There’s an old – and very wise – Swedish proverb that says “Shared joy is double joy. Shared sorrow is half sorrow.” It’s an eerily perfect sentiment for this strange period of history unfolding day-by-day in front of us instead of safely within the pages of a history textbook, yet I also find it comforting. So first, let me share my sorrow so that it may be halved.
The new round of restrictions here in Alberta have come at the absolute worst of times, beginning with our return to standard time back on Halloween. For the last seven weeks, darkness envelops us before the end of the work day. In fact, last week as we were driving home, Henry piped up from the back seat to announce “Look Mom! It’s getting to be night out.” He was right. The sun was setting. It was 2:30 p.m. Seasonal Affective Disorder is very real. Depression is very real. Sunlight is so important to many of our body’s processes and rhythms, making this time challenging for many people in a normal, non-Covid year. Add in our recent cold snap, which makes getting outside for any sunlight and fresh air even trickier, and the weight of nine months of pandemic fatigue, misinformation spreading like wildfire, as well as a sprinkle of stress from job and business insecurity, and a dash of fear mongering via social media posts and we’ve got one heck of a storm. Add in the extreme isolation and loneliness from learning and working at home, and the physical effects of staring at a screen all day, and that storm turns into blizzard. Now, the support systems we each depend on, lean on, and cling to, are also taken away, and at Christmas-time no less. And this isn’t just about my personal situation: last week I started class with a roundtable, asking each of my students to share something good and something bad about their week. The responses were absolutely heartbreaking, and pointed to a clear conclusion. We’re no longer in a storm. We’re no longer even in a dangerous winter-blizzard. This is a catastrophe. So I think we all deserve to wallow in self-pity and helplessness for a few minutes. Really roll around in it. Fill up a pool at one of the province’s shuttered recreation centres and jump right into it so that it rushes up your nose, stinging and burning, making you choke and splutter. Then share what that feels like. Take some of mine. I’ll take some of yours. Covid sucks, but together we can lighten the load. Like, I can’t do much, but here’s a towel. Dry off. You can’t stay in the pool of self-pity forever.
Next, let me share my joy so that it may be doubled. In spite of all of the above, there is still so much good. There’s door drops of cookies and wine and birthday gifts. There’s texts and calls just to say “how are you really doing?” There’s cinnamon bun lattes from Petals. Henry’s absolute delight at all things Christmas. Live-streamed yoga classes right into my living room, and the peace they bring (goodness, where would I be without them the last month and a half?). There’s still wonderful books to read in our warm, cozy house. Daycares are still open, so I can still work from home in a way that ensures work actually gets done. There’s still the smell of Christmas cookies and eggnog in the air. There’s bright displays of Christmas lights, the soft glow of our Christmas tree, and the new flickering taper candles I ordered weeks ago that arrived from Amazon and that are absolutely perfect. There’s my massage therapist who worked fourteen-hour days before the shutdown to sneak her regulars in for one last appointment. There’s happy holiday envelopes in our mailbox instead of the regular old bills. The delight of hiding gifts so they stay a surprise. There’s still the feelings of relief that rolling into the end of a semester always brings. There’s the unwavering resilience and competence of our healthcare professionals and educators, who despite the odds stacked against them, continue to show empathy and grace. There’s steady work. I’m learning and growing every day. Around us, babies are still being born. Gifts are still being wrapped. Joy remains. Joy wins. Share what that feels like. Take some of mine. I’ll take some of yours. Like, double the joy and halve the sorrow just by sharing? Always. That’s how we were made. That’s how we’ll get to the other side.