The holidays always seem to be a complex topic. Adding chronic illness to the mix makes them even more tense. And now the world is living through a pandemic, which adds a layer of ambiguity. Navigating uncertainty brings anxiety, but we have a choice in how we respond.
Holiday stress has always been a mystery to me. Gearing up for the big day fills me with anxiety as I try to synchronize everything perfectly. Specific days that hold so much meaning can result in a letdown afterward. The pressure to perform is real, especially when planning the perfect holiday tradition.
Chronic illness brings its own host of problems. The inability to plan is a major one. It’s stressful when our bodies are unreliable, which makes the pressure to show up even more concentrated. Our bodies don’t follow calendars — they run on their own timelines. And hiccups with our health often happen at the most inopportune times.
As I got sicker, my holidays were typically spent in the hospital. One year, every single holiday was spent inside hospital walls. A deep sadness clouded my heart. I felt this incessant tug on my conscience that I was missing out on something. The world went on without me while I was stuck in the hospital. Time didn’t stop because my health was unstable.
It wasn’t anybody’s fault. I wanted others to enjoy what I couldn’t at the time. I was OK with being alone; I was used to it, so it didn’t bother me. If I hadn’t shifted my focus, the experience would have been completely miserable. I learned invaluable lessons during those times.
I learned holidays are just another day. When we put so much emphasis on a single day, we miss the opportunity to fully engage in the current moment. When we wait until circumstances align perfectly, we negate the beauty of the present. We take for granted that tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone, regardless of the odds stacked against some of us. Holidays are a perfect illustration of how the picture in our minds doesn’t equate to our realities.
The holidays trigger traumatic feelings for many people and don’t always have a positive association. Some people are grieving their loved ones while others are traumatized over and over because of past events. And others don’t have the luxury of planning extravagant get-togethers because of their health, financial situations, or lack of familial support, which is more evident now than ever.
With the current rise in COVID-19 cases, we have to pay attention. The coronavirus doesn’t care that it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas — and neither should we. We have to tailor our behavior toward safety and protection of one another for the time being. Just because it’s the holiday season doesn’t mean we can let our guards down.
Our hearts break when we can’t gather the way we normally do. We have to allow ourselves to grieve the loss of traditional holidays. We also have to use this as an opportunity to get creative with showing our loved ones how much we care about them. Playing games, eating together, and chatting over FaceTime are all viable options.
Or, if you’re like my parents, who do not engage in modern technology, the old-fashioned way of communicating via telephone is effective, too. It’s not perfect. It’s less than ideal. But it’s better than nothing.
One of the truest signs of love is sacrifice. During this time, we are all called to sacrifice our lifestyles as we know them, disrupt our routines, and change our plans, all for the sole purpose of protecting one another. Living in a very self-focused society has created a huge disconnect in changing how we live to navigate the uncharted waters of a pandemic.
We have the capacity to celebrate together when it is safe to do so again. Celebrating the holidays off-season is a viable possibility. So, let’s shake things up. Let us be the ones who pave the way for new traditions that set new standards for the holiday season.
Let’s be rebels together and create a new tradition — don’t save your love for a single day. Share it every day. Practice gratitude in all ways. Show others you care each day of the year. Bust out of your comfort zone and into new rituals.
If you’re alone this holiday season, I see you. I’m with you. And we will get through this together. For me, (holi)days will be business as usual. I will rise with a thankful heart, grateful for another day and the love shared from a distance in the comfort of my home. Alone.
Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.
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