Almost the end of the year, a time of joy and struggle depending on the day. This past week I had my most social and most isolating days. First a party. Ladies who Latkes is something I came up with a few years ago, an excuse to have some women friends and neighbors over for potato pancakes during Chanukah. I hosted it for a few years and delighted in the camaraderie. And then came the pandemic hiatus, and then this year I decided to try again.

I hate to admit how neurotic I am when it comes to hosting a gathering, how much as I have the purest intentions: to be a welcoming and generous host – I easily get sidetracked. First there’s the house which I’ve already written about ad nauseum, but we have done our best to clear things up and make it look presentable. (T is a big help.)  Then I have the anxiety that A. No one will come. B. Everyone will come and I’ll never get enough latkes made for the crowd. C. People won’t have a nice time although that’s never been the case in the past. Who doesn’t like fried potatoes and good company? Much of this is wasted energy, the what if’s I can create for any scenario. 

The reality: people show up. Some bring their kids. Many bring wine. They seem to be having a good time. I make a lot of latkes right before people arrive and put them in a low temperature oven to stay warm so that I can socialize and not be tethered to the stove, as has happened in years past. The many minor faux pas: I forgot to get napkins and have to tear up some paper towels. I don’t open the wine because I am so focused on food and hoping people are enjoying themselves. The last latkes served may be dried out from all that time in the oven. Still, I am having a party! My socially isolated days are broken up by this brightness in the calendar. It seems to be going well. I am able to enjoy myself and appreciate the gathering, to overcome my worries about not being the perfect host and let it be good enough.

It is the perfect closure to the end of the year, at least for V who had his last day of school on Thursday. And then the long break begins on Friday as the weather grows frigid and we are stuck inside with no help. Cold weather and no structure for V is my least favorite combination, so the holiday season is truly dreaded. I talk to a few of my friends at the party who are also moms of grown kids with special challenges. They completely get it, which is really what a party is about – not having a knockout buffet of food or a stunning home but rather connecting with others. Appreciating those connections even more because they are followed by some very isolating days.

It happens every year and every year we survive it. V has a few days of Friendship Circle camp starting on Tuesday but before then are four very long days. I know I am not alone in feeling lonely this time of year. Yet with major storms and travel nightmares throughout large swaths of the country I am grateful for power and heat and food and water. Boredom is a drag but it’s not a catastrophe. Neither is loneliness although it may ache.

And yet these days are always tough, especially this year on a bitter cold Christmas morning when I hope everyone will sleep in, V gets up at 530 am! 14 hours to go until evening medicine will help him relax enough to sleep. That may not be the most gracious sounding way to talk about someone I love but being a bored and restless young man stuck inside is hard for all of us. I let T sleep in and hang out with V for a few hours. Then when T wakes up I go upstairs to sit and do a guided meditation which ends with “breathe into the goodness that you are.” It’s a nice sentiment and helps the resentment and frustration to dissipate. I’m not a bad person, I just want some time to myself and with people other than the beloved ones who live under this roof. I feel like such a Scrooge bemoaning what is such an important holiday to so many. And yet whether Jewish, Muslim, atheist or any other religion or reason for many it is just another day.

And because of the early hour with which it begins, this Christmas day is especially long. No structure, and nothing open except for some Chinese restaurants. We order an assortment of food from our favorite Taiwanese spot (which also has a location in Rockville, MD for anyone who lives that way) and go to pick it up for lunch. We come home to eat although V doesn’t touch anything. We cannot figure out why he’s become so finicky. There’s a lot we can’t figure out but we make it through another long cold day. Dumplings and soup and It’s a Wonderful Life, which is showing all day long.

Monday is the light at the end of the tunnel. The temperature is slightly warmer. I remind myself that since the winter solstice on December 21 the days are growing ever so incrementally longer; more daylight will greet us every day from now till June, which feels so far off. Things are dark and cold and we are going stir crazy but it won’t last. I feel isolated but I am not alone. I talk to people on the phone and get a number of texts with holiday greetings which I appreciate. It could be worse.

Someone at my party – quite a few were having their first latkes – asked if I celebrate the calendar new year as well as the Jewish one. Yes! I reply although I don’t celebrate as much as use these markers as an opportunity to reflect and set intentions for the year ahead. For 2023: More socializing and deeper connections. More work on a writing project. Travel at least once. Cultivate acceptance, generosity, kindness and contentment. And then I send those wishes out to others, to find joy and peace wherever you can even in the most unlikely circumstances. To remember that every day brings more light.

2 thoughts on “social/isolation

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