Holidays are beautiful and magical and precious… and sometimes they’re not. Sometimes holidays are sad, or scary or anxious. Sometimes holidays are hard.
Tonight Dave and I wrapped presents to put under our tree. Slippers for Grandma Lee, clothes and toys for our kids and books for my sisters. The area under the branches is packed with love and snowman wrapping paper. We cut and taped and sipped on wine and talked about our day and it was the loveliest time. We’re both on break now from work and I have no doubt that, with the exception of general kid-induced exhaustion, the holiday is going to be wonderful.
But there were so, so, so many times when Christmas wasn’t wonderful.
My big brother Ryan passed away at the end of September. The first Christmas after his death was miserable. In fact, the first several Christmas’ after that were miserable. The absence of a family member or friend who was always an integral part of your holiday can make the entire event feel unbalanced.
For years after my parents first divorced, holidays were anxious. I wasn’t ever sure where I’d be or who’s house we’d be at. Even later, when they came to the same gathering it was hard not to worry there’d be an argument.
I remember Christmas’s where my family was struggling financially and the reality of that made the holiday stressed and anxious.
There were holidays when I was stressed and anxious from work and I couldn’t relax enough to enjoy the time off when I got it.
The reality is, there are so very many reasons why this week might be hard for you and I just want you to know, you are not alone. I’ve been lonely on Christmas. I’ve been anxious, sad, depressed, scared, sick and angry on Christmas.
I’ve gone to holiday dinners and gotten into arguments. I’ve gone to holiday dinners and had my feelings deeply hurt. I’ve gone to holiday dinners and had too much wine because the anxiety of what might happen ended up being far worse than the reality.
Here is what I know for sure:
You cannot control the actions of others, but you can control how you respond to them. You can decide that you will find joy in this week and be loving and kind to those you encounter even when they aren’t loving or kind to you.
You cannot control the circumstances life throws at you. If you’re experiencing loss or grief this season then give yourself permission to dwell in those for as long as you need to. My only caveat, if I may, is that I was once the little sister left behind. I was once the fourteen year old, and fifteen year old, and sixteen year old who lost every Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas to the memory of her older brother. I cannot begin to fathom how hard it was for my parents to go through holidays without my brother. But I do know how hard it is to feel like your life isn’t worth celebrating a holiday with because you can’t fill the shoes that are empty. So if you’re grieving, I would ask you to, at least for the holiday, try to find some joy with those you still have.
You cannot, right now in this week control how much money you have. It’s worth mentioning, because I knew many holidays in my childhood where we had very little. I know those times were scary and anxious for my parents because I remember their worry. You cannot, unfortunately, wave a wand and suddenly have enough money to buy your kids a hover board. But you can make this week memorable and special and fun for you and your family regardless of how much money you have. Look for opportunities to make it fun. Have a dance party, build a snowman, play games, create a scavenger hunt, make up a holiday story together. Holidays aren’t about money, they’re about memories and you can create as many as you want without spending a dime.
I hope this week is wonderful, and magical, and beautiful for you. I hope it’s so many wonderful things, but if it’s not, just know that you’re on my heart. And in my heart, I’m praying that you’ll find more blessings than your heart can hold. xo, Rachel