I’m back. At least for now.
No, I haven’t abandoned this blog, but just like pretty much everything else in 2020, it has been put on hold a little bit. While some people are bored out of their minds in lockdown, my experience of the Covid-19 pandemic has been slightly different so far.
See, in Japan, not only we’re not in lockdown, but as all classes have been moved online (that’s a good thing), the amount of work that has befallen on me has been a bit too much at times. Things are not as crazy as they were last Spring, when we had to reorganize all classes, but it’s still a lot. In the Fall semester, I usually teach English writing classes (as opposed to English speaking classes in the Spring), so even on a regular semester, it means a lot of grading this time of the year. Except that usually, I grade on paper. One, it’s faster. Two, it means that I don’t usually spend my entire day at work in front of the computer.
In other words, these days, while I still spend a lot of my free time in front of computers (especially because I’m staying home more than usual), the amount of research, concentration and such required to write blog posts is sometimes a bit too similar to being at work, and a bit too demanding in terms of energy. So yeah, my blogs were the first victims of my plans being changed by the epidemic (on the other hand, I started a YouTube channel, and I’ve been learning to shoot videos, check it out, subscribe and all those things, you know the drill).
However, after this long introduction to basically tell you that I’m fine, but that you’ll have to be patient if you want regular posts on this blog again, let’s talk about the reason why I decided to write something today.
Well, it’s in the title. Because of the pandemic, we really shouldn’t travel. Most of us can’t (I haven’t been able to return to France since March, not sure when I’ll be able to – I was supposed to spend my summer there, oh well). Some of you can, but really, you shouldn’t.
And with Christmas in two days, it means that for a certain number of you, you will probably be spending Christmas alone, and you’re dreading it.
Well, know that I fully understand. While I’m lucky to have a family near me these days, and that I will be spending Christmas with them, back when I lived in the US, between 1998 and 2005, I spent a few Christmases alone there (three or four, I can’t remember exactly). And what hit the hardest back then was usually to be far from my family at a time when we usually gather together from wherever we are in normal times.
Well, then, maybe I can try to give you a few tips and advice.
I think that every time I was alone for Christmas, the first and main thing I did to prepare myself to that ordeal was to tell myself and convince myself, starting several weeks in advance (so it maybe a little too late, two days before the day), that this was just going to be a regular day, no different from the other days of that week (as I was a student at the time, it was Winter break, so I would treat it just like another Winter break day: getting up late, watching movies, playing video games, chatting with friends online – can you believe it, social media didn’t exist yet). I would get presents (from family, friends and myself), but I would just open them whenever I got them, not on the day, and I wouldn’t really do anything special on Christmas eve. Maybe a “Frenchish” dinner and a movie, and not much else.
It worked pretty well for the most part. The only thing that would make me feel down would actually be other people when they tried to cheer me up! I know they meant well, but every time it would go the same way. I felt pretty OK about being alone for Christmas. Then, a friend or acquaintance would ask me about my plans, whether I would fly home, these sorts of things. And I would tell them that no, I wouldn’t, I’d be alone. And then, in their most sympathetic voice, they’d tell me how sorry they were and how bad they were feeling for me.
And that would crush my mood instantly.
So maybe this one is more of an advice for people who won’t be alone and who talk with people who will be alone. Please, don’t overdo it with the being sympathetic thing.
One thing that will probably help, is that as opposed to my experiences with being alone for Christmas, this year – if you’re in that situation – you won’t be an oddity. Many of you are on the same boat. Maybe it will help normalizing it? Yes, it sucks and it feels like shit, but hey, at least, you won’t be the only one around you for whom it’ll suck. And well, most of the year has sucked anyway, so that’s just one more thing among others, right?
Now, let me tell you about Christmas Eve 2002 (or was it 2003?)
I lived in Gainesville, Florida at the time, and once again, I was going to spend Christmas alone. I had managed to prepare myself psychologically (I had done it a couple of times before, I knew what to expect by then), and everything was more or less planned to be an as OK Christmas Eve as possible.
One of my good friends at the time was not super close to her family, so while she usually spent a day with her old Mom who lived a few hours away, she was going to be there the rest of the week, and we’d hang out…
Well, things started to go astray when she was hospitalized just a few days before Christmas, with a pretty serious health issue. And she had to spend Christmas in the hospital, not in a good shape. Actually whatever happened to me after, I just needed to remember where she was and how she felt in order to not feel too sorry for myself.
She had a few pets (one or two dogs, one or two cats? I can’t remember exactly, but at least one dog). My roommate (who was with her family) also had two cats that stayed in our house. So, the plan had become to do a lot of pet sitting on that day and that night.
The day of December 24th was pretty uneventful.
When night came, I went to my friend’s apartment to feed her pets, walk her dog, clean her cat’s litter and all that. I probably spent a couple of hours there, and then returned to my house, starting to be bit hungry and looking forward to preparing and eating the nice dinner that I had planned (I think it included confit de canard, as it’s one of the few French dishes from my home area that could easily travel to the US).
Well, Ethel has other plans. Ethel was one of my roommate’s two cats (I can’t believe I don’t have pictures of her on this blog, nor in my possession – here is her twin sister Lucy – although Ethel looked slightly different). She was probably the only cat I ever loved (I didn’t hate all of the other ones, don’t put words in my mouth), and while I was at my friend’s place taking care of my friend’s pets, Ethel got sick and pooped all over the kitchen and the living room! Some of the stinkiest cat poop I remember smelling. Of course, it was on the diarrhea side of things. I had to clean both floors, and probably the blanket on the couch too, as well as quarantine the poor animal for a little while, until after it seemed obvious that her intestines were now empty. Pro tip: if you have a fireplace, ash is ideal to dry up cat diarrhea – I had read about it, somehow, and it worked.
While, it was Florida, it was northern Florida in late December, so nights were a bit chilly. I had to open all the windows as an attempt to get rid of the stench in that part of the house, with some success, but of course, it became quite cold in the house. It took a good two hours or so before the air had been changed enough in the room to allow me to close the windows and put the heater back on.
I had to postpone my dinner – I was too hungry to cook at that stage, not mentioning the poop’s smell not totally gone from the kitchen, and the poop visions not totally gone from my mind. I just threw some pre-prepared bland dish in the microwave, and swallowed it in five minutes. Talk about a Christmas dinner.
It was way past 10pm when, finally, I could start my evening and try to have some fun somehow.
I decided to watch a movie. There were always a few DVDs that I hadn’t watched sitting around – the record/DVD shop next to campus always had amazing deals or used ones. I picked one more or less randomly, and put it in the player.
It was Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream…
I’m sure I would have loved it if I had seen it under different circumstances.
I have never watched it again (I probably should, though), and this is my other important advice: if you’re home alone for Christmas, do not, under any circumstance, watch Requiem for a Dream, nor any other movie that you haven’t watched yet for that matter. Only watch movies you know well and that don’t contain any bad surprises.
Sometimes, I watch two movies on Christmas eve. Not that night. I just went to bed. I probably fell asleep almost instantly.
That’s it. That’s the story of my Christmas Eve 2003 (or was it 2002?).
So, if you’re alone for Christmas this year, and if you start feeling down because the boredom and loneliness are taking over, just think about my story.
Hopefully, your Christmas is not as shitty as that one (pun intended).
Oh, and no matter what, be serious with social distancing, y’all, unless you want this thing to keep going for two or three more years. Because it can, if we don’t collectively stop being idiots.