Christmas 2021 was a garbage can fire. Can we still find beauty there?

Is it me, or is everything absolutely horrible right now? I realize that last year at this point we were all in the ninth month of being locked in our homes, unable to see our families and watch the cases and deaths of Covid-19 explode around us. It just needed quick zombies with axes to complement the feeling of grief and doom.

Fortunately, this year’s holiday season was not that one. But what he did come up with was a whole new kind of disaster scenario where you can seemingly catch Covid just by watching someone who has it? Or say the name of the variant three times? I really don’t know because no one in the media or at the Centers for Disease Control seems interested in explaining it, and no one can satisfactorily determine what the likely effects will be on those vaccinated. I know people who have been really sick and others who have had an unwanted week off. As one of the guys I live with said, “What am I supposed to do with a disease that can go from nothing to death? “

As one of the guys I live with said, “What am I supposed to do with a disease that can go from nothing to death? “

Last year there were clear guidelines for what we should all do – stay home, mask off – this year we got vaccinated (well, 62% of us are), and there is always this whole new wave and, precisely because of our only partial collective immunity, we have no sense of the shared guidelines. Do you take a test before going to visit your family? If you are hosting, do you need it? Should people be able to come if it has been 10 days since they tested positive? Fourteen? Five? Not at all, just to be safe? And which test do you need: Fast? PCR? A signed note from Dr Fauci?

If you are vaccinated, vaccinated and healthy, is it important that you get tested? Because the point is, even with the best of security intentions, it has been nearly impossible to get tested over the holiday season. Rapid tests are to this year what toilet paper was to last year; you just can’t find them in stores right now. And if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere where you can walk in and take a test without having to make an appointment a week in advance, expect to wait many hours online with other people who don’t. stand more than six feet apart, and some of them who are, moreover, definitely sick.

It seems almost everyone I know at this point has just had Covid or has someone in their family who couldn’t come home for Christmas because they had it. I know people who ended up having nowhere to go for Christmas because their party hosts tested positive, and others where their party more or less fell apart around them, including a family that was expecting 22 for dinner and ended up with just four.

It seems almost everyone I know at this point has just had Covid or has someone in their family who couldn’t come home for Christmas because they had it.

Spending so close to spending time with your family and being forced back into isolation because you have, in most cases, nothing more than a bad flu, is certainly much better than it would have been. meant last year. But somehow it also seems a lot crueler, like Lucy with football, where football is a semblance of joy.

And that’s just the situation for those of us who are vaccinated and boosted. If you are unvaccinated, immunocompromised, or one of the many healthcare workers who have had to work overtime on vacation to cover sick colleagues, the situation is much worse.

My own family’s Christmas was pretty standard for 2021. A family member found out they had Covid-19 on Christmas Eve, so they and their family couldn’t come; another had just gotten over the virus. I had been tested the week before, but still thought I had to go somewhere for a quick test before heading to our big family reunion. I went online and found out that there were no reservations available anywhere for days and no testing in stores either.

Upon returning to my Jesuit community this week, I made a commitment to be tested immediately; when you live with 15 other people you don’t want to mess around. I ended up spending a whole day trying: first I waited in a line that moved about 30 feet in two hours; I gave up and wandered from drugstore to drugstore looking for quick tests, pharmacists were staring at me like I was crazy. Finally, I found out that another site on the west side of town was doing rapid tests. I was standing in a line so ridiculously short that I was only partially dancing in place to warm up when a staff member came out to confirm I was there for the rapid STI test. I am embarrassed to say that I had no idea what this meant. I was even more embarrassed when I found out.

I don’t know who created this maze, but as one of the rats can I say, “Well done”.

Here’s the thing: at one point everything got so absurd that I started to find it funny. I was literally running around Manhattan trying to convince someone that I was okay, how I felt, good. I don’t know who created this maze, but as one of the rats can I say, “Well done”.

And somehow the sheer absurdity of it all set me free, just a little, but enough to notice the city around me. Let’s be clear, it wasn’t like I was suddenly in Oz. We may not have snow yet, but it’s still winter here: gray skies, dirty buildings, bags of garbage.

But there were details that stood out: the lime green knit beanie worn by a woman smiling at those around her; the professorial tone of a boy explaining to his father that all colors were made of red, blue and yellow; the friendly way the ladies at a drugstore sat down and compared their notes with me on the whole rapid test situation.

At the very last pharmacy I stopped by on the way home, I was also amazed to find loads of rapid tests. Good news, everyone, I don’t have the Covid! Again! Probably!

Even the grayness of it all began to take on a more charming and familiar quality; A Stephen Sondheim song started to cross my mind: “Once I hated this town / Now it can’t get me down / Slushy, wet and gritty / What a lovely town. I actually came home happy, if you can imagine.

(At the very last pharmacy I stopped by on the way home, I was also amazed to find loads of rapid tests. Good news, everyone, I don’t have the Covid! Again! Probably! )

None of this is to say that life right now isn’t like the trash fire of our Christmas dreams or that this vacation isn’t the worst. But it was for me a reminder of one of the graces of all those months and months locked up. The world got way too small, yes, but it was also in some ways more visible, or I was more present at its fleeting and ordinary beauties.

I hear a lot of people say it might never end, or not anytime soon. Then I walk away because it’s more polite to scream into a pillow.

I hear a lot of people say it might never end, or not anytime soon. Then I walk away because it’s more polite to scream into a pillow.

What if it is? What if the silly variants and spooky variants and masks and the CDC shrug emojis don’t go away anytime soon?

I’m not sure how to get my brain to figure out what that would mean. But maybe the disappointment, bitterness, and just plain exhaustion that we are feeling right now is part of the way out. And we can get out of it.

Underneath, in the middle and around it all, there are still kids in Harry Potter glasses lecturing their parents and nice piles of trash and strangers who will treat us like family for no reason.

I joke that garbage looks nice. But it made you stop and think, didn’t it? How can garbage be beautiful? Besides accepting our disgust and frustration, this is perhaps a way of describing our current spiritual project.

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