The Best and Worst of 2021

In my head, I look like woman on the left. But really, who am I kidding? I’m definitely the-lady-in-the-dressing-gown-at-Coles. Besides, it would be exhausting to be walking around holding your arms up like that all the time. (That is the ONLY reason I don’t look like her.)

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve noticed that everything seems to be reversing in my body, at an accelerating speed. In 2021, for example, I may have lost more hair that I’ve ever grown. My daughter tells me that’s just a thing, your hair thins as you age. So does the enamel on teeth. And maybe skin. Is that why I graze my knuckles just opening and shutting the darn doors?

And then let’s take my waist. Actually we are too late for that. My waist has basically been taken. Gone.

And my spectacles – they are ‘thickening’ too, as is my brain (and not in a good way). I almost have to take notes in order to follow movie plots. Thank goodness for subtitles, someone else has written the notes for me.

We never really are quite who and what we imagine we are. And fortunately, even the bad bits aren’t THAT bad. I mean, in the big scheme of things, hair is important, but bald people can be amazing, (take the Dalai Lama, for example). And having a waist is important for a guitar, but humans can have Really Good Lives without one (take the Dalai Lama, for example).

It’s all a matter of perspective.

Last year I made some really good decisions and some rather not-so-good ones. Let me share the best ones with you. Maybe it will help.

Best Decision I made in 2021

Last year some lovely and some dodgy things happened in my family. My nephew got married (lovely!). A few days after his wedding, he had a massive heart attack. (Very dodgy). As we were all reeling from this near miss, and praying for his recovery, he suffered an even bigger second one, where they had to shock his heart 12 times to bring him back. He’s only 41 years old. The good news is that he’s doing well at the moment, and we have all been able to take a collective sigh of relief.

My sister Padma (his auntie, not his mum) decided to tell her doctor about her nephew’s cardiac arrests, and during the course of their consultation, our late father’s medical history was discussed. He had his first heart attack in his thirties, and several after that. But my Pa died of a stroke in his seventies (which is a reasonable lifespan), and he was a life-long smoker, so I’ve never taken much notice of his medical history – it didn’t seem to connect with me. My sister did take notice, just in case there was a genetic component that she had inherited, and she cleverly asked her doctor for a Coronary Artery Calcium Score just to be safe. Long story short, the results were alarming, and she narrowly (VERY narrowly) missed a massive heart event herself. Quick action was taken, and she’s now had some surgical interventions to avert … well, death.

This inspired me to get my Calcium Score done. Turns out I have the heart of an athlete.  Which if you know me, is rather humorous. My first question to my doctor was, “could they have made a mistake?” A family member asked, “Was the machine actually switched on?”

Given my scan results in the past for other things have yielded rather depressing results, and given I have the upper body strength of a two year old child, my calcium score (which was zero) was very reassuring. Good news is very good to receive in a world that bombards us with everything but. And thank you, genetics. I got the lucky draw there, but my sister and nephew didn’t. Well done Padma for following the promptings of your gut and getting your heart checked in time. (Pun intended.)

Hey – do get a Coronary Artery Calcium Score done if you if you are over 40 and at increased risk (eg family history, smoker, diabetic, overweight etc etc). It could save your life, as it did my sister’s.

Best Artist Discovery in 2021

If you’ve been reading my musings for a while, you may notice how much I mention my love of my sofa. And my love of Netflix-type activities. And of course, my love of making art.

If only there were a way to combine those loves …

Enter an amazing artist called Helen Wells. She makes gorgeous, stunning sketchbooks, some of the tiny, some big, but the ones that caught my eye were the 1-page that turn into 8-pages tiny sketchbooks. I just love them. They took me through a rather sad and challenging period in 2021 as my dog Ruby was ailing, and slept on the sofa next to me most of the time. They have taken me through some very hot Summer days and nights when studio art is just too much to contemplate. They make my lazy Netflix binge-watching a purposeful activity, cos I make these tiny sketchbooks on my sofa while I’m watching something!! Sofa-Netflix-Art! It makes me happy!

Thank you Helen Wells, you’re the best (check her out, her art is fabulous, and her videos are short and rather engaging!)

Best Books I read in 2021

Ever since I was a little girl and addicted to Enid Blyton, I have devoured books as a way to cope with/escape from/understand life. In 2021, I read 18 books for the first time, and re-read 17, so this could be a long list, but here are the absolute highlights of the first time reads, both fiction and non-fiction:

The Book of Hope. My dear friend Soraya who knows a thing or two about books (being the head honcho librarian at Albany Public Library!) recommended The Book of Hope to me just as 2021 was wrapping up. Written by Jane Goodall (the conservationist of the chimpanzee fame) and Douglas Abrams (he wrote The Book of Joy, also a wonderful book) so I thought it was a good bet. And I also love Soraya, so I bought The Book of Hope immediately. If the state of the world is getting you down, and ‘hope’ seems elusive, this one’s for you. It’s beautiful, real and uplifting.

