As I mentioned on the first few episodes of my podcast, the first response to the pandemic is to follow a lot of the rules Mom had: wash your hands, cover your coughs and sneezes, stay away from others if you or they might be sick, and clean everything.
And then there’s that recommendation that you “keep your eyes on your own plate” and not worry so much about what others are eating/doing/saying.
Pandemic exhaustion. It’s a thing.
It’s probably THE thing that’s making infection and death rates rise so quickly: even those of us who isolate and mask up and distance and wash our hands regularly are becoming immune to the specter of rising numbers.
For weeks at the onset of the pandemic, I regularly checked the data—local, state, national. Now I hear of another milestone marked and think, what was the number last time?
It’s oh-so-tempting to get lax about the rules.
Besides, a vaccine is coming, so perhaps we don’t have to be that careful anymore?
A few months ago, a friend posted a meme on Facebook to the effect that those of us who are taking restrictions seriously are feeling exhausted because it’s like we’re the ones holding the umbrella while those who aren’t playing by the rules are dancing under it, nice and dry.
Huh, I thought. As a member of the rule-following club, I don’t feel that way at all.
As I’ve mentioned before—and I recognize that this comes from a place of privilege—the pandemic has been a time of possibilities for me.
And to me, it’s a privilege to take responsibility for protecting others by following the rules and restrictions—whether they choose to take responsibility for my health or not, whether they choose to hold the umbrella or dance under it.
Keep your eyes on your own (holiday) plate
We all fall on a different place on the spectrum of personal rights and responsibilities to others. And the only thing we can reliably exert control over is our own response to a given situation.
In a sense, you can only “keep your eyes on your own plate”—whether you’re critiquing political processes in other countries (will America ever be able to do that with a straight face again?), worrying about people traveling for the holidays, or feeling frustrated with that person in the grocery store who won’t mask up and distance.
And again, as a health coach, I have to ask: why is this pandemic happening for us and not to us?
What does the idea of staying home for the holidays make possible?
I think it’s rather similar to going gluten free: when clients begin to moan about everything they must give up to go gluten free, they are often shocked to learn that there are only 3 whole foods that naturally contain gluten: wheat (and all its relatives), rye, and barley.
We only think that in giving up gluten, we’re giving up everything—because we happen to eat a lot of bread and pasta and processed foods that contain wheat/rye/barley derivatives.
In reality, most grains and fruits, vegetables, legumes, dairy, eggs, fish, and meats are still on the table if gluten is the only thing you must give up.
So what’s still available to us if we choose to go travel-free for the holidays?
- Obviously, if we are usually hosting, it means we may not have to cook quite so much food for so many people. Maybe this is the year you try something new for the main holiday meal?
- If you normally flee to a warmer climate, maybe this is the year you take up a winter sport?
- Perhaps we can be more appreciative of the people and things and privileges we do (And maybe not seeing the crazy aunt or having your mother-in-law on your case from the moment you walk in the door is a good thing?)
- We could spend the time we won’t be traveling volunteering—helping someone else enjoy a better holiday.
- Maybe we can be more mindful of the shopping we’re doing—preferably online—and order gifts from small, independent companies rather than feeding the beast of the large online monopolies.
And if you’re really struggling with not gathering with others for the holidays, I offer you this pandemic haiku:
We isolate now
So when we gather again
No one is missing
Happy Holidays—may you keep healthy and safe!
WLAA health columnist Liza Baker is a health coach, cookbook author, blogger, podcaster, nonprofit consultant, and woefully underpaid COO of a busy family of four spread across the globe. Liza lives in a half-empty nest in Ann Arbor and is passionate about health and happiness, education and empowerment, SOLE/SOUL food and social justice.