There are so many things we have given up or lost, since being impacted by Covid. Dining out, gathering with friends and family, “going” to school, seeing and meeting people in person or face-to-face, being present for our dear one’s celebrations, being present for our dear ones’ losses or funerals, being able to work at home without children being present, travel, jobs, work or their own business; connection, hugs, indoor holiday gatherings, dates, play dates, working out at the gym, haircuts, getting groceries, riding public transit with ease, etc. etc.
Everyone has experienced something difficult. And for BIPOC, many challenges and losses have impacted them even more harshly.
Now the holidays are here and many are experiencing the intensified conflict and pain of not being able to be with family and friends. Especially with all of the spikes around the country (and the world). (Thank you, Donald Trump, and all of your rallies.)
You might have a difficult time making a decision to travel – or not – to your usual family gathering place; or feel isolated and alone because your people can’t come to you. You may be worried about elder and more vulnerable family members who are alone, who you don’t want to visit because you choose not to be an unintentional carrier of the virus. Or you might have people you definitely don’t want to visit because you know they don’t practice social distancing very well, or at all.
So many hard decisions to make during this time, about how, or with whom, or where you will spend the holidays. You may choose to have an Un-Thanksgiving – one that honors what really happened the first Thanksgiving when Indigenous people had been massacred, diseased, displaced, colonized by the early settlers, and you may not want to celebrate in the same old white supremacist way.
In any case, please know I have you in my heart especially at this time. I have compassion for whatever struggle you are having, whatever pain is challenging you, whatever heavy feelings are interrupting your sleep or causing conflict in your relationships.
“This is a hard time.”…Read that again and breathe in as you read it… Take that in with a big deep slow belly breath. “This is a strange time and it is hard for me.” Let that go with a slow deep outbreath. “I am making the best decisions I can.“ Breathe in again. “I am here and I have value. I am valuable and I am enough.“ Blow that breath out, long and slow. “This is a hard time. And that’s hard for me.“… “This is hard for me.“ Again, with compassion and softness. “And this is hard for me.“ Another breath deep into your belly – “I am not alone with this difficulty. I am not alone.” … Pause a bit, before slowly releasing that breath. “My heart aches; I feel a band of headache compressing my head. My shoulders are tight. My stomach feels hollow and churning at the same time as I don’t know what to do next. I feel a heavy gray prickly blanket weighing me down. My mouth is sticky and dry. I feel sick to my stomach. My back hurts. My throat has a lump in it. My tears are seeping out…I feel all of this way down in that place where it hurts to feel, but feels better at the same time just to feel it.“ Keep breathing as your accompany yourself on that body experience of what this all feels like.
Take some time and maybe even put your hand on your heart as you try to just be with the feelings. All of them. Don’t fix, or avoid, or try to get rid of them. Feel them first. Just being with what it feels like to be connected to your body as you’re experiencing these feelings. Have a sense of curiosity about where your feelings are showing up and how. Don’t punish yourself for however it is that you’re experiencing these feelings.
Here are some ideas for taking care of yourself and being kind to yourself and your community during the holidays:
- Remind yourself nothing is personal, perfect or permanent. This too shall pass.
- You are not alone. So many others are struggling through the same thing.
- See if you can have your head (which says ‘don’t gather because of Covid’) and heart (which says ‘I miss my people and I just want to hug them and be with them’) work together and come up with some creative solution that honors both.
- Send Thanksgiving care packages to your tribe. (A note of appreciation, gratitude list, treats for each of the senses – music, a beautiful piece of art, and interesting texture, something scented, a tasty snack.) Let them know you’re with them as you put this together and think about them opening it up.
- Have a virtual potluck with folks – everybody brings something to share virtually – food and a recipe, a toast, a dance, funny stories, sweet talents, a game, a photo or video, highs and lows, a creative project, a good book recommendation, your Covid experience story, etc.
- Attend the Therapists of Color for Social Justice “Seasons Feelings” online workshop on November 22. Sign up at this link: SEASON’s FEELINGS
- Start a gratitude bowl, jar, box. Each day each person writes down something new you feel grateful for and put it in the bowl. Take turns reading them aloud on a day you meet (virtually or in person)
- Have leftovers together on the weekend after Thanksgiving (virtually or in person socially distanced)
- Have a family dance party
- Make origami hummingbirds together (virtually or in person) and write a prayer for each other, or for yourself, in each one. Send or just keep on your table to remind you of them often.
- Create an altar of family and friends you wish to be together with who have passed, and/or who are still alive. Put cherished photos, candles, items that represent them on it. Let yourself feel all the closeness and connection with them as you visit with the mementos.
- Give virtual or in person butterfly hugs as you stay socially distanced.
- Watch online the Indigenous Peoples sunrise ceremony at Alcatraz. “The event is designed to commemorate the survival of Native American peoples following the settlement of Europeans in the Western Hemisphere, which led to genocide and enormous economic and cultural losses among the indigenous from disease, warfare and social disruption. Organizers want it to serve in contrast to the traditional American Thanksgiving story in which the Pilgrims supposedly shared a meal with Native Americans.”
- Give thanks.
- Find time to research and donate especially to Black and BIPOC businesses who have suffered more extremely since Covid restrictions have been applied.
- Take a cooking class or some other class together with loved ones who are far away. (See Context Conversations)
- Watch a movie together and have a group discussion of it after (virtually). Send snacks to share while watching or have everyone prep their favorite snacks.
- If you’ll be alone, plan something special for yourself, and take the quiet time to offer self-appreciations to your beautiful self.
- Find and experience the joy. There is much of it even in the midst of all these hard times. Don’t miss out.
- On zoom in order to have a chance to talk more intimately with your folks, try using the breakout rooms. Have smaller more connected conversations in the breakout rooms and avoid the din of everyone trying to talk at once. When you come back into the general meeting, you can take turns reporting what was shared in the breakout rooms. Good idea to go in with some prompts everyone will answer. (What are your highs and lows? What are you most grateful for? Etc.)
- Pause and check in with what your intentions are for how you want to be during this hard and complicated time (taking care of your health, letting people know you care, engaging in deep conversations, listening, courageous, self-care around feelings, etc.)
- Remind yourself that you are a good person. You are enough. You have value. You are making the best decisions and doing the best you can.
- Look for the joy. There is much to be found, even in the midst of hardship.
- And finally, I share this poem from Ruth King, author of The Mindfulness of Race, as a guide to helping you set your intention about how to relate to yourself and others over the holidays. (Good for whenever you’re experiencing a difference of opinion with someone):
“May I bear witness to things just as they are.
May I remain peaceful and let go of fixation.
May I offer care without hesitation, knowing I may be met with gratitude, anger, or resistance.
May I offer care, knowing I don’t control the course of life, suffering, or death.
May I find the inner resources to genuinely contribute where needed.
May I see my limits with compassion, just as I see the limits of others.
I care about the pain of others, yet I cannot control it.
I care for all beings, but my way is not the only way. All beings have their own journey, and I have mine.
May I be free from preference and prejudice.
May I see the world with quiet eyes.”
I’d love to hear what your ideas are for spending holidays in ways that are compassionate to you and your community. Take good care and many blessings to you. Peaceful holidays, All.