by Russell Pollitt SJ
The past year has been a challenging one. I thought my own experiences had made it difficult, but I have heard several others say the same thing. As the end of the calendar year is just a few weeks away, more of us feel physically and psychologically drained. How much does this have to do with the Covid pandemic?
Earlier this year, when we were allowed to remove masks and resume many activities, it seemed as if life hit breakneck speed. Maybe, subconsciously, we thought we had to “catch up” after the long pause the pandemic forced on us. However, that catch-up has not been easy – or perhaps good for us – as we suddenly began living life at a furious pace. Maybe the “new normal” was a pace far exceeding the one we lived at before the pandemic.
There have also been other challenges that we need to throw into the mix. For example, in 2022, we faced the crippling effects of power cuts. The stress of having to live life around power cuts, negotiate traffic, find – often costly – alternatives, and the resulting increase in life in general, has taken its toll on many. The country’s political and financial situation has also exacerbated matters. As a result, the country has palpable anxiety and social fatigue.
We each have challenges in our own lives to contend with. The ups and downs life throws in our paths – be that sickness, loss of loved ones, or just the juggling of demands and responsibilities.
Our emotional and physical bodies have been through a lot. We do not always realise the impact life has on us beyond what we can see or feel in a specific moment. The sheer volume of what we have had to face slowly reduces our psychological and emotional capacities. Our support networks may not be as they were before the pandemic – which altered our social structure much more than we realise.
I think the pandemic’s psychological and social effects on us are only starting to surface. We take longer to process things than we think – especially things that affect us psychologically and socially in such a global and catastrophic way.
I don’t know how you feel as you approach the end of the year, but I do wonder if we are being invited, at this time, to do something different. I wonder if the greatest gift we can give – to ourselves and others this Christmas – is to slow down, take time out and be as kind to ourselves and others as we can be. I fear that too many of us get caught up in and spend far too much psychological energy and time, which takes a physical toll, doing things for Christmas that leave us feeling unfulfilled and exhausted. That would certainly not be what God wants.
Often, at this time of the year, we try to fulfil the expectations of others or make sure they have a “good experience” of Christmas. But, unfortunately, many people do this at their own expense. And, besides, the people whose expectations we think we might be fulfilling, we might not be fulfilling at all. We cannot control the experiences of others either. We can only do our part.
I wonder if the God-given invitation – and maybe the kindest thing we can do this Advent and Christmas – is to take time to be and allow others to do the same. Rest, be kind, love the season, love more simply and dump the usual Christmas craze that, in the end, achieves very little. Instead, connect again with your own soul and the souls of those around you. It’s in those places that the Christ we await will be found.