When the holidays hurt
We’re just a few days back from a blissful Thanksgiving vacation in warm sunshine to freezing cold and rain and…CHRISTMAS?!?!?
I’m not sure why I didn’t think much about it before we left, but I am glad I didn’t. Not thinking about it meant enjoying every minute of our family time which we’d anticipated so intensely for so long.
But now here I am, feeling sort of like I’m on a ride that’s going too fast and I can’t get off. Feeling like maybe if I blink long enough, it will be January and I can breathe again. Sitting in the parking lot of the grocery store yesterday waiting to go in until I could stop crying. Knowing that no amount of my organizing or planning will make the next three weeks go the way I want, and that is okay. Realizing that there are people that feel this way every single year and who walk through it alone. More tears. And still more gratitude for the family and friends who live life beside us.
I’ve always had empathy in my heart for people who struggled through the holiday season for one reason or another. But nothing, even the year I was really battling post-partum depression, has ever stood in my way of relishing Christmastime. The last few years have just gotten better and better as we’ve grown into some of our own traditions and our kids are getting old enough to understand and delight in the meaning of the season.
Last Christmas was organized, well planned and full of fun around every corner. We were home for one thing, at in-laws for another then at the other in-laws for still another gathering. And nothing in the world could have prepared us for what would happen just a few weeks after Christmas. I simply expected that the next Christmas would be the same or better and looked forward to it as soon as the month ended.
That ‘next’ Christmas is here. And it’s so not the same. Someone who should be here isn’t here to celebrate with us. Someone who would always top off my sparkling cider till I would nearly burst with the bubbly drink. Someone who would always make sure the heat was on high and we were warm. Someone who would perfectly cut the turkey and who loved to eat my artichoke dip. Someone who was the perfectly handsome, older-looking version of the husband I love with all my heart.
We have, by no choice of our own, learned one most powerful lesson.
We are not entitled to tomorrow. We don’t live with some ‘guarantee’ that things will stay as they are. It might feel like such a thing exists…but it simply does not. We just have today. We have the moment we’re in to live or to choose not to. This perspective has radically, deeply changed our life.
Somehow we will walk out the next few weeks and we will make a choice to celebrate that God is with us. We will relish that He came and in the most beautiful, amazing way. He will be with us in a special way, a different way. One that, despite more tears and aching hearts, will be full of the graces we need to make it to the New Year.