As decorating the Christmas tree is often a trip down memory lane for me, I’ve learned to take it easy on myself and allow myself time to process the emotions that arise as I revisit my past through the things with which I adorn my tree.
This year struck me as slightly different, as I pulled out the one ornament that usually triggers a strong emotional reaction. The Christmas ornament depicting a large polar bear holding a smaller, seemingly younger, polar bear as if protecting them. This is the ornament that Larry gave me for the last Christmas we had together. He was working as Santa at the Toronto Eaton center, and one of the stores had this tournament, which he had personalized. Ironically it’s the only personalized ornament we had – I sometimes wonder if he knew it would be our last.
Over the past eight years I struggled with the decision to put this tournament on my tree. This year there really was no struggle and it graces a spot of honor on the front of my tree, where I can see it if I look carefully enough for it.
At the same time, I’m struggling with the fact that this will be holiday season number seven, observed as a widower. Even more so I will be alone, for the most part, due to COVID-19. Especially telling as I would normally be very busy singing at various churches, performing holiday gigs. I won’t even have an Advent Carol and Lessons or Christmas Eve services to sing at this year.
Heck this past weekend would’ve been my annual “No Coal in Your Stocking” concert – Another decision I struggled with this year as to whether I could make it work online, as bringing in 20 to 30 musicians, hoping an audience would stay and donate to the musicians would be a near impossible task.
Meanwhile, many of my friends are celebrating newfound love, newfound family, new homes and new beginnings. I rejoice for this!
But at the same point, here I am, living alone with a senior dog, worried about my mother who is recovering from cancer. Working in a job that when it goes well, I feel like I’ve helped someone and achieved something, however most of the time due to COVID-19 I feel like I’ve been spinning my wheels. It’s hard not to feel stuck in a rut. It’s hard not to feel lonely.
It’s hard not to get depressed.
I could note that certain things are affecting me harder this year, particularly my Seasonal Affective Disorder. Those gray rainy days we had a few weeks ago were very tough on me and I had to kick and scream in order to get my good full spectrum lamp out of my office at work. I could note that certain things that I didn’t expect to hit me as hard, such as purging my house and decorating my Christmas tree, hit me far harder than anticipated. I could note that I am so touch starved for the last time I was hugged, it actually hurt and confused me more than it gave me comfort and peace.
This is where managing expectations has become a key factor in my life. This is where managing expectations has become a survival technique for me. I count myself lucky to have survived December 2013 and December 2014, as in both years, I was quite depressed and barely functioning as a human being. I’m quite sure I can stare down the barrel of Christmas 2020 as I’m definitely nowhere near the rock bottom I hit after my husband and father died. But at the same time I’m being cautious and carefully watching where my heart and brain are taking me.
I’ve accepted that I will be working from home for the foreseeable future and I’m okay with that. I am enjoying not having to commute into Toronto every day and also am enjoying the ability to spend time with Chloe and the improved work life balance I have seen. I’ve accepted that I won’t be able to see my American friends and family in person for the foreseeable future. Until BOTH our countries get COVID-19 under control, I don’t expect the border to reopen and honestly, I won’t feel comfortable travelling until things start “turning the corner.”
I’ve accepted that while I live in a house that is, ostensibly, too big for one person, the nature of my existence is not currently compatible with that of apartment or condominium living. As I am working from home and actively isolating myself to be able to be in contact with loved ones, I need a variety of spaces to live and work from and the house is providing me with this. As I continue to “right size” my existence and rid myself of objects that are cluttering up my home, I am more comfortable in keeping the house and am beginning to see its potential. Perhaps when I retire from the day job, I can revisit plans to move and downsize – but right now…it’s just not in the cards.
I’ve accepted that my outlet for artistic expression has necessarily had to pivot and that shifting the focus off my music and back to my clowning needed to happen in order to maintain my ability to express myself. To be honest, sometimes I feel best when I have painted on that smile <insert hackneyed crying on the inside stereotype here> but it does help to bring joy and laughter to the world. I’d like to think extending some positivity and love out to a world that is struggling with division and serious anger management issues can help.
I’ve accepted that Chloe is a 15 year old dog who is showing the signs of her age. I’ve accepted that her time in my life is drawing down but I will enjoy her company and loving companionship as long as I can.
I’ve accepted that I will likely be going it alone for the foreseeable future, I often joke that since COVID-19 hit, I’ve accepted my role as a hermetic monk living in East Hamilton. Dating as a widower in my 40’s has been enlightening and horrifying at the same time. Under COVID-19, it just ain’t going to happen and that has honestly removed a lot of anxiety from my life. I’ve accepted that the feelings of loneliness will occur but they will pass. I’ve accepted that if I’m destined to share my life once more with someone, it will happen in due course.
I’ve accepted that 2020 has turned out to be a year unlike any other and that no one anticipated the shit show it has become. I’ve accepted that the only thing I have full control over in any situation is how I react and respond to it and the choices I make in responding to any circumstance will have an impact as to how the year continues to progress for me.
I’ve accepted that despite all I have accepted, that I will still continue to be tested and that, yes, I am struggling with things and that yes, I just might have to ask for help along the way – as I have – a lot – recently. This is all part and parcel of managing expectations to survive a brutal year.
Blessed Be. Dona nobis pacem.