When I was little, Christmas was a magical time of wonder. Each year the anticipation would build as we trimmed the tree and baked cookies, preparing for the arrival of the magical man himself, Santa, friend of elves and reindeer, flying through the sky to bring toys to all the good little boys and girls in the world. Christmas Eve we’d gather at my Nanny’s surrounded by the beautiful chaos of a large blended family. It was hugs and hot cocoa, warm gingerbread cake fresh from the oven, and I couldn’t wait for it to be that time of year again.
By my late 20’s the magic was missing, buried under heaps of stress and grief from all of the less magical Decembers past. I continued to go through the motions to make the magic for my kids, but for years that feeling of anticipation, that magical spark of holiday cheer, was gone. I dreaded the turning of the calendar page to December, now littered with landmines of sorrow and mixed emotions. All those happy and sad memories twisted in a tangled heap like discarded Christmas lights. Like the lights it felt like I was half lit. Every year, I slogged through it, faking it, eventually, little bits of joy crept back in, but honestly, Christmas has become a difficult holiday for me, in a good year. In walks 2020…and December damn near shut me down.
Staring down my most difficult month with none of the chaos that I’ve come to rely on to distract me? Terrifying. How would I cope without all the activity and obligations to keep me moving through the molasses that December is for me? What would force me to get up and fake it when there were no holiday parties to go to? My introvert self freaking out about NOT leaving the house to join a crowd, was a pretty big red flag in and of itself. Hold on, what in the hell are we running from anyway? For the first time in my life, I looked at what hurts in December, in one big, messy heap. I discovered two important things, 1) this is the epicenter of most of the most difficult times of my life and 2) I’ve done well to fake my way through it all this time. Splendidly, truly. It isn’t an easy time of year for me, and nobody would expect it to be. Perspective.
After counting the landmines and marking them on the map, I began to consider the ways I’ve navigated them previously, which of those tactics are healthy, and what I could do in the upside down of 2020 to smooth out my bumpiest month. Crafting, giving, reaching out to those I love, all of these fill my cup. They give me joy. So, I made plans around those things. Plans to inject joy into my month, while leaving room to also sit in the feelings when they come. For the first time, it doesn’t feel like I’m trying to sprint through December and slide into January as quickly as possible. I’m not running anymore and that might just be the most magical gift of all.