Here I sit, surrounded by Christmas cheer — decor, cards, goodies. My home is the cutest, most adorable little welcome Christmas laneway home all lit up for the season:
But full disclosure — Christmas is kind of a tough time for me. Three years ago, my mother suffered a stroke and lay in a coma for over a week until she died on Christmas Eve. You know how Christmas traditions gladden the heart? Remembering how Mom used to bake for weeks, how the house was filled with music and the intoxicating scent of gingerbread and cloves? Cards from distant friends and relatives? Caroling? Charlie Brown’s Christmas Special? Well, that reminds me of when my Mom died. Everything about the season reminds me of it. As the years go by I hope that the achy feeling I get will fade a bit. But for right now…..
Of course, I’m not the only one who is hurting this time of year. As Marsha Lederman reminds us in her Globe and Mail article,
Maybe this is your first Christmas after the death of a loved one. Maybe you’re going through a divorce. Maybe you’ve just lost your job at CHCH or Bell Media or Suncor or in some other layoff that didn’t make the news. Maybe you’ve been diagnosed with cancer. Or, heaven forbid, your child has. Maybe you have depression or anxiety. Maybe you had a miscarriage or are trying, desperately, to conceive a child. Maybe there’s alcoholism in your family and you’re worried about another Christmas Day blow-up. Or maybe you’re sober and can’t face one more boozy holiday party. Perhaps treacherous family dynamics have left you out in the cold this year, disinvited to Christmas dinner. Maybe a loved one is in trouble with the law or has a mental illness or has lost their way and is suffering. And so you are too.
And that doesn’t even take into consideration the people who just can’t afford Christmas. The tree, the decorations, the extra food and the gifts. The stress on them must be nearly unbearable.
Of course adding to the melancholy that overtakes us is the feeling that we should be having a wonderful time! How dare you be blue at Christmas! It’s the time of CHEER, DAMMIT! Or those poor souls who were expecting a magical Christmas and found that it was just **meh** (kind of like when you were a kid and woke up on Boxing Day and realized that getting what you wanted and asked for was not going to make you truly happy). Those people can find January a very cold month indeed.
And there will be cheer for me, visiting with my beloved family on Christmas Day and just being quietly, gratefully there. But there will be a few tears, too.
I am glad of the way I’ve found to display the very old ornaments we had when I was a child — suspended from a tension rod in a window:
And I’m especially glad that we’ve cut way back on the baking and visiting and gift-giving (and ergo: gift buying — so exhausting) and that I can just slip back to our little haven if celebrations elsewhere get too tiring.
So along with all the thoughts of sugarplums you’ll have this year, please spare a thought for those of us who will not be filled with the spirit of Christmas present.
Aly Semigran knows what it’s like to face depression during the holiday season. And in her blog post she offers this comfort:
That you deserve to be healthy and that it takes work and time and it’s not always easy, but it’s worth it. Your friends and family will be waiting for you at the other end of this, whether it’s on a holiday or some random Wednesday when that fog finally lifts.
It’s okay to skip the songs on the radio that make you feel sad (Burl Ives will have to serenade someone else), it’s okay if the mall makes you feel utterly overwhelmed (though I will take that Auntie Anne’s pretzel, thankyouverymuch), and it’s okay if this particular holiday season wasn’t it what it was “supposed” to look like. It’s the best gift you’ll ever receive: the understanding that it’s okay. You’re okay. It’ll be okay.