As many of you know, I'm a cancer survivor. In fact, assuming I'm still here on the 17th of December, it will be six years since I had my surgery. And even on the days when I'm feeling frustrated by pandemic restrictions, or when some minor but annoying thing goes wrong in my life, I remain eternally grateful to be alive.
When I was a kid, I vaguely recall someone (perhaps it was my parents) reminding me that whatever I was upset about, there were people who had things much worse. That always seemed like such a cliché, and at the time, it also seemed really unhelpful. But since my recovery from cancer, and since the ongoing Coronavirus crisis, I've found it's actually a sensible way to look at life.
These past few months have been quite a lesson about keeping things in perspective: some of my students have endured periods of homelessness, or they can't attend classes regularly because they lack the technology at home. In fact, some of them have parents who are unemployed and the rent is due. Meanwhile, I have colleagues who lost family members to COVID, and I have an older friend in assisted living who isn't allowed to have visitors. My musician friends still can't perform anywhere, and I know so many businesses that have had to close. Whatever my problems are, they are nothing compared to any of that.
As I write this, my husband and I just observed another night of Hanukkah at our home, lighting the menorah by the window, to shine some light on the darkness outside. And all over my neighborhood, everyone else has put up their Christmas lights-- in the midst of such an insecure and difficult time, it's nice to see some beautiful decorations.
It's also nice to know that there is a vaccine for COVID and soon, lots of people will be able to get it. Perhaps in the new year, the pandemic that has impacted so many lives will finally be under control. To be honest, I won't be sorry to see 2020 end; I'm sure lots of you would agree with that. But in spite of everything, I try to focus on how fortunate I am; that's worth remembering when I'm having an aggravating day. And I know this year, more than at any other time, that so many people have things a lot worse than I do.
And so, in this holiday season that is very different from previous years, let me wish you, my readers, health and happiness, love and light. Even in times like these-- especially in times like these-- we all need a reason to celebrate; and I pray that you will have lots of reasons (and lots of celebrations) both now and in the new year ahead.