“God Bless Us, Everyone”
About a year ago, I wrote about my feelings of Christmas. And as I’ve re-read it, I realized that the one thing which I did not include in that piece was that there was always a time on Christmas Day when I would go off by myself and cry.
I always wanted so much to have a wonderful day of gift giving and getting and a meal shared with family and friends. I wanted to get presents from those in my life which would be a surprise and not something prosaic – not something that I needed [when I was a kid I got underwear and clothing for school]. I hoped for something which was given to me because the giver knew I would enjoy having the gift for the memories I would have of them. I loved helping my mother prepare Christmas dinner with our own traditions surrounding that: naming the turkey [‘T’ is for Terwilliger], smelling the stuffing to make sure it was just right, mashing an enormous amount of potatoes, making lemon sauce, making my own mince meat and Christmas pudding, setting the table as fancily as possible, and decorating our ‘Jean Winter improved’ tree.
And then the day would arrive, the presents would be opened and I would thank everyone for mine no matter what I received. And the meal would be eaten and then I would be kicked out of the kitchen as the middle sister took over to help my mother. And I would look at the wreckage of wrapping paper and plates and pots stacked on the kitchen counters and the turkey carcass and wonder what all the effort was for. The let down I felt inside was palpable. And so I would find myself crying for all that I had hoped for which was not.
Last year, I spent Christmas with my oldest sister and her husband and her kids and their spouses. The invitation to join my family came months before Christmas. It was unsolicited and something which I had hoped for. I remember so many things about those few days spent with that part of my family. I remember great conversations and tons of laughter, sharing the preparation and eating of so many meals. The greatest memory is that I finally felt like I belonged – that I was not an obligation or an afterthought. I remember sitting in the living room while everyone else was off doing their own thing and suddenly realizing in the silence that I did not feel left out or alone. And I remember the absolute joy I felt with each present I opened – for the care and time taken by everyone to find or create such beautiful things. I still feel honoured by them.
Before last year and with each Christmas Day that came and went – especially after my mother died – I felt separate and alone and disconnected. And as I write this, I know that the greatest disconnection I felt, although I was not aware of it, was with mySelf. Each Christmas I wanted my dream holiday of the functional and loving family and joy-filled times together, of everything being wonderful and blissful, of there being no impatience or disappointment. And with each year, the Christmas I experienced increasingly did not map to that. And so, with each year, I would feel Christmas not as a time of enjoyment but as a time when I expected to be depressed. I came to dread it.
And I know that I was able to truly enjoy Christmas last year because, for the first time, my authentic self was truly present. I had moved tons of old baggage of looking outside mySelf to find acceptance and validation. I came to the party fully engaged as ME.
Last year, I wrote that as waves of emotion moved through me, I felt that I had grown up. That it was ‘just a small opening’. Well, I know that opening is now one hell of a lot bigger and it is increasing exponentially.
This year things are very different. And I have mySelf and all the decisions I’ve made in this last year to thank for that. And this year, any tears I’ve had have been happy ones.
In this last year, I saw what I want in my life and I’ve taken the steps to make that happen for me. And each day, I get to decide how I’m going to spend the day and what I’m going to do for mySelf and not because of any sense of obligation. Perhaps it should amaze me that things have happened as easily as they have for me, and I know that I’m not amazed and I am thankful.
Last year I wrote, “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.” And I know that that is true. When we know ourSelves and own who we are and when we choose from that, we are changed and we become even more. And I do know that there is great joy when we allow ourSelves to simply be and we are open to life and living.
So, guess what? I don’t hate Christmas anymore.
“Oh that we might always see that spirit through the year.”