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{ in·deed·a·bly }

adverb: to competently express interest, surprise, disbelief, or contempt

Hope

I walked beside the gurney, holding my son’s hand. A long tunnel of fluorescent lights leading inexorably towards the operating theatre. The organised chaos of a busy hospital. Pyjama-clad doctors, nurses, and orderlies bustled around us in a tide of purposeful activity. 

Fluid dynamics in action, as we were swept along in a strong current of forces beyond my control. 

As the gurney hit the battle-scarred double swing doors at the end of the corridor, a nurse firmly put her hand on my chest.

That’s as far as you go. We’ll take it from here

Her eyes were reassuring over her face mask. Her body language said it was not open for debate.

I glanced down at my son. His small toddler’s body, clad in a hospital gown and nappy, looking tiny against the backdrop of the adult-sized hospital bed.

Summoning a deep breath, I squared my shoulders and opened my mouth to reassure him.

He looked up at me with absolute trust. Took his dummy, his most treasured of possessions, out of his mouth and pressed it into my hand. Smiled and told me “it’s ok Dad, see you soon”. 

The orderly pushed the gurney onwards, sweeping the boy into the operating theatre beyond.

The feeling I experienced at that moment, as the operating theatre doors swung shut behind them, is one that will remember the rest of my life. Complete and utter helplessness. It was my job to protect and look after that delightful little boy, but right then there was absolutely nothing I could do for him. His fate was outside of my control.

Over the next couple hours, I aged a decade. Waiting anxiously as time stood still. Then, as abruptly as he had disappeared, my son was wheeled back into the children’s ward. 

Sitting up. 

Wide awake. 

Demanding his dummy back. It had been a loan, not a gift. To comfort me while I had been alone.

History tells us the operation proved to be an emphatic success. 

We emerged from the hospital filled with hope and optimism for the future. Bearing just a couple of minor scars. Him, one he could proudly show off to his friends. Me, an irrational lifelong loathing of the television clown Mr Tumble, who played continuously on the children’s ward television for the entirety of our stay. 

Helpless to hopeful

I was reminded of that jarring oscillation between helplessness and hope recently, while visiting an elderly neighbour in hospital. After a heavy fall down her stairs, she had miraculously ended up with just a nasty bruise and a painful blow to her self-confidence. 

Her hospital ward window offered panoramic views out over West London. We idly chatted about how fortunate she had been not to break a hip, as out the window we watched an unhurried digger excavating an ever-larger hole in the graveyard immediately behind the hospital. 

In the background, a television vomited a torrent of doom and gloom. COVID infection rates. Excess deaths. Travel restrictions. “Boris saves Christmas” promising a third national lockdown, as predictably as those summer holidaymakers returned home with a suntan and a second wave. 

A rent-a-quote talking head smugly opined that a hospital was the most likely place a person would catch COVID.

That innocuous digger suddenly took on a sinister appearance. Did the pundit have a point? Why did they need such a big hole in a graveyard behind the hospital in the middle of a pandemic?

In the space of a single sentence, the elderly neighbour went from feeling hopeful to helpless. 

I attempted to calm her fears, but she shooed me out the door. Worried she would catch COVID and have to stay in hospital for longer. Terrified that were I to succumb to invisible hospital germs, she would have nobody to take her home when the hospital discharged her. 

On my way home, I took a detour past the graveyard. My neighbour’s helplessness yo-yo-ing back to hopeful when I texted her that the hole contained an odorous leaky sewer pipe and not a mass grave. 

As ever, fear of the unknown proving far worse than reality.

Uneventful

2020 has been a year of cognitive dissonance. What we have personally experienced differing greatly from the narratives we have been told. 

The real economy is supposedly in the toilet, yet our pensions and brokerage account balances display near-record market highs. 

Unemployment is said to be a ticking time bomb, yet already high property prices are skyrocketing.

Governments have been printing money like it is going out of fashion, yet there is little talk of the inflation that typically follows, a feature by design used to deflate away vast government pandemic debts. 

1 in 1,000 Britains have died from COVID, the civilian body count equaling that of the Blitz. Yet this time the enemy is not flying a different flag or preaching a different ideology. It is ourselves.

Endless televised drama and uncertainty made 2020 feel eventful. Black Lives Matter. Brexit. Bushfires. Climate change. COVID. Hacking. Hurricanes. Rampant corruption. Stacked courts. Stolen elections. Trade wars. Trumpism. Vaccines.

Yet for many of us, 2020 has proven remarkably uneventful in person. 

If anyone still wrote those clichéd annual Christmas letters from the days before social media, they would be brief this year: didn’t go anywhere or do anything. 

Our wings clipped and our world shrinking. 

Horizons reducing from globe-trotting socialite to local neighbourhood virtual recluse. 

Social lives curtailed or dislocated. Milestone events typically celebrated with loved ones skipped or put on hold. Colleagues of convenience differentiated from true friends, a revealing glimpse into the future for aspirational early retirees or lifestyle refugees seeking to escape expensive big cities.

