“I need a few minutes to myself!” How many times have I uttered these words in quiet desperation? When my children were small, my brain ricocheted from leading corporate meetings to volunteering at my daughter’s second grade parties. Catching my breath during car rides gave me moments of personal retreat.
Today, nine months into Covid isolation, car rides and grocery store runs promise the opposite. They offer the chance to see people, not avoid them.
The first weeks of lockdown, I had a terrible, familiar feeling. Similar to deja vu, it was hard to put my finger on the sadness. Then I realized, “Oh, I had this feeling when Leah was sick.” Seven years ago, my daughter suffered with terminal cancer for 14 months. Because of her surgery and chemo treatments, our family isolated to protect her immune system.
Beyond the typical sequestering, Leah chose to withdraw from everyone – and I mean everyone. Battling cancer at 15 years old was too much for my sweet girl’s heart. During her last few months, I was her primary caregiver.
Although heartbreaking memories are connected to this experience, I learned key lessons about a season of deep aloneness. Thanks to creative family members and friends, our last Christmas and New Year’s with Leah were private, but very memorable.
I am not an expert at living in confinement (and hope to never be one), but I know that this season offers the gift of choice.
Compassion over Criticism
How can I show compassion when I can’t be physically present with loved ones? Especially, if a friend chooses extreme solitude as my daughter did? It’s hard to not take his or her withdrawal personally. I think of Leah and try to remember that each person responds differently to illness, or his/her concern about potential illness. The first step is to let my quarantining friend know that I care, rather than criticize his or her behavior. If I am the one isolating, I try not to completely shut the door on all communication with my loved ones.
Generosity over Grouchiness
How can I be a giver when I’m not around people? Confinement is hard; there are days that I feel constrained, frustrated, angry, depressed, hurt and weary. Hopefully, not all in the same day. How do I stop myself from becoming a Grinch, Mr. Potter or Scrooge? Turning isolation into desolation? Giving melts my heart on days when it seems to be shrinking. Generously sharing my time, talent and resources is a first step. For example, leaving a gift on a friend’s front porch does a lot for me – probably as much as it does for the person who receives it.
Calm over Chaos
How can I feel peace when there’s so much conflict and turmoil – both in the big world and in my mind? Concern “storms” face me this holiday season. What can I do to outstare my anxieties? It’s tough. I pray more than ever, listen to music and revisit enjoyable hobbies (drawing). The turmoil doesn’t seem as overwhelming when I do these activities.
Wonder over Worry
How can I experience Christmas magic when the future is unclear? I try to focus on Christmas as an EXTRA ordinary time. Traditions connect me to happy days and memories. I love twinkling, sparkly Christmas lights. My dad took our family to see amazing Christmas light displays. I plan to do this very thing soon – for a few nights! Primarily, as a Christian, I believe Christmas is much more than a cultural holiday. This season holds a promise – a hope and trust in a God who loves me more than any human being ever could. He loves me so much that He came to earth to rescue me from my selfish, doubting and hard-hearted self. Focusing on His eternal promises (especially the one that I’ll see Leah again) melts lots of worry.
Faith over Fear
How can my beliefs conquer the feeling of dread? Fear is powerful; it’s contagious and controlling. When I’m in a dark and anxious place, it’s because my world view is negative. I have to work hard to think the opposite and remember God’s love and appreciate my family and loyal friends.
Are you emotionally pulled in opposing directions this holiday season? How are you able to choose positivity over negativity?
Maybe a solution is to move out of a comfort zone – find clever ways to both give and receive love this Christmas season.
Some ideas: When our family was hurting during Leah’s illness, people showed love by:
-Christmas caroling on our driveway,
-Stringing outdoor Christmas lights for us as surprise,
-Sending extra special cards,
-Giving homemade gifts (crafts, baked goods, art, music, poems),
-Dropping off Secret Santa gifts and
-Calling on the phone to say hello, even for 5 minutes.
What other ideas do you have for showing your love? I’d appreciate your ideas. Please place them in the comments.
Special note: Let’s please remember the families who have an empty chair at the holiday table because of Covid or other serious illnesses. It is especially hard to grieve alone due to the death, impending death, or serious illness of a loved one.
It is not mandatory for lockdowns to steal our Christmas joy.
Have a safe, healthy and beautiful holiday season.
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For those grieving the loss of a loved one, you may be interested in other Christmas reflections such as “Her White Christmas Stocking” in Dec. 2016 and “A Christmas Message to My Friends” in Dec. 2015. You can find them in the archives column.