I’m revisiting this post because it’s the final stretch to Christmas day. There’s a lot of us that are happy and joyful, crazed and freaking out. It’s so overwhelming. Maybe holidays suck for you, not because of losing a loved one (the reason for the first post on this topic), but because you don’t have warm fuzzy feelings of the holiday in the first place. Or maybe you are feeling poor, unloved, unworthy, and stressed and having to spend the extra time and money is like drawing blood from a stone. There just isn’t anything there to give.
Here’s the thing- I totally get it.
What could be more depressing than a bunch of happy people all dressed up and fancy, doting on their families, showering them with gifts? What could be more strange than a story about a virgin in an ancient land that had to give birth in a barn on some night that what was probably Halley’s comet streaking across the sky?
So let’s make a cheat sheet of how to get through it:
Vodka, Wine, Tequila.
Yeah, as if.
Most importantly, if you have children this is the best gift of all. It’s a clean slate. Whatever crappy Christmas memories you might have from your childhood, their minds are malleable, fresh and impressionable. If you can be available to them, and I mean ‘available’, like listening, playing, snuggling, whatever gives them your attention, this is what they will remember most. For reals.
You’re broke- okay, who isn’t these days? We are reminded that 99% of us in this country are poor. I’m just kidding. But really, if anyone in your life makes you feel unworthy because you didn’t get them a present, they aren’t worth having in your life in the first place.
One of my favorite blogs- Rants from Mommy Land, did an experiment called Christmas hookers. They got names and addresses of moms whose budgets were tight this Christmas, and I mean REALLY tight, and matched them up with one of their readers that could send them a gift card from a large retail store. I got my woman’s name, a mom in Louisiana, and I sent her a Target gift card. I hope she gets it soon and can go shopping for her kids. I would do that for 10 more people, but James gets really Scrooge like that, and says we’ll be in the soup lines if I don’t stop paying for everything and everyone out there.
Maybe I’ll do that next year on my blog. If you need help, just message me. If you’d like to help, let me know, and I can match you up.
Doesn’t everyone need a Santa?
I don’t think I’ve covered it all, but if I’ve even touched on some areas, I hope you know you have a sister here in Seattle, blogging with the messiest hardwood floors, a fridge that hasn’t been cleaned out since 2008 and an ass the shape of her couch- so hey, nobody is perfect, especially me.
Like Judy Garland sings- Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas. And hey, look on the bright side- it’s almost over.
We are supposed to be happy. Yeah like in Disneyland, it’s supposed to be so frickin’ fantastic. I’m tired, my kids are driving me crazy, and I can’t buy anymore of this crap. No. We’re not in Disneyland. It’s Christmas.
But there’s more to this holiday being depressing than just the nonstop Macys commercials, drippy “Christmas in the Northwest” song on the radio, getting all the crap done that everyone expects of you and if you don’t do it all, you feel less of a woman- depression.
No, I’m talking about the pain in your heart and the hole in your gut from knowing this holiday is the first since losing a loved one. Or maybe it’s the second or third since they’ve passed. How do you fake happy? How are you supposed to be cheerful and live through the four weeks (make that eight weeks thanks to the annoying mass marketing our commercial society has created…) of holiday hoo-ha?
But maybe, just maybe going through the ornaments, pulling out the photos, getting out the stocking that was theirs is like pulling off a band-aid. Painful at first, but better afterwards. Why is it the ones we love hang on through the holidays and then seem to pass in January? It seems those I know that have died and usually from cancer, have hung on to Christmas and then had to let go come January or soon after. Hanging on to spend their last holiday with family. But no matter what time of year you’ve lost a loved one, the holidays seem to lurk and you might resent them instead of embrace them.
My friend Julie who passed away almost 10 years ago, would bake the most amazing Christmas cookies. Every Christmas I would wait for her goody bag of delicousness. That was her gift to her friends. Even when she was having chemo or recovering from a surgery, she made those cookies. Her last Christmas before she died in January, she made those cookies. I didn’t get to see her on Christmas day at my parents like we had done in years past. She was too weak. I swung by her apartment the day after Christmas and her boyfriend gave them to me. She was sleeping he said and needed her rest. I wasn’t aware how close she was to death. I took that bag of cookies home. Inside was also a tea tin of Murchies tea from Canada. Our favorite. I had one of her biscotti and made a cup of tea. I had a cookie a day or so. Savoring each one. The powdered sugar on the wedding balls, the jam inside the cutouts, the chocolate ganache between the butter cookies…I couldn’t believe that she made them despite being so sick.
When I got the call she died on January 13, I still had cookies in the bag in my pantry. I stopped eating them. I just left them there on the shelf. I would see the bag and her handwritten note that was attached with a raffia ribbon every time I opened the pantry door. I didn’t dare move it or eat any more of those cookies. As if it was a sacred shrine to her. That the cookies were my last bit of her I had. A whole year went by and I had those cookies in my pantry. And then one day, I thought, Julie would be so pissed if she knew I wasted those cookies!! Not only was she a stickler for neatness, she wouldn’t let anything go to waste. She had a very sophisticated palette and she kind of scared me, because everything she did was perfect. Every time she cooked it was like a Bon Appetit magazine spread. She insisted on quality and taste, never cutting corners or falling into the traps of ‘boxed’ or ‘name brands’. Heaven forbid I open a box of Kraft!!
So I took the bag and emptied the hard and crumbly cookie remains in the garbage. I apologized to the spirit of Julie, wherever she was. I kept the gift bag and the note with her handwriting among my keepsakes of cards and notes from loved ones and I drank the tea from the tin and saved it to keep more loose tea in it still today. I knew that she would’ve thought it silly not to actually EAT the cookies she baked, but she would be glad that I’m at least using the tea tin.
The pain of a friend passing is not that of a son, daughter, parent or spouse even. I won’t even pretend I know your pain. Sometimes your sadness puts you in that dark hole of wishing everyone else wasn’t so damn happy. But then I think there’s a purpose to the world that keeps turning. With each year, the happiness can start to outshadow the sadness. Like a moon waxing from new to full. There’s a little sliver of brightness coming around with each season. It starts with darkness and ends with a ball of light.
I hope that any of you facing a painful Christmas, that first or several after, can see the light that comes around. That knows even though you are aching inside, it’s okay to be happy sometimes. It’s okay to laugh at Elf, to sing along to Perry Como or enjoy the lights on the neighbors house, to get a little tipsy at the cocktail party with friends. Because those that we miss, would want us to enjoy what probably gave them the most happiness. And for the rest of us, hopefully we can stop and appreciate the joys of the season and not just dwell on the craziness and stress.