Many of the pandemic wrought lifestyle changes will prove temporary. Others more permanent. Becoming normalised over time, as the “new normal” proves too tempting or too costly to give up. 

Some may feel like their lives have been on pause throughout 2020. 

Others, including the furloughed and the unemployed, might feel like they are stuck in limbo. 

Both hoping the promise of a vaccine will help to restore normalcy in the year ahead. 

As for the rest of us, life has continued largely unchanged. Chores. School runs. The daily grind. Keeping calm and carrying on, while quietly wondering what all the fuss is about?

Battle of narratives

The thing I have been most fascinated by throughout 2020 has been the battle of narratives. 

Some carefully crafted. 

Others made up on the spot. 

All designed to paint a picture with words. Presenting the world as the storyteller would like others to perceive it. Calls to action seeking to steer the herd. Influencing and manipulating where we sit on that spectrum between hopeful and helpless. 

Seldom supported by the data, but confident that few will bother checking, and fewer still will care. 

The old adage writ large: never ruin a good argument with facts!

There have been moments this year where I have felt that sense of helplessness. 

Political theatre around Brexit and the pandemic response. Words insincere. Deeds inconsistent. 

Each time another lockdown is announced. Evidence that when nobody is watching, self-interest trumps doing the right thing far more often than we care to admit.  

Kids being sent home from school to self-isolate for a fortnight at a time. Exams scheduled, studied for, then abandoned due to the virus being deeply seeded amidst the secondary school community. 

Trips home cancelled due to travel restrictions. Nieces and nephews growing rapidly on the other side of the world. Elderly parents not getting any younger. Life milestone celebrations and tragic commiserations watched vicariously from afar. 

Desperate former colleagues who set out their begging bowl on LinkedIn. 

Most returned to the fray after a few months on the bench, smart enough to realise that careers are a game of snakes and ladders. Job titles are flexible. Salaries don’t always go up. Seniority is fluid. 

Several have bizarrely bought themselves a job as lifestyle gurus, after reading too many self-help books and get rich quick websites. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.

A disheartening few who are too slow or too stubborn to recognise it is long past time for them to move on to something new, their former place in the world no longer exists. 

Whenever I have noticed that helpless feeling creeping in, I recognise it for what it is: an irrational fear. The sun will still come up tomorrow. Families and friends will still laugh, love, and enjoy each others company. Life will go on, regardless of whatever the news sites and social media may say. 

Which brings me back to hope. Tomorrow might be better. Next year almost certainly will be!

All’s well that ends well

I would like to end the year with a heartfelt thank you to all those who have read, commented, or shared my ramblings this year. May 2021 find you always content and happy often. 

Special thanks to ESIMoney and FullTimeFinance for so selflessly sharing the work of others. 

Much gratitude also to all those folks who tirelessly curate newsletters and round-up posts. Curation is time-consuming task that rarely receives the recognition it deserves, particularly given the warm fuzzy feelings it provides to those who are shown the love by being featured. 

Each are unsung heroes of the personal finance scene, indeedably good every one of them. If you don’t follow them already, go check out what they are up to. You will learn something from each of them.  

Finally, thanks to those who reached out seeking support, advice, or mentoring this year. I’m not sure how helpful I have been, but it has been a pleasure getting to know you all. I wish you every success with your endeavours in 2021. 


2020 highlights

The best { in·deed·a·bly } story of 2020 was Missing.

The most popular { in·deed·a·bly } story of 2020 was Millionaire.

The most discussed { in·deed·a·bly } story of 2020 was Happiness and Hoarding.


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25 Comments

  1. Dr FIRE 19 December 2020

    Thanks for the shout out, Indeedably. And thank you for the support you give in general to the FI/money blogging community. Whether it’s technical support, words of encouragement, your own curation page, career advice, etc. The community is all the better for your involvement.

    Believe it or not, I was also thinking of doing a round-up of curators, but you beat me to it! Maybe I’ll revisit the idea in six months.

    Good to hear that your son’s hospital visit was successful. I’m not a parent, so I can only begin to imagine that feeling of helplessness whilst you wait for the hospital staff to do their work.

    All the best for the rest of this year and for 2021.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 19 December 2020 — Post author

      Thanks Dr FIRE, very kind of you.

      My son’s surgery was a long time ago now thankfully, it was the sights (and mostly smells) of the hospital while visiting my neighbour that reminded me of it. Two examples of the pendulum swinging from one end of the spectrum to the other in a heartbeat, then swinging back again shortly afterwards.

  2. FullTimeFinance 19 December 2020

    Thanks for the shout out. Happy holidays to you and your family.

  3. Budget Life List 20 December 2020

    What a story! It was quite a ride and I enjoyed how you ended in gratitude, it was a lovely way to pay it forward.

  4. ryangibsonclever 20 December 2020

    I have been a long time reader and a huge fan of everything you produce. I tend to read within 24 hours of release and your material is always measured and interesting.

