On Tuesdays (all year, not just for the Advent Calendar), I write about anything that strikes my fancy. Often these are longer, reflective pieces about things ranging from burn-out to creation of an identity to loneliness. Sometimes, they are about small things like taking out the trash. Or about the craft of writing, such as observing our world or shifting points of view. Tuesdays are when I like to slow down, think over things that have happened, and put to words what I’ve been processing. Often, the comments on Tuesdays are more profound than anything I’ve written, and this has become one of my favorite “everyday” events here. You don’t have to be an author to join in, a spanko, or any certain role. You just have to be a human being.
You may have noticed that Ana’s Advent Calendar has few Christmas-centric posts. Sure, we joke about Santa Claus (never about Mrs. Claus!), but not everyone here is Christian, not everyone celebrates Christmas, and not everyone who observes Christmas feels like celebrating.
Last year for the Advent Calendar, I wrote about a tradition called “Blue Christmas.”
When I was younger, my church started a tradition called “Blue Christmas”. During the first week or so of December, there would be a special Christmas worship service for anyone for whom Christmas was less than a 100% joyful experience. (Really, isn’t that most of us?)
One lesser-known fact about Kat [Ana's note: Kat is a fictional character in two of my books, The Way Home and Lighting the Way] is that she lost her father at Christmas time. She almost never talks about it, but every year the presence of his absence colors her experience of Christmas. She also is not a huge fan of Christmas because she works in retail and dreads the crowds of stressed-out, angry shoppers determined to out-shop everyone else.
For some, Christmas is a wonderfully happy time filled with anticipation, family, and celebration.
For some, Christmas is pure misery.
[. . .]
Celebrations and happy times are wonderful, but sometimes watching other people’s celebrations can make it more painful to experience our own loss. I’ve mentioned before that Christmas this year will be a quiet one for me, and instead of feeling sorry for myself I want to focus on celebrating what and who I do have with me. Still, today I would like to honor those for whom Christmas may be a bit difficult. You are not alone, and what you are experiencing is 100% okay.
For all the hilarity of the Advent Calendar, my original goal was to create a safe space where everyone can come for the month of December. Everyone. Not just if you are married, have children, have your parents or partner still alive, or if you live a comfortable life. This is not the happiness of exclusion, of throwing a party only for those who are happy. If your heart is a bit tender, you are welcome here. You are *especially* welcome here.
Our dear friend Bas, known to many of us but a new figure to others, graced us with his love, wisdom, and inimitable wit before he died earlier this year. Re-reading his past comments makes me feel the warmth of his love once again.
Everybody misses loved ones at the Christmas table. But none of those left us on or around Christmas.
For 35 years we have had a “Close Family only” Christmas dinner at our house.
Dutch houses are not built for dinner parties with the whole family.
We started in 1977 with 7 persons, and although 3 of those 7 are no longer with us. The number of attendants this year will be 8.
Our children took the seats of our parents. Next year there will be a grandchild.
That’s how it’s supposed to be.
It is grieve and joy at the same time.
Dearest Bas did live to see his grandchild, a wonderful little boy who is now old enough to sit up and eat solid food. We will indeed grieve and “joy” (how I love the way Bas would create verbs out of nouns and nouns out of adjectives!) at the same time.
We have lost so many others in addition to Bas. Thank you especially to Joanne Best who has let us be part of her journey this year, her first Christmas without her mom. Thank you to others, perhaps those too shy or private to share, who have also made Ana’s Advent Calendar your home for this month when things may not be super-stellar happiness.
Too often, if we are sad when others are happy we are told to “suck it up,” to “get over it,” or to put on a mimicry of happiness so others won’t feel uncomfortable. Yes, we do need to put on appropriate demeanors for work or polite society or for those we don’t know as well, but we also need safe spaces where we can be okay with ourselves. If we feel a little sad today, we are still worthy and beloved.
Today I’d like to tell you about one of my heroes, a man who told me and millions of others that my feelings were okay and I mattered as a person. You can read about him here.
For kids in the US a few decades ago, Fred Rogers and his iconic children’s television show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, taught us how to grow up. Trained as a minister, puppeteer, and musician, he and his sweaters (all knitted by his mom) introduced each show with his theme song, changing his sweater, and changing his shoes. Every story I’ve ever heard about him tells of his self-discipline, humility, shyness, dedication, and ability to draw stories out of everyone he met.
This video, not as well known, shows Fred Rogers speaking to the US Senate in 1969 to fight for PBS (commercial-free US television company funded largely by donations that hosted shows like Sesame Street in addition to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood). Really, everyone should watch this video. This is what it looks like when sincerity wins over cynicism.
I’m not the only person who love Mister Rogers. He won a lifetime achievement award at the Emmys in 1997, and his acceptance speech is the message I’d like to leave with you today. Please take the time to watch and take his words to heart.
I hope you’ll come back for more Tuesdays with Ana, even after the Advent Calendar finishes, and chat with me about life.
For today, I have a range of questions in an effort to respect the wide range of readers here. Choose one or more.
- Was Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood part of your childhood or your (grand)children’s childhood? What memories do you have?
- Whom will you think of this year during celebrations?
- Who makes (or has made) you feel that it’s okay to be who you are?
- How will you be an influence for the good?
Today, I’d like to you help me spread some holiday love. Choose one person (you can say who it is or keep it secret) who needs a reminder that he or she is a special, loved, and worthy person. Send a note, pick up the phone, make a visit, buy or make a little gift…whatever you like, but let’s pass along a little love.
P.S. Here is my lovely friend Joey posing next to a picture of Mister Rogers. I call him the “Mister Rogers of the spanky world” because he is so kind and patient in detailing his experiences in various spanking venues. Consummate gentleman, our Joey.
UPDATE: Okay, Fred Rogers is not everyone’s favorite. I know. So out of respect for those of you who could take him or leave him, here is a smile for you instead.