2020. This year hit us. Like many of you, we were affected financially, had the busiest times in our respective jobs, needed a lot of sanity checks, had family member get COVID-19, and we also experienced another loss in a 15-week long miscarriage. #whata2020, said a friend. It’s like we experienced a decade’s worth of highs and lows in just a year. BUT everything else that came out of the trying times were beyond the difficulties we faced. There were so much more that we gained that I don’t think we could have if not for 2020.
So here is my annual birthday post. I feel like I’ve grown a decade in just a year, hence the title. But it’s also funny how my previous entries were titled.
2016 Gratitude List: BBBB. I was grateful for my book (which I published that year), my blog (that I revamped and started to write more frequently), our baby (Noah in my tummy), and a breakthrough.
2017: Crazy. Pao resigned from work (we felt God’s leading). I gave birth and had baby blues and trauma. Two ER episodes. Loss in the family (my lola). Cracked my phone LCD a few weeks before we were to travel. And at the eve of my birthday I got held up at the Japan immigration office for HOURS.
2018: A Year of Transitions. I moved from my team of eight years to a new role, with a new team, new environment, new nature of projects, new everything. It was the first time in years I cried because of work. Haha! Pao went back to work. Noah started going to “school.” And a whole lot more in between.
2019: A Year of Growth. It felt like a time of finally settling in after a series of transitions, a time of growing and maturing. Victory Makati FINALLY settled in at Alphaland Makati Place, travels with family, OilMNL, oh and this was the year I had HFMD (the worst kind!!). And throughout, finally being able to contribute at work.
The alternative title to this post now is “2020: All of the Above.” Here is the list of my top reasons why I am grateful for 2020.
1. The financial challenge made us more diligent as a couple.
Our household income got affected by the pandemic too. But because of the community quarantine, there was no daycare to pay for. Well we had actually advanced daycare payment for three months for the first time. We were finally liquid enough to advance in cash and enjoy the corresponding discount. Ironically just a few weeks after, Metro Manila was placed on lockdown which meant that the daycare needed to close. Thankfully, the daycare helped us utilize our payment through Saturday Zoom sessions, and the sensory bins and art materials they sent.
Going back to the household income, the amount that we lost was almost as much as the monthly daycare cost. So since there was no daycare to pay for, that helped breakeven the initial loss. Because both Pao and I worked from home, the gas savings became our additional groceries and food budget.
This year has taught us to be more diligent with our finances together, and we even improved our saving habits. We also consolidated our hobbies and any passive income so that our joint effort financially flows into one pot. More than the amount you get, it’s really the diligence on how you manage however much or less you get. And for husband and wives, it’s being diligent together.
2. The necessity drove growth in my job.
There were a lot of new things I got to do, some of it I wouldn’t have been exposed to for years! I think 2020 fast tracked the development of a lot of people, especially those who needed to learn fast and deliver outputs at the same time. It was definitely not easy. Exhilarating—probably the closest I can describe it. It was like maturity by fire, but serving with people who are passionate about God and His work in the current season made it inspiring, encouraging, empowering, and worthwhile.
3. We became better home managers.
Pao and I work in different fields but both of us seem to have been grown by God to be able to carry weight in a way that supports the people we work with. On a side note, having seen him work from home, I realize he seems to be carrying the load of 2, 3, maybe 4 people with just some extra effort. I think he has been recognized for it too. I would have never known this had it not been for the WFH setup.
On my end, it was a wake up call when countless times it came out that my natural tendency was to do work first and finish work first before I could attend to anything else. There were times when the three of us at home ate lunch at 2:00 p.m. just because I had meetings and I wasn’t able to cook or even order food ahead of time. I would also be easily irritated at home when I haven’t finished my work and I needed to attend to the family (even the times when I knew the work couldn’t get done until the wee hours of the night). I’m a planner at work but never at home. I realized I needed to also plan for the home.
Needless to say, but with Pao and I working from home with a toddler, without daycare, yaya, or helper, during the season that’s busiest for both Pao and I in our respective jobs—this almost drove me crazy. The thing is, we are still both working from home, with a toddler, without daycare, yaya or helper, but we are doing so much better than when the quarantine started. It took months of adjustment, but without the situation changing it seems that we’re only okay now because the Lord has increased our capacity to not just carry the load at work, but also at home. Plus, a semblance of planning and routine that improved our well-being, which I’ll write about some other time.
