Dealing with an Unwanted Guest During the Holidays

Categories: Marriage.

The holiday season is the culmination of the year.  November and December bring times of celebrating with family, friends and the community.  Occasionally, we have to deal with someone that makes the holidays less enjoyable, like Cousin Eddie in “Christmas Vacation.”  This year, we all have an unwanted presence during the holidays.  Its name is COVID-19.  It’s going to make the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Years trifecta a lot more complicated and less enjoyable to say the least.  For many, it will ruin any chance of a good time.  

It’s been a month since my son contracted COVID while at college.  He’s back to normal except he still can’t smell or taste.  Hopefully he will recover this before Christmas so he can enjoy all the delicious holiday food.  While a temporary gustatory dysfunction is distressing, it doesn’t compare to the many other losses we’ve experienced due to COVID’s unwanted arrival in our community.  How many college students will not be allowed to go home for the holidays? COVID will have hit them at the worst time, forcing them to quarantine through Thanksgiving.  

Temporary isolation is stressful, especially through the holidays.  Thousands have lost their lives to COVID, so isolation is what we do to keep the vulnerable safe.  With these precautions, many more have become severely isolated, and with that comes anxiety, depression, and increases in addiction.  We can’t get out of this situation without some kind of loss.  Lost jobs, lost education, lost relationships, lost opportunities, lost plans, lost interests, lost routines and pastimes.  There has been a lot of loss.  We do not want to lose hope.  

My grandmother, who is now 104, has been quarantined in a nursing home since April.  For a while, she was allowed one visitor a week for 20 minutes, but even this has been taken away as the virus has become more prevalent.  Now, we can only talk on the phone.  Even through all of this, she keeps saying “Better days ahead!”.  This is an important and vital belief that counteracts the insidious hopelessness of this “Time of COVID”.   

Looking for hope at this time of year is as old as civilization.  The mound builders, whose earthworks can still be seen in Marietta did it.  The ancient celts in Europe did it too.  They built structures that, during the winter solstice, would provide proof to them that the world would not end in darkness.  By witnessing the solstice, they were assured that daylight was getting longer and the night shorter, which was the first sign that spring was going to happen again.  

Christmas is also about hope.  In 1863 during the height of the civil war, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem of hope called The Christmas Bells.  It’s been set to music and is my favorite Christmas song.  Here is an excerpt:

“And in despair I bowed my head;

“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep!

The Wrong shall fail,

the Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men!” 

This Christmas, I encourage you to hold onto hope like Longfellow did during the darkest days of American history.  Focus on what you still have, not on what has been lost.  Provide encouragement to your family, friends, and neighbors.  Focus on your values and priorities more than your fears.  We can’t control what’s going on around us, but we can always control our choices and our attitudes.  I’ll conclude with one more hopeful quote:

You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.

Thomas Merton
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