This year, the holidays are tinged with a note of anxiety. In years past Thanksgiving was a time to gather and nurture old relationships. It was a busy time where I would plan on at least half a dozen feasts between various groups of family and friends. But this year each interaction was carefully weighed and meticulously planned for safety. In addition to the usual calculus of when to start cooking the turkey, or start boiling the potatoes, at each gathering we had to consider a multitude of factors to keep our little family gathering from becoming a super-spreader event. Where people could sit so that they were distanced when we ate? Could we maximize our time outside? How do we politely inform everyone that they should wear a mask every second they’re not sticking something into their mouth?
In the end, these little assurances were only a compromise with my aching cognitive dissonance. At each of the admittedly small gatherings, I attended I wrestled with the worry that it was irresponsible to have even shown up at all. It was incredibly meaningful to spend time with my family, but I would find it difficult to shake off the guilt that would consume me if someone became ill.
Now that the Thanksgiving holiday has passed and no one in my inner circle became sick, I can relax somewhat. But as the pandemic continues to rage, the question continues to haunt me: what is the appropriate level of caution to take? I still don’t know if we were clever or lucky, and the uncertainty nags at me constantly. I doubt I will have come to a firm conclusion about the proper course of action by Christmas, but as the weeks pass, my anxiety and indecision only grow.