Can anything positive be said about this past year? We as a society have lost so many, so much; we are left in many ways, empty and alone. There are some relevant things that we don’t often think about. Perhaps the most significant is understanding the humanness of the entire world. I remember stories and pictures of far distant places and people wearing masks as oddly-named epidemics seemed to decimate a population. These remote events were worlds away from my situation, and face masks were part of a foreign fashion and culture that were completely alien to me. In short, I just didn’t relate to those foreign crises at all! I have been able to go on my blithely-ignorant, white-privileged way, largely ignoring the rest of the world. Until now.
Enter Covid-19. Months of isolation, a plethora of facemasks, and starvation for physical human contact have brought totally different perspectives. We are all in this together, from the most isolated homeless individual to the richest socialite living in a lavish pent house. When one sifts through the many possible layers of existence, at the core of any existence is a “basic” frail human being who can be attacked anytime by a tiny invisible germ than can literally bring said person to the edge of his/her existence. Social standing, titles, wealth, demeanor, personality, life style, charisma, religion, culture…they all mean absolutely nothing to this invader that seems hell-bent on destroying all life as we have known it.
So, here we are, in the midst of the most intense, ritualized holiday season of the year, and we are being told to set aside all family gatherings, all the trappings we tend to pin on this special season. It is excruciatingly painful to not hug the grandchildren, to not travel anywhere, to not have our traditional feast and party crammed into a favorite niece’s home.
In our family, as in many families around the world, get-togethers are marked by sharing favorite recipes, by using heirloom china handed down from generations before us, by teasing, laughter, and telling well-rehearsed family stories. All of these rituals remind us of who we are. To not have the rituals this year is unsettling and depressing. Trying to find acceptable substitutes is a seemingly impossible task. Many of us are afraid, frustrated, and angry with what feels like loss of identity. Certainly, we have all felt the loss of freedom to come and go as we please.
How in the world are we surviving?! Physical survival is in jeopardy if one contracts the virus. But the buoyant human spirit that keeps us going in the midst of adversity is also at risk. Depression rears its ugly head more often these days, as we struggle with interminable hours at home alone, many of us with only ourselves for “company.” We are social beings! We need human contact to maintain sanity!!
All this brings a second thought: the resiliency of the human spirit – the creativity that so often gets trampled as we stampede ahead – this aspect of being human that is often undervalued or discounted as “childish dreaming.” There are strong, if subtle indications that creativity is alive and well. Many of our ways of doing life have changed, and there are those who are adapting. It took creativity to figure out the order-online / rapid-pick-up system. Hopefully, curb side pickup will remain as a permanent part of our way of shopping. “After this is all over,” my husband and I will still make it a point to carry our take-out food to some newly-discovered outdoor picnic locations for a few minutes of peace in the middle of our day.
I’ve given up trying to make these holidays “normal.” Instead, I am trying to embrace some new ways to commemorate being human. For example, our older son now calls us several times each week. I had not realized how hungry I am for the sound of his voice, his wry sense of humor, his gutsy laughter. I love that techies have figured out new ways for us to see each other, even if we are miles apart!
There is no Christmas Tree in our house this year, but 25 years-worth of nutcrackers are on display, sporting face masks, protesting the invisible invasion with their silent decorum. Gifts are being opened early, with some surprising developments. Our younger son and his family came for Christmas more than a week ago. We ate and opened gifts around the outdoor firepit. The expressions of delight as each one focused on the single gifts for the day gave me time to savor the joy of choosing specific gifts that would please each person. How often have we rushed through mountains of gifts, all in one Christmas morning frenzy, and missed this savoring?
So, what’s the point? Although Covic-19 is a major imposition on our life style, a threat to our very existence, all is not lost. Perhaps as we each dig deeper into ourselves, as we are wrapped in the cocoon of a restricted existence, we will become more sensitive to our neighbors, more appreciative of life itself, and maybe, transform into a better existence because of the disasters of this year.
Okay! I admit it! I am weary with trying to make this work. It’s exhausting, but absolutely necessary, to keep hunting for the positives, else we lose our minds and souls! So, with a reluctantly grateful heart, I wish each reader a blessed, Merry Christmas! Be at peace. We will see each other soon!