2020 in review: Gatvol, but grateful

If you don't know the Afrikaans word, "gatvol", I suggest you look it up. It's a great one for your vocabulary.

I'm pretty gatvol with 2020... My emotional state fluctuated like crazy this year -- one moment, I felt like an inspired, creative genius, and the next, I didn't even want to get out of bed.

The worst was probably feeling very little sense of accomplishment or growth. I created something cool, or made a sale, or finished a big project, or whatever, and instead of revelling in it - celebrating that victory, however small - it just kind of passed me by. That's so sad...

I guess it's because we were (and still are!) very much in survival mode, with this uncertainty hanging over our heads. Celebrating may lead to disappointment... or something! I don't even have the words or mental capacity to really figure out my emotions (or sometimes the lack thereof, which is even weirder, because I am so super emotional).

Now, while reflecting on 2020 and what was accomplished, I'm trying to not be so hard on myself, and trying to acknowledge even the seemingly small things. All has not been lost, even though it did not play out the way we thought it would. And it's okay to have a lot of let's-run-away-and-go-live-under-a-waterfall days. The greatest accomplishment is that we're still standing. A bit worse for wear, of course... But there is a lot to be grateful for.

So, in the name of gratitude and celebrating all my victories, here is a small selection of my highlights in 2020 (both professionally and personally), in no particular order:


  •  I taught myself to knit, because I wanted something creative that was just mine, without the pressure of being income-generating. My late Ouma (grandmother) was a fantastic knitter (as is evident by my large collection of cherished cabled Ouma-jerseys), and apart from being great stress relief, it makes me feel very close to her.

  • I managed to complete three original, photo-realistic, watercolour wildlife paintings this year. Splash!, Lookout and Sweets for my Sweet. I often speak of "head space", and how different projects or tasks require different kinds and sizes of head space. These paintings need loads of very special head space to take on (never mind the two to four weeks of intensive painting!). In a year where head space was very hard to find (even for mundane things like cleaning out your closet or replying to an email), I think it's nothing short of miraculous that I pushed through and finished these paintings.

photo realistic watercolour wildlife art the happy struggling artist

  • I'm learning Ukrainian. My husband is Ukrainian, and this has been such a gift to our relationship!

  • My business turned three in April. And survived the year from hell...

birthday lockdown sale the happy struggling artist

  • I created three amazingly fun downloadable colouring pages at the height (or low?) of our lockdown, in the hopes that it would help both adults and kids battle their boredom, stress and just have fun!

downloadable colouring pages for adults and children

  • We accidentally got a cat. "Kitty" is a feral that has been on the farm where we rent a cottage for more than a year. About a week into lockdown, she decided to adopt us. It's incredible to think that nine months ago, she hissed at me in fear when I got too close to her, and now she spends most of her time sleeping on my lap! We call her my "universe cat". For the five years that we've been living in Cape Town, every time I see a cat, I say, "I want a kittyyyyy". The universe listened, and couldn't have sent her at a better time...

universe kitty on lap

hand made wooden animal masks modern home decor

  • I managed to consistently keep up with both my own and my husband's business' social media marketing plan. Not only is running social media for your business really a full-time job, it is also just so against my grain. It was torturous at times, especially since it often felt like a waste of time to keep going while the world was standing still. But I did it. And it has been worth it.

  • I created a series of proudly South African, downloadable wall art illustrations. Downloadable art is the future, and I'm very excited about being able to offer fantastic quality work at a really affordable price.

south african flowers downloadable wall art

south african garden birds downloadable wall art

  • I practised saying NO. Something that I have always struggled to do is set healthy boundaries to protect my own happiness and mental health. If you're someone who likes committing to New Year's resolutions (or like me, would like to, but haven't been able to do so successfully), read this blog post that explains this a bit more!

If you've made it this far down, thank you! This was a challenging thing for me - to list things that I feel proud about (again - so sad, and something I vow to work on!)...... I challenge you to do the same - list your highs for the year and take a moment to give yourself a pat on the back.

Gatvol as we all may be, it was not a wasted year!



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  • Carien on

    Jy gee my moed en laat my besef daar is baie om voor dankbaar te wees in 2020.


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