Well, that was some year. We laughed, we cried, we felt everything.
And what was the thing that got us through? It’s simple. Love.
Old love, new love, the rekindled kind…
Love brought us closer, when we couldn’t be.
To celebrate the love that lifted us up and got us through, we asked members of our community share their love stories from the past year.
And no matter what tomorrow brings, 2021 has made us all appreciate that love, in all its forms, is the only thing we ever really need.
HAS GOT THE LOVE … FOR HER FIANCE
Michael and I moved in together only a few months before 2020. So, to be locked down together only months later, just the two of us, it could have really gone either way.
Luckily, it was totally fine. Great, even! Being with each other — and only really having one another — through this crazy yet uneventful time, solidified the fact that I could be with him through any season and feel completely happy.
In May this year, Michael got me up at 6am (even though I’m not a morning person) and we walked our usual trail by the beach, up on the cliffs, with our pooch. He took me to a spot off the trail, overlooking the bay. It was so still and quiet. Then he pulled me in close, said some beautiful things and got down on one knee. Later, he surprised me with breakfast with our parents and lunch with our closest friends. It was simple, but so us.
Considering all the restrictions and seeing so many weddings postponed, I never anticipated getting engaged this year. But if anything, the fact that he did propose and essentially made us a ‘forever thing’, despite all the chaos, was an incredible statement of unconditional love.
His love has brought me stability and reassurance in a world experiencing total uncertainty.
I used to think love was loud and ‘in your face’ and was about grand gestures. But this year — and the whole pandemic — has taught me that love, at its purest, is quiet.
Our love isn’t in your face. It’s a quiet, just-being-in-your-presence-is-enough kind of love.
HAS GOT THE LOVE … FOR HER DAUGHTER
My daughter Bessie was born just three weeks before the very first lockdown in 2020, on the cusp of a global pandemic.
And while that first year of parenthood was far from what I had pictured, I felt incredibly lucky that amidst the ache and uncertainty of 2020, Bessie never let me lose sight of the simple joys in life.
She was our calm in the chaos.
Oh, but then came 2021. And amusing a busy (and increasingly bossy) toddler in a lockdown, is rather different to being stuck at home with cuddly, snuggly newborn. This year, as the world around us stopped again, she became our chaos in the calm.
Homesick from our loved ones and tired from the toll that the unknown took, we could always rely on Bessie to lift our sprits. Curious, determined and with very little regard for social distancing, she provided us with endless entertainment as she became, even more so, the centre of our universe.
On days when I felt overwhelmed and defeated by the relentlessness of it all, I would tell myself that I would never have this day with Bess again. Even if we went no further than the playground (for the 700th time) or if the most exciting thing we did that day was make rumballs or tie balloons to the clothesline.
Every morning, I would remind myself that she will never be as small as she is today; that tomorrow she would be a little bigger — a little closer to the day she stops climbing onto my lap. I tried to pay attention to the charms of the present, like studying the little dimples in her knuckles or marvelling at the newest word she added to her vocabulary.
And I tried to remember, every day, but especially on the longest ones, that I shouldn’t wish these mediocre days away, because one day, when Bessie is grown up and has left home (and I no longer worry about Covid, but instead stress about her backpacking around Europe), I know I will wish to have just one more of these days, when all we could do was stay home.
How fortunate we are that while history will remember this year for the ongoing pandemic, I will get to look back on this time and remember Bessie in all her one-year old glory instead.
DR CHARLOTTE TOTTMAN
HAS GOT THE LOVE … FOR HER BODY
Three years on from a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, including a double mastectomy, I’ve got the love.
For me. All of me. All the bits. Inside and out.
I can honestly say I do love Charlotte 2.0, the next version of me. Just as I am.
It’s been a rough road though, to this point of self-acceptance. I was stuck on resistance highway for quite some time.
This year, I increased my focus on the importance of sleep, exercise, nutrition, and engaging in enjoyable or purposeful activities — four pillars of coping with adversity.
