Many of us, Christian believers or not, will be preparing today, the 24th December marks Christmas eve.
There will be millions of us who are not going to have the Christmas celebration that we were planning this time last week, less than one week ago. My family will be eating alone having planned and then changed our plans to bubble with parents and siblings. My veg box is overflowing and I’m looking for creative ways to use an excess of sprouts and parsnips.
My heart is sad that we won’t have family round and my love goes out to you if you too have been affected at short notice.
Even as I write this I hear rumours of plans changing yet again in different parts of the UK as new virus variants spread and risks are reassessed.
The degree of uncertainty made me wonder if this is indeed Schrödinger’s Christmas, a state where Christmas dinner with family happens and doesn’t happen simultaneously until that moment when said friends or relatives actually arrive and sit at table and observation resolves the quantum uncertainty.
But quantum physics aside, I know how frustrating this is, I know the disappointment.
What helps me to bear it is knowing the reasons are about keeping vulnerable people safe, taking pressure off our straining NHS hospitals and planning for a future that is healthier and happier. Creating meaning behind these challenging events is one way of boosting our resilience in turbulent times.
Resilience, sometimes talked about as our ability to bounce back, is also related to our ability to be flexible and to adapt. We are resilient not simply because we are optimistic about the future though that certainly can help. We don’t even need to believe it will all work out well in the end though I do hope it means parents are still with us for next Christmas.
We are resilient because we can see meaning in enduring the current situation. We see there is a purpose and, while we hope to survive and thrive there will still be meaning to our enduring the tough times.
Meaning is not about happiness. Happiness is about the present moment, experiencing an emotion which is both pleasurable and transient. Happiness fades.
Meaning allows us to transcend the present moment and see a longer term or bigger picture vision. Enduring or experiencing challenge often increases our sense of meaning.
Let me illustrate: I chose, as an adult, to care for my disabled sister. One consequence of this has been many moments of pure delight when we shared experiences of happiness. There have been even more moments of challenge, frustration and difficulty. Remembering moments of happiness is not what gets me through the difficulties as much as remembering why I made the choice in the first place and what that means, for my sister, for me, what it says about me and what I believe in.
I guess many parents will see that raising children can bring happiness, but it’s probably not happiness that gets you through 18+ years of being a parent!
So, this year, as we work our way through Schrödinger’s Christmas and towards the New Year, take time to reflect on what brings meaning to you, why you do what you do.
Some might uncover their life’s purpose in these reflections but I’m not adding that pressure. I hope you can find or even create the space to find what brings meaning to you, what meaning you bring to the world.
So, happy Christmas, happy holidays. Whatever you do or don’t celebrate at this time of year may you experience happiness. But I pray that you will find true meaning and a moment of peace in these turbulent times.
Until the next time we meet!