I finally understand that there is no “right” way to do the holidays. When the kids were little, there was so much negotiating about who we spent the holidays with and how long our stay would be. And since I couldn’t be in two places at once, my heart had a missing for the family I wasn’t able to be with whether it was my family of origin or the family into which I had married. They were simply too far away from one another. For young families, this time of year can be hard and exhausting because there is so much you want to do for your children and of course, you are young enough to feel somewhat guilty about not being able to make everyone happy. All you folks out there with young kids…I see you. This is one of the most trying times of your life!
One of the benefits that has come with age is that I have stopped trying to make everyone else happy and have resorted to finding happiness wherever I find myself. Sure, I still try and make others happy...but not at the expense of my sanity. This Thanksgiving, my 17 year old daughter Evelyn is going to be spending the holiday with her best friend in Atlanta. Her stepdad isn’t all too happy with this arrangement, and I will miss her. But in my letting her go, I know I’m making space for her dear friend, that we have made space for our relationship during Christmas break. And that we will fully be able to enjoy the time we have together because we will be able to be fully present with each other...here in New Hampshire.
And for many, the holidays bring with them a seemingly Herculean task: that of finding joy in the midst of much sorrow. I remember the holiday season after Jonathan had passed away. I chose to fly to be with family in Texas because there was so much love in that house and the adventure would do us well. That year was a complete schooling in learning to live in the present. Spending the holidays with those who loved us and made us smile, was a gift to us. I so enjoyed watching the kids with their cousins. Kids know how to live in the present...it’s one of their super powers. And I so appreciated watching them enjoy themselves.
So if this season, you are missing someone, or hurting, or have a huge hole in your heart or your actual physical space that used to be filled by someone no longer physically here, please know that you are not alone.
Give yourself permission to smile at the smallest of things...a falling leaf, a cup of coffee with extra cream, the giggle of a child in the grocery store isle, the music that plays in the background, the first snow flakes or the wag of a dog’s tail.
Practice each day turning the corners of your lips in the upward direction. With each day, it will get easier and you will find that this practice will bring you a measure of happiness in just the doing. This it in itself is an accomplishment and should be counted as such.
May your heart be filled with hope and joy this holiday season.