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Attention please. May I have your attention? I have an important announcement to make.
I, Deanna Kizis, of sound mind and not-very-sound body (thanks, psoriatic arthritis), am declaring to my family and those I love that Christmas is cancelled.
There will be no — I repeat no — 2020 Christmas dinner at Casa de Kizis. I shall not be serving prime rib roast, nor crisped potatoes, nor salad bright with pomegranate seeds and a homemade vinaigrette. There shall be no apple pie with freshly whipped cream. Hot chocolate isn’t happening. And neither is (if I say so myself) my truly incredible eggnog.
You — my wonderful mom, my father, and my sisters — may not darken my door, and neither can your boyfriends, although I love them (almost) as much as you do. And to my dearest family friends who come to Christmas dinner every year, I have only one thing to say to you:
Stay away. Please.
So no Christmas. Not this year. Unless, of course, you are my child. You, o blameless one, will find your stocking hung by the chimney with care and St. Nicholas — who I’m pretty sure will do the necessary social distancing and mask wearing to make this work — will be there.
Now that we’re all on the same page, that there shall be no Christmas, let’s discuss why this is the case.
First, I have psoriatic arthritis and asthma, and I want to stay far away even family members who do not live in my household during this loathsome and terrifying coronavirus surge.
And should you attempt to remind me, loved ones, that we live in Southern California, and therefore could technically have Christmas outside, socially distanced, I still say NEIGH.
(Sorry that was Rudolph, who is complaining again that he has to wear a mask.)
Nay as in, No. Forget it. Not a snowball’s chance in, well, you know.
A Lesson Learned from Thanksgiving
Let’s be honest: Thanksgiving, during which we had a lot to be thankful for, actually … how do I say this nicely? … sucked.
We did gather as a small family, outside, for Thanksgiving dinner, but my father was grumpy the second he walked in. He marched up to me, as I backed away in terror, and thrust a bottle of Merlot from his unsanitized hands toward my clean ones.
“Dad!” I said. “Get back!”
“What?!” he said. “Just take it!”
Oh fine. I took it and stomped into the kitchen. Cue the eyeroll from my dad, followed by me grinding my teeth, followed by my mom pretending this wasn’t happening, and we were off to the turkey races.
Discoveries about why this wouldn’t be a great Thanksgiving came fast and quick. It turns out it’s not fun cooking Thanksgiving dinner for six people when you’re the only one allowed in the kitchen.
It also turns out that it is, in fact, hard to have conversation when your dear family is scattered around a swimming pool — which acted as our own watery demilitarized zone — since that was the only way to properly distance us. Meanwhile, it was a brisk 50 degrees outside and there was a Santa Ana Wind Advisory, with gusts going up to 70 miles per hour, and fire danger warnings in the Angeles National Forest less than 10 miles from my house.
And then there was the stress. THE STRESS.
Having two chronic illnesses during a pandemic has made me kind of a difficult wreck. I found the mere proximity of family in my backyard — masks off, eating — stressed me out enough to drink three glasses of the merlot. (Not smart when you’re already in a psoriatic arthritis flare.) And freaked out enough to chase down the wine with two giant pieces of pumpkin pie. (I have a bit of a self-destructive streak when stressed; I’m aware.)
Setting Boundaries Because of My Health
But of course, all the pie and wine didn’t change the thing that is really getting me down: namely, how hard it is for me to maintain boundaries for eight months in a row and counting.
I’m a people pleaser by nature, and sticking up for your health isn’t always a pleasant thing to do. As the saying goes, when you stop people pleasing, people aren’t pleased.
I feel uncomfortable when I ask people in public spaces to please stand six feet away from me. I feel bad asking passersby not to pet my dog, just in case. I don’t like turning into the mask police in my own backyard. Nor do I enjoy accosting my loved ones with off-brand sanitizer that smells suspiciously like a college party the day after.
The Challenge of an Invisible Illness
What makes all this vigilant compliance a thousand times harder, I think, is that I live with a chronic disease you can’t see — an invisible illness. This makes it’s easier for others to write me off as a paranoid nut. Because my disease doesn’t show on the outside, it’s all too easy for my family to forget that I could face a higher risk of serious complications if I were to get COVID-19.
Do I wish this unpleasant fact was top of mind for them whenever they see me? Sure.
Do I blame them, knowing that everyone has their own stressful challenges right now? Not really, no.
And so, in closing I would like to propose a different sort of Christmas, especially for people living with chronic illnesses and their loved ones.
Let’s all stay home, have a Zoom call, and toast our health and good fortune, as gratitude is always necessary in difficult times. We can share eggnog from a distance, along with smiles and children opening presents and all the rest.
And then let us give to one another the very best gift one can give in 2020: some space.
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