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will this year be the loneliest holiday season ever?

Dec 17, 2020

Earlier this week I wrote a twitter thread about what it's like to have big, hard feelings right now as we move through the darkness of winter and the ongoing pandemic and coup. Some of what I'm talking about will be similar to this thread.

winter is hard and COVID sucks!

It is super common for folks to feel lonely, isolated, or down during the (Christian-centric) holiday season. It's dark outside, it's cold, and lots of media shows us happy families and couples basking in their love for each other. So when you're single/not close to fam? Woof.

This year, we get the extra dose of a deadly pandemic. So many of us who are single or not close with family or living far away from those we care about have already been facing isolation and loneliness for months. During the summer, at least we could do outdoor gatherings. Now?

Now it's cold, rainy, snowy, and COVID cases are surging everywhere. All of that loneliness and isolation is just settling in deeper to hibernate with us for the winter. And yes, yay! there's a vaccine!, but most of us aren't going to be getting the vaccine anytime soon.

And even once *we* get the vaccine it's still not safe for us to "return" to "normal" because lots of folks can't get vaccinated and there's no proof that vaccinated folks won't spread the virus. So we're still months and months from any end to this isolation.

Being this alone for this long, this cut off, is really really f*cking hard. It's exhausting to the bones. There are so many days where I feel like Artax, just sinking into the sadness, unable to get myself out of it. I'm so glad I got a dog because at least I get some cuddles.

coping is a journey

But, look, I'm a slutty extrovert who goes weeks without seeing people, who went 6ish months with no sex at all with other people, whose entire physical contact with humans in one month of this year was one hug. It's physically painful to be this alone for this long.

When we feel this deep isolation, it can be overwhelming, and maybe we want to run from it or hide from it. I've been tempted to just do way more cannabis than I otherwise would. Or to scroll Twitter for hours and hours. Or play mobile games until it's suddenly/finally bedtime.

It can feel like it's easier to run away from our feelings, or to push them away, or to pretend they're not there. I see so many hustle culture posts that, to me, seem like someone yelling at the passengers on the Titanic to stop panicking and finish their novel already.

And then you throw in this ongoing coup, the attacks on the rights of BIPOC folks to live, work, and be, the attacks on trans folks, the refusal of the US government to do anything meaningful to support our population, and it's just too much. It's too much every single day.

While some may encourage us to find ways to push through or soldier on, I think it's important for us to just see each other in this space. To validate that pretty much everyone is deep in the sh*t right now. To see each other struggling and say, hey, I get it, I'm here with you.

We don't need to fix each other or find the silver lining. Maybe the most powerful thing we can do for each other right now is practice being with each other when it's hard and sh*tty and we don't want to deal with anymore. To witness each other and care for each other.

What if, instead of trying to put on a happy face for each other, we normalized showing each other where we're really at. Answering "how are you?" with our real answer. Being vulnerable and raw in our hurt and fear and loneliness and uncertainty. And have that be okay.

Because if we're going to come out the other side of this someday, these feelings aren't going to just magically vanish. All this trauma and deprivation won't be cured once we can go to bars again. It's still going to be there. Those feelings aren't going away until we feel them.

The part about trauma treatment that folks hate, but that works, is re-opening the stuff we shoved into a box in a dark corner because it felt too wild and overwhelming. Because we were sure that if we just *felt* it then we would never get out of it. It would be us forever.

What tends to be true is that those feelings have a natural course. They can't go anywhere until they run that course. When we keep them shoved down, we're just making sure they'll pop up somewhere else instead. They're like a beach ball; we can't shove them under the water.

These feelings are hard and they can feel too wild and unruly to bear. And we must create space to be with them, even though they're challenging, because they're our reality. Pretending I'm not lonely doesn't change the reality of my isolation. But it can rot me from the inside.

allow yourself to feel

Fully feeling my loneliness helped me decide to try some online dating. Not because it would guarantee that I'd meet someone, but because *not* doing anything would guarantee that my loneliness won't change. I have to at least take a chance on something if I want a change.

However, until I really let myself feel that loneliness and isolation and fear and despair I was able to just pretend like I'd be able to get through the rest of COVID life without changing anything. I told myself that there was nothing I *could* change or that was worth changing.

Being present to my real feelings, all of them, all the way, was what showed me that I wasn't okay. That I couldn't do the same things I was doing. I'm still really lonely. I'm still really isolated. That's not likely to meaningfully change. But I have choices now.

I also have a clearer understanding of where I'm actually at. I'm not okay. I'm sad and lonely and desperate for contact and closeness. I'm struggling to do even basic things for myself like taking the recycling down to the garbage room. And lots of you are struggling too.

We're living through a global pandemic with no support from our government while white supremacists stage a coup and transphobia surges in the public sphere. Being around people can literally kill us but we as a species are social creatures. It's too much. It's all too much.

There's no hustle or bright side that will make all of it not too much. We can't earn or produce or face tune our way out of these feelings. We can find moments of joy or fun or play or beauty, they just exist in this larger context. So we have to feel it all.

find your joy

Being in reality is the best gift we can give ourselves. Because once we let ourselves be here, we can decide what to do about it. We can find love and joy and pleasure and play. And, perhaps most importantly, we can only find connection when we're in reality.

So, this holiday season, let's make space for each other to be wherever we are. To struggle, to be sad, to be lonely. Let's only ask "how are you" when we're ready to hear a *real* answer. And let's support each other as much as we can while we all muddle through this together.

On December 21st we have the Solstice. After that, the days start getting longer. While the end of 2020 won't mean the end of all of this, it is one kind of ending. I intend to start 2021 tuning into my body and my heart and giving myself love. How do you want to start the year?

If you want to start the year like I'm going to, I'm going to be offering an email course for folks. It'll run for 6 weeks, from December 30th to February 10th, and it's all about loving on yourself. Enroll now through Jan. 5th.

Take care,

Dr. Liz

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