Guest blog written by my mom Carol Danielson.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year – right????? But, what if – what if it is not? What if you are feeling sad, lonely, angry or simply down in the dumps? What if Christmas ISNT the most wonderful time of the year for you?
Several years ago my adult kids had a fight – a bad one. It wasn’t physical, but some horrible, seemingly unforgivable words were spoken, loudly, well, shouted actually. It was at the beginning of summer. People said “Oh, it’s just a fight. My kids fight all the time. They will make up. Things will be fine”. But this wasn’t “just a fight”. I felt like my world had just imploded. Many years of family dysfunction, conflict avoidance and people pleasing crashed in on me that day. My carefully constructed image of a “perfect family” disintegrated right in front t of my eyes. I was devastated. I couldn’t sleep. I would lay awake at night and one of my biggest stressors was that Christmas was coming. It was still summer, but I knew that sooner or later Christmas would be here, and I could not face it. There would be no perfect Christmas this year. The closer Christmas came, the further downward I spiraled. My Husband and I kept our tradition of cutting down a Christmas tree but my heart was not in it. When we got the tree home I realized I had chosen a very small, very crooked Charlie Brown tree. I put a few ornaments on it, but not many. It had lights but I never turned them on. I just couldn’t. I wanted Christmas to just be over. I didn’t send out any Christmas cards, nor did I open the ones we received. I would look at all the smiling Christmas family pictures on FB and feel nothing but pain. I literally could not watch TV because the Christmas commercials were too hard to watch. The expectations of a perfect Christmas were overwhelming. I remember very little of how we ended up celebrating the holiday. The day after Christmas I threw out our Christmas tree and tried to erase the holiday. January brought an amazing sense of relief, as I could forget about Christmas for the time being.
The next 2 years I struggled my way through the holiday season. I continued to go through the motions, but there was no joy.
As Christmas of 2018 approached, I decided that, regardless of my circumstances, I was going to enjoy Christmas. And that meant that things were going to have to look different. That would mean getting rid of some old traditions and beginning some new ones. I started off with our Christmas tree. I told my husband that I wanted to chuck our tradition of cutting down a tree and I wanted a pre-lit artificial tree. It felt so freely to walk into Home Depot and walk out with an artificial tree – something I had never wanted before.
Over the last several years I have made some other changes that have helped me to enjoy Christmas again. Christmas on this earth is just temporary stuff. So if you are not anticipating a Hallmark Christmas – if money is tight, if your family doesn’t get along, if you know you will be on the receiving end of bitter, hurtful comments, if you won’t be able to get together as a family for Christmas because, well, Covid, if a family member is missing, or if you are all alone, whatever the reason, here on some tips that have helped me.
1. Expectations Keep mindful to avoid unrealistic expectations. Expectations are often the fuel that feeds that “let down” feeling. Instead of focusing on what isn’t, focus on what is and what can be. There is so much pressure to have the most wonderful time of your life during the holidays. Unrealistic and unachievable expectations set us up for disappointment and resentment.
2. Establish new traditions – out with the old, in with the new. Trying to keep things EXACTLY THE SAME only emphasizes that nothing is the same.
3. Keep up with your self-care Sleep, exercise, eat well.
4. Don’t use money, alcohol, food, or sex to deal with pain and sadness.
5. Finally, for me, keeping my eyes and thoughts on the real reason I am celebrating Christmas. “That the One who heard our weeping became a child in manger sleeping”. I know it seems easier said than done, but that is what I will be doing on Christmas – keeping my focus on the baby Who was born to die, “Born that man no more may die”. Will you join me?