The Mercury asked a number of people in various roles across the city for their take on the strange year that was 2020. Today we talk to multiple Golden Guitar winner, singer songwriter Lyn Bowtell.
I'm Lyn Bowtell, a singer songwriter based in the Hunter Valley. I live with my partner Damon, a sound engineer, who tours throughout the year with John Williamson, myself and other artists.
I've been a professional musician for over 20 years, and while the industry, being a 'gig' culture, can be financially challenging, it has always done right by me, and made me very happy.
In late February we knew it was coming, the cancellation of gigs started to happen slowly but by March there was an onslaught of shows cancelled and festivals postponed. Thousands of dollars worth of potential work was lost right before our eyes which was both shocking and devastating.
I suffer from anxiety and depression and I had been managing it well up until that point, but now I was in crisis mode. My endometriosis flared up along with my stress levels, and the first few months of the pandemic were extremely difficult physically and mentally.
We were able to pause our mortgage repayments and I was able to continue teaching my singing students online, so we could afford to put food on the table at least, but I was very apprehensive about the future.
By May JobKeeper had kicked in for sole traders, which eased my mind considerably and meant we could start paying our mortgage again. But the professional inactivity was still fuelling uncertainty and stress; not knowing when the situation would improve or when we could go back to playing live made it hard to relax, because there was not a thing we could do about it.
I decided I had to find a better way to manage my nervous tension and pain levels besides binge watching seasons of Bones. I looked to my diet (I had been stress baking!) and decided it was time to get back to basics and increase the fresh fruit and vegetables in my diet.
I started ordering weekly boxes of goodness online through a great local company, 'Sally & Patrick's Hand Picked Fruit and Veg' ... and after studying the anti-inflammatory benefits of celery juice, began having it every morning on an empty stomach (drinking it with my nose pinched at first) before going on a long walk with my two Jack Russells, Mario (6) and Nina (10) - who have been incredible company and a great emotional support throughout this past 10 months!
I continued with my teaching online lessons over Zoom - they were a great way to stay connected with the outside world and to support others through the isolation - and quite frankly, a good reason to change out of my pyjamas!
Zoom also proved an excellent way to stay connected with family and friends and to song write with my mates. I started booking in a co-write a week, with friends and acquaintances from all over Australia and NZ, and now I have a healthy batch of songs for my next recording project that I plan to begin in March 2021.
As Christmas comes into view, I find myself 5kgs lighter, fitter and healthier and in a much better state of mind. I am feeling hopeful for 2021 and grateful to live in Australia. I feel lucky to have such a great community of friends, family and neighbours who checked in on me throughout this trying time, and I'm thankful for the financial support from our government.
When the borders opened I'd never been so keen to pack the car and drive the 10 hours to see my family in Queensland for Christmas! I've finally met my great nephew Carter, and have been hugging my family non stop since I arrived. I'm loving spending precious time with my beautiful Mum for the first time since early February. It's wonderful to just sit in the bush in Kleinton and have a cup of tea with them, I don't care if that's all we do, I am truly grateful just to be in their physical presence.
COVID has helped to remind me of the things that matter most, so here's wishing you all health and happiness this Christmas and appreciation for the little acts of kindness that surround us every day.