‘Tis the season to think back on the closing year; to reflect on the things that happened, the people who touched our lives, and to begin to plan for the upcoming year. As John Lennon sang, “And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?” (To which I always want to respond, “I didn’t do it! It wasn’t me this time, honestly!”)
This time of year is painted with a rainbow of so many emotions: happiness and gratitude for what we have, sadness for the people and times that have passed, hope for the future, confusion and anxiety about…. Just what am I supposed to be feeling, anyway?
Most of us don’t have a Norman Rockwell existence. We don’t have an intact family of smiling people around our table. We have to patch together a crazy-quilt of people and location and food and presents and hope it all works out: that no one gets too drunk and maudlin, that the cute t-shirt we picked for the teenager is actually one she will like (or have the good grace to pretend to), that the ham/turkey/tofu loaf is neither undercooked and gross or overcooked and dry.
But those, of course, are the superficial things. The real meaning of Christmas (cue Charlie Brown music) is the one we make for ourselves. For some it is religious, celebrating the birth of Jesus. For others, spiritual without naming names. Some people love the accessories of Christmas: the decorations, the special food, and the presents. For some people Christmas is just another day.
For me, especially this year, Christmas is a time of gratitude and reflection. I’m homeless by choice, so there is no house to decorate and I rely on the goodwill of family and friends to give me a place to sleep. I’m single, and this is a hard time of year to be single. The diamond commercials (“what a great day to get engaged! Watch her eyes sparkle like the ring you slip on her finger!”) – cause me to cringe and turn the dial faster than the nasal ay-ay-ay that heralds the onset of a Britney Spears tune. Couples holding hands at the mall (or arguing at the mall) make me smile, then wince. I think of the Christmas my ex-husband passed out drunk and I put out all the presents myself, filling my own stocking (for he had forgotten to shop for me) with items from the pantry and linen closet so the kids wouldn’t doubt Santa. I think also of the lavish gifts from my post-divorce boyfriend who could, sadly, always open his wallet but never his heart. I know that being single is better than any of that.
So I look inside myself during this festive season. I banish the echoing sadness and focus on my beautiful grown daughters, my generous friends, the newfound reservoir of patience and compassion that I have discovered within.
I am neither happy nor sad. I am blanketed with a profound feeling of peace. I will pull my beloved children to me and enjoy the day, then be ever so glad it is over.
Until next year. (And who knows what next year will bring?)
Peace and Good Wishes –