Dear Miriam | Answers Instead of Questions

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Dear Readers,

Rather than a question, today I have two answers. (Feel free to insert your own Alex Trebek tribute here.) Times are painfully tough, and I hope you find something useful in the following.

Thanksgiving plans


Please stay home. Please don’t eat with people outside your immediate household. Please don’t travel. I know you’ve heard all this before, and your plans are, presumably, either already set in motion or already set. But you can still change course. You can call your family and say, “I love you, and I miss you, and I can’t wait to see you when it’s safe, but that time is not now.

You can disappoint people. You can be disappointed yourself. Now is not the time to travel or spend time indoors with other people. You can scream into the void about how miserably awful everything is, and you’d be within the normal range of human emotion to do so. But it’s still better than the alternatives.

For the Jews reading this, though many of us have long loved Thanksgiving because it is an American experience in which we can be full participants, it’s also not the most important holiday for us. We already survived through the Zoom seder and the virtual High Holiday services. Missing Thanksgiving with family is small potatoes compared to those holidays (even, small sweet potatoes covered with marshmallows). You can, of course, be sad. But I hope you can avoid feeling devastated.

Feeling Devastated

Whether it’s because of Thanksgiving or just the general state of unmanageability that is life right now, pay attention to how you feel. Was it hard to get out of bed this morning? Are you worried about making it through the day with your emotions intact? What is one thing you can do today that will cut through the sadness?

Make a list of things you could look forward to. Plan out your meals for the coming week (yes, including Thanksgiving). Schedule times to talk to friends and family. Organize your days around when you’ll get outside while it’s still light out. Create small goals for yourself that will give you a sense of accomplishment. Allow yourself time to grieve, and then schedule times to do something else.

Reach out to people if you are struggling. Take seriously friends’ offers to help. Seek out professional support from a therapist. Familiarize yourself with crisis lines for yourself (or others). Be creative about seeing people outside from a safe distance while masked. Know that this will not last forever.

Finally

If you can’t relate to any of this, that’s great! That means things are going better for you than for most people right now! Maybe it’s because your kids are in school in person, or because you’re already podded with extended family, or because you don’t mind being alone, or because you’re emotionally sturdier than a lot of us.

Maybe it’s because you’re ignoring guidelines and traveling anyway, or because you’re spending a lot of time engaging in COVID-risky behavior. Maybe you are not especially in touch with your emotions, and for once, that’s actually benefiting you. Maybe you’re an eternal optimist, and you’re fine waiting until things go back to normal.

If you’re doing great right now, I strongly encourage you to reach out to your friends and family who might be struggling. Connect with the people who live alone or who are dealing with physical or mental health difficulties. Offer to listen or to stop by, outside and masked, or to bring over a meal or a treat. This is likely not the time to share on social media about how great things are, or to share pictures of large family meals or social events.

Wherever you find yourself this week, be kind and gentle to yourself and others. I don’t care that it’s a cliché. When things are as challenging as they are right now, do whatever works.

Be well,

Miriam

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