Covid Christmas Celebration Part 1
Struggling about how to celebrate in a pandemic? This bonus episode is exploring the obstacles to and strategies for planning a Covid Christmas (or the holiday of your choice) celebration. We lean on core values to manage our holiday mindset and focus our planning. Listen and get help for the holidays!
Hey Friends, Welcome to a bonus episode of the Boss Yourself First Podcast. I know we’re between seasons but the next few bonus episodes will be short explorations on how to celebrate a Covid Christmas. At the time of this recording we’re just past Thanksgiving in the US and moving into the holiday season. No matter what you’re celebrating this season, I bet your tradition involves gathering with others to celebrate. I know our family gathers in fact we talked a little about the frustration and even depression I was dealing with earlier in season While in planning mode for the upcoming holidays. Yeah I start early like in late September.
As I said we just celebrated Thanksgiving here in the US and already doctors and hospitals are warning of a Covid rise because of our family gatherings. I want to take a few minutes to explore how we can process the frustration, anger, grief and still enter into a season of celebration. Now I’m going to use Covid Christmas because that is what my family celebrates and you know how I love alliteration but you can apply these principles to whatever holiday you and your family celebrate. Also, one thing before we get started. I’m presenting these ideas briefly and simply but that doesn’t mean I think this is easy work. I have wrestled and continue to wrestle through the same issues you and my clients are working through. So please forgive me if this sounds like I think this season in a pandemic is no big deal. It’s a very big deal and that’s why I want to have this conversation.
First – remember that we can hold many emotions about the same issue. This helps because while we don’t distract or numb out from difficult emotions we can lean into powerful and more desirable emotions to motivate and maintains thoughts and actions that help us celebrate. For more on this technique, check out Season 1 Episode 9 of the podcast. But I put this out there as an encouragement that a Covid Christmas is not an all or nothing proposition. We have the capacity to feel both the ups and downs of this season and yet choose our actions based on supportive emotions.
This is first because I want you to give yourself permission to feel all the feelings about your upcoming holidays. I want to keep this episode brief and practical. So right now, say it out loud if our in a situation that permits it, I am allowed to feel all the feelings. Repeat this as needed.
Super, now that we have permission to feel the feelings. Let’s explore our approach to a covid Christmas celebration. I do a lot of work with individuals and teams on core values. These are beliefs that guide your decisions and behavior to keep you showing up the way you want to show up and living your life or doing your work in a way that feels authentic. In these bonus episodes we are focusing on what I believe are the Core Values of a Covid Christmas Celebration. These values that can get us through and even help us thrive in a Covid Christmas. I’m going to tell you the values and then we’re going to break them down over two episodes. Here are the values – Connection, Clarity, Courage, Kindness, Creativity and Celebration. Also, I’ve laid these our linearly but in reality they overlap, which you’ll see as we go along.
Think about the main reasons we celebrate – connection to each other, to our beliefs, to our past and our future as we pass traditions on to next generation. Traditions by the way are behaviors we repeat at certain times based on our beliefs that build connections in an almost unconscious way.
Because connection is a main component of our traditions. Our drive is really strong to continue our traditions and right now that runs smack into our restrictions around Covid and that powerful and sneaky opponent of caution fatigue.
There is a kafauffle locally, I live just west of Denver and the buzz in the news the last few days is because Denver Mayor Michael Hancock traveled to Mississippi to be with his wife and daughter for thanksgiving after urging almost begging all of us living in the Denver Area not to travel or mix households for our celebration. Okay, this is a great example of the pull of our desire for connection overcoming our rational thoughts. Mayor Hancock said he didn’t want to let his daughter down. He’d already committed to the trip a month earlier, his wife was already there, having helped his daughter recently relocate to Mississippi. When we get some context we can sympathize. His connection with his family was so important, he didn’t take his own advise.
The urge for connection is strong, it’s one of our core Covid Christmas values and we need to reframe what connection means and how it shows up. But before we do that, let’s take on a force that makes us want to connect in traditional ways more than ever before and that force is caution fatigue. Our first step to reframing what connection means and how it shows up is to reckon with what is blocking a new mindset around connection and that is caution fatigue. How do we deal with it? First, recognize that it is a real thing.
