Dear all,

This will be a very different Christmas for everyone. Some families can only reunite with few, others with nobody at all. I won’t be able to visit my parents or my sister this Christmas due to lockdown and overall safety measures. This stinks.

In Italy some family reunions are possible, but not in any eloborate fashion, obviously. Unfortunately, I can only accept it, because there’s absolutely no possibility that I can just wish away this pandemic (believe me I would if I could). We’ll try to travel to the south this year to visit Davide’s family to stay there for a little bit and enjoy the last of 2020 as much as possible (it may not have been a very enjoyable year, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to create some nice moments). To make sure we’re not endangering Davide’s parents, we’ve quarantined ourselves. We’ll do this for more or less one week before we start travelling, so we’ve already done our groceries and are only leaving the house to take out the trash, while wearing our mask of course, but this is anyway obligatory anywhere you go in Italy.

I know form various sources that both the Netherlands and Germany will go into a strict lockdown. Actually, they already are. Neither country has been in a strict locdown before and fortunately, they’re still allowed to go for a walk outdoors in company of somebody else (at least this is the case in the Netherlands), which is less strict than the first lockdown in Italy. Nonetheless, a lockdown is heavy and it’s already been a tough year for most people. I would suggest to follow the rules as well as you possibly can, even if that means that you can’t have a jolly Christmas with everyone at the same time. Simply because it only works really well if you keep to the rules (and I speak with some experience). Otherwise it’s a waste of everybody’s time and companies will suffer even more, because they won’t be able to return to full speed after the strict lockdown. And, perhaps, it won’t even last as long as you might think. It could also last longer than five weeks of course, but let’s not think about something that is not yet the case.

I’d like to give you some tips about how to go through this lockdown. Bear in mind that some European countries (Italy and Spain for example) have already gone through this and even though it was tough, we managed. We’re still all here.
Based on my own experience, the first two weeks are rather easy. You have enough things to do at home with which you can easily fill your time. You’ve anyway got some sort of weird version of Christmas to organise, if you still want to celebrate and that will surely help. After the first two weeks it will get tougher. You’re running out of small tasks and nice ideas. Well, since you’re still allowed to go outside (and this is really something to be grateful for), do it. Go for a walk/run or whatever you like. Go outside as often as your mental stability will allow you.
But most of all, don’t be scared to do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Your whole life you’ve been doing something, you’ve never taken time to calm down, to think about who you are, what truly makes you happy and what you’re actually doing. Do some inner work (which often boils down to doing nothing). Time will never stay as still as during your lockdown. It is the perfect moment to work on yourself instead of filling every minute of the day with unnecessary activities, so that you’ll feel productive. Were you productive, really? It’s not easy to do this. I’m still really bad at it, but that doesn’t mean I’m not trying. Go ahead with some (guided) meditation (who cares if your thoughts don’t go away, that’s not the point), read some selfhelp books, discover a new spiritual path, be one with nature (cuddly animals are a joy) or simply breathe.

One of the things that I’ve frequently witnessed popping up, especially now that we’re going in direction of Christmas, is the lack of compassion and empathy for others (everybody wants what they want, whether it’s a full on Christmas dinner or a bag filled with presents, regardless of the consequences). I simply think that when you cannot be compassionate towards yourself and you’re afraid to look inside yourself, because you don’t really want to discover who you really are and how to be happy with that, then you can also not be compassionate towards others. Hence, the inner work during your lockdown.

I’ve been feeling so much anger towards people who’ve been ignoring Covid measures, because I’ve been blaming them for keeping me from my family at a time when we really need each other. But that’s not really fair, it’s understandable (it’s simpy a part of the grieving process), but not fair. First of all, because our society doesn’t teach a lot of compassion and empathy and even though I think this is natural human behaviour we’ve been taught that it doesn’t earn us anything, so it doesn’t seem useful. Second of all, it’s hard to understand what every individual is going through, what kind of load they’re carrying on their shoulders. Perhaps instead of approaching people from a position of anger and resentment, I (and maybe also you, if I might be this bold) should approach people from a position of love. I fear that the burden of this society has been weighing a lot heavier on people’s shoulders than we can even begin to imagine. Only if we start to look at our own judgements and seeing those thoughts and realisations for what they really are (just our imagination), are we perhaps able to change ourselves, our society and our world for the better.

I’d like to invite you to go into these last days of 2020 with the following concepts in your mind: love, compassion, empathy, hope and kindness. And let’s make 2020 a year that’s worth remembering, a year in which we stood still, realised that we’re all good people in the end, that we’re all the same, not better or worse than anybody else, and moved forward with a clean slate.

From Italy with love,

Merel