But even this Christmas-lovin' lady is hearing faint little whispers of pain this year. They're not loud, and they're not overtaking my immense dedication to making this the Best Christmas Ever, but they're trying to consume my moments of stillness. These doubts are gnawing at me, gently, while I go about my holiday preparations. It's my first year as an "official" single mama, my first year having to split holidays, my first year needing to actually deal with my ex-husband's girlfriends, all out in the open like this, whew! What a new concept for me. I am struggling to stay positive.
I am extremely blessed, dear readers. I wake every day in a beautiful bed, to the kisses of two beautiful and healthy girls, with animals I love needing to be cared for, and a yoga mat begging me to come, practice, let it fall away for a minute. I talk to incredible people throughout my day, one particularly amazing bearded man with an affinity for providing light into the dark corners of my heart I'd long ago thought hopelessly abandoned, and I am loved on by the best family and friends this world has ever seen.
But sometimes, during those tiny, fleeting, infrequent spaces of quiet, the ones where I am supposed to be sleeping or writing or reading or thinking happy thoughts, I instead find my mind pushing against a soft, gray sense of grief, doubt, and disappointment. How did I get here? Alone, after all that work, what an idiot you were to carry on like that for so long. And what a tiny woman you are, feeling lonely. You're supposed to be strong and independent. Don't you know it's weak to want someone beside you? Can't figure out how to do this on your own, hm? Better buck up before someone sees.
Pretty ugly, yes? Most moments of pure, unfiltered, raw truth are.
Your pain might not be about the empty seat beside you. Your pain might be about the person sitting beside you. Or the people you'll need to deal with this holiday. Your pain might be about the things in your life that are not in your control and seem so unequivocally unfair, especially among tinsel and garland. It's a season of extreme juxtaposition - unavoidable darkness sitting next to a string of colorful lights. Sometimes it's not the most wonderful time of the year.
The good news? We have the power to change that.
How, Jen? How?
Find delicious ways to move.
I love to eat and I also love to look sexy. Sometimes I manage to look sexy while eating, but more often than not when the holidays come around, my jeans are covered in flour and my face in crumbs. I look in the mirror and see changes to my body that may or may not exist and I panic. I shame myself, feel guilty, and vow not to eat like crap the next day. Then the next day comes and holymotherofgosh are those christmas-colored donuts??
I can tell you as a Grade A Lounger that moving, in any sense of the word, helps. You don't need to leave your house. You don't even need to get out of bed if you don't want to. Just move. Stretch. Rub your own feet. Play with your pets and kids. Organize something and move boxes around. Do yoga. Have lots of sex, with someone or with yourself, it doesn't matter. Just move, deliciously.
This one might not go over well but Imma say it anyways cuz this is my blog. I'm a Christian - don't run away! Hear me out. I am a Christian with agnostic and atheist friends. I am a Christian who loves, identifies with, and fights for gays. I am a Christian who accepts other faiths and prays for everyone I can because that's what God wants me to do. Christmas in my faith is all about dear sweet lil baby Jesus and I love it. I recognize many people do not follow this belief system and I accept and love 'em regardless. And that huge long disclaimer is all leading up to this: If you're reading this and you're hurting this holiday season....crash a church service.
I'm not kidding. You don't need to talk to anyone. You don't need to look at anyone. You don't need to do anything but step inside and sit down. If you're lonely, if you're sad, if you feel like you are going to die if you sit in your house one more second, just pull up to that church you've driven past 100 times and go inside. My church has a special service called "Blue Christmas," and it's designed to comfort and soothe and redirect your perspective to the positive elements of the holiday season. Sometimes the best things in life happen when you try something incredibly uncomfortable and new...the impossible happens when you let your guard down.
Find delicious people to consume your time.
There's a line in one of my favorite movies, Fried Green Tomatoes, where Idgie Threadgoode says, "I guess you already know that there are angels masquerading as people walking around this planet..."
People make the world turn. Life is breathtakingly beautiful, but there is something incredibly necessary to the human experience in sharing that beauty with those around you. The angels in your life can be strangers, they can be family members, they can be friends, they can be the parents of friends. Distant relations, distant loves, distant acquaintances...or the lady who works at your favorite gas station down the street.
I've talked about this in previous posts - when you need to deal with painful people, surround yourself with those who bring light. Let them shine on you and love on you and make the effort to stand beside them and be with them when you can. Instead of spending all your time rushing from one plan to another, pause and enjoy the random people that stumble into your life. Let yourself be a little late. Let yourself be a little vulnerable, even while hurting. The risk is almost always worth the reward.
Bake, sculpt, pound, fold, hammer, type, thread, stir, weld, twist, and carve. Weave and sway and sing and strum and pour. What sets us apart as humans is our insane ability to creatively create. Animals can create structures and rhythms and webs, but always for a purpose, always for a biological need. We as humans can create magic, pure magic, simply because we want to. What an incredible gift.
There's no time for chaos and tears when you're busy wrapping up 3 dozen Christmas cookies. There's little room for doubt when you finally find that perfect note to complete your song, that perfect sentence to open your book's 4th chapter, that perfect blue for your cascading waterfall. If you don't currently create, you're lucky. You are a blank canvas with the potential to make anything you want. Check out a book from the library on anything, literally anything, and try your hand at it. If you hate it, give it up and try something else. The goal is to immerse yourself in the task of creating something made purely of you.
Find delicious ways to compliment yourself.
You're not gonna be happy all the time. You might feel extreme disappointment or anger at your current circumstances. If you're anything like me, you're likely more upset at your feelings of disappointment and anger than the actual cause of the disappointment and anger....almost like why can't you get over this and snap out of it and deal with your current situation with grace and strength and force yourself to live in the moment and just be freaking happy right now.
Don't do that. Don't talk to yourself like that. It hurts. Don't think about how far you have to go, or how little has changed, or how little you can control. Those are not productive thoughts. They won't lead you anywhere good and they won't change anything about your pain. Instead think of what you have done. You've made it another month. You've smiled twice today. Your bed is made perfectly. There are men and women who would beg for your pretty little heart. You will make it through this day. You make a mean cup of tea. Your eyes are astoundingly beautiful. Your soul shimmers. Tell yourself. Go on. Do it.
Make it about the kids.
Sometimes no matter how hard you try, you just feel crummy. You could do all those other things I talked about above and still feel crummy. This is where kids come in handy. You don't need to have any. They don't even need to be human, fur babies work too. When you're not feeling the joy of Christmas, the excitement of the end of a year, the peace of a restful season, look to the innocent. They will be dancing.
My girls have contagious smiles. My puppy has contagious energy. My chickens have contagious simplicity. Head out and find kids and animals to play with or watch. Don't let your thoughts get pessimistic, just watch them. Watch them run and leap and bound and make noises and live life in the moment. Kids are perfect at doing that. Watch them and learn.
We can't make those we miss materialize in front of us. We can't wave a wand over those we love and make them healthy. We can't pretend like the people who break our heart and disrespect us and cut us off in the parking lot don't exist. We can, however, own our perspectives. We can bookmark kind words and reminders. We can approach our moments of darkness with purpose and the courage to accept that life ain't easy, not even at Christmastime. And that's ok. Those moments of imperfection are wonderful...perhaps the most wonderful times of our lives.
How do you beat the holiday blues, dear readers? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below. As always, thank you for reading :)