Christmas is wonderful, but at the same time, there seems to be this undercurrent of mild sadness. I can’t help but recognize what is missing, or WHO is missing at my holiday, and even when things are lovely I find myself triggered by past memories – longing for times past, or the innocence of the past when I felt confident that my life as it was would go on indefinitely. My mixed emotion is not a depression thing, but a recognition that life involves change, like it or not. My kids can be sitting on the couch a few feet away, and I’m missing them nevertheless- or at least the 7 year old version of them – back when their eyes were filled with excitement and the magic of the season and the holiday was celebrated in a big way to meet their youthful expectations. I also miss my younger parents and the years when they were more involved in the holiday traditions, and I even miss myself back when I had more energy to go the distance to make every detail perfect.
Christmas reminds me to be thankful for all I have, and to appreciate the people in my life today, but still….. my mind wanders to people who have less, or who are struggling with family or personal problems. I die a little inside as I imagine people I do or do not know personally who are spending their first Christmas alone after the death of a loved one, or who spend Christmas feeling ostracized from a family or community, or for anyone’s whose life has taken a turn to make the holiday feel more empty than full. I think of horrible things I’ve heard happen in the news and imagine the parents of children who’ve been gunned down in school this year or orphans who are in war torn countries, and my mind considers what they are thinking or feeling on this day. The juxtaposition of the merry holiday against life’s bitter reality seems to make the meaning of the holiday poignantly sad while also being sweet.
My heart goes out to all those who feel a twinge of sadness at Christmas, . For those who feel nothing buy joy, I hope they know how important it is to savor and harbor the memories. Such memories are precious and dear . . . even if sometimes, they become the very memories that haunt you in later years.
My Christmas tree is filled with ornaments I’ve collected over the years and each have significant meaning for me. I’m reminded of people who came and went in my life, experiences I’ve had, places I’ve gone. Two marriages, several careers, dozens of students, friends, trips and more are represented in those ornaments. Each sparkling keepsake is special, each packed with a nugget of joy from the past – but these small meaningful items make me feel the poignancy of faded history too.
I must remember that while honoring the past is important, I must not dwell on past Christmases or people I’ve lost contact with. My energy will be better spent taking the time to savor what I’ve experienced this year … I must store up my memories of this season, for tomorrow, I am likely to miss the people and heartfelt exchanges I’ve been afforded this Christmas just as I miss those that came and went over the years. My aging parents, my loving husband, having two of my three children with me…… these are beautiful holiday gifts, too precious to take for granted. I will miss the small pleasures of this Christmas when the moment is gone.
I guess it is important we all keep the Christmas cup half full – not half empty.