One of the things that I love most about the holiday season is that it comes with a strong connection to what was and what will be. Time slows down just a tad and we’re able to soak up all the magic that comes with the season. From family traditions passed from generation to generation to classic Christmas carols sung by musicians long gone, the holidays allow us to step into a different world for a few weeks. We eat more than normal, we spend a little extra, we smile more. We remember what it’s like to be a kid, and we believe in the impossible.
But, life does not stop in December, not with trees and menorahs, not with anything, and our hardships are even accentuated among the festivities. What can’t be afforded, who is no longer with us, the stability of last year, the “if only” slamming against what is. As the author Brené Brown wrote: “The gremlins don’t go on vacation. Checks bounce, chemotherapy appointments are scheduled, interventions are planned, relationships keep unravelling, being alone feels even lonelier, parents negotiate who will have the kids on Christmas morning, and the ‘never enoughs’ are in full swing.”
Each fall, my eyes turn toward creating the best ever holiday. With baked treats, buffalo plaid, and several strands of white lights, I hope to conjure not just the Christmases of my past but also the ones in my dreams, and this year was no exception. A few weeks before Thanksgiving, life threw a curve ball at my husband and I, and our worst fears became reality. Our lives were paused and our plans pushed back. I was bitter and angry, like my throw-my-fists-into-my-mattress angry. Why us, I pleaded with God while filled with tears and rage. The uncertainty of what was next not only occupied most of my thoughts, it made me physically sick. This path of hardship will end at some point, but it’s quite unclear as to when and what other trials we may endure before we get there.
Not only did life give as an unfair set of circumstances, but the timing right before the holidays felt especially cruel. They are happy holidays, and sad ones, and the holidays joined an increasingly growing list of things we could no longer enjoy. Everywhere I turned I was reminded that our Christmas will not only not be the Christmas I had hoped for, but it would be more depleted others in recent years. No holiday cards, fewer presents, and less holiday magic. Maybe none at all.
That Brené Brown quote continues on: “I will find my holiday magic in the mess. I will practice love and gratitude with the special group of folks who keep showing up and loving me, not despite my vulnerabilities, but because of them.” The thing about the magic of the holidays, though, is that it is present for all of us, no matter what struggles we are enduring. We just have to be willing to receive it.
I realized that the only way that I could continue on each day without being full of rage and tears is to stop focusing on the darkness and find the light with gratitude. Each day, I made myself write down five wonderful things that happened that day, and overtime I started to notice that while the list of what we don’t have is long, the one with what we do have is longer.
This is not the holiday I had envisioned, but it is our first as a married couple. I spent many Christmases wondering if I would always be alone, and now I have this wonderful man who grabs me by the shoulders, tells me that he doesn’t know how but it will all be OK, and then kisses me on the forehead. It’s all the reassurance I need. Also, we have incredible families who have promised they will not let us fall and wonderful friends who have made us feel loved and supported, even if they might not know what’s going on. Then there is school and finally doing something that I love, and running is finally back in my life to soothe my ailing heart. We are healthy, our basic needs are met, and there is so much love bundling us.
We are enduring a tough time, that’s for sure, but I do recognize that we are not alone. Many, many people I know also are not having the Christmases they wanted—with loved ones past, medical diagnosis threatening what they know, and deep pain from other struggles—and yet they still have much to celebrate. So do I, and while I refused to see it at first, I do now. I am very loved, blessed, and lucky right now.
Just a few days before Christmas, and I feel that magic. It captured me after all, and I know that I have absolutely everything I need right now. While I hope the new year brings new beginnings, I hold on to the beauty our trials have revealed, because it is all more than enough.
Wherever you are, whatever you are dealing with, I hope you can find your magic. A merry and bright holidays to you all.