The holidays are hard. Driving into work the other day I could barely keep the tears back.
Life hurts right now.
The holidays are a hard season for me. I dread these few months every year. For some very real reasons, the holidays assault my emotions and make all the feels lean sad. All the colors, the commotion, the people, the activities…they all feel smothering. When I look around me I can see people smiling and talking and seemingly enjoying the festivities of the season, but all I want to do is get away or sleep until it’s all over.
It hasn’t always been this way. I used to love the holidays, especially Christmas. I had children at home and it was genuinely sweet to see them excited about the lights and decorations all over our house. We would bake Christmas cookies and watch Christmas movies and count down the days till Santa finally came. Christmas morning was the best, worth every moment of effort and stress to see the joy in the eyes of our kids.
But life changes. It sure changed for us. And pain has a way of coloring life in a much different way.
The holidays bring stark reminders of past pain
No matter how much I prepare myself in the months leading up to the holiday the black fog of struggle and sadness, all way too heavy, settles over me and stays. This season ushers in expectations of a Norman Rockwell experience of peace and joy and fa-la-la-la-la, but for many, myself included, it’s the start of a frantic race to survive and just make it to the second week in January when the last Christmas commercial has finally aired and the tinsel is all put back into the attic.
I’ve managed to walk through most of the pain. I’ve recovered pretty well and can even see joy in the journey, but joy during the holidays is lagging far behind. It’s been harder than I thought it would be to step back into a place of carefree wonder, even if momentary. More than any other time during the year, November and December are stark reminders of having survived some hard seasons. My scars become a little more tender and pronounced these months. It reminds me that healing isn’t complete, which is okay. I know healing, real healing, healing that lasts, takes time.
Fewer tears and more kindness
So in an effort to keep moving forward, this year I’m going to put more effort into trying to just be kind. I’m going to raise my head a bit more to notice some of the other struggling souls and offer a smile. A kind of “we can do this” look of encouragement. And I’m going to look for the ones smiling back at me, and count those smiles as gifts.
I’m going to try to be kind to myself. Because the holidays are a hard season for me, I’m hoping to expect less of myself, and notice more of the efforts I can make and do make, no matter how small. I’m going to find more opportunities for soul rest, where I can let myself be filled rather than running everywhere trying to fulfill. I want to practice good self care in the season most known for terrible self care, because we’re all too busy doing too much.
I know these efforts won’t right all that’s wrong in my world or the world at large, but every step in the direction of a tender kindness to a hurting soul is good, even if that hurting soul happens to be my own.