Illustration of Sarah-Kate Lynch with hearts around her

Here’s why I’m feeling a whole lot of gratitude amid the turmoil

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1 January 1970

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Sarah-Kate looks back on the twists and turns of 2020 and gives thanks for the gift of time. This is why she’s finding strength through gratitude.

Obviously there are many reasons to kick 2020 to the curb with joyful abandon. Yes, it was the best year for novelty New Year’s Eve glasses and we’ll have to wait for 2030 to get another crack at that. But, what with the world otherwise going to hell in a handbasket, there’s not an awful lot to be said for it.


I’ve found it true throughout my life, generally in retrospect, that the thing about one door closing and another one opening is pretty much true. It would be better if the closing happened a bit more politely, perhaps with a doff of the hat and an, “After you, ma’am”. But more typically there is a lot of slamming, some bruised noses and sometimes a footprint on a rear end involved.

I remember sitting at home reeling with shock in the first lockdown when my international holiday, my magazine column, my travel writing and my ability to move freely around my own city disappeared with a clash of cymbals as the battle against Covid took hold.

After a year of saving, I had plans for a two-month trip that would include New Orleans, Chicago, New York, London, walking in the Cotswolds, cycling alongside the Rhone in France, ending up with a week or two in Portugal.

Well, that never happened. But the interesting thing was, once I got over the initial shock, I found that I didn’t mind. For a start, the place where I was sitting at home was bathed in sunshine with quite a nice view, and not being able to go anywhere was actually rather nice. Also, I did not have to do any organising.

I am a serial organiser. Any travel writer has to be. Things, sadly, don’t tend to fall in my lap. Instead I need to chase them to the ends of the earth, wrestle them to the ground, sit on them for a while, and then hope they’ll still be there when I need them.

Also, I didn’t need to pack. When I’m not organising, I’m worrying, often about packing. I had already worked out that New Orleans would be hot, Chicago, New York and London not, the Rhone – who knew? – and Portugal boiling. Try fitting all that in a suitcase you can actually lug around without dislocating crucial body parts.

So, all I had to worry about, as I sat in the sunshine, was unemployment. But then I finished writing an episode of The Brokenwood Mysteries. And started creating another show of my own, while working on a script for something else already in development.

The thing I suddenly had was time – and time was allowing my creativity to blossom instead of being sucked down the plughole of organisational logistics. Next minute, I was editing New Zealand travel magazine Scout!

Yes, I still felt the boot print on my bum left by the rude awakenings the coronavirus sent my way, incomes are down and possibly stress levels are up – but the handbasket actually didn’t get all the way to hell.

Incomes are down and possibly stress levels are up – but the handbasket actually didn’t get all the way to hell

As the months have gone on and the reality’s bitten but the dust has settled, a new emotion has emerged, and not just for me either. As I’ve tootled around the country in recent times, amid the turmoil and struggle I’m also feeling – and meeting – a whole lot of gratitude.

Aren’t we lucky to be here in Aotearoa?

It’s not smugness – although I don’t mind a bit of smugness, especially if it’s mine. It’s genuine appreciation at everything we have here at the bottom of the world when those elsewhere on the planet are not so lucky.

I know it’s been hard and may continue to be so, but here’s hoping that we can keep our thankfulness levels topped up in 2021. And if not? Well, that’s what chocolate is for.

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