Frankly, I’m stumped.

Happy Holidays???  “Grateful I don’t have Covid” prayer?
I’m not sure how or what tradition looks like now. 

Because I “celebrate” Hanukkah, with the current restrictions, I’m at a loss for what to celebrate and how to celebrate it. 

Last night was the first night of Hanukkah and I was home alone. My parents and husband have passed away and my family doesn’t live near me. I cried because I miss my family, the people who helped me discover what family traditions are. Like many of us do when we feel a bit lost, I turned on Netflix and found the classic, Fiddler on the Roof.  Maybe it would get me through the night. As I watched it, four key themes came barreling at me…tradition, family, love, and being loosely attached (versus OVERLY attached) to anything because, after all, life changes in the blink of an eye. I then remembered who I am and what joy is available in the midst of any moment, including those moments where we are experiencing loss. 

So, I went to the garage and pulled out every menorah I could find; my mother’s, my grandfather’s, my daughter’s, my father’s, and mine. I cleaned them all, melting off the old candle wax.  They are ready for new light, new wax to be melted, for new prayers to be spoken, and new candles that have yet to be burned. Something about that was cathartic.

My double whammy of sadness is that my late husband, David, would have turned 66 today. I love honoring people on their birthdays! I imagined what that celebration could have been. That turned the tears back on, so I then imagined that he was maybe, instead, having a celestial celebration, in the heavens. And why not? I don’t know where heaven is or who is there.  By the way, can a person celebrate after the fact, when they’re gone? No one knows. So I was trying to see if thinking of it that way would give me some joy. It sort of worked. But, I’m still in the emotional in-between. 

In my blog series, “How to Move Forward When There’s No Going Back,” I’ve talked about what there is that we can hold on to and about traversing this “new normal” like we might for ANY big life change like divorce or losing someone. 

But this is much more complicated. 

Right now, framing anything as “new” or “normal” does no justice to the visceral struggle of it all. Hearing that things will never be the same is a platitude that tells me nothing and it doesn’t help.

So, today, I have only one comment:
Whatever “this” is, life is, the future is, is beside the point.  

You and I have everything we need inside our minds and hearts to adapt to “this.”  It takes quieting that part of us that wants to freak out and run.  It takes being still and allowing our nervous system to slow down. When we do that, we get centered and are able to respond, to think, to make requests, to seek out solutions and resources. Centering ourselves makes sure that we don’t get blown over even with the ebbs and flows of the pandemic.   

But how can we do that?  I do it by walking slowly, breathing, even meditating. 

This helps me gently quell any anxiety and my need to want everything to be the same, like our run of the mill traditions.  I know we like predictability and, as a world, we are wholly unequipped to find our center naturally.  I include myself here.

The holidays feel like a strange fit this year.  Masks and social distancing have replaced gift exchanges and cooking and baking gatherings.  It feels like we are living upside-down and backward.  But when we can find inner peace and solace inside ourselves, maybe we won’t feel as unsettled. 

How has it been for you? 

I’d really like to know.  The more we come together and combine forces, the sooner we can create a different sort of herd mentality, the kind that invites doing the right thing, not holding on so tightly to what was, leaning on our friends for pick-me- ups, infusing more humor where we can. What are ways that call joy forth?  That’s what we need to be asking ourselves.  

Elaborately decorated department store windows are not part of my plan. What is, though, is getting back the basics of cultivating joy by celebrating the things that bring a smile to my heart.  That definitely includes hugs from my daughter and hot chocolate with marshmallows. 

Some ideas I’m considering: learning Christmas songs on my new piano, taking in the holiday lights in my neighborhood. I might cozy up with a friend or two for some quick celebrations and I will reach out to people that I treasure.  

This year is, without a doubt, unlike any other. It will have the whole spectrum of emotions, no question. Will you take advantage of the slower pace, reach out to friends, and practice gratitude? Will you ask for help and company so you don’t feel so alone? (That’s something I did NOT do last night.) 

This year is a test. So, let’s stand up to it. We can choose to be extra understanding, open, accepting, and accommodating a bit more than normal. Let’s find fulfillment where we can. 

Share with all of us the ideas you have for making this holiday full of comfort and joy! I know I could use the support.  

My best to you this December!
With love, Maryl


  1. Thank you so much Maryl,
    Beautiful. Today when I walk my dog I will be more mindful. I will also find time today to speak to both of my husbands that too quickly left this world. I love holding them in my heart along with others in my family no longer on this earth, my mother follows me like Velcro:)).
    This day forward I will stop my addiction to American consumerism and think what I can do with that money instead, giving some and putting more away for my old age which is catching up to me! This next year I will quietly find peace within and bring peace in all my encounters along with a lot of joy. Blessings.

  2. The abundance of holiday lights in my neighborhood have been lifting my spirits. Zoom calls every other week with friends who live far away are a lifeline.
    Creative projects and people who make me laugh are vital!

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