A Very COVID Holiday: A Lonely Year, and 4 Things to Keep in Mind

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This post is sponsored by Olmsted County Public Health Services

published as part of Think Ahead Olmsted

*this post has been published anonymously*

It’s been a lonely year. We all desperately were holding out hope that this would be over by the time school started. But as cases around the country continued to rise through the summer, the writing was on the wall: it’s going to be a tough fall and winter. And so it is.

When it comes to virus response within our immediate and extended families, ours covers the whole spectrum. On one side of the spectrum we have members who have only left home a handful of times since March. On the other side of the spectrum we have members who have declared COVID-19 to be a hoax; stated that if people are going to be wearing masks at a family gathering, they won’t be attending. Many are somewhere in the middle. As the pandemic wears on, it feels to me, more are inching closer to the ‘hoax’ camp. Sending me articles from “sources” I’ve never heard of with many flavors of conspiracy theories and unfounded pseudo-science. Ridiculing our state’s leadership even after consulting all of the top medical experts in the state, and nationwide. And now, the vaccine that we’ve all been waiting for is finally here, the conspiracy theories are already flying around that, as well.

I’ve snoozed/unfollowed some extended family members on social media in an attempt to preserve our relationship. When this is all over, I still need to have a relationship with these people, and frankly, the less difficult content I see them reposting, the better. I know that otherwise I won’t be able to separate their online persona from their in-person one, and it will read all over my face and demeanor.

When it comes to debates on social media, I steer far clear; not because I don’t have strong opinions and the sources to support them, but because I don’t think anyone’s mind is ever really changed on social media, no matter how watertight the argument and supporting data. We have completely moved into a post-truth world, where no one trusts anything as objective truth.

I was explaining this post-truth situation recently to my oldest. Generations before us were limited to forms of media with multiple gatekeepers: printed books, magazines, newspapers, radio, and basic network news. As such, they tend to trust what they see and read first, and question second. Those of us who grew up in the age of the internet learned quickly that anyone could create a website on any subject and hit ‘publish.’ There is no gatekeeper for information on the internet. Therefore, we have been conditioned to question first, and trust second.

These past few years have seen both of these scenarios turned on our respective generations by social media. Posts geared toward older generations riddled with misinformation are being fired out at a rapid-pace, and consumed just as quickly. Posts geared toward younger generations are reinforcing that nothing can be trusted. Chaos and confusion have been sown all around us.

Here we sit. I’m so tired. I know you’re so tired too. And now, here come the holidays.

For the families all on the same page with how they are approaching this, BRAVO. I am cheering for you! For those who are taking their disappointment and using it to form creative, safe ways to celebrate, PLEASE SHARE! We want to hear it, and normalize it!

For the rest of us, we’re sitting here in the hard. Some of you, like me, are feeling pretty isolated and alone right now. Alone in your belief in the science, the medical professionals, and the recommendations from public health. Alone in where you see truth and where you see lies. Alone, feeling cut off from family members who suddenly are believing things and making choices that you never would have predicted. Sometimes, you don’t even recognize them anymore.

I won’t tell you that everything is going to work out perfectly, and that everyone will come to their senses. I wish I could. But here are my few takeaways so far from this mess:

  1. Your immediate family under your roof are your #1 priority, and under your roof, you make the rules. Sometimes your decisions will not be popular with others. Sometimes they may choose to express this in hurtful ways. But their response is not your responsibility, as long as you conducted yourself with integrity and respect. It’s ok if they don’t approve. Do what you believe is right for you and those in your home.
  2. There will come a time when this is all behind us. We will no longer be in the center of the fire, and everything will be less scary, sad, urgent, and heated. My hope is that we are able to keep our relationships intact through this, even if we need to put a little distance between us and them for a while. If possible, try to not slam any doors shut.
  3. This lonely time is teaching me a lot about myself. It’s teaching me that I’m much more of a people-pleaser than I ever thought I was. I came to this realization when I discovered how deeply I felt cut whenever there were stark disagreements on these subjects between me and members of the family. Though it’s so painful, I am learning that I need to stay true to myself, my values, and operate with integrity first and foremost. My value as a person does not lie in the approval of others. If others disagree with me, I will still be ok.
  4. Our kids are watching. They will remember this (depending on their age, of course). For some, this will be a major event in their upbringing that they remember. They are watching how we handle this. They are hearing how we talk about people, how we react to situations and the restrictions, and what we say about our leaders. It is so important that what we say, do, and how we respond are as in-line with the values we teach them. This is where they are seeing if we really mean what we say, when we tell them to “follow the rules at school,” “treat others with respect,” and “stand up for what you believe in.” This sobering realization has reminded me frequently to re-center myself on the values of our family, and given me the strength to respond respectfully to those who I am not in agreement with, even when I don’t feel like it.

For the holiday season of 2020, let’s all try to be a little extra-gracious, a little extra-thankful, and a little extra-supportive of each other as we make hard decisions. We’re all fighting all kinds of battles right now, and this year is HARD. May we come out of this with a boatload of resiliency, and a renewed trust in ourselves and in our inner strength to be able to handle hard discussions, stick to our values, and maintain our personal integrity.

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