Many people have issues around the holidays. They are often a time of hardship instead of joy. In my case, I have PTSD from things that happened in my childhood, and some of the worst of it happened during the holidays. When the trees go up in stores (which is earlier and earlier), a slow squeezing begins. By the time Christmas arrives, the squeeze has turned into a suffocating weight that I don’t want to tell anyone about. I don’t want to spoil Christmas for others, but I can’t wait to take down the decorations and be done with the holiday.
At least, that’s how it normally goes.
This year, I decided to stop resisting and hiding the pain. After the better part of a year in counseling, I knew that would be the game plan, but the holiday season still came with its accompanying dread. This time, however, I told people about what I was going through, and they didn’t resent my lack of cheer. They gathered around and helped carry me through. Still, getting through Christmas was by no means easy. We planned. We formed new traditions, and when I was overcome, crying was acceptable.
All this intentionality brought me to Christmas night. I lay in bed…happy. My goal (I was trying to have realistic but positive expectations) was to be able to say, “And Christmas was nice.” And it had been. The biggest surprise for me had come in a new perspective on the day. By giving a voice and validation to the parts of me that had issues with the holidays, I had also allowed those parts to grow quieter. In the following stillness, I could see a time of year when people actively try to show love to others. They take their spare money and try to find something suitable to convey the happiness that another person brings to them. It was beautiful to see.
Suddenly, it didn’t matter so much if a gift I had gotten someone “bombed” because, really, it wasn’t about the gift. It was about the time and consideration that I had spent. Every hour looking, was an “I love you.” Every piece of wrapping paper and bow was another “I love you.” Every moment spent with family was the warmest “I love you.” Instead of being framed by trauma, the season was framed by a slow, steady march of love.
And Christmas was nice.