Despite it All

By Chernise Joseph

This month’s topic really got me to thinking.

We’re in the middle of a global pandemic (as I’m sure you all are more than exhausted with hearing about and being afraid of), Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and unfortunately so many of us have lost loved ones that won’t be at the dinner table this year.

For my family, the holidays have always been hard. A couple of years ago, I relapsed and spent Thanksgiving and Christmas in the hospital. This time last year, my grandmother got extremely ill and passed away around Christmas time. This year, my mother is dealing with a resurgence of cancer and the chemo treatments have been extremely hard on her. Pre-Corona, I had already made up my mind to adopt the practice of holidays not existing for my own sanity, and now I think I was on to something.

I’m kidding, of course. I don’t think it’s fair to punish the next however many Thanksgivings, and Christmases, and New Years, and Easters, and whatever else because a few have been sour. That’s the weird, wonderful thing about life: it keeps going. No matter what, Apollo still snatches up the sun and drags it across the sky every day despite what’s going on beneath him and I think there’s something admirable in that. Maybe Dory said it better: just keep swimming.

This year has been awful in so many ways, but it’s done something that I think we all can learn from: it’s given me an appreciation of life that I simply did not have before. Last month, I wrote about living in the moment and how simple that should be but isn’t always. Staying close to the people you love has the same sort of lesson to it: live in the moment with them, even if it’s just virtual. Share your dreams and aspirations, your triumphs and failures, trust the process and know that you don’t always have to agree to love one another. For goodness’ sake, make your grandmother download Facebook Messenger already!

The added “virtualness” of this year has put even more strain on relationships, at least for me, anyway. It’s been tough trying to explain to friends that no, I’m not just blowing you off or no, I love you, mom, but you’re even more vulnerable than I am right now, and I don’t think I could ever forgive myself if I got you sick, or no, dad, flying halfway across the country to see you just isn’t feasible or smart for either of us. This year has been finding the perfect way to let the ones you love most down, something that is especially compounded around the holidays. I think, though, that one day we’ll all be able to collectively cringe and awkwardly chuckle about 2020 once life feels “normal” again—whatever that means. I don’t know about you all, but the idea of normal after the events of the last few months might as well have had zombies and dinosaurs in it because 2019 and previous was definitely a part of an alternative timeline.

I had an “aha!” moment last night. After a brief conversation with a friend, I realized there was a reason the word “perseverance” kept coming up as we talked. I kept thinking of those old school black posters with the kitten climbing a mountain or whatever it was doing, but after that I realized it was bigger than kitten posters or “quote-of-the-days.” Right now, our entire families need that word more than ever. Heads bowed and shoulders hunched, we’ve got to weather this storm, even if that means Zoom calls where you ask dad to pass the turkey through the iPad screen.

*Born in the heat of Texas, Chernise Joseph is an avid writer with perpetual writer’s block. She was diagnosed with MS in 2016 and has been on the ride of a lifetime ever since. Read more from Chernise on her blog

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