Recognize that caution fatigue is real – there is a reason the expression familiarity breeds contempt has staked a claim in the cliché hall of fame. We’ve kept company with Covid for the last 8-11 months depending on where you live. We’re no longer shocked by the numbers of cases, or hospitalizations. We get that testing takes a while and lines are long. We get that chapped hands are to be expected to be protected. We get that staying home is the best protection. But we’re tired of it. We haven’t forgotten the freedom to gather at an amazing concert or theater, we’re starving for connection and collective energy. We’re weary of fighting an enemy we can’t see or really predict. We’re exhausted with trying to figure out the right thing to do and even if we decide what right looks like? Hundreds of others are loudly proclaiming that we’re wrong and their opinions are actually the right thing to do. What do we, in non-Covid times do to unpack and reenergize when life is hard and confusing? We lean into the familiar and family. So, no wonder we are longing to connect and honor our traditions. How do we deal with this wearing down of our energy to deal with Covid, especially in the face of our desire to connect during the holidays?
Remember this is temporary – we have hope, vaccines are coming and until then we can choose to use the tools we have to fight, I think about Lord of the Rings when Gandolf has promised to come and bring help at dawn. Those who are fighting are keeping track of the time, knowing if they can hold on until dawn, the battle will turn in their favor. Notice that we are beating this enemy and that precautions taken now are an investment in Celebration 2021. Remember this is temporal, this hard season will end – not in time for this Christmas but it will end.
Not only is this temporary, this is historic – we’ll explore itno this a little more next time but this is a moment in history that will always be remembered. How will you rise to the occasion? What do you want to be your legacy from this historic experience? It has helped me wrap my mind around this historic time to look at examples of other historic times that have required sacrifice and separation.
Okay, now that we’ve addressed the obstacle of caution fatigue, let’s dive into what living out the core value of connection could look like in Covid.
(Connection) (Clarity) Keep connection front of mind. Think of every encounter and conversation being filtered by the value of connection? This includes those you live with and those you are currently living distanced from. Keep the idea of connection top of mind, and I’m focusing on conversation because communicating is a foundation of connection. As you speak think do these words enhance connection or make it vulnerable? Now to be clear, this doesn’t mean we shy away from tough conversations but we choose our language based on the desired outcome of connection. Not only is communication foundational but genuine connecting communication must be clear to be effective Now add clarity to the mix. As Brene’ Brown says, clear is kind. Which also supports our kindness core value. Really try to understand what risk means to the person you are engaging. Then help them understand what risk means to you. Think about an incident from a client of mine. She is a young mom with two small children. She has a health compromised member in her household and has been really cautious through the whole pandemic. Yet she has a three year old who needs socialization and she herself holds relationships as a super high value. A friend with a young son invites her over for a playdate. She her little one has been especially restless the last few days, she missed gathering with her extended family for thanksgiving, it will just be a couple of extra people and she trusts her friend to have been careful. She goes to the playdate only to find out after they had been there for about 30 minutes that her friends’ son had been with young cousins over thanksgiving and now has a stopped up nose and sore throat. My client is appalled that her friend invited her to come over when her child is sick. When she expressed concern to her friend, the mom said, well, I’m not too worried and I’m not going to rush out to get him tested. Even if it’s covid, for his age, it’s not likely to be a big deal. For some of us, like my client we feel outraged over this story. Just so you know, my client packed up her son, went home and is currently quarantining she and her three year old in the upstairs of her home away from her vulnerable family member. She’s also communicated with her friend how betrayed she feels and has effectively ended the relationship.This whole scenario could have been avoided with clear, kind, courageous conversation that was based on keeping connection without compromising each individual’s understanding of safety. Covid is providing many opportunities to practice these skills that serve us well whether there is a pandemic or not.
