December 20, 2020

Did anyone think we’d still be hiding out in our homes at Christmas?   Last March we all rallied together, Facebook pages were full of offers to help strangers, and there was a sense of “We’re all in this together”.   One time I posted on the Community Facebook page that we were getting low on toilet paper but did not want to go into a store.   Within thirty minutes a six pack of toilet paper was left on my porch by a stranger who drove ten miles to deliver it to our home.  That was eight months ago. 

At first I Zoomed, Skyped, and Facetimed with close friends and family.   I didn’t want to lose touch with anyone!  As time passed, the frequency of video chats and phone calls declined.   Now I may video chat once or twice a month with a friend.   The weather has cooled, so the initial backyard 6-foot visits with neighbors and friends and wine and finger sandwiches have come to a screeching halt.  

Most of our friends are wisely cautious and, like us, have a healthy respect for this invisible enemy wreaking havoc on our society.   So, we text, chat, and check in on each other on occasion.    But it’s been a while since I spoke in person to another human besides Steve and the ladies at the drive-up pharmacy and latte stands.

I haven’t blogged for over a month, which is in itself telling.   It just seems that the chore of daily living has become a bit heavy, weighted, like I’m walking in a field of gooey black mud.   Everything seems to be taking more effort and I suppose I may be a bit depressed.  (Interesting factoid: There has been a 55% increase in therapy referrals since April.).     

Today, we are all quite weary of it all.   And I’m trying to pretend it away with my usual Christmas frenzy.  

Our home is warm with Christmas coziness.   The Christmas Jazz station plays softly in the background, the fireplace glows, the 5-foot Christmas tree (fresh) shines with bright lights and sentimental ornaments from Christmases long ago hang on the branches.  The faux gold string of beads which, family lore suggests, were hung on the branches of my Great Grandmother’s tree in Germany gleam in the glow of the Christmas tree lights.  

Ornaments for “Baby’s first Christmas”, and Mother’s hand-painted china ornaments hang next to the fragile red glass ornaments I made for my mom and dad (I first wrote their names with Elmer’s Glue and then coated the glue with silver sprinkles, over sixty years ago).   The ornament I made with my name is also still intact and for some reason I always hang it next to my father’s ornament.   I have no idea where my brother’s ornament is.

The nativity scene, also thought to have come from Germany, sits on a shelf above the Santa Clause and caroling figurines.  And Frosty is lit up in the corner as is the green ceramic Christmas tree painted by my mother decades ago.   50’s era figurines and candles abound on shelves and tables: I inherited Mom all of the Christmas swag Mom had accumulated in excess so that she could blanket our home with Christmas Cheer.   Who am I to break tradition?   

I finished baking (and icing) Christmas cookies (Great Grandma Sander’s sugar cookie recipe), cereal mix, banana nut bread, and chocolate chip cookies yesterday and have filled various containers with goodies for some of our (geographically) close neighbors and friends. 

The Christmas letter has been written and stuffed into over fifty cards which were mailed last Friday.    The guest room is filled with wrapped presents of various shapes and sizes, and Christmas paper, scissors, and tape remain on the bed just in case Steve decides he wants to wrap a present for me.  

Steve videotaped me while I played six Christmas songs on the piano last night, and they have been forwarded to our pastor Eric to use for our church’s virtual Christmas Eve service in four days.

So, we have been going through the motions of preparing to celebrate a first of its kind “normal Christmas”. 

Of course, I’m longing for our past Christmases when the four grandchildren squealed as they opened their gifts, grabbed cookies from the Frosty Cookie Jar, and just hung out, arms draped over each other on the couch, laughing, eating, just being a family together. 

But we haven’t all been together as a family for ten months.   I haven’t been able to hug my grandchildren or my children since March and we will not have any children running around our home this week.  In fact, it will pretty much be the same as it’s been for the past nine months:    Steve and I will be together, alone, and that is a good thing, a necessary thing, this year.  

I’m not complaining.   But I am getting tired.  And I know that, no matter what we do, there will be a void in our home this year.   And, for the record, it frustrates me that there are multiple families who don’t “believe” in the virus and plan to host super-spreader events this holiday season.   Don’t get me started. 

I have seen my family several times during the past nine months on Facetime and ZOOM.   We have also visited together in our back yards and driveways, seated in lawn chairs at least six feet apart, wearing N95 masks.   

I think the “goodbyes” are the hardest.   We can’t hug but we can throw hugs.   Which really sucks.   Or we “throw” kisses.   And as they drive away, my heart is heavy, and I wonder if it would just be better to not even try to see one another until we all get vaccinated.   And then I realize that would be even worse.   

Sometimes I wonder if this is sort of what it feels like to be in jail where visitors can only talk on a phone through a glass partition to their loved ones.

We are driving to my daughter’s home in Salem to leave presents and goodies tomorrow.   We will probably set the presents in the garage and then retreat to the back yard for a cold wet visit for a few minutes.    We will all be wearing masks.   Then Steve and I are driving to my son’s home in Portland the following day to give them their presents and a plate of cookies.   Jon just remodeled his patio and installed an outside fire pit, so we may be able to remain warm enough to spend some time together.   With masks.   Six feet apart.  

It hurts. So. Much. 

I’m feeling a bit chagrined about expressing my sense of loss, knowing that we are so blessed, that we are healthy and financially stable.  We are well-fed and warm, and Steve and I have one another to hold late into the night.  Many of our neighbors have so little right now.   People are fearing for their security and safety, and so many are worried about keeping their jobs (if they have one) and fret about the very real possibility of being evicted from their homes.    

The clouds of political unrest, COVID, and racial injustice hang over our heads as we plow forward, going through the steps of normalcy, determined to keep our traditions alive in a world that has gone sideways. But we will keep putting one foot ahead of the other until we can once again be together again.  

And someday we will.   The vaccines are coming, spring is coming, the days will begin to get longer.   And in 2021, we’ll eventually be hugging our friends and family and we won’t be wearing masks. 

Throughout this year, we have learned a lot about what is most important in life, what our priorities are.   We’ve learned how important human contact and hugs are, how just hanging out together is emotionally energizing.    Some of us have found more time to read, meditate, pray.   And we’ve learned to just sit in the silence.  Perhaps we have incorporated physical exercise into our day, or not.  It really doesn’t matter.   

I have found that there’s really no reason to rush around, to get in a lather about deadlines or expectations from others.   Because the clock has literally slowed down.    I am convinced that some cosmic event altered the time continuum and that days, weeks, and months, have become elongated.   That’s why this last year feels like five years.    Can anyone even remember January?   

Whatever the case, we have had to adapt and adjust to this new world.    Adaptability is necessary for human survival, and so some have taken to heart the saying “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade”.   However, I prefer *Albert Ellis’s version: “When life hands you lemons don’t squirt yourself in the eye”.   

So, this is Christmas 2020.    Let’s do this.

*Albert Ellis was a famous psychologist, somewhat of a curmudgeon, and the creator of “Rational Emotive Therapy”.

Published by doctorphyllis

I'm a semi-retired clinical psychologist living in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.

3 thoughts on “CORONA JOURNAL: DAY # 276

  1. I don’t know what to say as this describes exactly how I feel about it all too. You have really captured how so many feel.


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