Leona O'Neill: Better days are on their way

As we prepare to bid farewell to 2021, Leona O'Neill looks back on another difficult 12 months and urges everyone to keep faith that better days are on the way on the other side of the New Year – but also to remember that the arrival of 2022 itself won't magically make everything better overnight...

Here's hoping 2022 brings better days for families everywhere...

I THINK 2021 has changed us all in many ways. For many of us, it has had a deep and profound impact.

I remember this time last year looking back at 2020 as the toughest of times. Christmas just crept up on us as we found ourselves in and out of lockdown and in the blur of home schooling. The year ahead held so much promise. We would finally see an end to this Covid nightmare. Vaccines were coming, all was going to be alright.

I think we all put so much emphasis on the turning of the year. That somehow when the bell tolls to signal in a brand new year we will leave a lot of the troubles behind us in the old one. What we found this year is that we dragged a lot of those issues with us into 2021.

If 2020 was the year of being locked down, knocked down, of muddling through and doing the best we can with what we had, 2021 was the year of resilience and getting back up on our feet again. It is through challenge that we find our true selves and, looking back at the absolute Hell storm 2020 and 2021 were, I think we are all a little more hardy – whether we realise it or not – because of our experiences.

This year was another hard, surreal, frightening, anxiety-inducing nightmare. Some of us have been sick. Some of us have lost loved ones. Many of us have lost businesses and jobs and the future is still so uncertain.

It would be so easy to be consumed by the darkness that surrounded us this year. For so long there seemed to be no end to the misery, to the rising infection rates, to the frightening death statistics, to the worrying statements from politicians, to the seemingly never-ending lockdowns, to political disasters, to the new variants, to the constant, ceaseless worry. We have all been living in survival mode for so long and many of us are burnt out with it.

But 2021 had something that 2020 didn't. It had hope. It had vaccines. It had scientists and medics working flat out to find us a viable path out of this nightmare. And as we walk into 2022 we have to hold that hope closer than ever. We have to believe that this will end some day soon and Covid will fade into the background instead of screaming in our faces daily.

As we head into 2022 we should be proud of ourselves, for in the midst of all this surreal madness, a lot of us have found our true selves. We have found resilience and courage where we thought none existed. We have reconnected with parts of us that were lost.

We found strength in the toughest of times, strength a lot of us never knew we even had. We have looked at our lives and realised what is important and what must be cherished, and have let go of what doesn't serve us. Some of us might not be there yet. Some of us are still in survival mode and this change will happen later. But I've no doubt it will come eventually, when the stress of life at the moment comes down a few notches.

Some day in the future, we will look back on these times and realise how strong we were – parents navigating children through the most difficult environment imaginable – and be proud of ourselves.

My New Year message to you this year is to stay strong, hold on and hold tight to those around you. Hold on to hope. We are in a much better place than we were. Better days are coming for all of us. We have come through one hell of a storm, the worst is behind us. When the days are dark, think of the Spring, the promise of sunshine and spending beautiful days together.

I hope your New Year is filled with ease and peace and hope and courage and all that you need to keep moving forward.

Happy New Year to you and yours.

Leona x

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