Bubble Trouble: Who’s In Your Bubble, Who’s Out, and What About Thanksgiving?

Bubble Trouble: Who’s In Your Bubble, Who’s Out, and What About Thanksgiving?

My Mom is 85 years old. She lives on the Southeast Coast of the UK, England. I think she believes she is immune from the coronavirus. She wants to do her own shopping. She wants to have lunch with her close friends. A couple of weeks ago she went to a funeral, indoors, a friend-of-a-friend. Yesterday she told me that she’d been away to her favourite retreat lodging – ‘because someone wanted to see her’.

I have tried, I really have to tell her about the coronavirus is, or at least, how scared I am of the virus, and of her getting sick.

It doesn’t seem to get through. It doesn’t seem to make any difference what I say, she’s gonna do what she wants to do! She tells me that she is ‘being safe’, but her idea of safe is very different to mine.

If you are experiencing similar difficulties with your loved ones, elderly parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles – you are not alone. I have seen individuals, couples, and various ad hoc bits of families in my office, recounting similar tales-of-woe.

And, now Thanksgiving approaches.

Rising Numbers of the Second Wave

The numbers are escalating and the holidays approach. Who has that sinking feeling that this may not be as easy as we hoped?

We are human. We all feel and think a little bit differently. We assess and respond to risk in different ways. Some are uber relaxed, and don’t flinch when the skies fall in. Others panic at the first sign of rain. And, that’s okay. We are all different. That’s what’s fun about being human: we are all unique.

Then there’s COVID, or The Rona, or coronavirus, or whatever you want to call it, or however you want to refer to it. It’s all over the news, it haunts our dreams and sabotages our waking hours. And for many, if not most, there is a sense of danger, and a reactive response to ensure that we, and those we love, are safe.

For some safety is a tight closed bubble. For others, it is more nebulous and nuanced, shifting with our mood or opportunity. They drift from one ‘bubble’ to the next,’ with little concern or reticent.

The latter, our drifting-bubblees, cause our strict static-bubblees, constant and escalating anxiety, and mounting frustrations. Tempers are frayed, conflict breaks out, and relationships are damaged. Adult kids, turn on parents, and grandparents. Sisters on brothers, and friend on friend. Bubbles are merged and broken and reformed as alliances shift.

The young want to protect the elderly. The elderly want to live. They want to shop for their own food, see their friends, and are utterly unwilling to be restricted to their four-quarters for long enough. The young ones believe they are invincible as all young ones do, and the older ones fear the silent transmission that comes as the clock strikes midnight and the young a-bed.

How do we do Thanksgiving with all that poisonous air, injured hearts, and anger?

1. Know Your Own Bubble Boundaries

Sit down with your nearest and dearest and decide who is in your bubble. What kind of bubble boundary you are going to have? Is it permeable, semi-permeable, or impermeable?  Who gets in and who gets out? How do want people in our boundary to behave, what will we do if they don’t behave in the way we want people in our bubble to behave?

2. Communicate Your Bubble Boundaries

Let your friends, family and extended family know about your bubble. Tell them who is in your bubble, and who isn’t and what you want from people in your bubble. Tell them kindly, gently and respectfully.

3. Find Out About Your Friends and Extended-Family’s Bubble Boundaries

Take time to listen. Not to listen so that you can tell them how wrong they are. Listen to understand. Ask questions so that you can understand. Get inside their skin and find out what is important to them and why?

4. Respect Your Friends’ and Extended-Family’s Bubble Boundaries When They are Different to Yours.

You’re different. No big surprises there, right? Of course you are different. We aren’t going to all agree on what a bubble looks or feels like. We have different opinions. And there isn’t a wrong and right way. There is no black and white. And there isn’t room for whites and blacks. Like many things in life, there are lots of greys. Embrace the greys.

Other people have different bubble boundaries to you and that is okay. They may not like yours and you may not like there’s, but that’s okay. Be okay with that. They may not want you in their bubble, or you might not want them in your bubble, and that’s okay too.

Make space for lots of different bubbles and lots of different bubble boundaries. Embrace the multiplicity of variation and colours.

5. Be True to Your Bubble, and Don’t Pressure Others to Follow your Direction or Join Your Bubble.

You’ve thought through what you want to do, and how you want to ‘bubble’. It’s okay to rethink it and change it if you want, but you don’t have to. It’s your bubble. Love and live your bubble, and let those around you love and live their bubble, even if it looks a bit different to you.

This may mean that you can’t all do thanksgiving the way you did last year. It may mean that you don’t all meet together in the same place, or at the same time. It may mean that you connect online, through windows, or at open doors. That’s okay.

Bubbles are not permanent. They may, for some be impermeable, but they are not permanent. We won’t always live in bubbles. Bubbles will pop, and drift away on the wind, and in time we will look back on bubbles and laugh, and smile and tell our kids and grandkids about COVID and bubbles.

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