This holiday season has brought a panoply of terrible news. On Sunday, Senator Joe Manchin went on the Fox News Sunday show and told us all that he wasn’t going to support President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, or what many people are calling the last best hope for the planet. Speaking of the last best hope, climate change is ravaging the country, and the central United States is still trying to dig itself out from an unprecedented, long, and violent line of December tornados that spanned six states and have killed at least 88 people. Scientists quibble about exactly what role climate change played in this weather disaster, but they do think it played a role. Is climate change a bigger problem than we think? I asked myself on December 16, as I strolled in New York City’s Central Park and had to take off my black down jacket because it was 62 degrees.

And then there’s Omicron—no, not a villain from Transformers, but the 15th letter in the Greek alphabet. We’ve mutated ourselves right through Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta. Now we’ve hit the variant that is ruining everyone’s holiday plans. There’s a war on Christmas, all right, and its name is Omicron. It seems, according to early data, to possibly be a bit milder, at least for the vaccinated and boosted, though previous mutations had lower breakthrough-infection rates. So there’s something to think about while you wait on a three-hour line at the CityMD to get your PCR test, which will be back to you in 24 hours or never. New York City’s labs and testing sites are completely overwhelmed by the sudden crush of Omicron, which is slightly surprising since we’re in year two of this fiasco.

So it’s hard not to feel gloomy. Most people I know, including myself, are living in mortal fear of more school closures and being dragged back to March 2020. Online school was a disaster for myself and everyone I’ve ever spoken to in my life, ever. The only beings who thrived during online schooling were our three very needy dogs, who long for the days of having everyone home so they can get extra pets and treats. For my three teenage children, the year of nothing was really crushing. Teenagehood is hard and complicated; teenagehood in a pandemic is orders of magnitude worse. How can you separate from your parents when you’re isolated in an apartment with them?

But it’s not March 2020. We have vaccines, boosters, and masks, and we know a lot more than we did two years ago. Two years ago, we were leaving packages in the hallway and washing our groceries and desperately searching for Clorox wipes. We now know that school closures are a terrible idea because they dramatically affect learning and can lead to profound mental-health challenges for students. And our grocery stores still have toilet paper (for the most part).

And then there’s the crushing darkness. It’s really hard not to be depressed when the sun sets at 4:32 p.m. While the crushing darkness of winter in the Northeast is nothing new, it does seem worse this year, perhaps due to the lack of holiday merriment and the death of more than 800,000 Americans? Imagine if I had told you back in January 2020 that one in every 100 people over the age of 65 would die of COVID-19 and we’d still be doomscrolling through the Greek alphabet. You’d have thought I was being a Cassandra, but Cassandra was a prophetess.

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