The holidays always heighten that empty, something is missing kind of feeling. As busy as I am with work, wrapping up a major remodel of my home, shopping, and holiday gatherings, there are moments when I am alone with my thoughts; when I’m stuck in traffic, before I fall asleep, and that time between waking up and actually getting out of bed each morning. Traveling faster than the speed of sound, these tiny video clip memories whirl around inside my head, and for some reason I always pause for the ones that hurt the most, lingering long enough to make my heart ache.
My thoughts hit a variety of emotional nerves, longing, loneliness sadness and sometimes regret. I miss my parents terribly during the holidays. The memory of my mom’s last Christmas, seven years ago, is bathed in the amazing light of our family’s love. I remember leaving her one night and kissing her three times on the lips, between each kiss saying, I love you, I love you, I love you. I watched my siblings and my dad show beautiful expressions of love as well. I felt grateful for those moments, and even joyful as I had the chance to love her so deeply, and for my mom to know and enjoy the depth of our love while she still could. At the same time, I watched my dad suffer great heartache, the man who believed he could keep all of us safe, could not save his wife from cancer, so God damn sad. Today, it’s hard to think of this time without crying.
Maybe I’ve watched too many happy holiday movies, and as a result my expectations are out of whack. I can’t even peruse Facebook these days without reading a truly heart warming story about selfless acts of charity and giving. It seems joy abounds. If so, shouldn’t the season increase my happiness quotient? Instead, I dwell on sadness and love lost, relationships that made Christmas a dismal holiday, and the many Christmases I have been disappointed by unfulfilled expectations, and my own poor choices. Why can’t my holiday funk be fixed by the magic of Christmas?
I’m not sure how to love the holidays, but, I know two things. First . . . I am not alone in how I feel, the correlation between loneliness and depression during the holidays is old news, a rough time for so many people. Which leads me to the second thing I know . . . No one wants to hear that you don’t like the holidays. Do an experiment and udder the words, I don’t like the holidays. You’ll get a laundry list of all you should be grateful for, a reminder that helping others is the best way to help yourself, and a crash course on changing your attitude.
Nobody asked, but here is my advice. I have done all of the above . . . I make gratitude lists, I read them and add to them every day. I am grateful! I volunteer my time on a regular basis to folks who can use my help, and it gives me great joy to do so. I find happiness in every day and when I don’t, I smile anyway. My life is good and ALL of these actions keep me from attending too many pity parties. As good as life is, my heart has many achy moments and I sometimes feel sad and lonely, the holidays are especially hard. During those personal lows, I seek out family and friends who are willing to come down into that dark hole with me and say, this sucks, I am sorry you are sad, it breaks my heart to know you are lonely, I will sit with you as long as you need me to . . .
I used to think that admitting sadness was a sign of weakness. Now I know it’s a measure of strength. A willingness to be vulnerable not only gives those who love me an opportunity to help, but it allows me to connect with those I love so that I am emotionally available when they need me. I have learned that vulnerability and connection are vital in creating healthy and strong bonds in our friendships, our families, and as humans sharing this planet.
Last night, completely unexpected, I had the opportunity to be a friend; to allow someone I really care for to be vulnerable in my presence, to follow this person to a very lonely place and say, I’m here with you, and I’ll stay here as long as you need me . . . and I did. My heart was lifted, and my load a little lighter from the experience. Funny how that works. . .
I have much to be grateful for this week . . . a gathering of girlfriends, Christmas Eve with friends, Christmas morning with my grandson and Christmas Day with my entire family in my newly remodeled home. I am so fortunate and it’s okay to feel a little sad too, important people are missing and no amount of therapy, charity work and giving of myself will ever erase the sadness of missing them.
Good memories linger too, my mom’s annual baking, and home delivery of her special Christmas treats, decorating the Christmas tree each year with my kiddos, and a white beach cruiser, detailed in pink with black polka-dots, the most thoughtful gift I have ever received.
This Christmas . . . be vulnerable, connect, love, and allow yourself to be loved.
ps . . . it’s okay to feel sad during the holidays . . . I’m here and I’ll sit with you