The Christmas I Never Saw Coming
I’ve endured Christmastime for a few decades now but never quite like this year, and I’ll never have it any other way.
Living, loving, parenting, and loss during this pandemic seemed the fat pitch for another strike on Christmas. I did some of the usual things; decorated, purchased, hid gifts throughout my house, and reminisced. I watched, passively and actively, all the holiday movies — the characters return to me each year like long-lost-beloved family.
This year though, many things fell away. There were no holiday parties, no restaurant dinners, girlfriend gatherings, or hugs — this last piece is challenging for me. I’m a massive fan of big, mad, deep, squishy, audible hugs — embracing people is the ultimate check-in and transfer of love-energies for me.
Also omitted: under-planning, panicked-shopping, over-spending, anxiety, depression, holiday-survival-vices, and loneliness.
This year, amid a global pandemic, following suit with our year-long pace of staying home, Christmas arrived to find a blank canvas upon my heart. No harried hosting, breakneck schedules, or wedged connections. Of the many leagues into myself considered during Covid-time, recognizing the perfect antidote for my Christmas blues required the least amount of effort.
Twenty-Twenty taught me well and unpredictably, has yielded the very best Christmas of my lifetime.
No ghosts of others’ misery to distort joy, no tear-drenched heart, and no unobtainable expectations to achieve.
In the past, Christmases for me were gloomy with a chance of joy — some were sober; others inebriated, some I drove overnight to be somewhere I wasn’t seen or wanted; other years, I went elsewhere. For many Christmases, I worked and stretched beyond reasonable human capacity bending my love and talents into festooned presentations and gatherings. One year I stayed home with my dogs, choosing to unplug from toxic step-family and the dishonest manipulations craftily placed between my blood bonds and me. That year, in particular, was a good one. I’ve participated as the child, the guest, the host, the parent, the beloved, the wallpaper, and the resented obligation.
Every which way sliced, loneliness was always on the menu. All the excitement, caroling in my car and shower, gift selections ultimately drove me towards sadness. It took me years to recognize that much of my Christmastime depression came from someone else’s storyline. Years, tears, and lamented jeers taught me that this was a sad time of year. It’s the time of year to bathe in regret, rewrite history into romantic sound bytes, and suffer.
Brace. Numb. Spend. Push. And cry in the bathroom of someone’s house during a holiday party — these are a few of my “holiday tools” of Christmas past.
There were joyous moments in the mix. However, I was too exhausted to relax into them all wholeheartedly.
Twenty-Twenty Christmas rolled in with new mantras.
What if evolved into what is.
“I wish” continually melts into” I have.”
I meet setbacks and disappointments with humorously narrated with lines inspired by favorite movies — most used this year, “welcome to the next level of Jumanji!”
Nothing got to me and poisoned my wellness. This free-loving bliss, so foreign to me, I’ve occasionally wandered through the house feeling like something was missing. Ah yes, the craziness of doing too much, feeling not enough, and longing.
This year has solidified my comfort in the smooth pace of actuality. Being over doing heals so much, especially the fear of missing out. Living without former trappings gave more than it took, and I’m grateful.
For my kids, this year has held them in twisted suspension, awaiting “normal” life to resume. However, they are learning to live with less noise and have gained more introspective clarity. One of my parenting goals is to teach the value of honoring their true feelings and understanding how to create their bliss. The pandemic and our decision to stay home have afforded them ample time to integrate this life skill.
It’s rough parenting kids who stay home while everyone else is out partying and posting. Still, Christmastime on the heels of this year has been genuinely magnificent because they get it now, more than ever. They understand the meaning of humanitarian love, community compassion, and efforts to support others through advocacy. They appreciate the minutiae of the moments with cherished family and friends. They’ve learned to listen more to themselves and others.
These things fill my heart with a peace never before known. I would never have surmised that a heartbreaking year such as this could deliver the love and clarity it has to each of us.
With this fresh perspective, I could fully absorb joy in the moments that made our Christmas memories, take my time cooking, and capture details of our togetherness as keepsakes.
Late in the evening, my daughter quietly brought me one last gift — a watercolor painting of her favorite photo of us together when she was a small child. I wept in bliss for all the things; the artistry of love, the magic in the minutiae, and all the brilliant things I didn’t see coming. In this knowingness of unfettered happiness, I’ll never have Christmastime any other way.