Christmas isn’t a real thing
The holiday season isn’t always joyful.
For some of us, it’s lonely, painful, and stressful.
But the reality is the holidays don’t make us feel anything.
How do we know this?
We all have different feelings about them.
It’s what we think about them that creates our feelings.
I want to share a little about my experience of the holidays to illustrate my point.
Christmas was a magical time when I was a kid.
The cookies, the decorations, the music, the gifts, the anticipation.
My mom did a wonderful job of creating the illusion and the experience for our family, and I wanted to do the same for mine.
I think I did a pretty good job, too, until I didn’t.
What used to be a time of fun, joy, and anticipation for me became exhausting, guilt-ridden, and full of dread.
Fifteen years ago, I went through a complicated and painful divorce.
My two boys were 7 and 10 at the time.
Christmas suddenly meant not enough.
Not enough money. Not enough time. Not enough energy. Not enough me.
Divorce creates loss. I knew that. What I didn’t realize was that one of the losses would be tradition.
All the Christmas magic that I had so lovingly created in the past now felt impossible to maintain.
In fact, most years after the divorce, I didn’t even have my children on Christmas morning. It was devastating to me.
It was devastating because of what I made it mean.
I remarried four years later, and suddenly, I had five children. I couldn’t wait to create new traditions and be that magical mom again.
But to my dismay, my new family was experiencing their own ideas of what Christmas should be like and did not joyfully go along with my plans.
Christmas became one of the most painful times of the year for me - glaringly pointing to all the loss in my life.
Every year I tried, stressed, and guilted myself into people-pleasing everyone around me as if it was my full-time job.
And I was working overtime.
Not surprisingly, I always fell short. I could not create the magic that was in my mind for everyone else.
I felt I had no choice but to feel overwhelming sadness, guilt, and resentment.
All that changed a few years ago.
It was Christmas night - actually, two AM the next morning, and everyone had gone to bed except my youngest son, who was 19 at the time, and me.
We were having an intimate conversation in a cozy room lit by the soft glow of the Christmas tree when I confessed to him that I always feel so guilty on Christmas.
That I fall so short as a mother who believes it’s my job to make everyone happy on Christmas.
His response changed everything for me.
He said, “Mom, Christmas isn’t a real thing.
It’s not like Jesus was born on December 25th. It’s just made up.
Sure the presents and food are great, but what’s most important is that we’re all together, that we have a home, that we have love.”
Love. I forgot about that part.
In my effort to make everything magical and perfect and please everyone, I forgot to love myself.
In fact, I was being very unkind to myself - driving and striving for an illusion instead of loving what is.
What is, is that I have a beautiful, blended, imperfect family.
And it’s not my job nor is it possible to create feelings for them.
At that moment, I changed my thoughts about, and, consequently, my experience of Christmas.
Our new tradition is that Christmas is different every year.
Some people are here, and some aren’t. We celebrate at different times and sometimes on different days.
Some years we have homemade cookies, and some we don’t.
Some years we have lots of decorations and gifts, and some we don’t.
What we always have now is flexibility, acceptance, and peace.
Our new Christmas tradition is love - no matter what the circumstances.
I understand now that I get to choose how I want to feel.
That is always in my control.
I thank God for His gift of love and that He shares it with us every day of the year. Don’t wait for Christmas or any other day to experience the love and peace that is available right now at this very moment.
I wish you a holiday season filled with passion, purpose, and peace no matter what the circumstances.
And please let me know if you need help navigating the holidays. You can contact me here!