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January 29, 2023

Window on the World Column: Hope Is Not Canceled

By Lucy Jensen, Soledad Columnist

Friends of mine in England had so been looking forward to their promised Christmas at the tail end of these long and tiresome months. After a long, brutal year of Covid-cancellations, they had been guaranteed a slice of merriment and celebration over Christmas. A little bit like a cease-fire during wartime; a short period when they could freely travel again and be with their people. Four blissful days of delivering presents to loved ones and feeling a sense of freedom they hadn’t experienced in a while. They were so excited and giddy with anticipation, that they could hardly stand themselves.

And then, just like that, it was canceled. The feelings of disappointment were so much worse than they would have been had Operation-Christmas-Freedom been completely obliterated from everyone’s minds, when the virus had continued to surge; and people were still looking at each other and saying, “They are still going to let us have Christmas?”

Young and old continue to feel isolated in this new normal and, truthfully, a little desperate. There are health and work uncertainties. Money and security issues prevail. We are all spooked by this virus and the repercussions fly across the world from schools that need to open and teach our children to the elderly that need contact with the outside world.

But do let’s try and look on the bright side! (I hear my friend Carey’s voice … “Oh god, Lucy. Must you always be so damned cheery!”) What is left? Oh, there is so much left. Hope is still there. Optimism that this will not go on forever and that, at least, there are vaccines being given out to vulnerable populations, as we speak. OK, this will not be a wonder fix for the world; but it’s a start! As Granny used to say, we have to start somewhere.

Many have their Christmas trees up and are enjoying the simple pleasures of twinkly lights and ornaments to contrast with dark days and darker nights. The nostalgic music from our childhoods fills the air within our houses and we are free to look back on Christmases past and remember good times when we were free to come and go, as we will be again. There was the Christmas I spent in the Black Forest area of Germany with snow everywhere, like a chocolate box scene; then the one in Paris so gorgeously lit up with sparkly wonder.

The last few years before my sister Rosie passed, I would be almost skipping through Christmas so that I could be with her for New Year at her home in Turkey. She loved New Year with all its possibilities. Such lovely memories there. I literally just got prints made of those happy times from years ago and I will be making wall collages over the Christmas period. Already purchased the frames!

Then there was the amazing Christmas I had last year with my sister Mary and her family on the Isle of Man. I left California, picked up my dad in London and we traveled together to sister’s island. Such lovely days were spent together. I still need to make a wall collage of those times.

These are healthy occupations for winter lockdowns. I have already organized my book collection, so that they are not just dust gatherers and I can see what I have and what I am going to read next. Hope prevails that the next read will be even better than this one. If not, I will take the books to our local mini library and share with others. Now is the time for some of that too.

Clean out your pantry and fill up the local food station. Do you really need three bags of rice and five spaghettis? I think not. Many others do. Is there someone in town collecting clothing as well as food and supplies? You can also cheerfully clean out your closet on a bleak mid-winter lockdown.

There have been too many broken dates in 2020, the year of complete and utter cancellation, that our expectations should be zero. Our family’s presents are under the tree and I tell myself that the worst-case scenario will be a revisit of Christmas around Valentine’s or Easter, when we will have mostly all received vaccinations and the world begins to emerge once more, bleary-eyed from the shadows of its Covid memory. And that is the only way to look at it. It serves no one to bemoan our lot and wish things were otherwise during these crazy times.

We have been taught some tough lessons: not to take freedom for granted, not to expect that Christmas can happen and family can gather. But we have also been taught that cheer is free, hope is free. You cannot always elect a certain situation in life, but you can choose how to respond to it.

Let’s start a movement to choose joy in this life of uncertainty! Let’s put the sparkly lights on the tree and photograph the love in your dog’s eyes. Let’s take supplies to the food bank, knowing how deep the need is and how much people will quietly appreciate another’s generosity. Let’s choose joy over despair.

Christmas has not been canceled this year; she is just taking a quieter approach than the norm and teaching us what is important. If we are here, we are the lucky ones. We can speak, listen, breath, eat, dream. We are present. Let hope be our guide toward better days.

If you are despairing this holiday season, reach out to someone who can help talk you through it. Let them help you walk you through the darkened corridors, until you see some light that you can hold on to. “This too will pass,” is what my mother said during tough times and she was right. This too will pass.

Merry Christmas to all my readers and thanks for inviting me into your homes.

Peace, love and hope to all.


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