In late November, Omicron hit, or at least it did here in Europe. I had booked a trip to London and Edinburgh a few months before this new wave began its fast ripple across the continent. I braced myself as I watched travel restrictions change in the UK, requiring me to two days of isolation and a negative PCR test to be able to move about freely in the country. The new restrictions would cause me to miss all my plans in London, essentially forcing me to sit in an expensive hotel, alone, before catching my train to Edinburgh. So I canceled the first leg of my trip, rebooked my flights to Edinburgh, shelled out about $500 in testing fees and transportation to/from the testing sites, and braced myself for things to change again.
They didn’t. But back home, my family wasn’t so lucky.
While I was gone, my daughter’s school closed because of COVID cases. My daughter’s closest friends tested positive, so she was forced to isolate for ten days, and the entire family had to be tested for COVID (which really isn’t as easy here in Europe as the US news would have you think). Then our washing machine broke.
When I arrived home, a friend lent us their Airbnb so we could do laundry (thank goodness for good friends!). Then our daughter became seriously ill, enough that we were contemplating a trip to the ER. We tucked her in at 6:30 p.m., and I sat on the floor for hours, watching her and listening to her breathing.
She was better the next day, but our son’s eyes looked like they had little cuts underneath them, and they were red and swollen. Throughout the day, it progressed to pink eye, and with his eyes swollen up like oozing asterisks, we took him to the doctor. Viral, they told us.
Then our kitchen sink started leaking. We had to convert our main floor bathroom into a kitchen (with lots of careful cleaning—don’t worry!). After a couple of failed attempts to fix it, it was still leaking on Christmas Eve. And because the leak was connected to the dishwasher too, we couldn’t use it either.
That same day, on Christmas Eve, I shut down work for the holidays. We had a repair person coming in and out of the house all day, and thank goodness, he came through just before evening rolled in, and we were able to use our kitchen again. That night, I started feeling sick. I told my husband, “I think I’m going to lose my voice.” The next day, it was completely gone and I felt terrible. But it was Christmas, y’all. And you can’t be sick on Christmas, so I took ibuprofen, drank extra coffee, and powered through.
The day after Christmas, I couldn’t get out of bed. I had developed pink eye, and I was also nauseous, my head was killing me, and I was so fatigued I slept off and on until about 4 p.m., when I dragged myself downstairs to watch a movie with my family. The next day, I was still not feeling well and needed a long nap in the afternoon. I had no energy, not even to take a walk. My husband developed pink eye around this time too, so while our kids were doing better, we weren’t feeling great. Over the following days, I’d say I felt about 10% better each day, which really isn’t great improvement when you think about it. This is all during a sacred time of year for us, because it’s a rare complete break from work, when we get to spend the holidays together as a family.
So let’s recap: canceled trip, school shutdown, daughter in forced isolation while I was in Scotland, daughter sick, three of us with pink eye, me sicker than I’ve been in years, washing machine broken, kitchen sink and dishwasher out of commission, first several days of my holiday lost because I was too sick to get out of bed or leave the house (and yes, I did take a COVID test—it was negative). And it all happened while living in a foreign country.
This was all in the span of approximately twenty days.
I recall thinking during this time—and I kid you not: “I’m going to write a blog post after the holidays, and it will be about all the bad things with no redeeming qualities or personal reflections of gratitude.” You guys. That should tell you how down I was.
But here’s where I’ll break with my down-in-the-dumps-no-redeeming-qualities mindset and say, wow, I’m grateful.
There’s nothing like a horrible month to force you to do a 360 review of your life and what led to the awfulness. In our case, our horrible month was wrapped tightly in security and safety. We have access to good health care in a safe country. I have a business I can completely detach from for ten full days, then pick back up and be overjoyed to get to go into 2022 and crush my goals (and I have BIG goals—can’t wait to share them!). I have a supportive, all-in husband and two great kids I can watch movies with when I’m sick and go to the beach with and enjoy moments of presence and love, even in a really hard month. Heck, we even have an awesome handyperson who worked hard on Christmas Eve to restore our kitchen to functionality so we could enjoy our Christmas dinner.
Even in the hardest moments, even in the worst of moods, even in the most terrible of times, there is so much to be grateful for.
So, 2021: peace out. Welcome to the world, 2022. Let’s make it a good one.
What about you? What holiday ups and downs did you experience? How are you recentering to focus on good and gratitude? Share with me—I love reading your insights!