4. We witnessed Noah’s resilience and God co-parenting with us.
In the earlier weeks of the Metro Manila quarantine, the sudden shift in our work setup and pace of work took a toll on us as parents. We found ourselves shouting at Noah quite frequently and unnecessarily. I thank God for making us realize this quickly that we became more self-aware and conscious, and by God’s grace more present. We witnessed how resilient Noah is, bouncing back nonchalantly from that period.
With both of us working from home, Noah’s daily companion was Netflix (Alphablocks, Numberblocks). He would also play independently. Sometimes he would take his afternoon naps. We get to spend time with him briefly for lunch, then after work. Yet, this was the year of many developmental milestones for Noah. He learned how to use doorknobs (eventually lock them too), help in the kitchen, eat on his own, arrange the alphabet, read words, read phrases, read sentences, read books!, count to 100 (and up!), add and subtract, and so much more that he can be left on his own most of the day on weekdays, now with minimal screen time. We witnessed how God’s grace not just worked on us, but also on Noah.
5. I spent more time with my parents.
Around the second half of the year, my mom started to frequently visit us. My dad would also join her when he doesn’t have work. And I loved it! It’s like we saw each other more this year than when I lived with them back when I was still single!
Just like some of you, I became a plantita during the quarantine. This even brought my mom and me closer through the common interest (I revived the OG plantita in her haha!). Recently she introduced me to K-drama (The King), and I finished three dramas since! That’s another common interest we get to share now. Without the pandemic, we would have gone through the year as usual and only saw each other in special occasions and family get togethers.
6. I found rest during a miscarriage.
When the work got crazy in the first half of the Metro Manila community quarantine, I asked God for a 2-month sabbatical leave. With everything that was happening, it was realistically impossible, not to mention my VLs won’t reach two months. Then came August. It was on the 28th that we confirmed through an ultrasound that I was pregnant, but our 6-week baby had no heartbeat. We checked the following week and the next, still no heartbeat. Fast forward to December 11, it was the day my OB confirmed that the miscarriage finally ended. I wrote about the first part of my miscarriage here. I’ll write about my 15-week long miscarriage saga later. It was a blessing as it gave me a 60-day maternity leave which ended in December, right before the holidays, and so I’m scheduled to go back to work officially in January.
During the first half or more of my maternity leave, I was very productive. I did a lot of things for my “sideline” hobbies and even got to finally update my book on Amazon. I then realized that even during my leave, it felt like there were so many things to do and so little time!!! I was rushing to finish one non-work project after the next. Then it hit me. God showed me that busyness and achieving so much in so little time is not just a season nor my work, but became my way of life, and that I REALLY need to SLOOOOOOW DOOOOOOOWN.
So I did get my sabbatical through the maternity leave, which I wouldn’t have gotten if not for the miscarriage. I consider it a blessing and a much needed time off so that I could align myself with how God wants me to live—not rushed, but being present, where resting in God is key and rich.
Oh, and because of this pregnancy, Noah stopped breastfeeding! He took it really well when I told him drinking milk might hurt the baby. I thought when we told him that the baby is with Jesus already, he would want milk again. Good thing that wasn’t the case! So, through this miscarriage, I was also freed from the restrictions of breastfeeding!
7. The year was filled with many answered prayers—those that seemed impossible.
I wish I can publish every single one of them. For now, all I can say is that those prayers I “whispered” out of frustrations were answered one by one, and things worked out well. Those that were impossible to change, those that there was nothing else to do but accept and just adjust myself, it felt like God bent over backwards for me.
And I end my annual post with this. God is listening. Even when our prayers are just breaths of frustration, or a long list of impossible things, He listens. And in His perfect will and timing, God answers. Our role is to lift it up to Him, receive His strength to endure, receive His grace to go past enduring and live our best life in the present, no matter what we’re facing. Jesus came so we can live our lives to the full, in the present.
Isn’t it wonderful how when it’s Jesus’ birthday we celebrate, it is us who received the greatest gift of all—God made man in Jesus Christ to take for Himself the punishment of our sins so that in return we can live a life only a sinless man can live.