I love the idea of the holidays more than the actual holidays.
At this time of year, I have earnestly tried to be in the moment and simply enjoy what comes. When my mother was really too far gone in her dementia, my mourning began for the type of holidays that would never be again.
Losing some of our traditions actually made my life far easier. Frankly much of the holidays were more complicated when my mother was around. She had needs that came out as demands and coordinating my children and husband around those demands was often frustrating if not infuriating.
But at this time of year, I miss her the most.
My mother had this incredible spontaneity when we would go out holiday shopping. She didn’t need to shop for hours. She just enjoyed having “holiday moments” of finding a great gift followed by a great latte. She, like me, would enjoy listening to some group of carolers as we shopped. She would love, love watching the shoppers. My mom was a real people watcher. So nothing was over hurried or over paced. Just enjoyed.
Sometimes it was amusing when we would see a perfect gift, a bit higher in price, and my mom would always say, “Oh just get it.” I would have to put on the brakes and tell her that was really too much money. (One time we were at the pound paying our registration for our dog and we saw another dog that I just loved, and she told me, “Oh just get it!” That dog didn’t come home to my little apartment.)
My mother and father loved to get up at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning with all the kids. Some years with me, step-siblings and foster siblings, we had two trees! My parents were as excited as we were!
My husband has caught on to much of the holiday excitement. He wasn’t raised with any sort of major attention towards the holidays and so he has adapted and enjoys many of my traditions. Our kids however don’t really care. Oh yes, they like presents but they could care less about having a tree.
So each year I try and stay in the moment and make adjustments for my current situation. What will make me feel happy and satisfied without attaching any expectation that certain situations need to occur for me to feel happy.
Last year I waited to buy a tree until just a couple of days before Christmas. I thought, “Well if I’m the only one who really cares, I can just buy a small tree a few days before.” That adjustment didn’t work emotionally for me. Too little Christmas that way.
I’m ordering more on-line and doing less shopping at a store. While that technique keeps me out of malls, it’s also not very satisfying. So I went to the Harvest Festival and Craft fair with my girlfriend which made me feel like I was doing something special without the stress of the mall. Also, I purchased tickets to a musical because that felt festive.
On Christmas Eve, I enjoy going to Olivera Street, eating dinner and watching the Posada- the reenactment walk of Mary and Joseph trying to find an Inn for the night. I love the sort of community spirit of that event. Christmas day often includes a movie which our kids like to do. My youngest says he wants to honor our Jewish heritage and have Chinese for dinner. Our traditional family dinner will include another family but on the 26th instead.
Flexibility and adaptation are keys this time of year. If we can let go of the past and our expectations of what should happen during holiday season and instead focus on “What can make me happy now?” Perhaps we can find some holiday peace.