A Long Cold Lonely Winter

Be careful what you wish for. It’s no secret that the holiday season intensifies anxiety and depression for people prone to either. Both are felt profoundly in a normal year but add the forced isolation of a pandemic, and resultant financial difficulties, the number of people suffering increases. Everyone I know is depressed, in varying degrees. Okay maybe not everyone. There is always someone who enjoys living their life with blinders on. They’re happy.

For a number of reasons, many of us have secretly wished for a year without holidays. I did. What’s your toxin: stress caused by perfectionism, no money for gifts, the idea of sitting at a table with your ex and perhaps said ex’s +1, dealing with the cliche drunk uncle, a combo platter?

It’s been a lonely holiday season, even for a self-professed long-suffering hater of extended family gatherings. (me) I wonder how many of us who have been granted our wish are enjoying the solitude.

For me, it turns out that pretending the holidays aren’t a thing isn’t as great as I imagined.

Had I known I’d be granted a wish I would have saved it for something more germane, like food, shelter, and financial security for the masses.

When the pandemic forced the world to shut down almost a year ago, the United States economy disgorged 22.2 million jobs. 56% of those lost jobs have yet to be restored.

80 million Covid-19 cases have been documented worldwide, that number is ever-expanding. The daily count shows the United States has surpassed 332,000 Covid-19 related deaths.

When cursing the year 2020, remember this is the year we have looked forward to since Trump was inaugurated.

No joy comes from having called the outcome of a Trump presidency. Many of us expected him to make the U.S. his seventh bankruptcy. We were warned that his loyalty was to our enemies. His blatant racism was apparent in the 1970s. His misogyny was well documented. Anyone who grew up with an abusive parent or was married to an abuser recognized his narcissistic psychopathology. If we didn’t know it before he took office, it became clear shortly after that he would be an anvil and hammer crashing the plinth of our democracy.

We certainly didn’t expect the number of corrupt politicians who have enabled our demise.

But none of us anticipated this pandemic. His mishandling of it is not surprising. The enormity of his bungling, both intentional and unintentional, could not have been foreseen. Now after witnessing needless death and suffering throughout this damned year there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel.

Although the daily death toll will continue to rise for some time, there is hope for 2021 in the vaccine that is slowly being administered. We can also look forward to having an empathetic president-elect who identifies and responds with compassion to the pain and suffering of others — Joe Biden is a good person.

As we watch the daily uptick in the number of deaths it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that each number represents not only a human being but also that person’s grandparent, parent, child, sibling, friend. The void left by death is suffered by those who survive.

Death by Covid-19 is brutal. Dying alone in a hospital, without the comfort of a loved one is cruelty most pets are not forced to endure, but that is how many of those 332,000 people died.

I suppose no thoughts are original, but the following philosophy which sums up 2020 is credited to several people throughout history. There are variations, to each quote, but I did try to find the origin:

“We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and—in spite of True Romance magazines—we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely—at least, not all the time—but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.” ~Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005)


“We all die alone. We shall endure death as we once endured birth. You can’t share either experience. ~P.D. James (1920-2015)


“We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.” ~Orson Wells (1915-1985)


“Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.” ~Martin Luther (1493-1546)

And the winner: the first documented author I can find is an ancestor of mine (maybe) a Greek philosopher:

“We come into the world alone, we die alone. why in life should we be any less alone.” ~Diogenes (412 or 404 BC-323 BC)

I don’t think we all die alone. But if that was ever the case it has never been more true than now.

When I die, I’d like to be holding the hand of my favorite child. Those scarring words are overused attempts at humor among my children and me. A complaint each has used when they feel the brunt of my ire and would like it redirected using guilt at my failure to be a perfect parent. I think, or I hope they all know that they are, all three, my favorite child. I only have two hands, however, so someone will have to hold one of my feet as I die. A freeze dancing competition should settle the matter.

It’s easy to wallow in the loneliness of forced solitude but keep in mind that millions of people whose unemployment checks stopped this week will be unable to pay their bills. This will be “a long cold lonely winter” for many. There is always someone worse off than most of us. Let’s look for a way to help each other. And let’s restructure our political system when the opportunity presents itself.

Better days must be coming.


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