USUALLY by this point in the calendar, I'm taking a deep breath, gritting my teeth and bracing for an onslaught of festive obligations.

I appreciate that may sound a tad churlish or ungrateful but I'm the kind of person who says yes to far too many invitations (and demands) for fear of offending anyone.

Which ends up making for a miserable time as I find myself weary, overstretched and crawling towards December 25 having done none of the things I really wanted to.

This year, there is tumbleweed blowing across the barren pages of my diary. The usual parties, pantos and pandemonium are missing. The sum total of entries reads:

December 3: Give the dog his worming and flea medication.

December 23: Collect the turkey.

Truth be told, I'm rather comforted by this absence of commitments. Although we haven't gone anywhere or done anything for much of 2020, the perpetual thrum of anxiety has left me feeling like I've run repeatedly into a brick wall. I'm sure that I am not alone in that.

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The term "digital Christmas" has entered our lexicon in recent months and it is a description that make my heart plummet like a stone.

A year ago, the only time I did video calls was when I accidentally pressed the FaceTime button on my mobile phone, recoiling in horror at the giant, grotesque face with several chins staring back. Only to realise that it was my humongous head.

In a pre-pandemic world, my preferred modes of communication were face-to-face (remember that?), voice-on-voice action down the line or carefully typed emails and text messages.

I now imagine purgatory as a glowing screen filled with rows of tiny, nondescript faces and a bad internet connection that keeps cutting out and freezing at a crucial moment.

Not to forget catching a glimpse of my own mug among the rogue's gallery and wondering how I got to 43 without realising how odd and awkward I looked.

I appreciate we have to live in the here and now – and technology helps us do that – but there's a big part of me that would rather send someone a thoughtful handwritten note or card, while happily daydreaming about a time when we can all be together in person, not in pixels.

Even my dog is fed up with video calls. At first, he would sit rapt, listening to all the voices and curiously watching the flickering faces. Now, he trots off to the window to look for real people walking past in the street and give the postman a hero's welcome.

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While I'm missing human interaction terribly, I'm also grateful for this pause from the usual mad rush of the upcoming festive period.

I need to catch my breath. A chance to regroup, recharge and reimagine what life might be like going forward. An opportunity to take stock and process all that has passed this year. A time to just be.

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