I love the holidays for many reasons. They give me an excuse to eat as much of just about anything as I want. The holidays also involve simultaneous gift giving and gift receiving, which is always a good thing. They even give me a feeling of timelessness, as if the magical season will last forever. But out of the seemingly endless reasons why I love the holidays, the one that means the most to me is the ability to bring people together—something that I have greatly missed since the pandemic began.
For years, my illness left me housebound and bedridden, keeping me from spending many occasions with friends and family. But before the pandemic started, I at least had the option of seeing people, having them visit me at home. Then the threat of COVID added an extra layer of vulnerability, making it nearly impossible for me to spend the holidays (or any other days) with people outside of my little bubble.
Now that the holidays are upon us, it’s increasingly difficult to watch people resume their pre-COVID celebrations. The family and group photos posted on social media are especially difficult to see, knowing that the handful of people I’ll see over the holidays will be very limited in how they interact with me—masks and outdoors. But I suppose some interaction is better than none, some celebration too.
I realize that some people think that the pandemic is over and those who don’t would probably rather not read about it during the holidays. I get it. The pandemic has taken its toll on everyone. I get that many people often prefer to pretend that COVID is no longer a threat, that the pandemic is long gone, a mere blip in our long history.
But my empathy (and patience) for this mentality only lasts so long because, the truth is, people like me with chronic illnesses and disabilities don’t have the luxury of pretending that COVID is not a threat. For us, it is still very much a threat, perhaps the biggest. If we were to get COVID on top of our existing conditions, it could easily be our demise or leave us in a worse state with an even poorer quality of life.
I’m bringing this up, devoting a blog post to the reality of being housebound for the holidays, not because I want sympathy or even for people to radically change the way they are living their lives. It may sound like I’m being a grinch, and maybe I am, but really I just want people to realize and acknowledge that this is the way things are. I want people to be aware that COVID is still out there, and in doing so, consider the most vulnerable of us—those with chronic illnesses and disabilities.
We are still incredibly susceptible to COVID, and ignoring that fact is detrimental to our health. Pretending that COVID is no longer a threat is not only delusional, it’s dangerous. I understand the urge to go back to the way things were before the pandemic. Everyone would love for that to happen. But it’s just not realistic. Not right now. Not with so many people still getting COVID.
The brutal truth is we may never completely return to pre-COVID life. We’ve lost loved ones. We’ve altered our lives. We’re always going to know the feeling of a mask on our faces, the difficulty breathing through a filter. We’re always going to flinch when someone coughs in public. But, hopefully, things will get better over time. Eventually life will become fun again.
And that’s not to say that it can’t be fun now. There is still much joy and fun to be had, holiday cheer to be spread, even if you are like me—housebound for the holidays. There’s still egg nog to sip, Mariah Carey songs to play, and lots of shamelessly awful Hallmark movies to watch.
So, let’s enjoy what we can, while we can. Happy holidays!
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