• Lara Flanagan

Arrivederci 2020

Updated: Jan 3, 2021

It is hard to believe that it is time to say Arrivederci, ciao, adios, goodbye, and hasta la vista to 2020!

At a time when it is all too easy to focus on the negatives of this strange and crazy year, I thought it would a time to count my blessings as in some ways this year has reminded me how much my cup is full.

Italy and the gift of travel

We began the year in our beloved Italy complete with a trip to Venice. I cannot explain it but when I arrive in Italy, I feel like I have come home. I feel complete with a full heart like I feel on my misty mornings in Tenterfield when it is sometimes as if I am drowning in the beauty of this world. After returning home in late January, it became apparent quite quickly that I needed to put my plans of 3 months in Italy/9months in Australia on hold for a while. If I had known that I think I would have eaten more gelato. However, I know that one day I will return and that I will savour every moment.

I saw an Indian doctor being interviewed earlier this year, and she was saying that if you have water you are privileged. If you have room to isolate, you are privileged. If you have access to sanitiser you are privileged. It reminded me that if you have a passport you are privileged in this world and that is something I will never squander.

My health

Without going into the gory details, around the time the pandemic hit in Australia my anxiety was at an all-time high. This I suspect resulted in possibly one of the worst bouts of ill-health I have experienced since I was first diagnosed in early 2013. I got through this with the help of my little stash of opiates and sleep. Once again, I thank god every day for the patience and resilience of Archie and Rissie. My brain went into overdrive and I imagined weird tumours and the fact that the wild living of my 20s and 30 had caught up with me. I toddled off to my lovely GP thinking he would order a whole gamut of tests and I was completely gutted when he told me that there was no need for tests as it was simply my MS.

God, I was angry. To receive a prescription for new neurological medication was like a blow to my solar plexus. I duly took the prescription, got it filled, and took it home. I have been drug-free since 2015 and to have a new drug to take was for me a complete bloody failure. The drugs sat and stared at me and I hated them. I was pissed off and angry. I once again addressed my lifestyle. My diet could not be tweaked much more. I continued walking and started getting more sleep even if that included shutting up shop for an hour or so in the afternoons while I had a nap.

I also introduced Yoga and met one of my news best friends Adriene. (https://yogawithadriene.com/) I started doing yoga in the morning and at about 1 pm when my twitching and pain got on top of me, I would do another session. Initially, I would cry through some of the sessions, but I kept it up all the while staring at that bloody packet of pills in my cupboard. I persevered and my time with Adriene became my favourite part of the day. All I could think of was that it was lucky I worked for myself as going into the downward dog in the middle of the office might be off-putting for some. Especially if someone was sobbing and then laughing hysterically.

By October I had dropped a few kilograms and was also feeling healthier and more supple than I had in years. The pain diminished to the point where it was manageable and no longer constant. I ended up throwing those pills away just before my birthday in early November and I was so bloody proud of myself. Right now, what happens with my health is of my choosing and that is a blessing. I will fight for my health for as long and hard as I can.

My work

Right about when the pandemic hit, I thought my little business was going to go belly up. I have been freelancing since 2015 and to suddenly realise it was all going to go up in a puff of smoke was devastating. I even signed up for Job Keeper online to deal with the possibility of me losing my income. I lost some clients; others reduced my hours. But what also happened is that some clients increased my hours, and I got some new photography and writing work. By the time I was contacted six weeks later to process my Job Keeper application, I was happy to be able to say that I no longer needed any assistance.

I dedicated hours and hours in the evening to educating myself with courses and how-to videos. In my spare time, I got my TESOL qualification for the time in the future that I will again be able to spend 3 months in Italy. I also had time to sit down and assess what makes me happy. The two things that make me happy are my food and my photography. So that is what I focussed on. By the end of 2020, I have invested more in my business than I ever have before. I created my greeting cards, my wood prints, and my calendar and now the monthly Tenterfield markets are a source of much joy. I invested in a drone and a new lens which I am in the process of teaching myself to use.

Now I have enquiries for all sorts of photographic assignments in 2021 and am preparing for my first exhibition at Oracles of the Bush in 2021. I have maintained my regular clients, cooked more in my life, created two eBooks, and have realised that taking photographs is what makes my heart sing.


Once it became apparent that international travel was off the cards I started to focus on travel around Australia. A long and winding google road finally led me to the decision that I was going to buy a caravan. Sometime in the middle of this year, I procured an old 1969 vintage Viscount van and put it in the hands of two talented craftsmen to renovate her. (Jamie and Jess from Retro Caravan Renovations). Way back when we were doing our big trip, I had endless conversations with Tiney about getting an old campervan so the kids and I could travel Australia and come and visit her and Al in Tasmania. This somehow morphed into our beautiful old vintage van. Once again, I took a big risk of investing pretty much all my savings into this little venture. For me, it is a long-term investment for the kids and me to see Australia and for me one day to travel Australia with the dogs, cooking along the way.

The day we officially named her made me cry. When the kids and I had our first trip to St George I realised life was as it should be. My kids were swimming in the river and the dogs were running up and down the riverbank. It was deathly quiet, and I was beyond excited about the adventures in Tiney-Boppa that lay ahead.

My kids and my dogs

Archie and Rissie turned 13 this year and completed their first year of high school. They have thrived in their new school and have a beautiful group of friends. They dealt with returning to homeschooling during the school shut down, not seeing their dad due to the border closure, and the occasional quirkiness of their mother.

They continue to raise money for the RFS in their role as junior committee members of Oracles of the Bush and have already smashed their initial targets. They have also set up their little business the OJT (the odd job twins) and remain a constant source of delight for me.

Archie and Rissie have known ill-health and seen me battle for my own health. They have travelled and explored. They have known loss and seen what grief can do to someone they love. They have lived with dust, drought, fire, and virus. They are kind and compassionate. And they are dreamers.

I am prouder of them than words can say.

Kevin and Rosie continue to remind me to treat every day as a new day and to find the joy in everything that I do. Somehow this year I broke every rule in my rule book and they became inside dogs. They now rule the house, and their big goofy grins make me smile every single day.

Being Australian

Right now, Australia is dealing with a growing number of clusters. These clusters however are in the single and double digits while the UK, America, and much of the world deals with new cases in the thousands. Despite it all Australia remains a lucky country. All we need to do is do the right thing and we will be ok. Every day I am grateful that I am Australian, grateful that I am a Tenterfieldian and I would not live anywhere else in the world.

I recently spent a very unusual Christmas week at Corindi with Al. I am a grinch when it comes to Christmas and it is a day that I cannot celebrate. I would rather tell people that I love them on an ordinary day than a day on which I am told to love. It is the every day and the normal days in which people need to hear of love and thanks.

However, this Christmas was truly special as it was one during which I found a happiness that I never thought was possible. I realised I am at peace; I am hopeful, and I am so lucky to be so happy.

As this year draws to a close, I would like to say thank you. Thank you to all those people who are such an important part of my world and who have been by my side. I give thanks for the life I live. For my health, my work, my little cottage, and Archie and Rissie. Kevin and Rosie are pretty special too even though sometimes their breath really stinks!

So welcome 2021. Try to behave.

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