When my body is rested, strong and as healthy as it can be — physically and psychologically — I am so much better equipped to deal with a frequently changing environment and living with lots of uncertainty.
Humans are so interesting, complicated even, in a good way.
We are so much more than our physical self.
There is our body, with all the various bits — and after cancer treatment, there’s likely to be a few missing bits, or bigger or smaller bits.
Then there’s our brain.
And then there’s our feelings.
I love that my body heals. My scars are fading, my pain is decreasing and my sleep is improving.
I love that my body feels. My fear spikes less often, my tears are more often borne of joy than loss and my laugh comes more readily.
I love what my body can do. My stamina is increasing, and so is my strength.
I am far from perfect; that’s not the point though. In fact, it’s about acceptance of imperfection. Right here, right now, it feels easy to state my self-love; my imperfect-self acceptance.
Love is not judgemental. It does not demand perfection. It is flexible and accommodating. Loving my body, respecting its limitations and imperfections and looking after my body, helps keep my headspace open and gives me capacity to enjoy life and navigate its inevitable challenges.
When I’m tired, stressed, scared or vulnerable, I admit, it can be tricky. That’s when I might slip back into wishing things were different, how they once were, or how they will never be again.
Objectively, I can appreciate that my body looks pretty good for a woman with no breasts. And it looks better than it did in the early days post-surgery. But I miss my breasts. They were really small, and I didn’t really rate them, but now that they’re gone, I do really miss them.
If I compare myself to others, or even to how I was pre-cancer, I’ll frequently come up short. It’s more helpful to acknowledge what we’ve been through while keeping our eyes on what’s ahead.
The antidote to this struggle, at least for me, is exercise. It’s annoying because it helps everything.
Walking is a super-power. And I am a treadmill demon in a Sussan nightie.
HAS GOT THE LOVE … FOR HER CREATIVE LIFE
At the beginning of the pandemic I was journeying through a difficult separation, leaving a partnership in which I had wholeheartedly participated for almost fourteen years.
In leaving my marriage I almost expected myself to grow slightly batty and old alone; surrounded by my art materials, manuscripts and poodles. Alas, life had a different plan for me.
Roberto and I met when I checked into his garden house in July last year. I was due to speak at an event the following morning and while I had endeavoured to book accommodation closer to the venue in Brisbane, Roberto’s garden house kept appearing; I simply felt compelled to book it. And I now understand why.
Instantly, there was a mutual sense of coming home and of timeless familiarity between us. We have been together ever since.
Roberto and I are homebodies and enjoy a quiet, gentle and peaceful life. We are both artists and play various instruments. We love to cook, potter with our pets and be in the garden. As such, time spent quietly at home helped us to nurture a deeper connection.
Earlier this year Roberto asked me to marry him while we were waking in the beautiful Bunya Mountains northwest of Brisbane, and I said yes. A few months later, I discovered a bedazzling emerald engagement ring at the bottom of a glass of cognac whilst dining out at a cosy little restaurant in town. It was magical.
Love grows in beautiful, mysterious ways that we can never script. We met each other in the most specific, rare and very particular circumstances that we both know divine intervention saw to it.
While life surprised and delighted me with a truly nourishing, life-affirming partnership in love, at the same time, on the work-front, I was writing a book about love.
My book, Choosing Love – Living Our Lives to Nourish Our Hearts, is a celebration of living open-heartedly and choosing love in our daily life.
I never imagined being able to bring so much to this book from personal experience. While this book is not about me, indeed, none of my books are, what I have been able to bring to this book, was informed by my own life.
This last year has made me appreciate my creative life even more. I have come to trust and care for myself so earnestly and as a result I feel more at peace, more grateful and more alive than ever before.
One of my favourite musings on love is Oscar Wilde’s charming assertion which suggests that, ‘To love ourselves is the beginning of a lifelong romance’.
Through various ups and downs I have seen the depth of my courage this past year.
To me, love is a way of being — a way of life. I work lovingly, bring great love to all that I am and do, and I celebrate life through loving it.