Approaching the holidays in the time of COVID takes mindfulness. Our sensible mind entangles with our sentimental heart, and decisions are made either wisely or unwisely. If the heart wins we all pay the price, especially health care workers who have been working non-stop all these months, some making the ultimate sacrifice, leaving their families and friends devastated.
But some people aren’t thinking about them or other essential workers whose jobs require them to stay in contact with the public. Instead they feel like the Grinch has stolen Christmas and it’s not fair. But that insidious COVID Grinch wants us to have a traditional Christmas so it can spread its suffering more widely!
Let’s not give in to the Grinch!
What cherished traditions can we indulge without harm, and what ones do we need to store away until next year? That’s the decision many of us face as Christmas and New Year’s are upon us. This unique year has been filled with creative ways to provide comfort and joy. Virtual birthdays, Halloween, and Thanksgiving with creative twists have proven we can transform challenges into joyful experiences.
In class on Zoom this week, one student had been busy baking and shipping off presents to family in different corners of the country. Once done, she has a stack of books awaiting her as a present to herself (including my new book Asking In, Six Empowering Questions Only You Can Answer. )
For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, this is a season of darkness when many species slow down or hibernate. It’s quite natural to give oneself the gift of cozy solitude. Many are probably relieved not to travel, attend parties, and gather together with extended family. Others are devastated at the thought of what they’ll miss, but they will find compensation in the intimacy of, say, a phone call they wouldn’t ordinarily have had time for, or a chance to quiet down and get to know themselves. We all need to adjust our expectations, get creative, and make wise choices.
One student had a tough choice when her family proposed a carefully-choreographed socially-distanced multi-day gathering for the holiday. She was torn. Her heart and her head were at odds, but her gut sided with her head, and finally she told them no, not this year. She chose to live and sustain the lives of others instead of giving in to her heart’s desire. I appreciated that additional ‘gut’ feeling weighing in. Sensing in to physical sensation is one way to access inner wisdom. When something just doesn’t feel right, it isn’t!
Another of my students, a retired elementary school principal, says that one of the most important things we can teach our children is delayed gratification. But first, we have to teach ourselves, don’t we? There are so many traditions about the holiday season that we can still have, and those that would cause more harm than good, we can delay. Christmas in August, anyone?
With a vaccine already being approved and rolled out, why take chances now after making all this effort?
If we survived Thanksgiving without gathering, we can manage Christmas. If you did gather, and no one got sick, don’t press your luck. And please remember it’s not just about you! Another of my students is in quarantine without central heat (which circulates air from room to room) because a colleague of her housemate got COVID from a Thanksgiving gathering. We’re all interconnected and our decisions can affect people we don’t even know. This year our heart’s desire could kill someone! So, for the benefit of ourselves, our families, and the whole community of beings:
Let there be light!
Twinkle away with festive cheer to share with neighbors! Even if you’re not feeling it, brighten someone else’s life by lighting their way home or giving the beauty of the season to share with their children.
Let there be tears!
One student watched a couple of traditional Christmas movies and found herself in tears. Yay! Tears are part of how we are handling this unusual situation. Let them flow. You can also place your hands on your chest and offer loving-kindness, allowing your heart to feel supported.
Let there be technology!
How would we have gotten through this COVID period without the internet, Zoom, Facetime, Nextdoor, etc.? Many family, friends, and neighbors have rediscovered each other and grown closer.
Let there be generosity!
Who is suffering most this season? How can you safely help to ease their suffering?
Let there be a fresh look at traditions!
Has one person (maybe you?) been the sole provider of holiday traditions, including big meals? Here’s a fresh chance to shake things up, pass the torch to the next generation, reconsider what traditions matters and what don’t. Take this time to consider creating new traditions more supportive of where you are in your life right now.
Let there be perspective!
A student shared this video as a reminder that this is not the worst thing that has ever happened and if we just pull together by staying apart we can get over it!
Let there be gratitude!
For all who have made it possible to survive this year, thank you!!!
For all those we can’t see in person now, let’s toast each other and trust that in the not too distant future we will be able to hug again in person, not just in our dreams.