For most people, Christmas is a wonderful time of year, regardless of your religious denomination (or if you don’t have one at all). Winter is beginning and with that we have wonderful scenery on our drive to work, school or shopping. The crisp air as we walk outside in the mornings greets us with intensity. We meet with family and friends who we don’t normally see on a day to day basis. For students, like myself, the end of another stressful semester can be celebrated with some much deserved time off. The end of December has always been a truly beautiful time of year for me. For those of us living in Ontario, Christmas is bringing something else with it – looming over us as we prepare for celebrations with our family.
Lockdown 2.0 starts on December 26th. For at least 14 days for northern Ontario residents and 28 days for southern Ontario residents, we are returning back to the beginning of the year: we have essentially done a circle back to where we began! COVID-19 has worked its way into our minds similarly to how it works inside of our bodies; infecting us with a negative mindset and forcing us to suffer both physically and psychologically, at what is normally, the most joyous time of year. Although the circumstances may be oh so similar to what we saw in early 2020, our reaction does not have to be the same.
I’m currently reading (or I should say listening to) Man’s Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapyby Viktor Frankl. As a bit of a Psychology buff, this book screamed out to me as it is acclaimed as the 3rd school of thought for the discipline of Psychotherapy. Frankl argues that unlike his predecessors – Freud and the gang -, human motivation lies in the necessity to find meaning in life. He states that the previous understandings of pleasure and power were incorrect. As a prisoner in Auschwitz during the Holocaust, Frankl’s ability to find both pleasure and power were stripped from him alongside any and all other liberties. Regardless, he survived. In the book, he attributes his survival solely to his wife, whom he longed for and envisioned by his side day in and out, while barely sustaining himself on the rationed bread and soup given to the prisoners. Frankl found through observation that the prisoners who clung on to something good, something they truly loved and appreciated, made it out of the camp alive. It was through this suffering that he made his discovery.
As I listened to the book, I realized something. We, too, are suffering. No, my struggle and our collective struggle, is not nearly as bad as what Frankl and the other prisoners experienced during the Holocaust. Yet, 2020 might have been the hardest year any of us have experienced this far. And, we can learn from it, we can find meaning in it. Staying at home over the holidays is hard. No one is denying that. However, taking from Frankl, we are all free to find whatever meaning we want in our given circumstances; it’s one of the most beautiful parts of being human. We can choose to either see this lockdown as a shitty time, forsaken on us by the government. We can hold that anger inside of us and make the worst of our situation. Or, we can choose to find a different meaning in our unfortunate reality. The alternative results in an appreciation for the moments we still have available to us this holiday season, rather than missing what we cannot have. We can also control our thoughts. We can choose to think about all of the things we are missing out on this holiday season, sure. Or, we can think about the family members and friends we are keeping safe by staying away for one Christmas. Consider it a gift to them from you. The furthest hug, if you will.
Regardless of what you think or don’t think of this impending lockdown, we have before us something that is out of our control. We are left only to develop a love of fate; or as Friedrich Nietzsche would say, “Amor Fati”. If you choose to find a way to hate this situation, to try and resist fate, what’s to gain, other than higher cortisol?
“The first thing you should know about me is that I am extremely high energy. You will definitely see that in my writing. I’m from Durham, currently studying Psychology at the Royal Military College. I’d like to use my energy for good through this medium, spreading positive messages and taking the often overlooked approach to things we see in our day to day lives. With that said, most of my writing will also include an element of stoicism, as I use that in addition to my positive mindset daily to deal with the world around me. I welcome feedback as I begin sharing my thoughts.”