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. On the other end of the spectrum – this is definitely NOT a book of hope. But a very, very compelling read. Un-put-down-able. NOT uplifting, so don’t read this book if you’re feeling crappy.

The Thursday Murder Club and The Man Who Died Twice both by Richard Osman. These are whodunnits with a difference and you can read these books whether you’re feeling crappy or not. I found them absolutely delightful and funny and engaging!

Living Well with Pain and Illness by Vidyamala Burch. I told the full tale of how this one was a game-changer for me over on my last post, A Year of Spaciousness. Highly recommended if you have any kind of challenging health condition).

The Dry by Jane Harper. One of those books that you just get lost in the story and CANNOT stop reading. It’s not heart-wrenching like American Dirt, but I found it equally page-turning.

Best Articles and Posts I read in 2021

Research Suggests We’re All Getting Less Creative and Scientists Think They Know Why

On Loving Someone Who Battles Inner Demons

How to Make Your Death Kinder to Those You Love

For the New Year, Try Imagining Your Best Possible Life

Best Ted Talk I Watched in 2021: How Gratitude Rewires Your Brain by Christina Costa

Best Food I ate in 2021: Was cooked by my sister Padma, (sorry, no link!)

Best Coffee Experiences of 2021: Were at my other sister Susheel and brother-in-law Kevin’s ‘Café Croft’. Not a real café. But served in a real kitchen, with a real coffee machine and real kindness and love.

Best Support I received in 2021:

  1. My SRC pregnancy recovery compression leggings Read the full story HERE of how an accidental purchase (no I’m not pregnant!) changed everything for me (this is especially relevant if you have chronic back pain).
  2. My readers, volunteers, friends, family and visitors to my 12th exhibition, A Walk in the Woods (too many to name, I thank you, thank you).
  3. My students in my art workshops – if not for you, I’d be teaching my classes to an empty studio! You bring so much colour and laughter and light into my life!

Best Students of 2021

2021 introduced me to some fabulous people who came to me to my live workshops, and my private students with whom I have the pleasure of working one on one for several months. But who was my Best Student EVER in 2021? Well, you know who you are! (yep, it was you!)

If you’re interested my workshops and programmes, head over to my CLASSES page. I also have an online course and a free mini ecourse. 


So, that’s the best of 2021 that I could share with you, and I hope you found something useful for your 2022 … there’s still time to create a memorable year – we have a whopping eleven months to go!

No matter it holds for each of us, let’s all make time for good coffee, good books, good connections and lots of art (good or bad – it’s all good!)

With love,
art classes perth

PS If you’d like to leave a comment, or share what your highlights were in 2021, before the new year gets old, let’s reminisce together – you can do that in the comments section below.

Thank you for reading my post!
I’d love to meet you in my home studio
in Perth, Western Australia,
Where you can view and buy my art,
or we can make art together
amongst eucalyptus trees and bird-song!
More on my art + classes

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  1. I felt happy reading all of your bests. What a lovely way to focus your thoughts and look forward to a new year of bests ✨

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      Hello there Jennifer! Thank you for that, it was actually a lot of fun going through my “best of” for the year. Great thing to do when most of the time I can’t recall where I put my keys 🙂

  2. That meme is hilarious! And I just loved reading all your bests and your insights. Thank you for sharing all that you do in such a beautiful way x

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      I have to thank Eric Barker for that meme, his Instagram posts are so often hilarious, and this just set me off! Thank you so much for your kind words xx

  3. Wonderful read, thank you! An honour to be of any assistance at any time (within my limitations).
    Much love and best wishes for this new year to you and Mary.

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  4. I have only this year started receiving your emails .

    so lovely and thoughtful .

    Just read the one about your older dog Ruby.

    I have bookmarked your Best of 2021 recommendations and love the photo of the woman in her dressing gown at the supermarket

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      Hello Tricia! Thank you for finding my posts and for your kind words. So glad you enjoyed reading these musings. (My beautiful dog Ruby brought me so much comfort and companionship and I miss her terribly, but such is life.) take care and thank you again x

  5. Mal, I got a mention! The first of the girls to be diagnosed with heart disease!!! So glad you have the heart of an athlete.

    And thank you for the book
    Recommendations. I’ve soooo needed it!

    Happy 2022, my sister

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      You got a COUPLE of mentions, big sister! And rightly so! as for my heart, I still suspect that the machine wasn’t switched on 🙂

  6. Malini, your posts are a gift to the heart. Just the medicine I needed. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us my dear friend.

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      Karen dear, I miss talking to you! Thank you for reading my post, it’s almost like we are having a laugh across the thousands of miles that separate us… sending love and prayers always x

  7. Fabulous post Mal & I’m the woman on the left but with arms down my facial expression is all I need to let the world know ‘ don’t mess with me’

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  8. Thanks for sharing—what a good idea to focus on the best things that happened in a bit of a tumultuous year… my best (and probably my worst too, come to think of it) was growing and birthing a tiny human ❤️

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      You did good Carmel! Growing a human is an amazing feat!! And you’ve grown two very beautiful humans! X

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