‘Tis the season, right?
Laughing thru the snow and merrily-merrily-merrily—PUHLEEZE. La-de-freaking-da and Don’t get your tinsel in a tangle is waaayyyy more like it.
Today at the coffee pot I had this very conversation. A co-worker burst out,”I know this is supposed to be the happiest time of year but I am just so tired!”
The tree, presents, 3 weekends of guests and decorations…in a moment of brutal honesty she lamented that she knew she should be happy but she was too stressed to be happy. And that made it all worse-knowing that she was supposed to be happy yet she wasn’t.
And there it was. Exactly what a lot of us were feeling but just couldn’t say aloud. Out of guilt? Out of denial? Out of shame?
The happiest time of the year is just not reality for most of us. Either we, as mothers, have too little time, money and energy to live up to the Pinterest version of the holidays or the reality of the season never lived up to the expectations so we lived in a perpetual state of disappointment. Or the Ghost of Christmas past, present and future haunt us so badly that all we want to do was wake from the nightmare.
That is way more realistic then the tv commercial and hallmark freaking Christmas movies that bombard every moment of the airways from November to January. Not everyone falls in love while holding hands in the snow. Not everyone gets kissed under the mistletoe (it’s a fungus for goodness sake!) or has a brand new Lexus clad with a bright red bow in the driveway.
But we fight the good fight. We paste stepford wife smiles on our faces and go about the task of looking joyous and put together and gleeful. We decorate. We bake. We buy. We wrap. We tie bows and put up lights. We take part in ugly sweater contest. We put Christmas carols on the radio and plan events to celebrate the season. And we do all this without telling anyone that doing so takes all we have. We do so without even admitting to ourselves that the effort takes more then we have. Until a weak moment at a coffee pot one cold December morning.
Another woman joined us and admitted that for years she held onto traditions and visions of what Christmas was supposed to be. Then one year she realized she was the only one that cared about the homemade ornaments or all the trappings of the commercialized holiday.
And that brought me some peace. I think I struggle with that the most. The version of the holiday versus the reality of the time of year. By letting go of some of the “rules” I can be free to find moments that bring joy.
Complete, smiling families in matching attire with interlocked arms and love oozing from their pores in shiny, heavy cardstock aren’t my reality. So I quit sending cards. And that’s okay. I am not a failure for NOT sending cards. I dare say no one even notices. Sunday night I had the privilege of taking a family photo. My family photo. And there is love and joy written all on the casual snapshot. It’s not of me and a spouse with all my children perfectly poised and attired. But it’s my family…my family with happy smiles and grateful hearts.
Brown paper packages tied up with string make me happy. I hear the limericks from the sound of music as I wrap. Sometimes I even sing aloud. So I use brown paper wrappings because it makes me happy. And it makes my girl happy. It’s 12/11 and my packages aren’t wrapped. But they will be. As soon as I have a moment and some energy they will be. Even if it’s 12/24. And I won’t beat myself up because it’s not done 2 or 3 weeks before the holiday.
Party frocks, festive decorations and chatter of endless holiday parties make me sad. Last few years I didn’t attend a single holiday event. Lonely and sad. I had no ocassion for gold lame or velvet or bright red and green taffeta. It embarrassed me.
The truth is that I am an awkward introvert who doesn’t do well at parties. Why let the season make me feel like a loser?
Instead I took my girls and suprised my parents as they hosted a Christmas party. I got to help. I got to make my parents happy. I got to show off my girls. And-to my delight-I got to see the handmade table cloth my grandmother made. The festive table decor has been part of my Christmas memory for years. This year I realized that I didn’t need to attend the parties. I needed to help my mom throw hers. I needed to see her festive decor, drink her spiked egg nog, see my dapper dad in his red vest and to watch them delight their guest while I sit inconspicuously in the cornwe. What I need is to see that table cloth….that special table cloth. That’s what I need to feel festive. Seeing the handsewn sequins and jaunty felt Santa made by my grandmothers hands is all I need to feel the spirit of the holiday.
I remember sneaking bites is the horse devours before the guest arrived. Food never tasted better or looked more magical than at my moms parties. Last night I saw my sassy little own sneak a bite. I knew that she would remember these parties like I do. I don’t have to be Martha Stewart to create memories for my daughters.
Same with cookies. I love the idea of baking. I am not good at it. I don’t have a patience for it nor do I have the energy. But I can buy the stuff! I can help my big girl find recipes. I can give her ideas and find delight in her creations. She finds joy in baking and I find joy in her joy. It doesn’t matter if I actually make the cookies.
Seeing my daughter make her own gifts. Seeing her find joy in giving. That far outweighs the worry I feel over not having much to give or not knowing of the perfect gift. I just need to look more at her heart and worry less about what I think the world expects of me.
Being present. That’s what I need to do. That’s all I need to do. I may not buy into all the trappings of the season. And that’s okay. It is. It’s okay as long as I let My little ones find joy. One traditions make me ache? Make new ones! Rather then focus on want I don’t have or can’t give I wanted to change my own point of view this year. So I volunteered at a food bank. I have enough to eat. I can feed my children. I am blessed. That 4 hours showed me that. I want to do more of that type of giving this year.
This year we have a church we like. I find joy in the music. Traditional holiday carols bring up loneliness but the words to the carols are lovely and peaceful. This year I am hearing the same hymns with new rhythms and melodies so I hear the words clearer. And it’s comforting.
It was sad but nice to hear that I am not the only one suffering a bit of holiday angst this season. It was good to be reminded that the holiday I have don’t need to be compared to anyone else’s. And it was a reminder that we shouldn’t be afraid to reach out and hang onto one another this time of year. The first Christmas without a parent. The first Christmas alone. A Christmas that you can’t afford gifts. A Christmas without your child. Someone struggling with poor health, depression or a slow recovery. Everyone isn’t feeling joy this season. I’d like to make sure that those people feel loved…even if the happiest time of year doesn’t feel so happy.