Originally posted December 23, 2016
Merry Christmas…Is It?
It’s that time of year, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Winter Solstice, Happy everything…and for many of us, it’s our favorite time of year. People are a little bit kinder, we feel more joy spending time with loved ones, we become more grateful, it’s the season of hope. For me, I can’t get enough of this time of year and it’s over far too quickly. Until this year.
Now, truth be told, it is still my favorite time. I love the music, the lights, the gatherings, the smells, the traditions, and the meaning of the season. My large Italian family has so many wacky Christmas traditions that I hold dear to my heart and look forward to all year long. So why is this year different for me?
Here we are, on the Eve of Christmas Eve. What if we are not filled with joy? What if we are grieving a loss? What if we are feeling isolated? What if we are frightened with the state of the world? What if we are feeling a bit like Scrooge and have some humbug brewing inside? Guess what, it’s normal for people to struggle this time of year. And if you are one them, then welcome to the club.
So what do we do if
we truly want to experience the spirit
of Christmas when our hearts are heavy?
Five years ago we had the first Christmas after my dad passed away. We called my dad Fezziwig (points for those of you who know the reference) as he was so kind and had so much Christmas spirit. So what did we do to be able to continue to enjoy and embrace the season? We changed some things up hoping to narrow the big gap we were all feeling, if just a little. I believe it helped. We still had all of our traditions and we began new ones. Last year, when my mom moved out of her home of 51 years, we changed up some more things, kept many traditions and again created new ones.
But this year I struggle more than ever. As I watch my ever vibrant and spit-fire mother fade away due to the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia, it somehow feels like I’m losing the last thread of connection to all my Christmas’s past. Now, my head absolutely knows this is not true. I will always have my memories and I am blessed to be very close to my family. But it FEELS like a bigger loss.
So, I ask again, what do we do if we truly want to experience the spirit of Christmas (or whatever you celebrate) when our hearts are heavy? Do what works for YOU and only YOU know that answer. For me, it’s been allowing myself to enjoy friends and family, singing carols, talking a walk to enjoy the neighborhood lights, continuing traditions, laughing, loving and being present. It’s also spending time watching schmaltzy Christmas movies and simply weeping through the whole thing. There’s no right or wrong or good or bad. I am fully embracing the joy in my life and I am fully embracing the sadness as well. If someone tells you not to feel bad or sad or to ‘get over it,’ kick ’em in the jingle bells! I’m kidding! Not condoning violence. But I am here to tell you that your feelings are perfectly normal FOR YOU! And you can choose what works for you. You can:
- Stay in bed with the covers over your head until Jan 2.
- Get mad at the world, God, the Universe, whatever you believe in, that you are feeling pain.
- Cope in whatever ways that work for you to get to that place of ‘I’m fine.’
- Turn your pain into a drive to help others.
- See opportunities in each situation and in whatever you are feeling.
- Begin to know in your gut that we are all connected and together whether or not here in the physical world.
The choice isn’t always easy, but the choice is up to you. Use your resources. If you are in a dark place, reach out for help, especially if it’s been chronic. If you’re momentarily sad, call someone, do something that brings you joy, help another less fortunate than yourself. If you are feeling isolated, find a way to connect with others. If you don’t have family at all or that you enjoy, create a new one for yourself out of friends and others that support and love you. If you are overwhelmed by too much time with others, find moments of solitude to center yourself and breathe.
I don’t know if time truly heals all wounds, but I do know that we have the power to choose how we want to feel in each moment. Earlier today I chose to cry. A few hours ago, I chose to laugh at the crazy in the grocery store. In a moment, I choose to dance and sing in my kitchen while cooking. When the emotional wave of wishing Christmas was over envelops me, I’m there for that moment. My crying is simply my energy in motion. I’m not judging it, I’m just experiencing it. And then I get to choose the next moment. Please know I’m not making light of the dark. My own journey and personal growth, especially over the last 6 years, has given me a great number of tools to be able to make these shifts. Some days are easier than others. I’m well aware I’m only human and always a work in progress.
With this understanding of myself, I am able to be grateful for the opportunity to spend time with my mom even though it looks different than in the past. I am thankful for the opportunity to release my own anxiety and fears. I am blessed for the opportunity to feel joy regardless of the situation.
Wherever you are and whatever you are feeling, I am sending you an abundance of love that you can choose to find joy and peace in this special season of hope.
Lesley Picchietti, CPC, PCC, ELI-MP
© Inspire Bliss Coaching and Consulting 2016
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