Last night, I sat in the quiet of my living room with my feet tucked under a blanket and soaked in the light from our Christmas tree. I relished the peaceful time by myself, and I thought about you: our little community of women who have come together to share our journeys, our struggles, and our joys. You fill me up, and help me keep perspective on what this season is really all about.
This time of year can be difficult. It can be a ton of fun, too! But also charged with expectations, the stress of trying to fit everything in and make it all memorable, the Pinterest-era idea of what this season “should” look like, anxiety-inducing family gatherings, along with all the other stuff that we juggle on a day-to-day basis. Especially if you are trying to conceive, dealing with a difficult illness, or loving someone who is struggling. And even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, right now is the darkest time of year, and bone-chilling cold in some places.
It can be difficult to feel like you have the power to enjoy this time of year – in your own way, on your own terms, in a way that feels memorable and fulfilling to you. So I wanted to share how I’ve found my way to enjoy this season without being pulled into the old tapes, the emotions of the past, and the tendency to make the end of the year a hectic, over-the-top race to the finish.
In the past, I struggled during the holidays. This time of year has always brought up the memories and raw emotions of my dad, who died when I was 12. I replay the memories of waking up on Christmas morning, and racing into the living room with my siblings to an abundance of gifts under the tree, and my dad standing there waiting for us. I am 47 now, and for all of these years – not just at Christmas, but all the time – I have been grieving my loss of him. It has been difficult for me to talk about him, and to think about him. I held him up on a pedestal and carried an ache around in my heart.
But recently, I found my way to deeply explore my memories and feelings about my dad. Somehow, in the process of working through the decades of deeply-settled heartbreak, I noticed that something began to shift for me. It slowly, gently became possible for me to feel differently. A small sense of appreciation was born that has helped me to feel thankful for the relationship that I did get to have with him during the first formative years of my childhood. I feel that he is still with me. I feel his presence in my life. And that has brought me some peace.
Opening my heart to see painful things also as an opportunity for appreciation has helped me bring more peace to my life, and my holidays. I appreciate that my dad – both his life and his death – have shaped and influenced me to become who I am today.
This process has also helped me understand more clearly what makes the holiday season special for me – and made it easier to cut out all the tempting “extra” stuff that we get swept into this time of year. While the cookie swaps, the Elf on the Shelf mania, the office white elephant parties, the pressure to buy just the right gift, and “this season’s hottest holiday looks” are all exciting and fun, trying to do it all would leave me feeling drained and harried, and not-at-all grateful.
Instead, I’ve learned to simplify. My family has a few traditions that make this time of year special for us. We say yes to those, and a gentle, polite no to everything else. We watch movies together – usually the same ones every year. Our favorites are Elf (of course!), Titanic, Christmas Vacation, Ferris Bueller, and Frozen. We bundle up and drive around our neighborhood in our golf cart with hot chocolate in hand, and “ooh” and “ahh” at all the beautiful lights. We have fondue on Christmas Eve. These few things are what make the holidays feel special in my heart, and what help me feel a deep appreciation for this time of year.
All the other Christmasy stuff, while it would be fun, isn’t as meaningful. With that knowledge it feels a bit easier to say no.
So, what makes this time of year feel special to you? What are the traditions that make you feel like you are truly enjoying this time of year on your own terms?
I am sending light and love to you, my lovelies. And wishing you a season that rings true for you.
With love & gratitude,
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