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By Jana Hill
Mill Creek Beacon Editor 

The punk rock choice of 'home for the holidays' | Editor's Note


Last updated 11/13/2020 at 7:30am

I am a storyteller since childhood – my first writer’s conference was in fourth grade. I remember going to Seattle and looking upwards at a brick building covered in ivy that looked like it reached all the way to the sky after a bus ride from Snohomish.

It is one way to better understand the world, to help unwrap what doesn’t make sense. Nonfiction does that directly, fiction indirectly. Following a storyline and its characters can help because it can parallel experience, offering insights that seemingly have nothing to do with what’s being actually processed.

Truth and love are my favorite themes. True love is the gem. Both concepts rolled into one metaphor of all that is necessary for life to have meaning. Genuine interaction and connection with the ones we truly love is precious, and it feels tenuous in dangerous times, making it even more important. Essential, in fact.

The grittier stories are my most treasured, because they detail an unpolished version of life and the struggles that can come our way, often by surprise.

We are coming into the holidays, and the punk rock choice comes to mind from one story that I like. It is gritty and about true love.

“Punk rock choice” was in a line uttered by a character in the series “You’re the Worst,” a sick tale of true love. It is a story of two broken people connecting and being honest about things that would drive away any normie, but the twisted nature of each is glue and they sustain a common bond. They are alike in that they are awful. Selfish. Damaging. At times, mean. But the honesty breaks up all that darkness, as an underlying theme of the story. One character realizes at one point that the punk rock choice is to commit.

We are coming into the holidays, at a time when “home for the holidays” means committing to a set of protocols that are anything but happy or fun. Distance and avoidance are usually the dismissive tools of a family’s black sheep member. Now we are all directed to mask up and stay away.

Health experts advise we forget the norms within “home for the holidays” and omit the travel, go nowhere, or gather with few, 6 feet apart and shivering outside, covering half-faces and hiding facial expressions that dance or contort, across the faces we love. Or the ones we see once a year, and may want to assess. But we should commit to that advice.

As we look ahead to the winter months health officials are advising people to stay in their bubbles – referring to the people you are already around every day, or every week. The cap on the bubble is five. The reason is to reduce the spread of a virus that has killed, and filled hospitals. That filling can distract medical professionals and use up hospital resources for both COVID and all emergency and needed care.

The punk rock choice, right now, is not whimsical, or carefree, or fun.

But we can make the best of it. The bubble is probably made up of the people who would jump to your side if you needed first aid, or a 911 call that you, yourself, could not make. They are the ones who would hook you up with a job opening, feed you when you are hungry, toss you $100 when you’re broke, listen when you’re sad, or hear you out about something you enjoy, or don’t enjoy.

They’re the ones who give you the long hug, when something awful happened and no words will help.

The sad reality of a virus is that germs are invisible and do not respond to reason. And if we wander outside the bubble, the germ’s opportunity is just that. Germs are not fair or just. This virus is still new, so treatments are not yet impressive. Science needs time to catch up. We buy science time by taking on the punk rock choice.

Infection rates in Snohomish County are higher than they were in the spring, and the problem with a virus is there is something called exponential growth: two infected people does not equate to two more. It can equate to whoever that two comes into contact with: any hug, handshake or meaningful and animated conversation could be the moment that the virus travels. It moves out to other social circles from there.

I am a Gen X gal, so I do appreciate the decision to make up your own mind and forge ahead in spite of norms and expectations and pressure to conform. But in this era, the punk rock choice is to follow the rules and guidelines, and hyperfocus on the people you are in the room with now: your bubble.

The bubble is your closest ones, and maybe by now some of them are making you feel like pulling your hair out by the roots. Embrace that. They are alive and well to drive you nuts. Unless it is getting mean – then the punk rock choice is coping in a better way. If you find yourself lashing out at others, take on the project of resetting – therapy is available via televisit these days, outdoor exercise is free, yoga is often remote.

Move, talk, live. Don’t spin.

So, there’s your pep talk. Now as we try to live life in a new normal and put away all the scary warnings, here is a home for the holidays action plan, for you:

* Listen to medical advice, not social media quips. Work caution norms into your day to stay distant, cleanse often-used surfaces, and mask up when needed.

* Prepare a script for when the people outside your bubble push for unnecessary gatherings. Be polite but firm and say no to things that spread the virus.

* Plan Zoom gatherings or plan to make phone calls to connect socially.

* Gatherings are safer outdoors, as it is better ventilated: so if you must get together, get your warm clothes out of storage, sit 6 feet away from people when visiting.

* Quarantine two weeks prior to any planned gatherings.

* Stay home if you are sick.

* If you have underlying illness or are over 60, call your doctor if you have symptoms that could be COVID-19.

Remember that this is temporary. This odd era is full of stasis and caution. A focus on gratitude and empathy building can help distract from low thoughts: some people live like this all the time, because they are always in medical danger. Now we get to feel what they feel, and maybe come out of this as more sensitive and humane beings.

Above all else, celebrate in your heart by gaining perspective: this time in our history is strange, it is limiting, it is frustrating, but we are all sharing it, and shared experience can unify. Call your elders and the people enduring underlying illness. The ones who already dealt with World War II or a cultural shift when soldiers returned from Vietnam, or the ones who practice hypercaution needed to stay alive during cancer treatment or while waiting for next steps for a heart condition. If there is one thing the people at higher risk know already, it is how to get through tough times.

Caution and limits are not new to them.

Protect them – these people with underlying illnesses and advanced age who can share wisdom and show us the way.

Stay home for the holidays – it’s the punk rock choice.


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