Looking over my shoulder at 2020

A Year of Dust and Diamonds

Should we look back?

I am not sure whether I should be looking over my shoulder back at 2020. There is a chance that in hindsight I will be changing the narrative of many stories to make them feel and sound better. Our memory is not a reliable servant, so it is difficult, unless we have been keeping a  diary, to recall our feelings and reactions  throughout the year.

And yet, I feel that 2020 had not just dust but diamonds, too. We have all experienced the effects of the dust in different ways. Diamonds are what help you get through the dust, so it is worth looking for them.

Myajima Island

Languages are my thing

There is really not much I remember from all of the knowledege that was pumped into my brain at school. I sometimes feel a little bit jealous, when some friends of mine can explain phenomena of physics or remember an impressive array of historical dates. As I now know that I have ADHD, this is not surprising. It is highly likely that most of the subjects did not make it into my long-term memory. The exception to this rule is languages. I have learned, if you include latin, eight languages to different levels of proficiency.

A Learning Japanese competition

My most recent accomplishment in this field is Japanese. I have to be honest, I was very motivated for the first three months of last year, but then other things got in the way. Japanese is a completely new language system, I could not fall back on anything I had already learned. If you have learned latin and one roman language it is quite easy to learn more. My husband happens to be a language buzz, too. And whilst I took lessons old school, he started to learn Japanese on the quiet from an app.

Keep your Kanjis to yourself

I was getting quite proud of myself, as I find it difficult to concentrate, and I was patting myself on the back for posing myself with this challenge. Learning new skills is a good way of distracting from pain and other symptoms. However, when my husband seemed to be learning quicker than I was, we found ourselves in a kind of competition. And I have to say, I was not happy. I wanted this success for myself. Silly isn´t it? Have you started to learn something new lately? How is your progress?

A boost for my psyche and immune system

The climax of learning Japanese was being able to travel to Japan. During 2019 my mother-in-law sadly died. It was a hard year. My mother died that summer, too. Therefore, I went into 2020 thinking this year won´t be so bad. Well, we all know how that turned out. So I refrain from such thoughts this year.

I was bequethed some money to make this journey, as my mother-in-law was a passionate traveller. At first I did not have the confidence to embark upon a long flight to the other side of the world. I could only see the setbacks and difficulties posed by all my illnesses. I spoke to my doctor, who arranged for some examinations before I went, but generally was in favour of me going. My daughter, who was studying in Osaka, encouraged me greatly and managed to tip the scales in favour of the journey. Corona was an illness in China at this time. So I booked my flight with the obvious choice of airline, requiring assistance and was bowled away by the amount of help, kindness and the feeling of being no trouble I received.

My daughter and I were able to spend a lot of quality time together. Just simple things like going to the supermarket were like a little adventure for me. As a foodie I love to look at the products in other countries. The memories of our time together in Japan will always fill me with gratitude and joy. They say life is about making memories. We were not able to do too much travelling and Corona regulations caught up with us towards the end. However, the kindness and hospitality, the precision in crafts and everything the Japanese do, the food and the beauty of the gardens and temples have brought some changes to my life. I have encorporated some aspects of Japanese cooking into my kitchen and I aim to be more thorough and persevering in my endeavours despite setbacks.

Whilst I had anticipated many difficulties, and there were many, I am sure these positive experiences and spending time with my daughter boosted my immune system and energy level, at least for a short time. My journey to Japan was definitely the biggest diamond of 2020.  5 Ways to boost your immunity.

Does worrying about setbacks and inablities keep you from being able to take advantages of opportunites or have you found ways to make things possible? I would love to hear about your experiences.

Becoming a blogger

3 years ago I had to give up my support group and last year I decided to find another way of offering some support to fellow sufferers of fibromyalgia in writing a blog. I had absolutely no idea how to do this and no funds to ask someone else to set it up. So,  it was learning by doing. And as you will often notice, I am far from being proficient. I have learned a lot about designing templates, creating content, dealing with algorithms, data protection laws and much more. A lot of work goes into such a project. As I cannot sit for hours at a desk, I had to portion it out. It therefore took a while before I was able to go online. I am still learning all the time. This helps to distract from pain and other symptoms, at least partially. There are some symptoms that are not willing to be overshadowed by a blog or learning a language. However, the project continues. It will be a long time before I can describe my blog as a diamond. I feel I have achieved something and I am grateful for that.

Do you have any projects you have been thinking about trying for a long time?

Here are some of my posts. If you click on them you can then attain an English translation.

What’s your story?

What’s your story?

We need connection “Connection is why we're here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it's what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.” says Brené Brown, a researcher who has written a lot about shame, vulnerability, and...

Let’s talk and dangle

When the Corona restrictions were somewhat loosened during the Summer, my husband I and I went away for a long weekend. A hotel we had been to before in the Black Forest was trying to encourage former guests to pay a visit. They had a very good hygiene concept and we were able to take our dog “Toni”. He is a good traveller. He loves being with us in the car. We did not stray too far away but it seemed like such a treat to be somewhere else for a couple of days.

Conditions such as those we all are experiencing can take their toll on every aspect of life and being chronically ill certainly does, too. We decided to take time to talk to eachother about our relationship without the pressure of daily chores and emcumbrances. Of course we talk to eachother at home, but as my husband says: You do not have new ideas in old environments. We certainly had a lot to talk about. We had to dig through quite a lot of dust but we definately found a diamond or two. Fibromyalgia and relationships The weather was very pleasant and we were able to sit on the bank of a river and dangle our feet in rippling water. Such small things can give you great pleasure sometimes.

Are you able to find comfort in the little things?

