This holiday season has been… forcibly slowed down for me. Which is something that I didn’t even notice until a friend mentioned, “I’m so swamped and stressed! But, you know, that’s how the holidays are!” And I was kind of like, “wait, really?” I feel like most years I would have totally agreed with her. But this year I’ve been taking it really, really slowly. And it’s not exactly been a choice. It’s just that I looked around and realized it. But you know what’s been great? The same way that you are forced to eat dinner more slowly after you’ve just had dental work, and therefore you can taste and enjoy it more–in that same way, I’ve felt Christmas more than I have in years.
The other day I was driving down the street and Celine Dion’s version of O Holy Night came on the radio. I legit started to cry. I had to pull over. “A thrill of hope–the weary world rejoices…” Gets me every single time. And that’s just the beginning of the song. Have you ever sat and listened to the whole thing?
Fall on your knees.
There are several things that are impeding the flow of Holiday Hustle–one of which is the weather. I’m writing to you on December 22 and it’s just finally gotten cold. Until today, I’ve worn my coat exactly one other time this winter. Snow is not even remotely on the radar for Christmas. It’s hard to get in the holiday spirit when it’s 67 degrees outside. At least, in Kansas. I know there are other parts of the world where 67 degrees is totally the norm. I spent one Christmas in Pheonix, AZ and that year it felt like we didn’t even get a Christmas. I felt totally jipped. In much the same way, it’s hard to feel that pressure when it still seems like mid-Autumn.
But mostly, in the past month, I’ve been to two funerals for dearly beloveds. Taken several days off to sit in pajamas, watch Scandal, and eat cereal about it. No hustling. No bustling. No running around. I’ve given myself permission. Just laying low and taking wild amounts of comfort in Christmas music (also a holiday first for me–I normally don’t allow holiday tunes to enter my atmosphere until, like, Christmas eve). When I drive home from work, I have been taking the route with the best twinkle lights (North Maple, McPherson KS). When people come into the store and ask me about suggestions for a person that they’re buying a gift for, I give it my all. I’m living vicariously through them because I can’t really bring myself to buy many presents of my own. I did make a batch of Christmas treats but, again, that was for my own comfort. My grief produced those peppermint dipped Oreos.
Rumi says that through love, all pain will turn to medicine.
Grief is weird though because when I say it, it sounds like it means that I’m sad. Like I’m crying into the almond bark. And I’m really not because, as we all know, there are stages to grief and life goes on through it all. I’m in the “why are we even doing this to ourselves” phase. Which, while it sounds really Grinchy, is actually the opposite. I’m luxuriating in the atmosphere of this season. I’m sitting in the back of the gym while all the other kids are dancing and drinking punch and getting felt up for the first time. I’m just back here basking in the essence of the school dance. I’m still having the time of my life. I bought a few presents for the people who will be here with me on Christmas day. I went shopping for ingredients to make our traditional Christmas Eve dinner of Beanie Weenies. I’m doing what I can to give my home and my world the atmosphere without catering to the expectations that I don’t care about at all.
Traditions can bring comfort. Traditions can also become expectations that suck every ounce of joy out of the experience. And then you’re left with something that needs to go. Or maybe something that needs to be handed off to someone else. Someone for whom the joy is fresh and clean. Take what serves you and let go of the rest.
My grief is not new. I’ve been in mourning for nearly a year now. I know, you might think it’s shitty to make this “political”but for me what is personal is political for some. So here we are. And, truly, I’ve been in various stages of mourning since the election. I mean, look, 2017 doesn’t give you enough time to get over one thing before throwing something fresh and wounding at you. My heart still hurts over the Muslim travel ban and the way I sat at my computer gape-mouthed and weeping as I watched protestors flood airports to say, “Look, I’ll put my body on the line for you.”
In the past few months, the flood of #metoo brought forth a whole new wave of horrors. Some new and some old–reopened like wounds that we thought had healed but we just learned to limp with them. As women, we’re drowning in one another’s stories. I feel like I only just barely made it onto dry ground and I’m just laying on the beach gasping for air. And I look around and my sisters are here with me, and we’re battered and soaked to the bone but we made it out. At least for now, until the tide comes in again. But at least we’re together.
So this grief is not new–it’s been added to recently but it’s not new. It’s little extra things added to the backpack–and then you keep walking. You just keep walking. And it’s getting really heavy and I’ve had to stop and rest a lot more often lately. Sometimes even rearrange the things in this bag. Perhaps one day I’ll figure out how I can lay it down without abandoning everything that I hold dear but for now I have to be selective about what I can carry. And the weight of expectations and obligations surrounding the holidays does not fit in my Jansport this year. That’s simply too bulky a thing to add.
Saying no to certain things has completely freed me in a significant way. I’m taking charge of what is important to me and if something is important to someone else, that’s their thing to tend to.
This holiday season is for tidings of comfort and joy–comfort and joy. My comfort is beanie weenies, blankets, and making sure we’re all stocked up on packets of apple cider mix. My joy is quieting enough to let myself be moved. The weary world rejoices.
I love you. I hope you’re feeling–really living in this season.