As we head into the holiday season, I’m thinking a lot about how, like everything else in 2020, the Holidays are going to look oh so different this year.
How do we collectively figure out how to navigate Thanksgiving and (for my family) Christmas in a way that is respectful of our friends and family during this pandemic, when the roots of the traditions around these days seem to be the opposite of social distancing? When I think of this time of year I imagine large meals with extended family and friends gathering around one table, cookie exchanges, caroling in big groups, debating if it is worth it to pay the outrageous prices for Santa pictures…. all stuff that contains pretty high risk factors during this awful plague year.
All of us out there with 2020 babies are not going to have the “baby’s first Christmas” we dreamed of. The communal New Year’s celebrations are going virtual or getting cancelled. The anxiety of the holidays that has become the norm is about to meet the heavy, specific, overwhelming anxiety that has been building up this whole year and how do we get through that?!
For me, I am trying to bring it back to the foundation of the holidays. Faith, hope, and love. I’m doing all three of these things extremely imperfectly these days. But I’m starting to think if we all embraced some imperfect faith, hope, and love, our holidays will feel better than trying to bring back any sense of normal during this dumpster fire of a year. (I have tried so hard to stick with “weird” or “intense” or “different” instead of what I really feel about 2020 in past posts but I’ve really just wanted to say dumpster fire every time…)
I am thankful that we have ways to gather that are still safe, but I still wish we didn’t have to. It reminds me of something I heard at the wedding of two of my wonderful friends, Clara and Owen. They had displayed, across their church reception hall, letter after letter they had written to each other when they were first dating and the relationship was long distance. Clara was in grad school with me in Virginia and Owen was several states away. It was such a touching and beautiful decoration, but Clara told me that day about how she was so glad they had these letters… but that being together and NOT having to write letters was so much better.
Well… I think we all feel that acutely this year. I am so glad to have zoom and google meets and FaceTime and phone calls and letters and postcards … they are great tools , but if you don’t need them to be an option… that’s even better.
I am so glad we’ve figured out ways to digitally celebrate together, to say hello through windows, even to see each other in person but distanced or masked or both because it’s a step closer than a screen at least… but when you can just freaking HUG all your friends again? That will be so SO much better. I’m grateful that my kids have each other and these incredibly vivid imaginations where they can turn things in our backyard like geckos and their colorful sprinkler into their new friends and give them a name… but it will be SO much better when they can just hug and tackle and run around with their actual friends again.
There’s a quote I love from Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati: “Indeed, faith and hope will end when we die, whereas love, that is, charity, will last for eternity; if anything, I think it will be even more alive in the next life!” In heaven, We won’t need Fatih because you’ll be able to see God and understand things when we aren’t looking at them “through a mirror dimly”. We won’t need to hope for anything else. But we’ll still need love because that’s basically the crux of heaven, right? Being with God- who is love.
So my imperfect faith is that even on the days my anxiety spirals or my depression rears and the whole world feels doomed, I get up and tell my kids this won’t last forever because that’s what I need to tell myself too. My imperfect faith is trusting that the sacrifices we’ve made this year will be worth it in the long run. It’s imagining how hugs with people outside my immediate family will once again become a daily occurrence in my life.
My imperfect hope means that I imagine the incredible gatherings and celebrations and art that will return when I really just feel like wallowing in all we’ve missed or lost. Imperfect hope means I choose to believe the haiku I saw popping up everywhere for a while during all these lock downs that “We isolate now / So when we gather again / No one is missing.” On the days where I find my hope, I choose to believe it is not too late for our actions to stop further loss. I honestly can’t find this hope every day, but trying day after day is better than giving up.
My imperfect love is finding the ways I can best be present, even when I can’t be physically close. Sometimes this doesn’t look like giving love in the way some of my friends or family wish I could. Sometimes it means setting the boundaries I need to not grow resentful or overly anxious. Sometimes it means sending a birthday card instead of attending a socially distanced party. Sometimes it is sending ten spaced out Marco polos because I only have five minutes at a time but I desperately want someone to know I am thinking about them. Often it looks like throwing some words on a blog post or instagram story and hoping they are encouraging for someone out there. Often it looks like doing the next right thing.
I am also holding fast to the acts of love I see from my friends and family. They inspire me deeply.
What are some of the ways you are showing imperfect love?