    Thanks for bringing calm and reassurance to an otherwise difficult year. I hope you work out your vision and path in 2021. One which works for you and your family dynamic.

    All the best,

    Ryan

  5. AndyM 20 December 2020

    Hi, I just wanted to say how much I appreciate your writing. It’s always a pleasure to get an e mail notification of a new post.

    I imagine it must sometimes be difficult to keep posting not knowing if your work is being enjoyed. I can assure you, it is.

    So, thank you. I hope we’re able to enjoy your posts through a better (please!) 2021. Happy Christmas to you and your family.

    Andy

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 20 December 2020 — Post author

      That is very kind of you AndyM, thanks for reading and best wishes for 2021.

      I have a small confession to make, writing a story is my way of forcing myself to do the thinking, and work through in a structured way, whatever random idea happens to be in my head.

      Which means for the most part I am writing for myself. It is lovely bonus when a story resonates with readers, but I would be lying if I said I’d had much success in predicting which stories would be applauded and which would be greeted by the sound of crickets.

      That hopefully explains the random nature of topics I write about, but hopefully also keeps things interesting!

  6. Bob 20 December 2020

    Thank you for your effort over the past year. I came late having recently discovered other FI planets in the Monevator solar system. Your site is a gas giant. With rings.

  7. Q-FI 20 December 2020

    I like you ending the year on a high note with gratitude Indeedably, and especially enjoyed from this one, “Several have bizarrely bought themselves a job as lifestyle gurus, after reading too many self-help books and get rich quick websites. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” That cracked me up.

    Being a newer blogger to the scene myself, I know how happy it makes me when someone shares that they enjoyed my writing. I recently came across your blog later in the year due to Full Time Finance sharing and randomly clicked. So you’re right, these curators are important, or I probably wouldn’t be commenting right now.

    That being said, your blog has been my favorite find this year during a challenging, bizarre, and sad yet fascinating 2020. So for what it’s worth, you’ve gained one new reader across the pond who is looking forward to how you will interpret, write and process a sure to be interesting 2021.

    Happy Holidays and thanks for writing.

  8. Fire And Wide 21 December 2020

    And of course thanks to your good self. Both for the encouragement and help you generously share as well as the always thought-provoking posts throughout the year.

    It can indeed be hard to keep a sense of perspective when everything appears to being going to hell in a handbag around you. The ability to step back, take a breathe and look at what is really important has never been more crucial. Especially as you so eloquently put it with all the attempts to control the narrative.

    Here’s to 2021! Enjoy your festive break, in whatever form it takes. There’s always something worth celebrating. Especially with a good glass of red 😉

  9. weenie 22 December 2020

    Cheers for the quality writing as always this year, indeedably.

    Wishing you and your family a good Christmas and all the best for 2021.

  10. Carolyn Gowen 23 December 2020

    Thanks so much for the shout out, indeedably, it’s much appreciated.

    You’re right, it IS a lot of work. For me, it started out as an email I send to our clients at the end of every week, and it slowly dawned on me that if they liked it – which they do – then others might also.

    To get the 7 or 8 pieces I link to each week I probably read around 150-200 pieces. I do not know how Tadas does what he does over at Abnormal Returns, he is amazing.

    In spite of the time it takes I do really enjoy it. I end up reading a lot of great stuff (it’s just not all suitable for my posts) and it has led me to find some great writers, such as your good self. So hopefully it’s a win win all round.

    Enjoy the festive season and I look forward to reading more of your work next year.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 23 December 2020 — Post author

      Thanks for describing your process Carolyn. I agree, Tadas is a force of nature!

      During my first couple of years blogging, I used to tweet out the two most “ɪɴᴅᴇᴇᴅᴀʙʟʏ ɢᴏᴏᴅ” things I had read that day. Mostly (but not always) personal finance related. I gave it away during the first lockdown, finding it hard to come up with two items each day that were worth sharing. Not because people weren’t writing good stuff any more, but rather because my own interests were evolving into other subject areas so I was no longer reading enough money related stuff to consistently find two good ones that were on topic.

  11. FI-FireFighter 26 December 2020

    More thanks from me, I really enjoy following your blog and hope you continue writing it for a considerable time.
    Best Wishes and seasons greetings to you and your family, hope you have a good one 😁👍

  12. Damian 30 December 2020

    As ever, a well-written and poignant read.

    The message of hope is well-received. I, too, am confident that 2021 (and beyond) will bring more joy and happiness to our lives.

    Happy New Year!

  13. The Investor 1 January 2021

    Belated thanks for the shout out, and here’s to a more hopeful 2020. (I’d love to be making up fewer narratives for a while, if it meant that the world was feeling more coherent…)

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 1 January 2021 — Post author

      Thanks TI.

      Somebody sent me a meme yesterday that made me chuckle, portraying 2020 as a movie:

      “2020. Written by Stephen King. Directed by Quentin Tarrantino”

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