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.