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Andy Prest: Resilience, Christmas songs, and other cures for a world hit by disasters

Here's a holiday playlist to help you keep moving forward during a year of floods, fires, and plague
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North Shore Rescue members fly over flooded land near Abbotsford on their way to save stranded residents. In a year in which B.C. has been hit by disaster after disaster, residents have shown their resilience, writes columnist Andy Prest.

I was all set to write a column this week about a word that keeps popping into my head as we here in British Columbia face disaster after disaster, tragedy after tragedy.

I was going to tell the story of how my wife asked me the other day how anyone can stay positive, how anyone can keep themselves from careening into a chasm of despair as wave after wave of awfulness hits us.

There’s a life-sucking pandemic that somehow is still lingering – particularly for those whose children aren’t yet eligible for vaccinations – after what seems like an eternity. Remember “this is not forever, this is for now?” When did Dr. Bonnie say that? 1967?

And there were children’s bodies found in unmarked graves, and yet somehow we are still seeing pictures of police officers in full military gear clashing with First Nations protesters on their traditional territory in Wet’suwet’en in Northern B.C.

And friends and family members are dying of drug overdoses, poisoned in shocking, heartbreaking numbers by toxic supply in this pandemic-severed world.

And then there was the heat dome that killed our most vulnerable. And wildfires that burned down our towns. And of course, the floods and mudslides of the past two weeks that have taken more lives, and seemingly ruined countless others.

How does one keep going in the face of all that? In answer to that question, I was going to write about one word: resilience. The resilience of the human spirit, to carry on, to adapt to new situations, to do what is necessary to survive not only as an individual, but as a collective.

I was going to talk about the resilience I see daily in the young athletes I coach, the drive to battle on even when things are going horribly wrong.

I was going to talk about the resilience of our school students who were abruptly sent home, away from their friends, by a virus; then they were told to learn online; then were told to go back to school even while their friends were falling ill; and then ... they just kept on going. Children really are made of rubber, in the best way possible. 

I was going to talk about the resilience of strangers caught in mudslides, working together to stay alive until helpers like North Shore Rescue – a group woven together by resilience – could scoop them up in helicopters and fly them out. The resilience of “boat cowboys” wrangling farm animals that were about to be swallowed by flood.

I was going to give us all a resilience pep talk, find other words that could possibly help someone bounce back up from the depths that many of us are trolling. But what words have that power?

And then, my wife answered her own question, with one simple act: she put on some Christmas music. And in that one small act we all, my family, felt the joy coming back. As they say in the Grinch, “It started low, then it started to grow.”

 No, I am definitely not saying that playing a few songs is all we need to solve the world’s problems. Far from it. But it came to me that the building blocks of resiliency are the little things that remind us we are human, that brings us those little bits of joy, even on a cold dark night.

And yes, this was a little early in the season for Christmas music. Normally for me my Christmas song tolerance begins on Christmas Eve and ends about 20 minutes later. But this felt right. It felt good. It was nice to feel a little unexpected joy.

What songs? Mariah, of course. And the Pogues, minus the really nasty word. And how about ¿Donde esta Santa Claus?, by Augie Rios. The names of the reindeer are Pancho, Vixen, Pedro and Blitzen. Perfection.

See below for my list of surprise songs that are bound to bring you joy, even in your darkest hours.

It’s my small gift to you, my resiliency starter package, November 2021 version. I’m sure you’ve got many versions of your own resiliency package that fill you with life, be they songs or shows or delicious sandwiches. Play them, share them, eat them – and maybe put on a funny hat? – before you head back out to face whatever this mad world throws at you.

Do what is needed to remind yourself that we, humans, are a resilient bunch. Every day of the year.

Andy Prest is sports editor for the North Shore News. His humour/lifestyle column runs biweekly. aprest@nsnews.com

Christmas resilience playlist:

Christmas Wrapping, by The Waitresses. This song is a fascinating combination of an almost monotone delivery paired with a life-affirming trumpet riff. It’s like a duet between Aubrey Plaza and a parade. Love it.

¿Donde esta Santa Claus?, by Augie Rios. Come for the hilarious reindeer names, stay for Augie’s delightful Spanglish delivery.

Fairytale of New York, by The Pogues and Kristy MaColl. A flat-out rollercoaster of emotion, with seemingly bad singing that is actually really good, incredible instrumentation, and one really nasty word (the link I gave you is for the radio edit, which is for the good of us all, even if it will get me in trouble with Pogue purists).

Dominic the Donkey (The Italian Christmas Donkey), by Lou Monte and Joe Reisman’s Orchestra and Chorus. “Jiggidy-jig hee-haw! Hee-haw!” C’mon now. Two minutes and thirty seconds of Christmas perfection. 

Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’, by Albert King. The sexy Christmas song you didn’t know you needed. This one was hilariously recreated a few years back by Bill Murray and George Clooney for the Netflix special A Very Murray Christmas. Watch it if only to get a kick out of Clooney’s entrance into the song.

All I Want For Christmas Is You, by Mariah Carey. Seriously, this is all you need. Our Christmas queen.