What Does It Look Like to Give Thanks in a Pandemic?

Give Thanks With a Grateful Heart

I mean this in both senses, that of celebrating the holiday itself and that of the act or practice of being thankful, of the actual giving of thanks.

With regards to the second, we’ve been very fortunate in this pandemic year. Neither of us has caught the virus. So far – knock wood – all the friends and family who have caught it either have recovered or are not seriously ill.

My spouse’s job is secure, and although revenue in my business is off significantly (like more than 50%) this year, wouldn’t you know it, our expenses are down quite a bit, too, since we can’t travel or eat out or go to the theater or take dance classes or many of the usual leisure activities we spend money on. So we’re not going to lose the house or anything, and in fact, we’ve been able to increase our charitable giving substantially, which is a good thing, because our local service and arts organizations really need the help right now.

We both normally work from home, so the day-to-day hasn’t changed for us a whole lot (other than NEVER going to an on-site client meeting). Which, combined with my slow work schedule, has meant plenty of time for solo, masked walks, practicing boxing and dance on my own, and Spanish practice. (My current instructor and classmates were surprised to learn, in last night’s online class, that I’ve only been studying Spanish for nine months. Well, when you can invest an hour or so in practice most days, you do tend to make progress.)

I desperately miss my friends/family of choice – seeing only one household per week, only outdoors, physically distanced, and not sharing any food or beverage (or hugs) is not the same – and although my feelings about my Trump-supporting family of origin remain complicated, I’ve never gone this long – not even in 2017 – without seeing them.

But overall, I actually do have a lot to be grateful for this season. Which feels somehow wrong, or disrespectful, to articulate, when so many people are experiencing so much loss. More than 250,000 Americans are dead. More than 12 million Americans are out of work. Hundreds of thousands of children are falling behind in school, because it’s not safe to send them there.

How does one give thanks while still properly acknowledging all the harm that so many have experienced this year?

With regards to the actual celebrating of the holiday, we’re still trying to figure this out.

Obviously, we’re not traveling out of the area, nor are we gathering together any sort of large – or even medium – group.

Health experts have been recommending that we all form small – VERY small – “pods” (or, as my spouse prefers, “bubbles”) for the coming cold months. The thinking is that since we will no longer be able to gather outside for any length of time with any level of comfort, and confining ourselves just to the people who physically live in our house (in my case, just me, the spouse, and two EXCEPTIONALLY spoiled kitties) may be detrimental to our mental health, better to choose one other household to basically join our household. In short, you become one household that just happens to have two locations, which prevents you from losing your shit and going to a big party that turns into a super-spreader event.

In our case, we approached another couple with whom we are very close friends who also have no children or local family, who also both work from home full time, and who also only ever interact inside with any other humans in a single weekly, masked trip to the grocery store at a low-traffic time of day, if they would want to “pod/bubble” with us this winter.

They said yes, and we chose Thanksgiving as the first time any of us will be inside, unmasked, and sharing food and drink with anyone other our respective spouses since early March (and even then, we had gone to brunch with other friends shortly before everything shut down, and there was NO “you have to taste this” or “can I try that?” going on WHATSOEVER at our table – everybody ordered their own food, ate their own food, and that was that).

But now, with cases rising in our area (even though we’re still among the very lowest infection rate locations in the entire country), I find myself wondering if we should chuck it, stick to just the two of us for the entire winter, and hope we don’t kill each other or go mental in the process.

How does one balance what is, likely, very little (but not *no*) physical risk against likely (but hopefully not severe) mental risk?

I don’t know the answer to either of these questions, but they are certainly making for yet another deeply discomfiting chapter in this seemingly never-ending anno horribilis.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

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