It’s Christmas…so why don’t I feel more carefree joy?…it’s okay to be sad at Christmas.
I ask this of myself a lot during this time of year. I’ve got kids who still believe, we’ve decorated, we do cookies, I craft experiences for them up the damn wazoo.
And still – it’s just kind of a pain in the ass for me.
This morning, I heard this interview on NPR’s “Morning Edition” and it was a song that just cut to the quick: “Christmas Makes Me Cry.”
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not depressed nor a pessimist. My glass is half full, in life.
But the holidays are just so…ugh.
Further, it’s a time that good cheer is forced upon all of us and we are expected, cajoled, guilted into feeling merry and jolly and happy happy happy!
But for years, I’ve felt like a grumpy elf railing against consumerism and being generally annoyed by the lack of simplicity.
And hell – I’m not even much of a believer in a virgin birth. But that aspect of Christmas means more to me than the expectation of feeling so goddamn happy for decorations and work.
At least…that’s the case since my mom died.
Twelve years ago, my mother passed unexpectedly from a cardial arrhythmia which, doctors tell me, is the way we all want to go, albeit not at the young age of 63.
And it happened on December 9th.
So that Christmas was pretty much nonexistent for me.
But ever since, I’m especially aware of meeting Christmas expectations with my children. They’re dazzled by the lights and the anticipation.
And I’m doing my best to create that magic for and around them.
So why don’t I feel the twitterpation, myself?
The Christmas before my mom passed, we had a heart-to-heart as I was visiting home (Colorado). In between running from friends reunion to friends reunion, I had a moment to breathe and said, “the older I get, the more the holidays are just kind of a pain in the ass.”
And my mother, who tended to have an enthusiastic response to just about everything, morphed into a state of wise calm as she responded, “Maybe you finally get me, now.”
For twenty-four years previous to that, I experienced Christmases with an overall pall of loss, ever since my father had died when I was eight. Mom did a great job overcoming (or repressing/hiding) her devastation, by providing me with Christmas magic, decorations, presents and cookies. But there was always a sense of something missing – as I saw other families of four at Christmas Eve services and massive family get-togethers.
Meanwhile, it was just my mom and me.
Don’t get me wrong – we were never alone. We had joyous meals with friends and family.
But we never entirely escaped loneliness.
Nor should we have done so. We lost a father and husband. It was just her and me. Of course we were a little lonely.
But at Christmastime, society and seasonality has no real time for sadness. It’s all “you should be happy, happy, happy all the fucking time!”
And what if you just aren’t?
Generally, we put on a happy face and just grin and bear it.
But with my current age and reflection, I do my best to give myself permission not to panic about missing out on fun, or not always being effervescent, or not being preoccupied with the joy I see in social media.
The Mayo Clinic has an excellent list for coping with holiday blues. Most of all, acknowledging the blues, giving yourself permission to be reflective, and letting go of expectations (which is easier said than done) gives us permission to chill out.
Further: WE ARE NOT ALONE.
But back to me complaining. Ahem.
Now, with my kids – well, there’s not a lot of quiet moments. We don’t have many magical times where the kids are listening to “Oh, Holy Night” and just staring at the Christmas tree. Instead, they’re usually tearing around our apartment hitting each other or screaming Ariana Grande at the top of their lungs (and not the over-sexed Arianna Grande Christmas songs. Nope…just angsty songs inappropriately marketed to my 8yo about sexiness and love.)
There’s not a lot of quiet magic or romantic scenes of carrying home Christmas trees and baking cookies and good cheer – despite the fact that we do all those things.
Further, Instagram hijacks simplicity, my bank account is limited and stress-inducing, and the Elf on the Shelf just pisses me off.
Do I feel like a grumpy curmudgeon? Well…not in any other aspect of my life.
But these days? Maybe I do feel like Charlie Brown-y (tho not the Charlie-Browniest, to quote Linus.)
I suppose I don’t need to beat myself up about that.
But I am able to be mindful and fine moments that fill my soul. I know it’s the fleeting times of wonder and awe – reflected in my kids’ eyes.
Or even staring at this stupid USB-plugged Christmas tree I plug into my computer as I write this (seen above).
When I have those moments of conscious enjoyment, moments of simple purity, my heart fills a bit more.
Per usual in 2019, it comes down to mindfulness. Focusing my attention where I want to focus, take a breath and a moment. Reflect.
It’s not always easy. But YOU ARE NOT ALONE. It’s okay to be sad at Christmas.
It’s okay to be a little bluesy amidst the red and tinsel. Being mindful and conscious about focusing on simple joys helps bring back real Christmas.