With connection and clarity in mind get really specific in these conversations, get clear on the precautions that everyone in your family is comfortable with. Will we wear masks, will we eat together, will we be outside, can we open windows, how many will be there – Clear is kind. One caution, a quick short circuit to connection is judgement. Stay out of judgement by seeking to understand and as we started this episode with giving ourselves permission to feel all the feelings, give that same permission to everyone else. That doesn’t mean condoning bad behavior, we all choose whether or not to act on our emotions but we are allowed to feel them and others are too. Watch out for judgement – a quick way to avoid judgement is to ask yourself “ I wonder what experiences and circumstances are feeding this other person’s feelings and thoughts? Let empathy and seeking to understand others keep judgement at bay.” And connection front of mind
Connection trumps being proven right – because you’re valuing connection you must let it take the lead over your need to be right. This doesn’t mean compromising on your beliefs or safety but it does mean that you don’t have to take on the role of enforcer or make a case for your point of view that could be proven in a court of law. It is enough to know that you are making the best decision that you cam at the time and allow others to make the best decision they can as well. This means breathing through those family triggers that involve guilt, shame, politics and pandemics. Base your actions on what you believe and let others do the same without judging them. This is also connected with being offended. We get offended when our sense of right and wrong feels threatened. I’m not saying let go of right and wrong but I am saying let go of the need to be proven right and if you find yourself feeling offended, let that be a beacon that you need to prioritize connection and stay out of judgement. Remember connection trumps being proven right.
Reframe connection Think about what connection looks like traditionally and look at the roots of that connection. If you are choosing not to gather or to gather differently, how can you create the essence of connection. Now because this is probably not your traditional way of connecting, it will take more intention and energy. And now we’re folding in the core value of creativity here as well. But creativity also brings Fresh energy and intention to investing in those you love and it’s those you love is empowering. We’re choosing new ways to connect that covid can’t take away. Is it being in the kitchen together preparing family favorites? Get close or go opposite with your actions. Meaning, set up a zoom call and make sure everyone has the family recipes. Set call so that you’re in your individual kitchens at the same time. You can catch up while you cook or ask questions about the recipes in real time. Going opposite? This means opposite in traditional behavior while embracing the core value of connecting. Maybe you each prepare a new Covid Christmas dish, review it and share the recipe.
(Connection) (Kindness)Look at who you’re protecting by reframing connection. Who will benefit from this work you are doing this work of adding new energy and intention to connection. and this may be yourself if you are vulnerable because of health issues, or anxiety or wired to be risk averse or certain that strict adherence to your own set of guidelines is right. That’s fine, because how much connection would you feel if you gather with a large family group but are constantly tense and the only one trying to maintain social distance, open windows or masked?
(Courage) Share the Despair – Don’t struggle alone because we all hit the wall at different times. As a mother of adult children, I forgot that I don’t have to carry this on my own. Two of my girls are weathering this storm at home and one is weathering it with her husband and two kids about an hour and 45 minutes from me. Talking with all of them about my longing to have our normal celebrations and what they might actually look like helped me tremendously. Our catch phrase for this season sounds like a downer but actually it is really freeing. “Share the despair” we are all disappointed not to be together, but we are all committed to getting through this with mutual commitment to communicating and connecting creatively. My oldest daughter said, “This is hard, Mom, but we can do it and next year we’re going full Hallmark for Christmas.” I found this so reassuring, that our old traditions are not forgotten or devalued by pausing them this year – in fact we’ll have greater appreciation for them into future. Courage to try something different. Courage to present new ways to connect and at least temporarily, face the discomfort of letting go of traditions. Courage to miss others to protect them. Sometimes it takes so much more courage to try something new with people you love.
