23 March 2021 | BY ANDJELKA JANKOVIC | Life
The sea was all in our minds
My top played song on Spotify last year was called Solitude No.1 by Ukrainian pianist and composer Lubomyr Melnyk. It’s a funny and welcome coincidence since this was the theme of my 2020.
I went from living in an intentional community in New Mexico to returning home to Australia and moving to Fremantle. It felt like l lived twelve lifetimes in those twelve months. A year that seemed as if we were all living towards the end of the world. A time of radical simplification.
Staying indoors. No touching. Isolating. Coming to terms with not travelling and no freedom, while group chats exploded along with existential dread, ceaseless snacking and Zoom fatigue. All our cancelled plans and possible futures gone, plus the renaissance of sourdough baking and puzzle making.
It was the year I discovered Phoebe Bridgers, learnt how to pickle zucchini and make apricot jam, watched anything British (Sliding Doors is still a filmic masterpiece), relished the Before trilogy again, and the arrival of my second nephew, little River.
I found great comfort in escapist fiction (highly recommend Where The Crawdad Sing and The Flatshare). I was shook by Normal People — the show of 2020. My half-decade Saturn Return also ended (it was a long one, folks) and with that came a new kind of ease and settling into my skin.
Most profoundly, I lived on my own for the first time. Subleasing a New York-style warehouse space that I’d searched my whole twenties for (even after living in the actual East Village). I started a newsletter for close friends. The world didn’t need another hashtag but I wrote small town travel guides (check out #AJlovesWA) for my road trips around Western Australia.
It wasn’t all upskilling and roses though — I didn’t work for most of the year, had a big wakeup call to my privilege, and fell into spells of despair (joy is coming). I also didn’t learn the tap dance routine in Fiona Apple’s Paper Bag music video, and I still don’t know how to play You Were Meant For Me by Jewel on guitar. I did collect a lot of interesting sticks and foliage though.
In February, just before everything shut down, a series of synchronicities led me to Big Sur in California to meet my tea teacher Wu De and learn the ancient practice of Cha Dao and tea ceremony. It was a culmination of a six-year calling that I had almost given up on and it came to fruition just when I had least expected.
Arriving home in March, I had no idea that the next year would be in total antithesis to the life I’d lived so far. None of us did.
Quest for truth only works if you’re prepared to take action on what you find. — Bruce Lee
My word for 2020 was transformation.
Straight up — transformation is terrifying. Hard. None of it is necessarily comfortable.
It asks a lot from you, and may not give you anything in return. I was told something that I’ll never forget, “you either want to transform or you don’t”. There is no halfway. It takes you beyond the edge of where you want to go and asks you to jump, many times over. Transformation, as I found out, doesn’t always hand out what you want so neatly. Parts of it were truly agonising.
I didn’t see any life transformation that didn’t begin with the person in question finally getting tired of their own bullshit. — Elizabeth Gilbert
But then a moment comes. Transformation creeps up on you — a quiet magic and not the large thunderbolt strike that I’d imagined. When metamorphosis happens, it is only noticeable over time across a spectrum of progressive changes and subtle shifts. It’s an unassuming feeling and only profound in retrospect.
The transformation of the heart is a wondrous thing, no matter how you land there. — Patti Smith
Reflecting on last year, I am nowhere near as anxious as I was before. A surprising self-sovereignty has emerged; I know what is a true yes for me and what isn’t, and am much bolder about saying ‘no’. I also got rejected a whole bunch in 2020 (after applying for 40+ jobs!) and became very playful about it. Beautiful aloneness also came to me: in my space, energy, rituals, food and body. I am living in much more alignment and transformation is still unfolding. This playlist probably says it best.
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
We have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
— Wendell Berry
Somewhere in 2020, I realised that I’m a fairly shitty listener.
When thinking of my new word for 2021, this one didn’t even make the list until it just landed one day.
A year of deep listening: within and out. Of course.
Shut the actual up. Showing up in conversations to learn, interrupt less and be all there. To risk a new language, linger in pauses, be okay with silence, and ask beautiful questions.
Spontaneous invitations. Deep knowing. Waiting for inner resolve.
Having nothing to say.
I hear you.
I never learned anything while I was talking. — Larry King
As the tradition goes, here are the 10 things that genuinely changed my life in 2020:
I moved again in October, this time into my own place starting from scratch (with the clawfoot bathtub of my dreams). Living alone is the BEST THING THAT NO ONE EVER TALKS ABOUT. My home is a refuge — a place to retreat where I have the space to rest, to read, to cook, to play music, to practice tea and stillness, and to experiment in any way I please. Living alone sustained and nourished me all of last year. It is a game-changer. To be in love with your own gentle company. And never underestimate the power of fresh flowers in your house and a foster cat curled up at your feet.
I cannot talk about the year that was without talking about tea. I’d been trying to make it to Global Tea Hut in Taiwan for many years to study with Wu De to no avail. I got a last-minute spot on a tea meditation retreat at Esalen two weeks before my US visa was expiring. Long story short, I went and life changed. I had my first magazine article published in the Global Tea Hut magazine and wrote What I Talk About When I Talk About Tea. I’ve also made some incredible tea friends around the world, learnt gong fu tea online with my friend Ashish, had a linen tea dress made, drank tea on the top of a mountain and at the edge of a canola field, and gathered my own spring water for the first time. With tea a part of my daily life, everything around me is stronger.
