My Hope in Christmas
Well, Christmas is upon us and, if y’all are anything like me, you are at the point of trying to survive the final hours of the chaos. Last-minute gifts are being purchased, preparations for visiting family members are being made, Christmas cards are being addressed, and gifts are being delivered. I think it’s safe to assume we are all currently living in pandemonium, and I just have to wonder- why?
No matter your religious beliefs, I believe we all feel the “message” of Christmas- the story of it, the promise of it, the hope of it. But I also think we’re massively missing the point. We busy ourselves so much that we often forget the reason for the season. As Meghan Markle recently told a reporter, “It’s not enough just to survive- you’ve got to thrive.” So how do we thrive when we are just trying to survive?
When my daughter was an infant, I entered the full-on get-through-each-hour-of-each-day mode. Ellie was born six weeks early, which contributed to her horrible acid reflux. The pain caused my little angel to scream as if she were being tortured at all hours of every day. Looking back, I was definitely NOT thriving. I was merely surviving.
During the depths of my battle with my cancer, it was once again into survival mode. I was only able to take one baby step at a time and then had to force myself to take another. After many weeks of living baby step to baby step, I was finally able to raise my head a bit and saw a greater path before me.
At times, survival mode is helpful. It is even necessary. But it’s not a way we want to get used to living because living to survive is all-encompassing. Survival is innately incapable of allowing space for anything other than total focus on defending, enduring, outlasting.
Thriving, on the other hand, is not so black or white. To me, thriving looks like a beautiful rainbow that sometimes appears bright and vibrant, and other times is only faintly visible through the gloomy haze. When I was in the hospital for weeks on end, I imagined life outside the hospital walls and dreamed of the things I would do when I was once again able. And let me tell you- my dreams were BIG. I was convinced that I wouldn’t be able to fully live until I achieved those dreams I’d created for myself. But, then, I was discharged and went home to Tom, the kids and Riley Rose, and realized that just being with them, even feeling as sick as I still felt, that was why I fought, and that was why I endured, and THEY were why I survived. My family was my rainbow of thriving.
I carry quite a bit of guilt because of my health and the trauma it has caused my children. Ellie and Tommy are crazy resilient and strong as hell, but we’ve all still been through it. But as a mom, I feel guilt because I have come to learn that feeling guilty is job hazard number one for all moms. And so, because of my guilt towards Ellie and Tommy, I have been guilty of overcompensating around Christmas time. Some part of me feels that if I can make my kid’s Christmas as perfect and magical as possible, the extra gifts and attention will somehow erase all the hardships they have endured in their past. On some level, I’d hoped that overcompensating would turn their maybe not-so-great past experiences into present-magical-childhood-thriving. And how silly is that? Or is it…
This year, I decided to dial it down a bit for Christmas. Yes, presents are still under the tree, and the house is filled with holiday decorations, but I made an intentional effort to do this Christmas “better.” I wanted to be less crazed, less stressed, and less tired. Instead of running around and telling everyone how busy I was, I drove slower and took the time to stop and chat with others. I said no to several events, and yes to the things I knew would fill me up. No to the life draining, yes to the life filling. And y’all- it has worked.
I am entering this Christmas with a happy heart and a full tank of energy. I know our holiday won’t be perfect- no one’s ever is- but I think knowing it will look a bit messy and imperfect manages our sometimes impossible expectations and relieves some of the guilt we may feel about not being all things to all people at all times.
So as we enter the final countdown to Christmas, let’s try to shift our goals away from merely surviving but towards fully thriving. My hope for all of us is that we can see the rainbow of life filling love and joy that arches over all of us at all times. All we have to do is slow down and absorb the beauty around us.
Wishing everyone joy and love in the days to come. And maybe a great gift or two.
In love and hope,