Today was the first Christmas day I have ever spent at home with only members of my own household. Even when I spent a year living abroad in Germany I trekked to my mom's cousin's house a couple of hours away. This wasn't by choice, of course. My daughters testing positive and the general omicron surge meant my parents were not able to fly our here as planned, and quarantine meant we could not be with my wife's parents. (We will get to see them in a couple of days.)
I've been fortunate to not catch COVID from my kids, and that they've pretty much been asymptomatic. This Christmas has been a kind of throwback to the early days of the pandemic, when everything was put on hold and the world outside of the four walls of my home seemed to disappear. Then as now this meant more time with my children, which I cherish. The demands of my job often make it difficult to get any quality time with them in the normal run of things.
Christmas is a time of reflection, which is the kind of thing that can bring on the holiday blues. That's been particularly intense this year as I have been unable to celebrate it with my parents. That in itself is a reminder of how much has been lost over the last two years, and I've even been one of the the lucky ones. Friends of friends and relatives of friends have died from COVID but so far no one directly connected to me has (touches wood.) Nevertheless, I have missed out on a lot of time with my parents and sisters, and that weighs on me.
The Christmas reflection gets more intense from me as a teacher, since going from ten hour days of intense work to two weeks of break gives me whiplash. I get too much time to think, too much time to contemplate the scary state of the world today, too much time to get depressed. I read a recent medieval history at the start of break, and one of my takeaways is that I now get why people like St. Benedict just went out into the desert to live as isolated monks. Maybe this broken world just cannot be fixed. Christmas is the ultimate promise that somehow, some way the world can be set right, but I am not feeling that spirit this year.
Of course, I can't just quit everything, put on a brown robe, and move to the desert. It's not feasible, and more importantly, I don't really want to. Quarantine Christmas has reminded me that everything I need is right here in front of me. I will draw from it as much as I can in the coming months, since it's the only thing that gives me any kind of faith in the future.
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