There were a lot of spoons sleeping in empty cutlery drawers last year. I bought a weighted gravity blanket just before winter hit, and it is a fantastic invention for physical isolation, anxiety, and falling asleep (I first heard about it from Sarah Wilson). The physical weight of a 7kg blanket helps me feel more settled, grounded and enclosed in A COZY AF COCOON. Highly recommend.
As it was the year of no more excuses, I decided to finally learn how to use a jade yoni egg that I’d bought in Ubud six years ago. I took part in a 5-day online immersion with Rosie Rees (offered for free during lockdown) and made this grounding ritual a regular self-practice. Cut to Dipsea — an erotica short stories app that I am loving. It’s the first female-founded startup that focuses on female pleasure as purely auditory. I spent some time exploring it and figuring out if it was for me, and then subscribed because I honestly want to support what they’re doing. It’s empowering, fun and freeing, and as Polly Young-Eisendrath wrote – “Women are fundamentally unpractised in being the Subjects of our desires”. I also started exploring cervical de-armouring and this has continued into 2021.
“Own Your Expectations”
My friend Jakub is a master at cutting through BS. On one such occasion, we went on a hike and I was telling him about someone I was interested in and he told me a story that ended with: “own your expectations”. These three simple words changed my perspective on attraction. Own what you want to happen, so that if it doesn’t play out how you imagined – that’s on you. It releases the other person from your narrative of them and lets the connection unfold naturally. This advice spurred me to really do just that — own my expectations.
Exile feat. Bon Iver
So many signs, so many siiiiigggnssss (You never gave a warning sign). I was obsessed, and still am, with the song exile (feat. Bon Iver) — the Justin Vernon and Taylor Swift duet I didn’t know I needed but have always been waiting for. I could live inside Justin Vernon’s voice. He already soundtracks most of my life. A true gift of 2020.
The End of Bloating
This should really be the headline of the whole piece because I was bloated FOR ALL OF MY TWENTIES and I always said that if I discovered the cure for bloating, I would tell everyone. In 2020 I got really into investigating the meat industry, the case for veganism, and a chemical-free home with the purchase of non-toxic bedding, doing my best to live plastic-free, switching to organic skincare and making my own cleaning products. I also spent a lot of time trying to figure out my sensitive microbiome situation. Well, I don’t know exactly what it was — but the bloating I’ve experienced for most of the last decade has subsided significantly. It might have something to do with stress-elimination or eating significantly less meat (and none at all for six months straight) but my bloated stomach is mostly GONE. I am no longer permanently four months pregnant! People of the world who understand what I am talking about will understand this particular rejoice.
Wooden Toast Tongs
Turns out a pair of $10 wooden tongs can really change your life. They are mighty cute and reduce your chances of toast burn by 100%. No more burnt fingertips, slinging fruit toast across the bench and swearing at your breakfast. Thank you to the people who think of solutions to my problems before I do.
I quote David Whyte more than David Whyte quotes David Whyte. In the middle of 2020, I decided I wanted to be someone who recites poems. So I memorised Sweet Darkness by David Whyte. What a wondrous piece of prose to have in your back pocket: “Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn, anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.” Another fun thing about David Whyte is that of all the things I wanted to do in 2020, I didn’t dare write one down: meet David Whyte. It seemed too wild, too impossible (recap: my favourite podcast with him). While I didn’t meet him in person, I did spend the year studying with David online in his series of 3-part workshops from his home in Washington Island. Hearing his wisdom and blended Yorkshire/Irish accent on a weekly basis was a much-needed salve for my soul. At the end of one such course, he asked a question that I still can’t get out of my head: What helped you to get here that you need to give away? Words and the poetry of people like David Whyte remind you that even in your deepest loneliness you are not alone.
My friend Kate invited me to join a Deepak Chopra 21-Day Abundance Challenge over WhatsApp which I know has all the ingredients for eye-rolling but it was truly transformative. It involved a lot of digging deep to switch our conditioning from a scarcity to an abundance mindset in a series of journal reflections and meditations. I was even resistant to it at first (don’t make me chaaaannngee!) but after three weeks of daily practice and group check-ins, something shifted. Quite profoundly. And nearly a year on, it has stuck — I have everything I need. Plus I made a wicked playlist to dance to.
If you trusted love this far, don’t panic now. Trust it all the way. — If Beale Street Could Talk
Coming up for 2021 – the whole year is open. A huge vista ahead.
For the first time in the longest time, I have no plans to go anywhere.
A lot of the year will be about pursuing progress in practice.
Unrushed experiences and absorbing adventures.
Being energy rich.
Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the only and only thing you have to offer. — Barbara Kingsolver
To be happy, doing a thousand things no one ever hears of.
Two bowls, beautiful hands, and a kitten.
Songs coming true.
What’s your word for 2021?
Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing. — Arundhati Roy