’tis the season for _____there are many ways to fill in the blank. For this blog we will use: for lots of emotions.
It’s Christmas and you are supposed to be joyful so by golly you start the season determined the feel joy. If you forget, temporarily, there are constant reminders everywhere you look. Fuzzy red noses on cars. Lights on cars for goodness sake, lights on restaurants, on buildings…heck…on every conceivable and some non-conceivable places. There are plaques proclaiming joy in jaunty red and green. Snowmen are smiling. Ballerinas and prancing. Nutcrackers and strong and proud while bright and fun. Whimsy marries festive and explodes with Bombs of glitter that adorn everything. There are ringing bells and people humming. Joy. Everywhere.
The determination to feel joy quickly gives way to envy. Envy of those who felt enough honest joy to decorate their cars for crying outloud. Envy at the houses all aglow while you don’t even know where your lights are..or if you have any. Envy at the people who had the forethought and the energy to send Christmas cards. Envy at the smiling shoppers who had a plan. Envy at those with Christmas invitations and Christmas plans. Envy at those that knew their plans would include all of their loved ones and not shifts of loved ones that rotate based on year and divorce decrees. Envy at smiling, happy, while families smiling in color coordinated outfits in front of rustic backgrounds. Envy at handmade goodies and gaily wrapped gifts. Envy at those who seem to have a light in their soul for all that the season holds.
Then comes the guilt. It’s Christmas and you are supposed to feel joy-not envy, so you worry about that. Guilt because there will be no cards this year-mainly because having to list 4 people and 3 last names is just more then you can bare. Guilt because there isn’t enough to time nor energy left at the end of the day to pull out the box of ornaments or the boxes and boxes of santas. Guilt because though you knew you could find the energy you don’t have the heart to endure the memories that the “our first house” ornament will cause. Guilt because you have little ones that deserve Christmas magic that you aren’t providing. Guilt that you aren’t making homemade, hand decorated sugar cookies or handmade gifts this year. Guilt…lots and lots of guilt. Guilt that you didn’t go to Church more. Guilt that you feel guilt.
At some point you pull a Taylor and “shake it off”. You snap out of it, even for a moment, and appreciate all you have. A toys for tot toy here, a $5 bill to the lady on the corner or the present you buy for a family in need.
During this phase you appreciate all you have, appreciate that you have another Christmas and you appreciate the deeper meaning of the holiday. This phase is my favorite because it’s the time you deliver the Christmas magic instead of looking for it. On good years this is the longest phase. On bad years it may ebb and flow a bit. The key I think is to always try and do something-no matter what phase you are in- to get back here. Joy isn’t always attainable, if we are being honest, but appreciation is usually within reach.
I don’t know that this is technically an emotion but I count it. Christmas is always about memories for me. The older I get the sadder some of the memories become because they involve lives or people I don’t have anymore. Nanny’s house was a memory this year. A memory that will one day be gentle and kind but this year was new and harsh because there was no Nanny’s house. No cousins. No slamming screen doors as family arrived or left. No nanny.
Other memories are nostalgic but are sweeter. The table cloth my grandmother made was out at my moms house this holiday. That table cloth made of red net with gold fringe and hand sewn sequins is as much a part of Christmas as Santa for me. It’s adorned my moms “party” table for as long as I can remember. I miss my grandmother and I know my mom misses her too but years have passed so that it’s an ache rather then a new, sharp pain. Like my grandpa or my granddad. I miss them too.
I am nostalgic for hand cut trees that I didn’t have this year and for advent calendars that my children looked forward to that I no longer have. I am nostalgic for my babies crowded in my room, my bed, in anticipation of Santa visits. I didn’t have a little one this year so there were no late nights SHHHHH when toys accidentally go off when the batteries are inserted or the SHHHH-hahaha—$&@& when the toy building goes awry. I miss being a whole family. Nostalgic.
Finding the perfect gift. Making a pretty package. Brown paper packages tied up with string really are amoung my favorite things. Peppermint and chocolate millshakes. Even in the midst of sad or guilt there are glimpses of happy.
Gathering with friends or shopping trips with my girl. Pretty manager scenes or unexpected treats from new friends…there are happy moments that sneak up and surprise even the days that are full of….
The Christmas season is sad for some. As a divorced parent I am always sad that my babies are with one but not the other; I am sad that they feel rushed getting time with everyone or feel torn about when they go where. That makes me sad.
I am sad for friends who lost loved ones this year that are facing the first year of festivities without the ones they love. Or the 3rd year or the 5th year or the 6th. I am always aware that there are people out there that are without their tribe and it makes me sad.
I am sad for what was lost.
Similar to appreciation this is one of the moods I look forward to. I am grateful for all I have. Grateful when someone unexpected says or does something nice and kind. I am grateful to be loved and to be able to love in return. I am grateful for what the season really means. Grateful for food and shelter and family and friends. Grateful for health and the means to make the ends meet most days.
This one is both good and bad. Like a child on Christmas Eve when there is magic in the are and miracles happening everywhere this season leaves me full of hope for what the next year could being. I hope for miracles and answered wishes of my own. I am hopeful that the ones I love know they are loved by me and hopeful that I properly tell and show them just how much.
Too much to do and not enough time to do it in. Too many “I wish I could” and not enough funds to make it all happen. Too many wants about baking and decorating and caroling and festive parties but managing none of it. The stress of when to be where and want to bring when you go. The stress of making sure you do what is expected of you. The stress of dealing with emotions of others while trying to manage your own.
Dreading the moment you drop off your littlest one. Dreading mistletoe. Dreading drama and ramped up emotions that the holiday bring. Dreading the present you couldn’t get them. Dreading the hard emotions that you know will come. Dreading facing asleep alone on Christians Eve but dreading more waking up alone Christmas Day. Dreading the seasons end when the shiny goes away and pretty gives way to the dull and drab.
Above all there is love. There is family that, if you are lucky, surround you with love. Love in the fine of handmade bloody Mary’s to take the “edge” off or love in trouble form of sitting with you while you cry. Love with generous gifts and delicious meals. Love with card games and visits and quiet nights at home when they could be out with friends. Love shown in hugs and kisses.
Love and thoughtfulness shown by a little girl who looks and looks and looks to find a gift she think you will love and then buys her treasure with her own hard earned money. Love showing in her face as she anxiously watches your open her prize and beams when you show your delight. It’s watching the same child buy her grandmother a pillow printed with the loving phrase she says each time they meet because she wants her to know how much she loves hearing it. It’s a girl seeing koozies that her other grandparents just have to have because it’s their lake. It’s the thought she takes and the loves she shows in her generosity that mean so much.
Christmas is complicated. The older I get the more complicated it becomes. In the good years the hard is far outweighed by the good. Even in the bad years the magic and spirit of the season shine…most of the time.