Good thing I rarely write a Christmas letter. Don’t get me wrong, I love getting them, opening that envelope and reading them, so I know that makes me a bit of a hypocrite. When I do write one, it’s a surprise to everyone (especially since it may arrive at any random time of year that ISN’T Christmas). This year, though, I’m grateful for the low expectations I’ve nurtured amongst friends and family.
‘Cause this year, the Christmas letter wouldn’t be very fun. Or it would be VERY fake.
Not that I couldn’t talk about my kids, how they are growing, how they are doing in school, what extracurricular activities they enjoy. I could wax eloquently about summer family camping adventures, or my husband’s job, or my new-found conviction that I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now, even though I am about the least-qualified stay-at-home-mom EVER. IN. HISTORY.
But that letter would be bunk. Hooey. Bull-hockey, as a friend’s grandpa used to say.
The truth this year, as I stumble my way through Advent towards Christmas, is that I’m weighted down with sadness. An inescapable sadness from different tough things going on in our just-outside-nuclear family, a sadness that pours down over me like sticky, heavy syrup.
And sadness ain’t Christmas-y, people.
Truthfully, sometimes life just sucks.
Sometimes, the very best available option of a whole pile of bad options is still pretty awful.
I hadn’t put a name to what was up until I took a few minutes recently to just sit quietly and “feel my feelings”. As the sadness made itself known, and I realized how deeply the sticky heavy had sunk into me, I felt myself getting panicky.
It’s Christmas! Season of joy, happiness, and celebration! I have gifts to buy! Cookies to bake! Teacher gifts to wrap! Decorations to decorate! A tree! Carols!
Much of the fun hullabaloo of Christmas is up to me to create for my family, and we have three boys who need fun! And Christmas! and more hullabaloo! (Tiny tangent – in case you were concerned, that is the correct spelling. Hullabaloo is in my spell check. Really? Hullabaloo? OK.)
So I began to forbid the sadness, and to feel guilty for feeling it. Panic rose up in me, telling me loud lies about how the sad and I would ruin Christmas.
And then I felt a Whisper*. A Whisper that said it was OK. It was ok to be sad. I am sad for good reason. If I faked my way through Advent, convincing myself and everyone else that I had it All Together All By Myself Thank You, then why would I need Christmas?
If I can’t be honest that I’m grieving real things that are really happening, that we live in a broken world of broken people who are hurting and who hurt us, then I don’t need a Christmas from a God who would reach down to us through time and space and history to give us Hope.
And I DO need that. I do need hope.
And I need to be honest. Honest with you, Blog Readers, with my friends, with people I see. Because if I say all is well and I fake it till I can make it, there is no authenticity or vulnerability that leaves room for healing or for hope. There is only room for the lies to get louder.
So….yeah. I’m sad, and it’s Christmas. But that’s ok. ‘Cause if I am real about the hurts in my life and the empty places, I make room for Him to reach down, and room for us to reach out. Then we get to help be Emanuel, God Among Us. We get to be His strength and peace and hope for each other.
And that is Merry for sure.
In case you were wondering, BTW, I don’t think I’m depressed, not clinically. (Honest, Mom.) Been there, done that. (And I’ve already given the hubby permission to be on the lookout anyway, just in case.)
*(I’m from way too moderate a tradition to probably ever feel comfortable saying “I heard God say….” However, I do feel Whispers. And Nudges. And occasionally Kicks in the Pants.)
Have you ever had a Christmas that included some sad? How did you honor that?
It’s like you are speaking from my heart. I feel absolutely no Christmas joy right now. A lot has to do with being alone for yet ANOTHER Christmas and my intense desire to be closer to family (or to have my own family). The rest has to do with my recent surgery and these annoying crutches that I can’t seem to get rid of. I really do feel your pain and think you are very brave to express it. Hugs to you.
And hugs back to YOU!! Those are all real things, and like I said, they are really happening. So being sad makes sense. Hope that you are able to love and be loved, even by family far away, this season, and you are able to find some Christmas joy and peace. I am so relieved that sad and joy and peace can all happen at the same time, they do not have to be mutually exclusive. Thanks for the comment!
I understand where you are coming from. Tara. Hope will find you!
Please write a book. Your entries are better than most of the books I read-even Oprah’s list:)
Thanks, Marcy! I actually am thinking about a book, trying to build an audience here first. And how awesome is it that hope already found us! Thanks for the comment, good to hear from you!
I have, and I won’t go into details, but you are right–it’s OK. Besides the literal Christmas meaning of Christmas, and the hope it offers you, it comes in the darkest part of the year, which is, I think, something to honor, because from that deep darkness, the light returns. Slowly. Little by little. It is the truest thing in life–there is darkness and there is light and we could not truly love the light as we do if we had not been through the darkness. Take care and find some small joys in the season, as I know you surely will.
Thanks, Terry. I agree, you are right on target about the darkness, and waiting for the light. And thankfully, I have very boy-flavored, loud small joys that make it impossible for me to miss them, at least!
My mom died in August of 2009. That Christmas was excruciating. I sent out cards but only with a small attachment saying that she had died. The repetitiveness of the task helped take my mind off how awful Christmas was without her. I didn’t put up as many decorations and Tyler was very helpful.
We were at a holiday event that I knew my mom would have loved. We got there late, the table we sat at had people who made it very clear that they didn’t want anyone at their table. I lost it and ended up weeping in the bathroom. When I came out – looking like h-e-double-hockey-sticks – Tyler and the kids were waiting in the hall to take me home. I could not have gotten through that time without them.
I was still miserable for Christmas 2010. Last year I felt so much better and was back to old Cheri. This year is good, too. It just takes time and the presence of Christ to deal with these things. Praying for your family, Tara.
So glad you are back to your own self, even if it will always be a sort of new you self too! That is definitely how I felt the first two years after my brother died. Thankfully, this sad is different, more melancholy but not such intense grief over such a big loss. Thanks for sharing, Cheri.
Tara, I too know how you feel and have had a Christmas when I didn’t feel much like celebrating. But you go through the motions as best you can and the traditions and young ones help. I truly believe that the emotions that we feel all have a counterbalance, so as intensely as you feel sadness, you will feel Joy, and while that may not be right away, you will get there someday. I always enjoy reading your page. Thank-you for writing!
Oh, I think you are right, Debbie about our emotions counterbalancing. I think my sweet husband clings to that, that there are peaks to my valleys of GIANT EMOTION! 🙂 So good to hear from you, even if just in my comment section! Thank YOU for reading.
Sending hugs to you! Raw honesty is always very powerful. Thinking of you and hoping you will feel God’s continued whispers that it is okay. He knows. He sees.
Tammy, thank you so much for the comment, and for the encouragement. I appreciate both!
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