Keeping despair at bay (part four)

There is no denying that, pandemic notwithstanding, the festive season is upon us. Fraught with emotional minefields at the best of times, this year it feels almost impossible to navigate.

Our family, like many, is complicated, with blended and separated units, elderly grandparents, and people living in communities at different pandemic colour levels — and so are the questions we are struggling to answer.

We had an early plan to rent one of the theatres at Kingston’s independent movie house, bring in a family favourite movie for this time of year – Christmas Vacation – and hang out together, eat popcorn and watch the flick. However, galloping virus numbers and people’s plans to see relatives in other parts of the province brought an end to that idea.

Some days, it feels like we should just hunker down and see no one, but then despair settles on our shoulders, threatening to suffocate us, so we go back to drawing flow charts and trying to find something that will work.

Shaking the bitters (out)

I have been faithfully shaking my homemade bitters every morning, taking the opportunity to also shake myself out of the morose state in which my soul often awakens. A quick shake, and then I can get on with my day in a reasonably cheerful frame of mind.

This past week, I did something I have not done for decades: sent festive season parcels to friends and family around the province. It felt somehow old-fashioned to package up my gifts in brown paper grocery bags, taping them tightly, and then heading to the post office. As I stood in line waiting my turn, I thought that, while sending packages in the mail was hardly a replacement for seeing people in person, it did eliminate some of the challenges that those in-person visits often carry with them: winter driving, the tensions that so often arise at family gatherings, and the like.

Soul care

An early festive season gift from a wonderful friend of a (non-mouse-nibbled) yoga mat and beautiful carrying case made me almost keen to get to class this week. As I struggled through the hour, I was reminded of some words of wisdom from another friend with a long history of serious yoga practice:

“a large part of the benefit of stretching is that feeling of energy release or nerve stimulation or whatever it is. It just feels good, like a little massage. I think that feeling is therapeutic. . . .The goal isn’t to achieve a pose, but to get that feeling. Over time and regular practice, your joints loosen up a bit and you are more at ease in your body. You needn’t be any more flexible than is required to achieve and maintain a full range of motion in your normal pursuits.”

Keeping it local

Online shopping has an allure to which I have succumbed a few times during the pandemic. It’s just so painless to buy all that stuff without having to do anything more than hit a few computer keys; it’s possible to even forget that there will be a bill to pay later. Then, there is the anticipation, the tracking (at times obsessively) as the purchase makes its way across the country/continent/globe and the thrill when it arrives right at the door.

Not being fans of Jeff Bezos, we have a strict no Amazon policy in this house – no Amazon or Amazon Prime on our TV, and no purchases from or delivered by Amazon – which limits our online shopping considerably. However, we generally prefer to shop locally anyway.

Especially during the pandemic, I like to visit the small, independent businesses in my community, hoping that my purchases will help them survive the next several months. For the most part, I have found these expeditions enjoyable, even if I occasionally have to spend a bit of time in line until there is space for me in the store. Once in, it is nice to be the centre of the staff’s attention, without the distraction of other customers.

A song and a cookie

Even though I won’t be taking my baking to any parties this year, I plan to make a few front porch drop offs to neighbours and friends. The baking for those deliveries is well underway, with our “extra” freezer plugged in for the next few weeks so I have somewhere to keep everything.

My partner and I are big fans of the musical duo Over the Rhine. For the past 25 years, they have been on the road with their seasonal concert in November and December, but this year, they are recording a concert from their home, which will be available online for two weeks.

This weekend, our house will be filled with the aroma of baking fig newtons and the sound of Over the Rhine, which should leave no room for despair to creep in, at least for awhile.

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