Let me role

As it was possible to visit restaurants and sit outside, my husband suggested that we celebrate my birthday in August by going out to eat Sushi. We followed the recommendation of my Japanese teacher for a restaurant in Stuttgart. I hadn’t been to Stuttgart downtown for a very long time. And I knew that walking along the high street would be very strenuous. It would be the first time for me walking around Stuttgart with a rolling walker. Stuttgart is the captial of the federal State of Baden Württemberg. It is normally full of hustle and bustle, but due to Corona, there were not so many people there, which made it easier for me.

Many years ago, I was in town a lot as a dynamic, busy, modern woman. It took me a while to reconcile with the picture of myself I saw in the shop windows, progressing slowly with a walker. But then I decided to see it as what it was, a mobilitly aid. The walker meant that I could sit down when I needed to, I could put my things in the bag and didn’t have to carry anything and it enabled the two of us to have an outing in Stuttgart. Acknowledging this was kind of a diamond for me, too. The Sushi was beyond delicious. Some memories came flooding back of places I had not seen in a long time, and some places were not there anymore. I was not the only thing that had changed. I knew I would be exhausted over the next few days but again I had created some pleasant memories with my husband.

Do you use any aids? Do they improve your quality of life? Check out this encouraging story of someone who did not feel worthy of a wheelchair. Worthy of a wheelchair


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Alone at the gate

In September my daughter returned from Japan. She had to book three flights until one actually did take place. We drove to pick her up in Munich, where we experienced what seemed like an almost empty airport. As you can see in the video, planes were taking off and landing, for those of you who are yearning to travel again.  It was still very strange. The joy of seeing my daughter again after a long time was overwhelming.




Some of my dust

1. Side effects

Shortly after my return from Japan, I went into hospital for a couple of days to have a lumbar puncture and drainage as I have a idiopathic intracranial hypertension = high pressure on the brain without any known cause. Having had so much to do with doctors and been in hospital quite a lot, I dread these appointments and endeavour to keep them as short as possible. Due to Corona I was alone in a room and had very little interaction. Although I have lost weight, the discussion about weight and changes in medication came up. I strive to lose weight without constantly being told about it and change of medication usually means many side effects. I was so happy when my husband came to pick me up.

Do you suffer with side effects?

2. No imminent cancer

The year before last, there was suspicion of breast cancer which caused a number of alarming situations. This year I was due to have another MRI to check things out. The outcome was that nothing had worsened so the situation just has to be kept in mind. The process was dust, the outcome a diamond – I was relieved.

3. No Channel Crossing

In the summer of 2019 my mother died. A positive outcome that I think she would be pleased about, is that my relationship to some of my cousins and other family members was rekindled. However, sadly I was not able to visit England during 2020 and of course do not know when that will be possible.

Do you have any relatives that you cannot visit at the moment? Check out my post about the effects lack of social interaction has.

It’s beginning to look not at all like Christmas

The number of infections rose and rose and it became clear that Christmas would not be the same this year.

Picture Gallery

A few impressions from last year’s posts.

Fibrodeville who helps me to make Fibromyalgia visible
Singing is healthy
You cannot see my pain. Du siehst mein Schmerz nicht.

Dust and Diamonds

We have been humbled by the experiences of 2020. We have learned that we cannot control everything on this planet, that we can still die in great numbers, as has happened before in history. That is not something of the past, it can happen again – and it is on us. Some people are yearning for everything to go back to how it was in 2019, and I can understand that. At the same time, I hope it does not.

I hope that we will not only remember the pandemic as something that came over us and caused great suffering. But as a turning point. COVID-19 has cause many deaths. We are dearly missing social interaction which cannot be entirely replaced be digital conference sessions.

According to recent studies, lack of social interaction causes the same effect on the brain as hunger. It is that basic and that vital. It has become clear that great suffering can happen to us right here, not just somewhere else far away in the world. Amidst all the dustbiting, we have learned to be patient, that simple things can give such pleasure, we are cooking and baking again and using a lot of toilet paper. We are pulling together and enduring a lot.

We are tired of it, but we are doing it.

The Swiss historian and peace researcher,  Daniele Ganser says we are living in a time of revolution. For a historian that is naturally an exciting conclusion. He also says that we should take all the fears that people are having seriously. Fear of the virus, fear of loosing our businesses that support our lives and so on. We should stay peaceful and learn to look at ourselves and our fears  from without and within and. That is not meant to be as esoteric as it might sound. He is, after all, a researcher that backs up his findings with evidence. I think that is sound advice.  If anyone is interested in history and his take on the period of history we are in so to speak check out his website Daniele Ganser (in German)

We have no idea what the long term effects of this situation willl be. I hope that we will accept our responsibilty for the situation and change the way we behave – towards eachother, and towards the world in which we live. And I hope that there will always be diamonds to be found. I know I said I would refrain from being too hopeful, but I can’t help it.


Did you manage to find any diamonds in 2020?

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Tomova, L. T., Wang, K. L. W., Thompson, T. T., Matthews, G. A. M., Takahashi, A. T. & TYE, K. M. T. (2020, 23. November). Acute social isolation evokes midbrain craving responses similar to hunger. https://www.nature.com/. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41593-020-00742-z

Über den Autor


Dawn ist Engländerin und, lebt seit fast 40 Jahren in Deutschland, zurzeit auf der schwäbischen Alb. Sie hat als Fremdpsrachenkorrespondentin, Übersetzerin und Export Sachbearbeiterin für einen großen Autokonzern gearbeitet. Sie hat ein Fernstudium "Autor*in werden, Schreiben lernen" abgeschlossen und ist seit vielen Jahren von der Krankheit Fibromyalgie betroffen.