With the holidays approaching, I know that many of us are a bit anxious to decide what we’re going to do to still give ourselves a sense of normalcy while at the same time maintaining safe social distancing practices.
This task will be more than a notion, but it can be done.
Just before my family and I rolled in the 2020 New Year, we played a card game from Vertillis – which means, “tell us more” in Dutch. It’s a game designed to create more genuine engagement and conversation between family and friends. The games can be found online for about $25; but at the end of 2019, the company was offering a free sample game to reflect on the past decade. It prefaced by asking, “What will you stop, start, and continue in the next decade?” It suggested that participants think about habits, activities, work, and hobbies. What brings joy that should be continued? And, what sort of activities or habits are you less enthusiastic about that you might consider changing going forward?
I love stuff like this, because I like going deep. Let’s get beneath the surface. Let’s share our innermost thoughts, feelings, and desires. This process, however, can be a bit of a challenge initially for the introvert or those who just might be more reserved to speak and share. But as long as it’s in a safe environment among true friends and family, it opens up such real, fresh, and relevant dialogue. Truly tapping into the depths of relationships and the people we care about. Though it’s called a game, it’s truly not a game at all…it’s a process.
For the decade free version, there were only six questions. Three looking back, and three looking forward. From the previous decade, it asked:
- Of which personal achievement are you most proud?
- What was one of your best decisions?
- With the knowledge you have now, what would you have done differently?
Looking forward to the new decade, the questions were:
- What do you want to achieve in the next ten years?
- What will be in the pictures you take? (I really liked that one)
- What will you do for the first time in your life? (Who knew this one was a set up? LOL!)
Great questions, right!?! 😃
I bring up the reference to the game and its questions because they definitely provoked thought about what and who was most important to our lives. And to me, they suggested seeing and identifying where our priorities lie, or how they should be shifted.
Needless to say, our projections of the coming decade were an epic fail. 🤦🏾♀️
Who knew that when my dad said he would go on his first cruise in 2020 that that thought would be one of the riskiest to consider? No, Dad! Not CRUISE!…It’s pronounced QUA-RAN-TINE.
Or, when my mom talked about what would be in her pictures. The caps and gowns of graduations. The beautiful palm trees of great vacations. Nope. She never fathomed that her most memorable pictures would actually include LATEX GLOVES and MASKS.
Yep! All those plans for 2020 would be a NO-GO. 2020 was about to cut off and put limitations on our reach and engagement. The ones we liked AND the ones we didn’t realize we needed.
My family and I had no idea that in only three short months all plans as we knew them would be COMPLETELY shut down.
So now, we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Normalcy as we knew it is no more, and I don’t know that we will ever get THAT NORMAL back.
Recently, a very dear friend of mine celebrated her 50th birthday. Yes! She celebrated it. And she should have.
Any birthday or accomplishment is a blessing, but to reach a milestone like turning 50 is worth celebrating; especially amid the number of deaths and tragedies that have taken place in 2020.
Regardless of what we are experiencing, we are realizing there is still a great need to communicate and engage in those relationships we so valued; and even in those we didn’t value much until now. We need those engagements to help breed energy, joy, and purpose into our everyday lives. But is it safe?
When we think back on how we previously viewed celebrations, there was usually not only an expectation of freedom, but also some exceptions for letting your hair or your guard down. We said stuff like, “What happens in Vegas…stays in Vegas.” Meaning we were planning to allow ourselves to do some things that we wouldn’t do normally in our everyday settings. Risky, maybe even careless behavior. But now, in the midst of a pandemic…just to feel a sense of what was considered normal in our most familiar settings…would seem like pushing the boundaries. Right now, we have to be diligently concerned about restrictions.
So then, how do we celebrate, while at the same time being ever-so-mindful of best practices for health and safety?
Here are a few suggestions I would like submit to you.
As we approach this, however, let’s refer to those considerations from the game. If we consider our need to engage, let’s consider our habits, activities, work, and hobbies. Again, what things bring us joy that we feel we NEED to continue? Then, what are those activities or habits that we can let go of or give up for the time being? We may be able to find some balance; and balance is very important. Let’s take a look.
The first step is GO SMALLER. I know you may have initially planned to “TURN UP” for your special occasion; but the “turn up” looks different in 2020. We’re used to hearing the terms like “the more the merrier” or “the bigger the better;” but right now, “the smaller the safer” should be the preferred expression.
Yes, I know we want to invite everyone, but let’s settle with INCLUDING them versus INVITING them.
So what do we do? We invite ONLY our closest family and friends; or most significant colleagues if we’re talking about work. This would be immediate and most relevant. You won’t be able to include their plus ones and more. Maybe you have to decide that there will only be one representative per household or department. Who will it be? You, and others involved, should use your best judgement. It probably shouldn’t be anyone with pre-existing conditions; and definitely no one who has been sick in the last couple of months, weeks, or days. But you can still include them.