(Kindness) Lean into otherness – I remember when my girls were little and I gleaning parenting advise from any credible source, someone said to model Otherness for my children so they would learn to be accepting and caring adults. They talked about otherness actions like returning the shopping cart to a cart corral to prevent peoples’ cars being scratched, or blocking parking spaces and making easier work for those gathering up carts. Not only was I to model otherness, I was to explain to my young children why my actions were considerate of others, so I looked for ways to practice otherness and while I think it was beneficial for my children, I know it was and still is beneficial to me. There are many ways to practice otherness but I bring up the grocery cart example because in that practice, someone showed otherness to me. There was a day like many parents have had when my oldest had a melt-down in the grocery store and my infant was fussy. You know a day when the other shoppers either avoided eye contact and moves away from you or gave you a sympathetic glance and then moved away from you. When I came out of the store with screaming children, carrying one who’d gone boneless, pushing a too full cart and trying to find the pacifier for the cranky baby, I realized it was snowing. I wrestled my kids into the car and was just finishing unloading the cart into the back of my car when I turned to take the cart to the corral that seemed very far away at the time when I locked eyes with one of those sympathetic strangers I’d seen in the store. It was an older gentleman, who was about to get in his car and he said you leave that cart, I’m sure you’d like to scoot on home. I’ll see to it. And he did. It was an unexpected connection and kindness from someone who was no longer in that life season – who expressed concern and understanding with his words and actions. We can often get a lot more energy to be cautious when we lean into otherness. Otherness makes room in our minds for different context. For acting out of kindness even when we don’t understand everyone else’s situation.
Here’s why otherness can help with our Covid Christmas – I’ve learned in working with my clients that some of us are hard-wired to take risks, while some of us are hard-wired to be strongly risk-averse and some of us are in the middle – taking risks in some areas but not in others. The space created by practicing otherness allows us to remove judgement from those who are wired differently. If we operate in otherness, then we can entertain the idea that hey, maybe that mask wearer is wired to be really risk averse while I thrive on the challenge that risk creates. I’m going to show up in a way that they do not feel like my presence creates risk for them. That’s otherness.
When you lean into otherness, you plan your celebration according to the most vulnerable and most risk-averse people in your friend and family group. Keep your eye on connection and celebration as you plan. That means staying away from shaming or just pursuing “normal” celebrations and saying that it’s their choice as to whether they are involved. That just creates tension and disconnection and remember that is the opposite of our values for this Covid Christmas.
As you contemplate what your Covid Christmas looks like, operate out of otherness. After all what better way to celebrate the season of giving but to sacrifice your own desires for the wellbeing of others.
If you want to apply the principles we’ve talked about today, I really encourage you to support these thoughts with your input so that your output matches your core values. You’re really just steeping yourselves in the Covid Christmas Core Values.
O’Henry’s Gift of the Magi – a Christmas story of self-sacrifice.
The Greatest Generation – a great one to read aloud or on your own and ponder those whose lives were shaped by otherness.
Rosamind Pilcher’s Coming Home – This is a gentle read yet a great depiction of a young girl learning about self-sacrifice through the years of World War 2.
It’s a Wonderful Life
The Bells of St. Mary’s
Cinderella – The new one – emphasizes courage and kindness
These are some resources that I’ve come up with, but I bet some have come to mind for you over the course of our conversation. I’d love to hear about them. Jump inside the Boss Yourself First Face Book Group and let’s share our resources. We’re also going to have a FB Live discussion about all things Covid Christmas.
The last thing I have for you dear listeners, to support your Covid Christmas Core Values, is a graphic with the values and supporting ideas depicted. Make this a screen saver you’ll see when you email your family and friends, or when you do that online Christmas shopping. You can print and post it on your bathroom mirror or at your desk. Keep them front of mind and they will serve you well.
Next time we’re focusing on creativity and celebration. I’d love to hear from you about your Covid Christmas or other holiday celebration. What’s working for you? Are you embracing these core values? Also, it would be a real gift if you would take time to leave a podcast review wherever you listen to this podcast, it helps others find the podcast and it encourages your host
Until next time,
- Season1 Episode 9
- The Essence of the Chair
- The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (help at dawn)
- The Gift of the Magi
- The Greatest Generation
- Coming Home
- It’s A Wonderful Life
- The Bells of St. Mary’s
- BYF Covid Christmas Core Values Graphic
- Boss Yourself First Facebook Page
- Boss Yourself First Instagram