Given the response I received on yesterday’s post “‘Tis the Season for Sadness” it seems I struck a chord, and that many people struggle through this season for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s the shortness of the days, the weather, the hormones, the overwhelming busy-ness, the commercialism, or whatever–many struggle at a time which is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year” (that has always been one of my favorite songs of the season)
So what do we do about it? Do we just paint smiles on our faces, attach jingle bells to our clothes, and force ourselves to participate in the festive joy? Or is there a simpler answer, a way to enjoy the season and the time with family and friends without ignoring our own emotions or overwhelming ourselves with fake good cheer?
I have decided to take control of my emotions by giving myself permission . . .
- . . . permission to feel the sadness that I should expect to feel on the anniversary of my Dad’s death.
- . . . permission to say “No” to invitations that sound overwhelming or feel obligatory
- . . . permission to give gifts because I want to and if I have a special idea, not out of obligation
- . . . permission to enjoy the things I like about this season in quiet ways: the magical feeling of twinkle lights and holiday decorations; the taste of eggnog and the smell of cinnamon; candles burning and my winter village decorating my home; the promise of time off from the daily obligations of academia; the music–in small doses . . .
Yesterday Sarah opened her eight present for Hanukkah. We don’t give her eight gifts every year, but this year it felt right. Her gifts this year were (in no particular order): fuzzy pajamas, a Red Sox Champion t-shirt, a 1000 piece puzzle of candy, a gift card to a book store, DVD of Polar Express (which she wanted) and Holiday Inn, a pen/stylus combo to use for her Kindle, and this special decorate-it-yourself calendar.
Nothing major, nothing huge, nothing overly expensive.
When she opened this creative calendar she looked confused at first, until I told her that it was designed by her former art teacher and my good friend Jackie Haltom. She searched to find Jackie’s name, but sadly it was for the company Jackie works for and so she doesn’t get any real credit. The point is that Sarah was thrilled to have something so simple and creative that reminded her of someone she cares about. That’s pretty special.
Now, since my in-laws are Methodist, Sarah has grown up celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas. I never celebrated Christmas until I was in my twenties, living in Japan and then when I moved in with Nathan. However, I do believe in the magic of the Christmas season, and love the sense of possibility that it brings. So, when I realized that we would be celebrating in some way every year, I’ve tried to build that magic into the celebration.
We have a stuffed reindeer named Oliver (who existed before Sarah) who disappears every year a few days before Christmas to help Santa pull his sleigh. He has own sleigh bell and everything. He magically reappears every Christmas morning, no matter where we are. Santa also always knows where to bring Sarah’s presents, since she is very rarely at our house Christmas morning. Last year, when Sarah wanted a bike for Christmas and we were in Hawaii, Santa took a picture of the bike in front of our house and left that under the tree with a note.
Oliver just put his jingle bell on and is ready to help Santa.
I love that my ten-year-old daughter still believes in Santa, or at least she’s willing to believe in believing which is just as good.
This year, however, when I asked her what she planned to ask Santa for Christmas she gave me the best answer ever. “I don’t want anything. I have everything I need.”
I suggested that maybe she ask Santa to do something for someone else. She said, “I’d like Santa to send a special gift to Kamea” (Her best friend from Colorado whom she misses very much). Santa needs to get on that.
The whole point of this story is that this time of year, to me, is about recognizing the relationships we have and the moments that make life special:
- the people (like Jackie and Kamea) who’ve been part of our journey;
- the moments when we choose to believe in magic
- the smiles that will come as we put our puzzle together on the next snowy day
- The cozy dreams tucked away behind windows filled with warmth.
I don’t have to feel lonely this season, because I have the people I love near me and friends to write letters to. I don’t have to feel the pressure of jollity because I can choose when I go and when I don’t. I don’t have to feel let down if I don’t have any expectations. I don’t have to lose the magic if I hold the magic inside me.
I’m okay with that.
I wish you all a holiday season filled with simple joys and peace. And, not that you need it, I “give you permission” to take care of yourself and let the rest go.
Does that help?