Maybe you can have them to participate in a drop-in celebration between certain times or different times; meaning not everyone comes at the same time. Offer or assign time slots for different people, groups, or families. Express the importance to your guests of ONLY coming at their designated time. This will ensure that there aren’t too many people at once, and allow for proper social distancing practices.
You could also consider the popular social distancing parades. Those have been a joy to watch on Facebook in recent months, and offer some sense of interaction and engagement at a “rolling distance.” The first one I experienced was the Teacher Parade from the faculty of my daughter’s school. It’s actually indescribable just how good seeing them and shouting at them as they drove by energized both me and my daughter. I could tell it had the same effect on the teachers as well. I was witness to the same effect of a 50th Wedding Anniversary and Graduation Parade my family and I participated in.
These parades can be as simple or as festive as the participants choose. Some decorate their cars with posters and balloons, while others just honk their horns and wave. Either way, the recipients always seem to be surprised and appreciative.
The most memorable ones I’ve seen are a dad who traveled (I believe) from Texas to Atlanta with his motorcycle club to surprise his son for graduation; and the other (also in Atlanta) was a church congregation who paraded to welcome a young church member who had to serve time in prison for a bad decision. Both, in my opinion, were worth being celebrated. One young man needing support as he prepares to embrace adulthood, and the other young man for the re-entry into life and manhood. With the right support and encouragement both men can flourish. And they still need this…even in a pandemic.
Another good idea for including those you can’t invite is by having them submit videos. This is what I chose to do to celebrate my son’s college graduation. Of course, if COVID-19 were not a factor and commencement exercises (both high school and college) had not been cancelled across the globe, the plan would have been to go all out Louisiana-style; bringing along as many Georgia folks as wanted to attend. But this would not be so.
But, I had to do something.
My son had always done so well throughout all of his schooling. He earned both an academic and athletic scholarship out of high school to attend college. He kept his grades up, while participating in college athletics and other worthwhile and adventurous college activities👀; and still managed to graduate in exactly four years.
Oh yeah! I was gonna do it big. But, I had to reel it in and just come to the reality that I was going to have to take a different approach.
How could I include everyone who loved him, and who he loved, without a graduation or celebration? A video made sense to me.
One caveat though… Make sure that you give participants specific instructions on expected length and what to include or exclude. Some people can get a little long winded. LOL!
I know I’m not alone in my pride for my 2020 graduate. I actually think parents were more disappointed by not being able to celebrate their children than the students themselves. Regardless of your loved ones journey to reaching their milestone, whether simple or trying; the need for the acknowledgement and celebration is necessary.
Videos allow those who can’t be in attendance to still contribute. Trust me, it has the same sentimental value to the person receiving it as being there. Taking the time to submit a video takes effort; and in most cases a lot of retakes or do-overs to get it just right. So it has sweat equity (so-to-speak) and gets just as much (if not more) appreciation than those who are in person. Creating a video means that you took that time to acknowledge an individual and not just not show up.
The same is true for audio recordings. This might be the best choice too for those who wish to be included but are not comfortable with the camera. Doing an audio is basically the same as leaving a voicemail message.
If coordinating a video or audio is too overwhelming, it may be easier to do a Zoom meeting. I know by this time, most of us are all Zoomed out. However, Zoom and platforms like it have proven to be very effective for bringing together and connecting larger audiences into the same space.
My family does a call every Sunday, and since we started the concept in March with just a few of us, each week it continues to grow and evolve. Every week we are learning so many details about all the individual branches of our family tree.
On our calls are family members from: California, Washington State, Texas, Louisiana (the mother State), Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, and Illinois. The connection has bred new life into our family tree. Oh yeah…like many others, we all had “good intentions” about connecting with our family before, but never did. COVID-19 slowed us all down enough to make it possible.
I strongly recommend this process to others. You may not span the globe immediately, but just initiate the plan…the branches of the tree and the evolution will follow.
Zoom may also be a good platform to try the Vertillis game I referred to in the beginning. It may have been created for meetings, but I have heard of people having paint parties, game nights, happy hour, and church through this platform.
If Gathering, Announce that Social Distancing Practices will be Observed
If you are going to have an actual gathering, in the invitation highlight the need to have masks and to observe social distancing practices. Some of your invitees, who may be skeptical to attend, may reconsider if they know you will be implementing best practices. However, if someone chooses not to attend your gathering at this time, don’t take it personal. These are unconventional times. With the level of anxiety and stress most people are processing these days, don’t add to it by making them feel bad for not attending your event. We have all seen too often where there was an event with large attendance, and as a result a surge in COVID cases due to exposure. So show a measure of grace and understanding for those who choose not to attend. Maybe you and that person can plan a special one-on-one of some sort if connecting with them is truly that important to you.
Have Hand Sanitizer and Masks Available
Again, if you are gathering, have safety sanitary supplies on hand. The 50th Birthday I attended had hand sanitizer, individually wrapped masks, and a thermometer at the entrance.
