“It’ll be different,” she said, the tears filling her eyes revealing what her determined smile failed to hide. This Christmas was going to be painful.
“It’s bittersweet,” he said. “This is a hard time of year for my wife.”
“Honestly, I dread it.”
I’ve lost track of the number of people who have exposed their truth that the holidays are hard for them. A death. A deep dysfunction among sibs. A distance brought on by addiction, geography, or a history of hateful words. A child they won’t see.
For weeks I’ve anticipated the return of my children from across the country. Jack from California, Benjamin from Brooklyn, Marisa from Atlanta. We’ll have days of making toasts, baking pfefferneusse, and telling tales. I decorated my tree with hundreds of ornaments, got out their childhood stockings to stuff, and ordered the perfect pastries from the vegan bakery. Each tidbit of every task boosted my joy.
This is a heart-filled time of year for me. I am filled with love for my family and friends. I am filled with gratitude for a multitude of blessings. I am filled with wonder at the generosity and beauty surrounding me. What’s been missing in my heart is sufficient space for those who experience these weeks and days differently.
A drive through the city to see the lights of the season lifts my spirits, while for countless others the Santas bring sadness and the reindeer no cheer. My careless and casual “Looking forward to the holidays?” reveals that I’ve forgotten that for many the answer is “No.”
If what I really want to bring to December days is more peace and more love, I’d do well to be more awake. Instead of assumptions—- “Got all your shopping done?”—-I could be more authentically caring.
How is this time of year for you?
Not everyone loves the holidays. How about you?
What are you hoping for this Christmas?
Stressful or sad. Anxious or lonely. Maybe the most they hope for is to make it through.
So I try to remember. To remember the Christmas I spent in a hospital bed. To remember the Christmas I kept taking photo after photo of my brother because we all knew it would be his last. To remember the Christmas I handed my mother the phone so she could hear the news that my father had died.
My Christmas wish is that all of us can pause long enough from placing our orders on Amazon and filling our carts with candy canes to be present to those who may be silently struggling. I know that if I can, my full heart will be overflowing with what matters most all year round.
With my warmest wishes that your holiday intentions be fulfilled,
Is there someone for you to reach out to now?
Have you shared your feelings with someone willing to listen?
How will you be kind to yourself in the days ahead?