Time to cherish what you have got in this most surreal Christmas season
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We couldn’t do the traditional December reunion around a table in some noisy packed central London restaurant, so we had to resort to Zoom to bring old friends together.
Eight of us who bonded more than 30 years ago over dodgy fashion, partying and politics making the most of the free student education in the Social Republic of south Yorkshire, Sheffield, were to dial in.
We’re in regular touch via a WhatsApp group named after our favourite pub from back in the day, swapping memes, news, gossip picked up by the member of our group we regularly watch asking questions of the PM and scientists on the Covid updates, which always sparks a flurry of messages.
We love our Christmas meet-ups best. London is at its best at Christmas and it’s a highlight of my year.
We have wildly different lives, careers, and dip in and out of the group and each other’s lives. But we share so many memories.
When it came to the day last Sunday, one messaged that he wasn’t up for a group chat. He’s a director of his limited company that works in live sport internationally. In short, he had earned nothing since March and had had no government support.
He was despairing.
This prompted another message saying she wanted to see everyone on the call but didn’t want to go over her hideous year of loss, and then another, worried sick about the survival of their business and the welfare of those made redundant from it in the last few months.
Once all the faces appeared on the screen, it hit home how each and every one of our lives had been hit hard by Covid.
One had lost a close relative to the infection; another’s mother had been diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour in the summer had died within six weeks. She was allowed no one with her when handed her “death sentence”. Another announced she was leaving teaching next year after nearly 30 years, exhausted, disillusioned and broken. We shared stories of redundancy, early retirement, grief and months of sleepless nights about the toughest business year ever that united us more than ever.
Raising our glasses, we arrived at the same point at the same time.
If ever was there a time to be thankful for what we have, it is now.
It is not a time to moan about what we wish we had or had not done. It’s the time to make the most of our relationships, feel grateful for the positive, pick up the phone, organise a Zoom or just send a text, to let people know they are in your thoughts.
None of us thought we’d be here on Christmas Eve. We never envisaged tomorrow to be so small and low key, separated from those we expected to be with, those we are always with.
We never expected to be so fearful of a disease or of the future of the economic impact.
Looking at those faces I’ve known for so long, I felt so fortunate. Simply to have them. Two of the faces that might have been there on Sunday, lost years ago to serious illness, were remembered and toasted.
Twelve months ago, we were drinking fizz at a restaurant on the Strand with the normal worries, walking through a bustling central London, hugging and kissing each other goodbye, jumping on the Tube and sleeping over in each other’s homes,
That all feels like a lifetime ago. Did we really do that?
That call, despite more than three decades of knowing these people, brought us even closer.
Those dinners always filled with tales of success, travels, ambitions and plans had been replaced by a forum where no one was afraid to show vulnerability, fear, grief or trepidation.
We could give each other a virtual hug on Sunday, although we longed for the round-table chatter. Although, as one friend said on our “debrief” follow up call, Zoom had actually been a better forum to share because everyone could hear everyone else. No one was stuck at the end of the table missing the chat.
As terrible as it might feel, it’s not the time for wishing what we had and wanting what we haven’t but cherishing what we have.
If we had done that before, fewer people would have regrets about not making the most of our freedom and fearlessness when we could.
We’ve been moaning increasingly for years that we are so busy. Time was our most scarce commodity because we felt compelled to fit as much as we could into every day, rushing around, making plans.
Now there’s nowhere to go. We have all the time in the world.
Time to play those games, read those books, knit that jumper, paint that room, catch up on sleep.
Time to slow down and recharge for what’s to come, and count our blessings,
Whatever you do, whoever you’re with, I wish you all a very happy and healthy Christmas.