Party 'round the Pandemic

Restrictions on 2020 holiday get-togethers compel families and friends to get creative
Fridays on the Homefront
With the holidays nearing, where do you stand when it comes to in-person meetups for group celebrations and holiday meals? The therapist we consulted on the subject, Jan Johnston-Tyler, fears "the world is going to hell in a handbasket—but that we'll get through it." Above: 2020's Thanksgiving accoutrements.

Santa Clara-based therapist Jan Johnston-Tyler calls herself an "apocoloptimist." Although she admits to having heard the whimsical term elsewhere, she offers her own definition as "someone who knows the world is going to hell in a handbasket, but that we'll get through it."

With the holidays nearing, the weirdness of a year spent in pandemic lockdown may be pushing many of us into heretofore-unlabeled vantage points, especially where in-person meetups for group celebrations and holiday meals are concerned.

California and U.S. disease control experts recommend staging get-togethers out of doors only, for which the indoor-outdoor synergy of modern homes is perfectly suited. Even those celebrations, however, should exclude people who have tested positive or are symptomatic of the COVID virus, as well as those previously at high risk.

All of this can pare down your celebration gathering opportunities considerably, not to mention the recommended maximums of two hours and three households per event. For those like Johnston-Tyler who love to entertain, especially at holiday season, this can be a tough assignment.

  Fridays on the Homefront
Turkey time: for one, two, or the whole family?

"It's an unusual time," understates the therapist, life coach, and mother of two. "Now we can't do what we normally did, and we'll have to do something different."

For Johnston-Tyler, that has included plans for an annual celebration of college friends that she has hosted for four decades, as well as Thanksgiving Day, Christmas, and even a memorial gathering for the anniversary of her husband's passing.

"We met in a park and we all had masks on," she said of the latter, which she admits was followed by a rare meal at an indoor restaurant.

That worked out better than when masks were required at a planned birthday for her boyfriend's mother, a restriction that elicited "a huge blowout" from a few less cautious members of the family: "They just did not like that."

What is safe and unsafe today? "It's like politics and religion," says therapist Jan Johnston-Tyler (above). "It is simply another thing where we have our own values, our own value system."

"It's like politics and religion. It is simply another thing where we have our own values, our own value system," she observed with regard to opinions about what is safe and unsafe today. She warned against "harping" on people less cautious than you, adding, "Life is short. Remember, these are fundamental value decisions we're making."

Johnston-Tyler has pre-existing health conditions precluding direct patient contact in the pandemic, so her sessions have been strictly online since March, and her social life limited to the recommended pod of just a few families.

"I don't want to live like a crazy person alone, but at the same time I don't want to be reckless," she declared. "Our social life will adjust, because the stakes are so high. I mean, really, what [else] are we going to do?"

Holidays frequently represent a sizeable portion of social life, especially for introverts, homebodies, and the like.

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