Sometimes what you need most isn’t sage advice.
You don’t need pep talks, and you definitely don’t need an assurance everything’s going to be okay.
You just need someone who gets what you’re going through. You need to see you’re not the only one who feels a certain way. You need someone to give words to the thoughts in your head.
Here’s a stab at that:
We’re performing emotions.
There’s a certain courtesy in faking a good mood for someone. We do it in conversations with strangers. We do it with people we love. We know that sometimes you have to engineer a good time.
It depletes you a little.
This year, we’re being careful. We’re reserving our energy to perform good moods for the people we care about most.
We’re not sure if we want to catch up with every single friend this year. We hope they don’t take it personally. If we think for a minute, they’re probably doing the same. Right now, a lot of us would rather think about our close friends than talk to them.
A good mood can be like a dish you spend hours making.
There’s only so much to go around.
Our sense of time has cracked.
Even last year’s memories have a sepia quality now. It feels like a bygone era, governed by a quaint worldview. Sunny optimism is an old record. You can probably find something to play it on, but why?
It’s not just about the general mood.
We feel like we’ve been thrown six years into the future. Things that were supposed to happen gradually happened all at once. Now we’re disoriented and stumbling, trying to pretend we know where we’re going, when the truth is we have absolutely no idea.
We feel a little bit hollow.
Even the people who had a good year can’t shake the emptiness at the end of each day lately. It doesn’t matter if you’re single, or trapped inside a house with four other people. We’re all feeling it.
The world we knew is gone.
There are people we’ll never see again. We didn’t say goodbye, and not simply because they gave up their bodies. Businesses closed. We lost jobs, or had to quit them. We had to move on from a hundred things.
This was a year absent of ceremony. There was nothing to mark the significance of the seismic changes in our lives. We’ve been processing everything alone, more or less.
We’re in the anti-climax.
Most of us are craving some sense of closure to the madness of this year, but a Christmas tree feels woefully insufficient, even if it’s nice to look at. It doesn’t matter how many lights and ornaments we string up. Deep down, we know we’re using traditions to moor ourselves.
There’s not going to be a party in Times Square on Dec 31. A lot of us don’t even watch the ball drop, but ignoring it was fun.
The movie is over, but there’s no credits.
Just a creepy silence as we slip out of 2020’s dark theater.
We’ve seen the dark side.
Boy, have we dehumanized each other this year.
And that’s not all…
We’ve seen what some are willing to do to keep their money and power, and just how little they care about others.
We don’t even know if the criminals who spent this year gaslighting and disenfranchising us are going to pay. There’s a giant “To Be Continued…” stamped on everything having to do with justice.
We’re living in suspension.
We’re clothed in apathy.
Everyone learned stoicism this year, whether they wanted to or not. It’s not so much that we’re enlightened. We’re just too tired to react to bad news like we were back in March.
We see three thousand more deaths, and it’s not surprising. After all, we knew it was going to happen.
Mortality has turned into math.
We used to think apathy was a kind of moral laziness. We know better now. For a lot of us, it’s a survival skill.
We’re finally in mourning.
The holidays are normally a time when we all slow down, and take stock of our lives. Between all the parties and presents, there’s moments of silence where you just sit back and think.
You don’t have the warm sun or the wind through the leaves to distract you. The world is naked and cold.
You turn inward.
That’s what we’re all doing now. Enough time has passed that our old lives are finally starting to feel like memories.
It’s sinking in for real this time. What we lost isn’t coming back. Not the people. Not the jobs and careers. Not the friends. Not the acquaintances. Everything’s going to be different.
We’re holding funerals in our minds, and keeping it quiet.
We’re tuned in to different stations.
It’s hard to reach out when everyone’s getting through this time on different music. Some people are soothing themselves with gingerbread and tinsel because they need to. Others can’t stand the sight of snow angels or sleds. They just want to be left alone.
Some people are subdued about missing family gatherings. Others are secretly relieved they don’t have to drive halfway across the country with a car full of kids, but feeling guilty about it. And then there’s the ones who don’t know what to feel from one minute to the next.
Some people are pretending there’s nothing wrong at all. We would express outrage if we had any left.
We’re searching for comfort.
Now’s the time when you start hearing about everyone’s resolutions. You start seeing those fitness ads on YouTube.
We don’t care, if we ever did.
What we want right now is comfort, and it’s in short supply. We’re having to supply our own. No perky 20-something in yoga pants is going to change that. We’ll take a blanket, a book, and a lamp.
Maybe a cup of hot chocolate.
We’re ready to rest.
Here’s one thing I’ve been hearing a lot lately:
“I just want to sleep.”
The feeling’s going around.
We spent most of this year bathed in dread, stretched beyond all conceivable capacities. We did what we had to do to get through it.
Now we get our break, at least some of us.
Someone understands how you feel.
Whatever you’re dealing with right now, someone out there has gone through the same thing. They didn’t cheer themselves up, or pull themselves anywhere by their bootstraps. They just sat in one place for a while, and comforted themselves for however long they needed.
Sometimes, knowing is enough.