. It was glorious. 
  41. Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection.” – Kim Collins. 
  42. Feeling passionate about things again. My ears once again prick up when I hear the words ‘Norway,’ ‘Arctic,’ ‘Far North,’ ‘winter,’ ‘Folk Horror.’ For the longest time I stopped caring about all the things that had meant so much to me. It was fucking awful. 
  43. Writing notes. I’ve filled up more notebooks in the past month than I did the other eleven months of 2020. Writing my ‘to do list’ makes me much happier than it probably should. 
  44. Having ideas. I didn’t have ideas of any form for months and months and months. To be having them again, even if they’re only coming every now and then, is the best kind of magick. 
  45. “I’m talking about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than fear.” – Elizabeth Gilbert. 
  46. The art of Maena. I want to get lost in everything she makes. 
  47. Talking. When depression arrived, it took almost all of my words. It left me with ‘no,’ ‘yes,’ ‘maybe’ and ‘I don’t know.’ Being able to more or less hold a conversation now is beyond wondrous.  
  48. Waking up and not wishing I’d died in my sleep. When I started taking photographs again in September, I started to feel I had a reason to get up. 
  49. Tea. Brewed for four minutes, splash of almond milk, one sugar, perfect. 
  50. Replying to messages. For almost all of 2020 I’d have panic attacks about social media messages. It’s not quite so difficult to reply now. Emails are something of a different story though. For some reason they’re a challenge on a whole other level, and I still hate it when my phone rings. Sometimes I won’t even pick it up.
  51. My sister’s Christmas tree. I don’t have photographic proof that it was probably the most perfect Christmas tree that’s ever been, but I think if you’d have seen it, you would have agreed. 
  52. “The wolf exerts a powerful influence on the human imagination. It takes your stare and turns it back on you.” – Barry Lopez.
  53. Myth & Moor. I found myself here a lot in 2020. 
  54. Friends who would check in on me and understand when I couldn’t immediately reply.
  55. Looking to the new year with an inkling of hope
  56. Buying a 2021 diary with the intention of writing in it every day.
  57. “Surprise yourself everyday with your own courage.” – Denholm Elliot. 
  58. This Joy Harjo interview.
  59. Winter. Because it’s my season and because I missed last winter and because it’s the best of times. 
  60. Burzum – Thulean Mysteries.
  61. Being able to concentrate on reading books again
  62. The Groke pin badge. Because I needed it.  
  63. Good TV. I didn’t watch much but here’s what I did watch: Ozark, Dr Foster, The Snow Wolf, Snow Wolf Family and Me and Dynasties.
  64. Vegan duck. With some spring onions and hoisin sauce in a wrap. Divine. 
  65. Going to bed at a reasonable hour and getting up earlier.
  66. Foggy days.
  67. Early morning skies. Pulling back the curtains in the morning to see what gifts the sky had to give was one of the highlights of my day. 
  68. Adding to my The Enchanted World library
  69. A Poem For Every Feeling. A brilliant, brilliant book. 
  70. Leidungr. Especially Nordiska Hymner.
  71. Staying Human. The Staying Alive books have played the most crucial role in my development as a poet. I have Staying Human next to my bed. 
  72. Running
  73. Candles.
  74. Frostbite makeup. Learning how to make myself look as though I have frostbite was one of the best uses of my time in 2020. 
  75. Torvenius
  76. Creating a photo where it looked like I was trapped under ice. I used a sheet of perspex, some fake snow and a spray bottle of water. 
  77. The art of Skogens Rymd. I’ve been friends with Alessia Brusco for some time now, and watching her develop as an artist was one of the highlights of 2020.
  78. My hair growing. Cutting it back in 2018 was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. Getting some length back to it was a relief.
  79. Cave Mouth patches. I just can’t believe these are real. 
  80. Dajana Heremic. A constant source of inspiration. I hope to become an owner of one of her wool collars in 2021. 
  81. Freyia Norling. Her YouTube channel is another favourite discovery of 2020.
  82. Showing my feet in a photo. I despise my feet. Always have. I never expected I’d show them in a photo. As I write this, they’ve appeared in several. 
  83. ‘Dare to be the you that exists beyond all the clutter and mind debris of modern existence.’ – Matt Haig.
  84. Kim Holm and his art.
  85. Chai latte with oat milk.
  86. The moon. I’m one of those people who say ‘have you seen the moon tonight? No? Go look!’
  87. Crown of Asteria. My sister shaman, my muse.
  88. Internet friends. Invaluable. 
  89. ‘Nothing happens unless something is moved.’ – Albert Einstein.
  90. Feeling hopeful that 2021 would be a year that a new book would be born.
  91. Trying aqueous photography. Out of the thousands of photos I took, I don’t have one that I feel I want to show…but it was an experience and I think, when I have the right equipment, i.e. some expensive flash guns, I’ll give it another go. 
  92. Getting to grips with Photoshop. I was particularly proud of learning how to ‘freeze’ my hand and create a wet plate effect. 
  93. Becoming The Forest
  94. The Dark Mountain Project.
  95. Putting my hair up in a top knot. For some reason I think it helped me to be more productive.
  96. The Folklore Podcast.
  97. My two year old daughter making her own Christmas decorations. She showed them to everyone because she was so proud, including the cat. 
  98. My hot water bottle.
  99. Finding the most epic fake fur coat in a charity shop for £10. I used it in this photo.
  100. My family. They never let go.

7 thoughts on “2020 In 100 Good Things”

  1. This is a lovely list. 🙂 Makes me happy to see the Myth and Moor blog on there; it’s a very special place.

  2. Fantastic and wonderful list. I remember reading about some of the accomplishments, such as the leather jacket. I’m glad for the fox and gladder still regarding not having cancer. The people–the makers of art and those who more simply are–how great to have them in your life.

  3. This list is so inspiring! I’m going to back over it again and follow the links this time. I relate to so much of what you’ve written about depression (seems like we’ve been on a similar path these last couple of years). I’m so glad the light is returning for you (and me).

    1. Thank you so much for writing Cheryl! I’m delighted that you’ve found the list inspiring. It’s made my day actually. ❤ I'm saddened that the black dog has been following you around too, but it's a relief to hear that the light is returning to you now. 🙂 Please do get in touch if you'd ever like to talk. xx

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