I’m writing this in Brisbane, Queensland on the morning of December 21st, 2020. The latest television news reports that a new overseas case of the COVID-19 virus is starting to spread more rapidly from Sydney’s northern beaches to other parts of Sydney and to the Central Coast. Understandably, other Australian states are closing their borders to stop the spread. I feel with a heavy heart the chaos that this has caused to people’s Christmas holiday plans. As John Lennon reminded us in the song, Beautiful Boy, Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.
I just happened to turn on the tele this morning and was fortunate to see Paul Kelly performing his song, How to Make Gravy. Do you know it? The song is a letter from a prison mate to his brother on December 21st, reminiscing about past Christmas years. You can feel his heart-felt appreciation and re-living of past Christmases and his longing for future ones when he will be reunited with his family.
My extended family is all in Sydney. Luckily, due to an operation my husband was supposed to have (but which has since been cancelled), we had decided way back in October to stay in Queensland this December. On Christmas day we hopefully will be having lunch with my two sons and my son’s fiancée. In other words, ‘my’ life hasn’t been disrupted, however, who knows what is just around the corner for me? Life is impermanent, constantly changing from moment to moment. But coming back to our reality, this disruption to this special seasonal celebration is going to be hard to swallow for so many people, especially those who now find themselves isolated and alone due to the recently imposed border closures. My arms around you. My heart goes out to you.
As you know, one of my favourite phrases is by Dr Wayne Dyer, Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change. Let’s do that now. Let’s take a deep breath or maybe quite a few long, deep breaths. We can stop. We can accept. We can surrender to what is. This may be an excellent opportunity to see things and do things a bit differently this Christmas. Perhaps we can really try to see the glass half full instead of half empty. I know as humans we are hardwired to see the negative instead of the positive but this is a moment to show ourselves, as well as our kids, that we are capable of putting our own needs second instead of first.
I haven’t been on social media today yet but I can be pretty sure it is full of people lamenting the fact that they won’t be able to go ahead with their travel plans this week. People will, understandably, be in a state of disbelief, resisting and struggling with their new reality and having a hard time accepting that Christmas 2020, like the rest of 2020 that has gone before, is not going to be the same as past years.
So, you know what we do when life hands us lemons, don’t you? Exactly. We take a hard, long look at those yellow, plump lemons that we find holding. We accept that they are in our hands or on the bench – ripe and ready to be transformed. We observe them mindfully and then our creative imagination comes up with what we can do with this fruit. As our mind starts to visualize and create, not only do we think about lemonade but we may also think about lemon meringue pies, lemon and poppyseed cakes, lemon bars and well, the list is endless.
The important thing is not to resist the taste of the lemon. It is by nature bitter. It is neither a grape nor a mango nor a strawberry. We accept the lemon for what it is and we remain determined, no matter what the external circumstances may be, to remain in a state of calm presence. We are resolved to remain in a state of gratitude. By this I mean we can be grateful in our heart, all the way through to our bones. I mean radically, intensely, immensely grateful for the home in which we live with its rainproof roof, running water, functioning sewerage, electricity, multiple rooms, electronic devices, garden and other objects we daily take for granted. Remember, what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger. Not only can this virus make us stronger and more resilient, it can give us much more gratitude for the simple things.
Some of you may be saying, ‘’It’s easy for you to say this Jen. Your Christmas plans haven’t been disrupted in any way. You don’t know what it feels like.” I can tell you that I have a good imagination. I feel empathy with those who are suffering due to this virus. I can tell you that I know at the core of my being and from experience that not having a knee jerk reaction to life when it doesn’t go as I hoped, has guided me to connect with the inner calm and peace that resides at my core. Just like that pebble in the pond, we can each have a positive effect on what we tell ourselves as well as those we speak to and come into contact with.
This Christmas may look different to other Christmases but let’s never ever lose sight of hope and the gratitude for this life, that we each have for a relatively short time. As we look back on historical events, we are able to appreciate them with some hindsight and perspective. What if we could use this wisdom to see our current situation? We can see how ripples and turbulent waves on the ocean of life are necessary to take us to where we need to go. When I stare fear squarely in the face, it seems to diminish. When I accept that my plans may be disrupted, that I may die of this virus or a loved one may die of this virus, I accept that I am only one being of 7.8 billion people on this planet. I am a tiny ripple on the ocean of humanity and yet how I move will influence the other droplets of water around me.
I feel determined to remain vigilant. I feel determined to remain calm. I feel determined to deal with each situation as it arises in a mindful and kind way. Why am I so determined? Because I know that this choice leads to short term and long term happiness.
I wish you all a beautiful Yellow Christmas for 2020! Just 'cause it's yellow, doesn't mean it can't be sweet.