Lower your expectations... my advice for a happy Christmas

It's a Christmas to be grateful for the small things, says Kathriona Devereux in her weekly column
Lower your expectations... my advice for a happy Christmas

Covid has affected another Christmas, so let’s just be grateful for the small things this year, says Kathriona Devereux

“PATIENCE is a virtue, possess it if you can, seldom in a woman, never in a man.”

I’m not sure how true that statement is. I’m definitely the least patient person in my household. I work hard to suppress my impatient tendencies but don’t always succeed.

I’m particularly bad with traffic. Sitting, unmoving in my car surrounded by others sitting, unmoving in their cars drives me nuts. I’ve been known to do U-turns and take outrageously circuitous, much longer routes, to avoid traffic.

My kids now automatically tut “ugh, traffic” if we approach a red traffic light with just four cars in front of them. They would not cope well with tailbacks in the Jack Lynch tunnel.

I’ve been hearing stories of deep impatience from friends who work in retail and hospitality about customers losing the rag over small things. A trainee fishmonger not filleting fast enough, a check-out person not scanning quick enough, a restaurateur getting an earful for declining entry because someone has forgotten their Covid vaccine cert...

It’s hard to know if this general narkiness is the usual pre-Christmas panic or if nerves are particularly frayed from the constant vigilance, negativity or worry of the past two years.

People are worn out from the pandemic and perhaps patience reserves are running on fumes.

I may be naive to be shocked by signs that say “Please do not be rude or abusive towards our staff”, but if the last two years have taught us anything, it is that our society doesn’t function properly without retail workers.

Surely basic transactional common sense should stop people shouting at the staff they actually need to help them or serve them.

It’s hard to think that, after two years of stress, our frontline workers, and particularly healthcare workers, have to put up with bad behaviour from the public.

Has the social solidarity shown at the start of the pandemic faded?

Omicron is the unwelcome Christmas visitor that is dashing seasonal cheer. The latest announcement of restrictions to hospitality was, in a way, unsurprising given the daily case numbers and the arrival of the super-transmissible variant.

This Covid Christmas will hopefully not be as dark as last year’s version, and with vaccinations and limiting our social contacts, we can still embrace the festive season and avoid unnecessary deaths and hospitalisations and a repeat of the horrors of the start of this year.

My motto for 2021 has been “lower your expectations”. It served me well and I’m repeating it daily as we head into Christmas and the New Year.

In complete contrast to the self-help gurus, who encourage us to strive to live our best lives and reach for the stars, any time I started getting excited or looking forward to an upcoming event or social occasion this year, I checked myself and told myself to lower my expectations!

It meant there was no crushing disappointment when a snotty nose and requisite PCR result stopped me in my tracks.

I think we need to do the same this Christmas - lower our expectations. If we manage to have any sort of a nice meal (a toasted cheese sandwich counts!) with a few other humans that we don’t dislike, I think we’ll be doing well for ourselves.

If the projected numbers transpire, then just like last Christmas, thousands and thousands of people will be spending the festive break self-isolating.

Hopefully the majority of them get a mild dose and they can do it with others in their family, or they come up with imaginative ways to be involved in celebrations via technology.

If you know anyone who is in that situation in the coming weeks, make sure to call to the door and say hi in a distanced way, drop off a dinner or something nice to eat - although losing your sense of smell and taste with Covid is very annoying because there is no consolation in tasteless treats - and offer hope.

When we get irritated by the latest restrictions, we have to remember that we are doing it to protect our exhausted healthcare workers and critical beds for people who are sick with Covid and other illnesses.

We also have to remember how lucky we are to live in a country with such a high rate of vaccination, which gives us significant protection against severe illness, hospitalisation and death.

Only 5% of people living in low-income countries have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. This is shockingly low when compared with wealthier countries, like Ireland.

A nice last-minute Christmas gift idea is to buy a vaccine for the most vulnerable families, health workers and high-risk people on our planet. Unicef is aiming to vaccinate three billion people and its Christmas appeal ‘Give Covid The Jab” can vaccinate 15 people for every €75 donation.

I know people would be interested in giving Covid something much stronger than a jab, but if all the Irish people who received a recent booster could make some, even small, donation to Unicef, it would go a long way to protect more people around the world and help us get out of this Covid mess quicker.

Let me take the opportunity to wish you and yours a safe and peaceful Christmas. Today is the Winter Solstice, brighter days are ahead.

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