I know you want everyone you invite to attend, but better safe than sorry. The same way people fight through not feeling well to go to work or school, they will do the same to attend your event; especially because people are in need of getting out and socializing. Trust me, your attendees are going to be excited to dress up and get out of the house; but they CAN NOT attend if they are sick, feel sick, or have recently been sick. Period. Trust me. It’s for the safety of all involved.
In the midst of your gathering, include reminders of social distancing and sanitizing in your décor. You don’t just have to have the eyesore of Lysol and hand sanitizer in with your decorations. Instead, decorate those items in colors that go with your theme.
Also, the host or designee should regularly wipe down common areas. This is not only a great precaution, but it sends a reminder and a clear message to your guests to keep in mind the importance of awareness. You’ll be surprised, but your guests will practice better social distancing and safety measures because of your example. So, what message do you want to send?
Consider Pre-Plating versus Buffet
If you plan on having food, consider pre-plating versus buffet-style. If pre-plating is not an option, consider having a server or servers, with gloved hands and masks. And require all guests to wear masks while going through the serving line.
Apply the same precautions to desserts and/or hors d’oeuvres; especially since these are both usually grab and go foods. Consider preparing or purchasing pre-wrapped or packaged items. Know that you can still keep desserts cute, while at the same time ensuring that your guests are not rummaging through everything and spreading their germs. Thankfully there are more plating options than the old-fashion styrofoam church anniversary to-go plates. LOL! Again, if this concept is not possible, have someone go through regularly to wipe down common areas.
Let the fist bump, air hug, air high-five, or the elbow bump be the recognized greeting for the house or venue. It’s not personal, it’s just safety. I’m the world’s worst at this, so do as I say not as I do. I AM A HUGGER. I greet family, friends, and even some strangers this way. So I know better than anyone that this can be a struggle. But, especially the more people you have in attendance at your gathering, the more you are going to want to adhere to safe practices. Remember, be the example and others will follow.
Birds of a Feather Should Flock Together
I probably should have mentioned this earlier; but if you do have individuals coming from the same house, let them sit together. Try to have as little cross-contaminating as possible. The hope is that everyone is clear of COVID-19, but you have to remember that just because a person does not exhibit the symptoms does not mean that they are not a carrier of the virus. We may know who we come into contact with on a daily basis, but we have no way of knowing EVERYONE who everyone else comes in contact with. Oddly this used to be only a concept we thought about as it related to how many intimate partners an individual had, but now this must be considered in its totality. Scary.
Social Distance Everything
If you are planning to gather, put significant spacing between everyone and everything. Remember the six feet rule. For tables that seat 8-10 normally, only consider 1/2 the normal seats; so 4-5, no more than 6. Also, make sure there is significant space between the seating, the food area, the drink area, and the desserts. Normally, these would all be centrally located, but try to avoid clusters of people being in one place. Consider timing serving waves; or, again, using masked servers instead.
Enjoy the Moment
Lastly, relax and have fun. Laugh often (with your mask on). Laughter is good for your soul. You’ll be surprised how much energy you’ll pull from the people you engage with. But, while you’re relaxing and enjoying the festivities, have someone designated to keep safe practices in place. Even if this means you’ll have to take turns sharing the responsibility.
Signage may help with some of this. Not only should you consider putting Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for best practices in the invitation, but you may want to consider posting them throughout your gathering place; particularly in your kitchen, serving area, and restroom areas. These reminders will help.
Oh! And one additional note. Shorten the Time.
Choose to shorten the length of your gathering. The shorter the time we can avoid any potential exposure…the better we will be.
Again, nothing is quite normal about 2020; but so many are still experiencing and accomplishing great things: graduations, weddings, business pursuits, home purchases, new babies, etc. These are all noteworthy experiences that are worth being acknowledged. However, in 2020 (and possibly beyond), we’re gonna have to approach them a little differently.
Remember: alternative engagements, fewer people, shorter lengths of time, social distancing, including versus inviting, emphasizing best safety practices, and being the example. If we all consider these precautions (if we MUST meet together) we can do so as safely as possible.
With that…I can’t wait to see what’s in your pictures. ~Dawn~ ☀
I hope you have found this helpful. Maybe you’ve even had to already do some of these things. If you have, let me know what you did the same or differently. If you still are considering having a gathering or you have something coming up in the near future, let me know what it is, and whether you’ll consider any of the suggestions I’ve given OR if there are some other ideas you have.
With the holidays here before you know it, wanting to truly connect back to family and friends will be on the forefront. So let’s start thinking about it now before it’s upon us; so we can make the best decisions for ourselves and others.
Disclaimer: If you are not at all ready to engage and expose yourself to others…DON’T. It doesn’t matter who is offended. If you are not comfortable yet, don’t step outside of your comfort zone. Remember, you are the best keeper of you. Period. These are merely my suggestions for those of us with cabin fever.
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