Baby, it’s cold outside. The days are getting shorter and the holidays are looming larger… so is the lump in my throat.
The call came about 15 minutes ago. Four people at the assisted living facility where my 88-year-old Mom lives tested positive for COVID-19. They assure me my Mom is safe and well cared for— but it’s little comfort. She’s isolated. Alone in her room. And, once again, I can’t see her.
With the holidays just around the corner, I have to let go of any memories of family gatherings, holiday traditions, laughter filling the room. 2020 is not giving in. COVID-19 doesn’t care about the holidays. My Mom is in lockdown and my siblings are spread out all over the world unable to fly home. With the numbers rising, they’re not traveling to me and I’m certainly not traveling to them.
What a year. Confusion. Fear. Disappointment. Anxiety. Stress. Helplessness. Canceled weddings and graduations. People lost their jobs. Businesses have gone under. Nearly 300,000 people have died from COVID-19… and now is the time we’re supposed to deck the halls and get ready for the holidays?! The words Bah Humbug come to mind.
I’ve never thought of myself as a Scrooge but this year the isolation and feelings of exclusion have been so acute. So, here’s my question: How do we get through the season? How do we turn so many negatives into a positive? How do we feel connected and hopeful when we’re so separated? How do we celebrate when all we want is to get through this year in one piece?
2020 requires a reboot of what the holidays are all about. We’ll just have to spin new, safer ways to connect with family and friends. And connection really is the most important part. So, here’s my plan. I call it the V-plan since everything starts with V. If you’re feeling anything like me, I hope it helps.
Value the Valuables:
The strategy I’m planning to use is the one that’s gotten me through every tough time I’ve ever experienced: Gratitude. I’m making a list and checking it twice. Loading it with all the things I’m grateful for. My health, my husband, my friends, my dogs, and the fact that I can still see my Mom through the window. The vaccine that’s coming. The sweet cashier at the grocery store. Zoom. Socially distanced walking with friends in the neighborhood. Whether we look for positives or negatives, we’ll find them. So, seek out and savor the positives, the silver linings and silver bells. Relish every card that comes your way, the sparkle of every beautiful decoration.
People all around us are hungrier, lonelier and needier than we’ve ever seen. What can we do to help? There’s no shortage of volunteer opportunities. And cheering up someone with a card, groceries or even just a call is a sure way to lift our spirits. I know I’m not the only one missing my family, so I plan to reach out to everyone I know who’s alone or lost their job or is struggling. This year, sending something tangible— flowers or food can really make a difference to someone who feels alone during the holidays. Plenty of websites can help set up a volunteer gig (VolunteerMatch.org or idealist.org).
Yes, I coined a new term. It’s virtual gifting. I’m sending gifts to friends and family with strict instructions to FaceTime me the moment it arrives so we can have a virtual holiday moment. It’s not ideal but it’s connection. I plan to record these moments to remember this crazy year. In an odd way, the pains of 2020 will no doubt make us appreciate so many things we’ve taken for granted most of our lives.
This holiday season, in addition to wearing my mask, washing my hands, and staying six feet apart, I’ll also focus on getting good sleep, eating well, exercising and laughing as much as possible. I can’t control the pandemic, or when I’ll be able to see my Mom, but I can focus on my health. And if you haven’t had your flu shot, go get it. It’s more important this year than ever. COVID-19 and the flu will be spreading at the same time. A recent study showed getting both COVID-19 and influenza B will leave you even sicker than COVID-19 alone. Don’t take chances. I just got my flu shot and I’m glad I did.
View to the Future:
The only way to survive this storm is to know the rainbow is coming. We just can’t make the mistake of comparing 2020 to last year or any other year in our lives. This will be a holiday season like no other that we will never forget even if we want to. And come New Year’s Eve, I plan to stay up through midnight and watch the ball drop in an empty Times Square. It’s not the new year I want to see, I just want to make sure 2020 is over.
P.S. Feel free to send a holiday greeting below. We could all use some cheerful thoughts. Happy holidays.