This Christmas will definitely be memorable as I watch my grandchildren open their stockings on a computer screen instead of in my living room. I’ll remember it as the Christmas I didn’t attend concerts or parties and the only person I hugged was my husband.
There is however another Christmas that was just as memorable for me, the Christmas of 2004. We were holidaying in Phuket Thailand when the tsunami hit. I learned two lessons from that experience that are helping me navigate the pandemic.
What if? I asked that question countless times after we escaped the tsunami. What if we hadn’t changed our resort reservations at the last minute? The first resort we’d booked was destroyed and five hundred people died there. What if we had gone down to the beach the morning of the tsunami as planned? We rescheduled because our kids slept in. What if we’d been out on the snorkeling trip we’d booked for the next day?
At first those what if questions crippled me. I wanted to stop traveling. I was over-protective of my children. I was hesitant to take chances. With time I realized continually revisiting what if questions wasn’t helpful. I needed to stop looking back at what could have happened and concentrate on the present and future.
What if? We can ask that question countless times this year when COVID has touched our lives in difficult ways. What if we’d chosen a career that thrived instead of ended due to the pandemic? What if we’d taken care of our parents in our own home instead of placing them in a care facility? What if we’d followed the guidelines rigorously when the pandemic first started?
From my own experience and observing the people around me I am learning that asking what if questions during COVID-19 is not helpful. We are living in the here and now and we can’t let what ifs cripple us in a way that makes our current situation even worse or prevents us from learning and looking forward.
Life goes on. Six years after the tsunami we revisited Phuket and were surprised at how little evidence we saw of the tragedy. Beaches littered with debris in 2004 were now dotted with sunbathers. Roads packed with trucks bringing in relief supplies in 2004 were now dominated by tourist buses. The airport which in 2004 was filled with injured people who had lost everything in the tsunami was now full of happy families beginning or ending holidays.
During our stay in 2010 I did manage to find one small plaque on a building that paid tribute to the thousands who died in Phuket during the tsunami. But life had gone on for the people there.
Life goes on during a pandemic too. We welcomed a new baby granddaughter to the world in November. Although we can’t see her in person she brings us great joy. My nephew and his fiancée cancelled the larger family wedding celebration they’d planned and instead married in their backyard with only their parents present. But they are busy building their future. My son is a school principal and has just safely shepherded the teachers and students in his care through the first semester of the academic year. Life goes on despite tsunamis and pandemics.
I don’t want to ever relive my tsunami experience, and no one would want to relive what we are going through right now. But we can make the best of what is happening by not looking back and asking too many what if questions. Instead, we can remember that life goes on and set our sights on the future ahead.