Monday Musings… It’s Gonna Be a Grey Christmas

In south-western Ontario, we’re never quite sure if we’ll have snow on Christmas Day. In fact, since 1955, we’ve had 26 green Christmases according to Environment Canada. But this year, it’s not going to be white or green; it’s most likely going to be grey.

We’re all waiting for the news today, from our local health agency and the provincial government, to see whether the entire province will be going into the gray lockdown zone. The suspected date of shut-down: Christmas Eve.

I understand the reason behind this, as Christmas is the time of year when people travel home for the holidays and so a significant number of large gatherings occur. The potential for transmission of any kind of virus increases, no doubt.

But my concern during this entire pandemic has been that the focus has been primarily on physical health and financial well-being. What about mental health? You’ll read the odd headline about reports of anxiety and depression increasing; but no real efforts are being made to address this. Now with the very real possibility of everything shutting down Christmas Eve, mental health problems are surely going to increase.

One of the key stabilizing factors in mental health is social support. While we can meet virtually, it doesn’t really serve the same purpose. There’s something about being together, sharing a meal, playing some games, and watching old home movies. I’ve always believed that it’s a person’s presence, and not the presents, that matter the most. Sometimes just being with others, and away from whatever stress is on your mind, can make a whole world of difference. Togetherness is the gold standard for health; now we’re all being forced into the grey.

When I worked in crisis intervention, I’d often work shifts over the holidays, and it was always slower than any other time of the year. Why? Because most people would go home for the holidays. Now we must stay in solitary confinement. I have no doubt, that those who’ve since filled my shoes, will be working overtime as people struggle to cope with the isolation and uncertainty that the end of 2020 is bringing. What a way to end the year and usher in the new!?

“Be creative!”, they will likely say today. “Stay safe”, they will reinforce again and again. But safety isn’t just physical. I have no doubt that suicide rates will climb, drug overdoses will increase, and those in nursing homes will begin to give up. While covid-19 is serious and deadly, so is enforced isolation.

When people struggle with loneliness, or mental health in general, we tell them to reach out, to check out community resources, to get involved with others. What now?

People generally are social in nature, and high-quality relationships are promoters of health and longevity. What’s happening now is not healthy – we are all going to be symptomatic for depression and anxiety. And the most effective treatment, the vaccine of social connection, which costs the government nothing, is being withheld. It’s what all of us surely need after 9 months of trying to adapt. Gestation is supposed to end in new life; instead, we’re all turning grey and lifeless.

Well, I’m sure some of you, like me are going to be seeing those in your social circle in the next 72 hours, before we can only call them or see them virtually. We’ll be doing some porch drops to our 3 sons and their families who live outside of our area. We’ll celebrate Christmas Eve in solitude and wake up Christmas morning, yearning to hear the excitement in our grandchildren’s voices as they open their gifts. We’ll substitute the turkey meal for something simple like soup. And we’ll sit in wonder at when all of this is going to end.

It’s going to be very grey indeed.

To infuse colour into our lives, we’ll have to hold on literally to our life preservers: which is the knowledge of the things that are certain in our lives right now. This can include faith, that God is overseeing everything and will see us through this valley. It can include the love of your family, though they may be far, as they still provide that assurance that you are valued. It can also include the reminder to find joy in the moment. We may have to be more intentional this year to discover where that joy is in order to bring the Merry back in to Christmas. If we keep our eyes open, and fill our minds with gratitude instead of misery, we’ll be keeping our hearts and minds afloat.

So, perhaps as Christmas gets closer for us this week, and to keep our spirits bright, we should think of the verse from the famous Christmas standard, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Bing Crosby and John Scott Trotter:

Christmas Eve will find me

Where the love light gleams

I'll be home for Christmas

If only in my dreams

And if the loneliness threatens to overtake you, give this song a listen by Casting Crowns:

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