Food, family and festivities. It's what we all associate with and look forward to at Christmastime. But this year, as I'm sure we're all sufficiently aware, Covid-19 has significantly axed any major plans of the "family and festivity" variety.
Though, for most people, I can assume food will continue to play a central role in the coming weeks - if not a greater role, to make up for the lack of family and festivities. Food will play a central role for me this Christmas, too....but probably not in quite in such a jovial way as most.
Christmastime is the peak-of-Everest in terms of anxiety for anyone struggling with their relationship with food. Combine large volumes of edible matter that is notoriously high-calorie, high-fat, high-scare-factor with family traditions, Christmas parties, work socials, booze, January diet talk, insensitive comments from well-meaning relatives, lack of routine, a bit more diet talk, and, in the UK at least, bad weather and four hours of daylight..."a recipe for disaster" feels like a cliched, poorly humorous understatement sometimes.
I am very grateful to come from a family that doesn't put pressure on this time of year, because I know for a lot of people, Christmas comes with a lot of expectations. Though, to an extent, unless one resorts to appearing like a socially-awkward party pooper and drawing in unwanted attention that way, there are certain expectations that I think the majority of us are subject to in December more than any other time of the year. I mean, when else in the Roman calendar is prolific over-indulgence not only un-condemned but assumed? Trying to navigate one's way through this with an eating disorder in the mix can be rather stressful. (Okay, 'rather', is definitely an understatement). And did I mention the January diet talk?
But this year, the Christmas parties, the work socials and the family gatherings will be cut to a minimum, and those with shareholdings in Zoom will be rubbing their hands together. Don't get me wrong, this is deeply deeply perverse and upsetting and we are not designed to live in this way. But I'm not going to lie....part of me is utterly relieved. The awkwardness, the excuses, the anxiety, the emotional turmoil...I am mercifully spared a little.
It's not just the avoidance, excuses and anxiety, though....it's the sadness. It's the wanting, in some respects, so desperately to join in with the free-spirited cheer and just scoff another roast potato...but feeling trapped. It's the wondering if things will always be like this. It's the feeling stuck between ten thousand rocks and ten thousand hard places. C.S. Lewis talks of grief feeling a lot like fear. This makes a lot of sense, somehow.
Christmas will be unusual for all of us this year. But, I trust and pray that there will be negatives and positives for all of us, whatever our circumstances. And, as they say...there's always next year.
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together."
~ Isaiah 40:3-5