I wish I had a river...

11:58 AM

I think I've beaten the christmas horse to death at this point, I love it and I don't care who knows it!!
And yet... every year without fail my eyes will spy a forlorn string of half-twinkling lights in a window next to the saddest tree you ever did see and I'm there again. I'm there when the christmas I dreamt of resided behind other people's windows and I spent many a snowy car ride longing for something I had never even had. I would watch as shopping bags as big as my five year old frame would swoosh past my head, laden with gifts meant for someone else, someone who lived in a house that glowed at night, wrapped in millions of sparkling lights. A house where they got to have the biggest and most expensive tree on the lot and the "fancy" wrapping paper. The really big bows, not the assortment of tiny mismatched ones that came in a giant plastic pouch. You know that saying about how christmas doesn't come from a box? Yet when it feels like all the boxes aren't for you it seems that in fact, a box is the only place christmas could possibly come from.
I'll never forget when I was part of a club in high school and our "fundraising project" for December was selling wreaths. They were between $50 and $100 (crazy talk to a rational adult) and yet everyone's parents bought one or two "to support the cause." I didn't even ask, I knew better. I got some neighbors to order a few but I sure didn't win the prize that you got for selling the most wreaths. The day the orders were delivered to our school I wanted more than anything to take one of those plump and fragrant wreaths home with me. Seeing them pop up all around town only deepened my sadness and my feelings of inadequacy. The festive red bows were a constant reminder that I didn't have one hanging over our door. I finally got myself one of those wreaths last year, though I didn't have to pay $50 for it and as with most things in life it wasn't everything I had made it out to be.
All my life I grew up dreaming of doing christmas "my way" - I'd get the biggest tree, the thickest and shiniest paper, truckloads of lights and big fluffy bows. When I finally did it...I ended up feeling empty and lost. There was all this "bigness" I dreamt of and I still felt just as anxious and sad. Naturally a lot of it is that classic letdown of celebrating christmas as an adult versus as a chid and yet there was something else too. Perhaps it was a feeling deep down that I didn't deserve this, that that big tree still belonged behind someone else's window. And yet no, it was also the feeling that in this mad attempt to give myself everything I ever wanted I lost what christmas was all about. Or maybe I never had it in the first place? Having always viewed the holiday from my place of lack I ensured that I was always wrapped up in ME. What I wanted and what I didn't have.
Then, slowly, things began to change. After a few years of lavish gifts and overly ridiculous christmases, like most things the whole charade lost it's appeal. Little by little I began to find "my christmas." I found it in baking for my friends and family and meticulously tying the tiniest of bows onto red and white boxes stuffed to the brim with every cookie imaginable that I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning baking. I found it in finding the perfect gift for my loved ones, often in unexpected places like used bookstores or forgotten antique shops in sleepy towns stuck in another era. I found it in savoring other people's lights instead of coveting them and giving a little more of my time or money, away.
And then God blessed us with a little baby girl last christmas and from that day forward it was ensured that christmas would never be about me again. Which is just how I like. Birdie shared some of her childlike innocence and rapture with us and it was the best gift I could have ever gotten.
I suppose I'll always feels those pangs of shame and guilt around the holidays for I know all too well what it feels like when christmas is coming to everyone but you. When your tree simply makes you sad because you wish it was bigger and nothing is ever enough because surely everyone else is getting MORE.
I wish I could go back and tell myself to simply look outside myself to find true christmas cheer but after all what can you say to a silly five year old who wants ALL THE THINGS?? It's all a process. As with everything you have to have the bitter to appreciate the sweet. And on those days that my heart feels a little heavy for those poor souls I turn up Joni Mitchell a little louder and pray that they find their christmas sooner rather than later...

"It's coming on Christmas
They're cutting down trees..."

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2 notes

  1. i know what you mean - the sadness christmas can bring. i usually think of those missing family, or a sickness, or those who are alone, and it gets me sad. it's not rational, i don't always know someone who has loss at the holidays, but sometimes they just make you think of all you DON'T HAVE too, as people are getting those packages in their warm houses with their intact and happy families. and of course no one really has a perfect family, and of course those packages don't actually lead to happiness, but when you're missing it or someone or something, it feels like it. so i feel you, and that song as well, and i think having birdie around and the way you managed to find meaning in the holiday leading up to her arrival is simply perfect.

  2. I'm so glad you got where I was coming from. It's just about when you can't seem to be happy around christmas time for whatever reason. When I was younger it always felt like Christmas just rubbed salt in the wound. I think that perhaps that is the reason I am able to embrace it so much now, because I feel like I missed out on so much of that JOY. Thanks so much for your thoughtful and kind words - they mean the world to me. xo


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