Blue Christmas

I figured out, a long time ago, that most of the pain in my life is a result of reality not matching my pictures of how things should be. I remember times in my childhood when I was pierced by agonizing disappointment, because I had created a picture in my mind of something I wanted, and it didn’t come to pass. Later on, through my friends and my counseling clients, I came to believe this is true for most people.

Christmas – or whatever holiday tradition you personally observe – can be really hard, because at their best, holidays are a time of loving communion with family and friends. That’s the picture we tend to hold, and that picture is reinforced everywhere we look, in Christmas movies and television shows, Christmas music on the radio and decorated shop windows.

For many of us, most years, the reality does match our pictures – or at least it comes pretty close. But for lots of people, and at times in all our lives, reality falls short. Sometimes the holidays are not a time of joyous celebration. Holidays can be a very painful time.

I’m noticing a little bit of that in my own Christmas this year. For the first time ever, our youngest son is not with us for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. He, along with all our kids and grandkids, joined us for our annual Family Christmas weekend, and that was lovely. But this year he is spending Christmas itself with his girlfriend, just as our older children always spend these days with their own families.

I am very happy for him. After all, that’s what we want – for our children to grow up and create loving relationships of their own, and fulfilling lives separate from us. But it is an adjustment. I found myself having to notice my sadness, and choose to let it go. Instead, my husband and I decided to focus on having quality time with each other, doing things we enjoy.

I know I am very lucky to be so happily married. I spent many years as a single parent, and every other Christmas my older children were with their dad, and I was alone. I had to create new ways of nurturing myself, and rituals just for me. It wasn’t always easy, and I had periods of depression.

This year I have been quite active on Facebook, and I have seen that many friends are having a hard year. Like us, many people are “empty nesters,” and they find it bittersweet. Several have lost children, spouses, or parents. Some are recently divorced, or have had a relationship end. Some people are struggling financially, or with serious health issues. They are sad and sometimes frightened. Often they feel very isolated.

It would be easy to offer advice: If you’re lonely, go out and make friends. Do something for other people. Volunteer in a soup kitchen, or help a family less fortunate than you. But the truth is, you – or someone you know – may be in too much pain right now to do any of those things. It may take every ounce of emotional strength just to survive the season.

Here’s what I see in my Facebook community. People take a few minutes and promise to pray for each other. They give words of comfort, and share their own experiences. They send hugs, and little hearts. Even though they may have never met the person in pain, they share their love. And quietly, unobtrusively, they offer hope.

Christ, the reason for the Christian holiday, encouraged us to live in a state of continuous love and hope. Most spiritual traditions, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Baha’i and others, in their purest form, teach love and hope. All spiritual paths lead to God, and the essence of God is love and hope. Non-believers also recognize love as our deepest human value, and hope as essential to the human spirit.

Today, I am sending you my love. If you are alone and in pain or fear, please take a moment and feel the love streaming to you from my heart. (Feel free to picture me here in Austin, sitting at my computer early in the morning, wearing my red flannel nightgown. I haven’t combed my hair, by the way, so just gloss over that part.) If you are with your family, and things aren’t going well, I’m sending you understanding and encouragement. I love you, and I think you’re a fine person just as you are, even if you don’t meet someone else’s expectations of you.

Would you take a moment and send some of that pure, unconditional love back to me? And to everyone in your own circle? In fact, let’s take a moment and let the love and hope of Spirit, however you conceive of Spirit, fill our hearts and pour out to wrap around each other, and ultimately everyone living on this beautiful planet.

Merry Christmas, dear friend!

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One thought on “Blue Christmas

  1. Christ told us to love one another as He loves us. That would be unconditional Love. Love of God in our selves (Kingdom of God is within) and in others ( that same Kingdom is in the form of you, my friend.). Blessings of the season sweet sister. All is well. All will be well.

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