Holiday seasons are filled with fun traditions that help us to feel the spirit of the Season and unite us as friends and family. They are events and visits that we look forward to every year.
A few of our traditions have been:
- A yearly Christmas Cruise with friends, riding a flat-bottom boat down the Provo River that has been decorated with beautiful lights and pictures, always followed up with gallons of hot cocoa to help thaw our frozen bodies.
- Visiting a live nativity.
- Opening up the Precious Moments ornament Grandma creates and cross-stitches for each one of her grandchildren every year that highlights an important moment or accomplishment of that year.
- Putting up decorations the day after Thanksgiving. I so love the Thanksgiving Season that I refuse to let Christmas decorations go up until Thanksgiving Day is over. No exceptions.
As my family dynamic has been changing over the last several years, I found myself decorating for Christmas almost entirely on my own this year for the first time in, well… decades. I unwrapped what felt like a million trinkets full of all the familiar sayings and platitudes that accompany this time of year. The same ones that have graced our walls and mantles and the top of the piano and every other nook and cranny we could squeeze them into for what feels like forever.
I have an admission to make: For the past many, many years, as I have pulled out all of the typical decorations inscribed with the traditional, “Peace”, “Hope” and “Joy” sentiments of Christmas, it has taken all of my strength not to throw them against the wall and smash them into a million little pieces. Then they would have matched my similarly shattered heart and soul.
The reality is, while those sentiments are the oft-expressed, overarching theme of the Holiday Season, there are many, MANY people who don’t feel them. The hard truth is that the Holidays often exponentially magnify our pain, our hopelessness, our loneliness, our feelings of failure … or whatever our monsters may be. They are so much harder to deal with this time of year, especially when you already feel so alone or misunderstood.
I can’t even begin to describe the pain of watching everyone else celebrate and revel in joy and happiness while you’re struggling to keep from drowning. Everyone else loves to go look at millions of beautiful lights that enchant and delight, while the circumstances and darkness that surrounds your life is so crushing that no light can seem to get through. How do you have hope when you’ve done everything you can and exhausted every resource available to you with no success? How do you hold onto joy when your life is filled with moments of thinking it couldn’t possibly get any worse, only to have life laugh at you and prove that indeed it can. Over and over. And how do you have peace when you spend day after day, year after year listening to your child cry in agonizing physical and emotional pain that can not be eased?
Well, this year has been a little bit different.
- I have joy. After years of unbearable pain, my daughter can stand and walk again. She is no longer bedridden. After nine trauma-filled years, she has begun to actually have a life.
- I have hope. Only two more surgeries left, and we hope that in 2021 Becca will be able to get her arms back, too.
- I have peace. While we still have lots of life stress and drama, as most families do, that is a completely different ballgame than a life battling indescribable trauma. There’s no comparison between a life of tragedy and heartache and a life of the normal ups and downs that everyone faces. None. We’re trending far more normal than traumatic these days, and my crushing life is beginning to ease up.
As I have spent a lot of time contemplating all of this, I am fully aware that the pain of years past has forever defined who I am and how I look at the Holidays. Becca, too. And as we struggle to heal, we know that we have to continue to try to redefine our lives as ones that are dedicated to doing whatever we can to ease other people’s pain and burdens. There is simply too much suffering out there.
So this year I’ve decided we need to start a new Holiday Tradition! One of relief.
From this year forward, I will identify one person who I know suffers deeply, and I will do my best to provide them with even a little bit of Christmas Cheer. I will leave the comfort of my own warm, cozy home, cast aside my now introverted persona, and I will visit. I will listen. I will share. I will dig deep and find any way that I can to provide them with just a small glimmer of that joy or hope or peace that they are missing.
One may seem like an insignificant number — but it’s not to that person. Imagine if we all started this new tradition, how many souls could be soothed, hearts could be mended and happiness shared.
Isn’t this what the Holidays are all about?