Vaneisa: Recovering the lost art of simplicity, and facing new year with Covid-19

Here we are, into 2021, and probably wondering what we will make of it. We can be sure that it will be difficult and challenging on all fronts. The variable will be our individual responses. That’s the element that can yield the widest range of outcomes.

Every year, we routinely ask each other how we spent the season. Every response I got this time came from a place that suggested none of the accustomed festive fuss. People seemed to have adjusted to a more basic form of celebration.

Photo: A virtual new year party.

In a paradoxical way, with social distancing uppermost in the mind, gatherings assumed a more intimate quality. Without large congregations of friends and family, the familiar sounds of domestic hubbub took on a more placid tone, and people found themselves actually having conversations in ways they had never done over past holiday times.

You couldn’t have everyone over, so you had to select a few. Those outside our closed borders had to find new ways to participate at the homesteads.

It didn’t make sense to buy a ton of food and drink for guests who were not physically present, and although there were still many who refused to concede that reality, it meant more people spent less time labouring over dishes.

People still decorated their homes, still strung garlands and lights and constructed Christmas trees. Not everything had to be swallowed up by the lockdowns that will grow more stringent globally, in the inevitable spikes following this massive holiday period.

We will continue to pay the price for the lack of self-restraint and foolhardiness that we now know with certainty is not a uniquely Trini characteristic. The bracing has to continue.

Image: A satirical take on relationships in the time of Covid-19.

What was interesting about the adult responses to the subdued nature of the festivities is that everyone seemed to find it a relief. It was as if in cutting back and cutting down, they realised that many things that had seemed vital to make everything merry and bright were not really necessary.

I suppose these are the people who generally take the responsibility to make Christmas. They are the ones who go out and do the shopping for household items—furniture, appliances, curtains and mats. They are the ones who jostle up in hardware stores and paint shops, getting the gloss and sheen just right. They are the ones who join the scramble for hams and turkeys and sorrel and so on.

I have a feeling that even the nature of the gifts that are exchanged was affected by shopping (and shipping) conditions.

I am writing this on Old Year’s Day, and I have no idea what the scale of the horrible fireworks assault will be. What has been obvious so far is a marked reduction of their explosions over the past week. 

The two episodes I heard had been mercifully short, but the sight of throngs buying up these unpleasant accoutrements is a warning that the noise and air pollution will continue. 

Photo: Fireworks can be extremely stressful to pets.

On the last Old Year’s night, maybe a minute into the new year, my roof and ceiling were pierced by a metal object. No redress for me there, and it is still a national disgrace that officially only lip service is paid to the issue of banning this public nuisance.

Generally though, things seemed to have passed on a more muted scale in 2020. Physical exhaustion was reduced, the financial burdens were a little less, and at the end there was still some mind and body left to spend time with the few people who could be allowed into your inner circles.

Quite a few people said that despite the generally gloomy state of affairs on the planet, at the immediate level they found themselves really enjoying the tranquility of this past season. For once, they were able to savour the moments without feeling rushed to accomplish tasks.

My hope is that while this slower pace was enforced, we might find in it a return to the lost art of simplicity. The traditionally hectic pace of life goes into hyper drive during the Christmas season. Every form of activity, recreational or otherwise, gets scrunched up into the month of December.

Trinidad and Tobago has never had a pause into the new year as Carnival goes into its own peculiar high gear immediately. I daresay its absence in 2021 will be even more disruptive to the national psyche (and economy) than anything else on the national calendar.

Photo: A partygoer enjoys herself at the Tribe Ice fete at the Queen’s Park Savannah on 5 January 2019.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

It will be the starkest reminder that this pandemic was not a 2020 phenomenon, but will dictate the course of our lives from now on. The vaccines that are being produced at an extraordinary rate will take time before they are available. Even then, the logistics of administering primary and secondary doses throughout the population will be the preoccupation of 2021.

It doesn’t seem so long ago when we faced the first Covid-19 case locally. At the end of the year, we have registered more than 7,000. One way or the other, our lives will forever be marked by this virus and its repercussions.

We must continue to be vigilant about safeguarding our health—mental and physical. There is no way we can pretend the assaults will not continue and will probably escalate. How we get past this challenge largely depends on our individual actions. Remember, we are the variable.

Happy new year.

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