So…this is Christmas

In an effort to return to writing, and to break my writer’s block, I am going to work on  a series of posts that may be atypical.  At the end, perhaps you will have gotten a glimpse into some of the deepest parts of my heart, and perhaps they will allow me to again return to sharing it with you.

For many weeks, I have been doing my normal holiday thing, which means I have been feeling decidedly NOT normal.  I don’t feel excited about the holidays.  I don’t necessarily feel pressured by them either, at least not in terms of the effort it takes to pull them off.  It isn’t the extra activity or shopping or planning that get me down.  What affects me is the pressure to feel festive, joyful, excited, “Christmas-y”.

When people learn that I have not been bitten by the Christmas spirit, there are regular check-ins.  “How are you feeling?”  “Has the spirit found you yet?”  “Are you feeling better?” “But your name is JOY!”  If you are one of those people who are checking in, don’t worry…I know that your questions come from your concern and love for me and your desire to help. I know that, so please don’t feel bad when I tell you that those questions make me feel worse.  I have been reminded about how blessed I am (as if my problem was that I didn’t realize that I live a life of abundance), I have been instructed to go feed a homeless person or buy a gift for a needy child or DO something for someone.  Surely those things will make me realize that I have nothing to be un-festive about.  And again, I know that those suggestions come from a good place and that the people who suggest them genuinely want to help.  They too, should not feel bad when I tell you how much worse they make me feel.  Because now, not only do I feel uncommonly Scrooge-y, but I feel like I must be ungrateful too.    The truth is that although I have been known to grump out an occasional “Bah-humbug”, my problem is not that I feel ungrateful or unblessed or any uninspired by the birth of my Christ.  It is really just the opposite in fact, which only complicates the mess that I have created in my head as I try to sort this all out.

I also know that I am not alone, and that although there are many of us who feel this way at the holidays, the world doesn’t quite know what to do with someone who doesn’t love Christmas.

Every year, I feel inadequate and frustrated and alone.  I feel guilty that my melancholy might steal some of the happiness that my girls feel at the holidays, because I have raised them to pay attention and to notice when someone is hurting.  I feel bad that my family is subdued in their celebration out of some kind of watchful deference to the pain they feel for me.

Eventually, I succumb to the ritual decorating and Christmas music listening…and I have to admit that my beautiful tree full of ornaments, each one with a special memory or sentiment attached, the white lights, the handcrafted tree skirt, my childhood stocking, and the steady arrival of all the gifts I ordered online (I may succumb to shopping but I will NOT go to the mall!!) start to peck away at me, and I become more content.  My decorated tree becomes one of my favorite sights and that is good.

But how do I process the rest?  What about the painful memories of childhood hurts and adulthood rejections that inevitably return at Christmas?  How do I convince myself that I won’t allow the past memories to rob me of my present memory-making?  What can I DO with the sadness and the loneliness that the sadness creates? How can I make sense of all of this so I can move past it without feeling inauthentic?  How do I enjoy the holiday without feeling that by doing so, I have not somehow committed some kind of whitewashing of the pain?

To be continued.

13 thoughts on “So…this is Christmas

      • Thanks for the honesty, Joy. I’m sure more people (myself included) feel this way than are willing to admit- the pressure and obligations of the season are total joy-suckers, especially when the rest of life’s tasks don’t go away. Plus, the sentimentality of the season does dredge up past pain as well as joy… I think that’s why some of the darker songs resound with me more than the jolly and lighthearted carols. Sending hugs from me to you and remember- Israel was mourning in exile and crying out for a Savior when he arrived… so we are not alone in our feelings.

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  2. This makes much sense and I commend and appreciate you for sharing! I am one of those annoying Christmas nuts, who loves all things Christmas with decorations up (sometimes before Thanksgiving) and christmas cartoons on reruns. But even for me, there is a stressor that slowly arises when you are pressured to step outside of yourself and mold into other’s traditions, expectations, requests. I have to remind myself that sometimes I need to crawl back into me and have some much needed Sara time. I LOVE your comments to those who address you with comments and suggestions. I think the season also brings this overwhelming need to help others when sometimes we need to recognize that we just need to be quiet and listen, or hug, or do nothing, or drink a glass of wine and do whatever needs to be done in that very moment. It’s good to have you back writing 🙂

    • You are not a nut…and believe me, Mark would be doing the same thing around here if he wasn’t worried about me. What I am learning is that the way you feel is normal. And the way I feel is normal. The problem comes when we try to impose our own normal onto someone else or someone else’s normal on ourselves. Thank you for your encouragement and beautiful heart. ❤

  3. I just spent an hour in bed in the middle of the day, hugging an oversized stuffed black bear that I bought for myself recently. With all that’s been going on in the world lately, I just want to suck my thumb, think of some sort of time in my life when I felt content, and stay there. Maybe it’s the expectation of Christmas, not, as you say, for its material jollity, but moreso for a sort of dread that despite the renewal brought on by the symbolic birth of a savior, it won’t make a damn bit of difference. These days, I just let the holiday roll on by with little notice. It makes the disappointment afterwards a little less hard to take.

    • I understand that temptation. If it wasn’t for my family, I think I would let it pass me by too. Hopefully I can avoid the Christmas “hangover” and enjoy a quiet week. I hope you can too.

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  5. I had a conversation just like this with a friend of mine a few days ago. Maybe its a natural pre-Christmas downer so that we can all appreciate and enjoy the day with family?!
    I don’t know really.
    But I do hope you and your family have a great christmas! X

  6. Pingback: 12/21/12: Today’s advice to my beautiful daughters ~ Don’t let your expectations steal your Joy | One Joyous Heart

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