“Christmas time is here. Happiness and cheer.”
My best memories of Christmas are of shopping for just the right present for each member of my family – not a ‘this will do’ gift but one which I knew they would enjoy. I got Marion’s Polar Bear for the next Christmas even before we celebrated the Christmas for which I already had the present. When I had just started teaching and didn’t have much money, I made presents for my nieces. When one of sisters and her husband moved, I created 10 certificates with seal entitling her to 10 days of ‘dog’s body’ work as they renovated their new home. And I loved helping my mother cook the Christmas meal: naming the turkey, preparing the stuffing, mashing an enormous amount of potatoes, making lemon sauce, making mince meat and Christmas pudding, and even setting the table and ‘christmasfy-ing’ the house.
As I sit here and look back on the last few years, I know that it is really only at this time of year that I feel like a spinster-old-maiden aunt. This is the one holiday when I have wanted to be with family. It is the one time of year when I have wanted an unsolicited invitation to join in the group and belong and have felt that I’ve been an obligation – “Oh yeah, have to invite Jeanie,” And this feeling of exclusion has only grown insidiously in the last few years.
A few Christmases ago, one of my nieces sent us all an email thanking us for coming to her place for dinner and also informing us that she would no longer give any credence to the traditional, cultural belief of an expected family Christmas. And still she held Christmas dinner for her mother and father, sister and brother-in-law, niece and nephew, and me. And after last year’s event, I asked my friend, with whom I was staying, to shoot me if I ever made noises of taking part in such an event again. I had never felt so separated from the group as I did last Christmas.
Why is Christmas supposed to be not only about family but also about togetherness and happiness? Why is disappointment and regret not supposed to be part of our lives at this time of year? Why is every family supposed to be functional at Christmas time? Why is this the time when our lives are supposed to be, as Raj of The Big Bang Theory would say, ‘hunky dunky’?
It seems that this is the time of year when we consider not only what we have in our lives and also mourn for what we don’t have or feel that we have lost. And I know the confusion and emptiness that creates.
Over the last few weeks, I have come to terms with more about my life as it has been. I have come to know that my relationship with one of my sisters, the one I always told everyone was ‘my saviour’ in my family dynamic is not what I’ve been telling myself it had been and could be again ‘if only’ . My relationship with her started changing 50 years ago. I’ve only admitted that to myself and said it out loud to others in these last few weeks.
And I’ve come to know that my relationship with my best friend is no longer what I’ve told myself it was and is. I’ve known her for 60 years. I used to always tell everyone that she was closer to me than my sisters. We had talked about living together in a larger space where we each had our own private area and shared the common areas once I retired. And I know now that this was only a dream – one I still longed for.
The woman she sees me as is not the woman that I am now. This began to change four years ago – the time when I started to explore who I truly am through WEL-Systems™ and, coincidentally, the time when her business partner had a stroke. It was not until I was laid up in the hospital earlier this year that I finally accepted the fact that her relationship with him had supplanted her relationship with me. It was then that I felt that I was losing her in my life. Yet I did not speak of that to anyone. Now, I’ve owned it and said this out loud to others.
Over these last few weeks as the Christmas season has moved into the full swing of parties and presents and preparations, I’ve owned that I have hated Christmas. I’ve owned that it’s the time of year when I have always felt on the outside looking in and waiting to be invited to the celebration. I’ve owned that I have felt hurt by feeling left out by my sister and my family and my friend. And, once the waves those thoughts have brought on have moved through me, I’ve been able to let the sense of loss and confusion and hope for things past go. It’s not that I’ve run away from them, told them to ‘get away from me’, divorced myself from them or felt in some way widowed. It is simply that I have finally been able to let go and move forward. When all of that happened, I felt that I had grown up – just a small opening inside.
And it was only then that I was able to see what I wanted in my life and take the steps to make that happen for me. And it has all happened in a way which has shown me that the people I meet do want me to have what I truly want.
No matter what time of year or what the impetus is, when we allow ourselves to see who we truly are and choose to have those things in our lives which map to that, we are changed. It really is simple.
I do know that I don’t hate Christmas anymore. I’m grateful for knowing and owning myself. And in doing that who I know myself to be has changed and become greater.