Most of the world finished celebrating Christmas the night of December 25th. After the presents were opened and the children were once again tucked into their beds, while actual sugar plums danced through their tummies, many people were wondering just how long they had to wait to take the tree down. Since I spent most of my life in California and Florida, those people with “real” Christmas trees were wondering how long before their trees constituted a fire hazard.
In my faith tradition, we celebrate the “Christmas season” AFTER Christmas Day. We have twelve more days of hollying, jollying… and holy-ing after the holiday itself. Not that any of this kept me from getting my merry on before Christmas Day. I frenzied my festivities with the best of them. As a result, the concept that there is twelve more days of celebration is daunting. On the other hand, the fact that we are still officially in the “Christmas season” gives me license to continue blogging about my holiday cheer. Christmas day may be past, but my holiday navel-gazing continues. You’re welcome!
In last week’s blog, I reported on my daily hunt for Kringle, my elf on the shelf. I enjoyed this activity more than any grown woman should. Max enjoyed helping Kringle hide more than most people would expect. He is not the most whimsical guy in the world, but I was holding out for a hero (cue the Bonnie Tyler music), and I got one with him. I also got a kick out of the fact that Kringle’s popularity spread to some of my friends this year, who asked for daily photos to update them on Kringle’s mischief.
Elf-hunting was not my own celebratory activity this “before Christmas” season. Let me tell you about a few more.
Max and I went to a dinner party with our bestest church friends a week or so before Christmas. It truly struck me that evening that I have a new kind of family in my old age… a family of friends. The people with whom we celebrated at that dinner party (and a few others here in Florida and in California) are the ones I can trust to support, love, and help me through this latest phase of my life. I am very, very blessed. This realization was a wonderful gift.
I received another exquisite gift the Sunday before Christmas. My pastor’s wife, Kathleen, has a tradition of making gingerbread houses with the children in her life each Christmas. Kathleen knows that I have a gingerbread fixation. Gingerbread is my catnip. Therefore, this year she asked me if I would like to join them. Now, to be perfectly truthful, my elevated level of social anxiety would normally drive me to make an excuse not to go. Typically, I would be afraid of not fitting in or not knowing what to say or what to do or when it is appropriate to go home. However, something about the invitation really, really appealed to me. I agreed to join them. The anxiety did not abandon me. On and off for a couple of weeks, I dithered significantly whenever I thought about the gathering. However, I kept coming back to the knowledge that I really, really did want to go. I told myself that I was going to be fine… that I did not have to know, do, or be anything other than just myself. Kathleen invited me because she wanted to be nice and she wanted ME- not some perfectly secure, poised, polished person who does not exist (except for that imaginary one who is taunting me in the darker side of my mind.)
I went to the gingerbread jamboree and had a wonderful time. There was so much laughter, love, and energy. There were children and dogs running around producing an energizing momentum of positivity (I am sure the sugar did not hurt that particular biochemical reaction!) The adults played at making their gingerbread houses with as much abandon as the children. People seemed happy to have me there. In fact, Kathleen’s youngest daughter greeted me with a delighted, over-the-moon exclamation, “YOU CAME!!” It would be hard to imagine how I could have felt more welcome. This event was exactly what I did not know I needed. I sat at the long table, with a dog lying on my feet. I stuck gingerbread together with royal icing. I learned how to make a heart out of two candy canes. I admired the work of my gingerbread colleagues of all ages. It was perfect. When I finished, I bundled my gingerbread house (now permanently cemented to a plastic plate with said royal icing) into my car and headed home. My gingerbread house was not pretty, but the experience was beautiful.
I also went caroling in our community the week before Christmas. A friend of mine heads up this effort each year. We parade through the community in golf carts.
We visit the homes of people who cannot get out into the world as much as they once did. We bring cookies and sing a couple of carols on each visit. The good news is that this activity requires no actual singing ability. In fact, it is more effective if the music is not too perfect. It is joyful and loud and accompanied by random jingle bells. We are a funny lot, dressed in Christmas regalia as loud as our voices. I take pride in looking like an elf. It was cold and rainy this year, but that did not stop us. I sat on the back of a friend’s golf cart, bouncing along our merry Christmas way. After an hour of holly jollying, we end up at the community center and stuffed ourselves with snacks. At some point, my month-long sugar rush is going to wear off and then, well, God bless us, every one.
All these events were fun and meaningful to me, but I also participated in a special event of my own this year. I knew I was jumping into a holiday world filled with people and stimulation and new ways of looking at things for me. As I have mentioned in the past, I have been working with a life coach over the past few months to help me be more comfortable with myself and take advantage of opportunities for happiness (Todd Payne, Life Coach (toddpaynelifecoach.com). One of the things I have learned is that I tend to allow anxiety and insecurity keep me from doing things that might increase my happiness. When something frightens me, I am apt to just not do it instead of finding a way to challenge the anxiety.
This year, I decided to try to plunge into life during the holiday season, but to be respectful of my tendency to become anxious. I built in “silent night” time each day for the two weeks before Christmas. Each day, I spent a short time- five minutes or so- simply being quiet and letting my soul go where it wanted to go. Invariably, my soul wanted to go to God. I spent my “silent night” time thinking about saying “yes” to God and all He wants for me. I spent my “silent night” time realizing that there is no need to let anxiety dictate my actions because God is much more powerful than my anxiety. I won’t say that I have always succeeded or that I think my struggles with anxiety are a thing of the past. I am sure I will need to keep showing my anxiety who is boss, for the rest of my life. The thing that I am celebrating this Christmas is that I am finding that I can show anxiety who is boss. I do not think I could ever have honestly said that in the past.
What did you learn this holiday season? How do you think your life will be different going forward? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Merry Christmas Season!