For those who believe in and celebrate Christmas, there’s a widespread practice that around this time of year, we’re all a little kinder to each other. Our smiles are a little bit more genuine as well as frequent, and perhaps we’re a little more forgiving to those we meet, both those we know and those we don’t.
Our Christmas carols, which we know by heart despite only singing them one month a year, have themes of coming home for Christmas, seeing good in others, and being surrounded by friends and loved ones. All in all, it’s a time of year when we look with a smile on the efforts of children being extra good, we chase away the long, dark nights with candles and Christmas lights lit, and we watch yet again the Christmas specials we’ve grown up with for decades.
That’s the experience of some of us during the lead up to Christmas. For a great number of people, this is also a time fraught with anxiety, worry, doubt, confusion and feelings that our emotions are out of control. There’s concerns about traveling in wintry weather, doubts about the sizes of clothing gifts we’ve bought, questions of whether we’ve spent too much or too little on others, and worry over the quality and quantity of food for the big day. Our brains just won’t turn off.
And then comes Christmas of 2020. My goodness… what a year. Unable to gather as we wish, people we’re not allowed to see, restrictions in stores we need to visit, having to adapt and buy online if we’ve held out doing so up to now.
Ironically, you’d think there would be less worry and stress this year for many. Seriously, think of the advantages. No large and awkward family reunions, no big turkey to buy for a gathering of 18, no crowded malls to tackle, nor driving to various destinations on Christmas day to keep both sets of parents happy. Sleeping late on Christmas morning is now an option for those who wish it who are without grandkids, neices and nephews waking up and dragging them to the tree. There’s no rush to shovel the driveway because no one is coming during the pandemic. There’s no cheeks pinched by aunts, nor kisses or hugs from relatives that smell of smoke or overpowering cologne or perfume. None of it.
Despite these, ‘benefits’, our level of stress, anxiety, worry and doubt still persist and actually seem to have escalated this year. Perhaps we’re all starring in our own, ‘made for life’ Christmas movie where we get the life we’ve wished for but are only just now coming to realize isn’t the one we want. Maybe we’re getting a little glimpse into the treasures we already have that we haven’t fully appreciated until now. Maybe that awkward family reunion is – dare I say – something we’re now missing, although we’ll deny it if we’re asked. Maybe sleeping in on Christmas morning is an option, but what will really happen is we’ll wake up, sit alone in the wee hours of the morning and in the utter quiet, suddenly miss those little feet scampering across the floor and bodies falling on us in bed urging us up. We’re not sleeping in at all, despite the emptiness.
What I’m alerting you to is a potential problem here folks, so please listen up. There’s every possibility that your thoughts are going to drift to feelings of guilt and disappointment. You may feel sad and not just for a moment, but for longer than is healthy. Whereas in years past you worried about whether the gift you bought would be really appreciated and make someone happy, maybe this year you’d welcome the usual chaos in the house just to have everyone together. You want it, they want it, but everyone is putting safety first and it’s a socially distanced Christmas for 2020; something no one in the past 2,020 years would even understand the meaning of.
Being kind to others at this time of year is more important than ever. Spare a thought for those who work in front-line healthcare and who, by now, must be feeling the impact of long-term strain. Think on the minimum-wage earning Cashiers and Store Clerks who’d rather not wear a mask for 7 hours nor be expose themselves to all the shoppers, but have no choice, other than to quit. Be kind to those who have to shut their business or switch to online only. Spare some thought for those laid off or have hours drastically cut, still with bills to pay and worries anew.
But spare some kindness for yourself. Yes you. You’re doing the best you can to cope with all 2020 has thrown your way. No one has gone through this before and no one is fully equipped with all the answers. We’re all doing the best we can and your best may or may not measure up to others scrutiny. So be it. It can be hard to see an end to this panemic and a return to the lives we had, but most of us will get that back. When we do, perhaps we’ll even have a better appreciation for the little things that matter most too.
Be kind to yourself. Be forgiving of your thoughts and mood when you try your best but fall short of who you’d like to be.