Renee Rose, known to many of us as both a blogger and author, asked to host a surprise day this year. I agreed, and immediately I proposed a topic to her:
Would you like to honor your mama?
Renee brought her mama home last year to care for her, and they had one last Christmas together. Since then, life has brought many changes. The problem with funerals and memorial services is that they happen too soon, before the shock wears off and long before the real grieving begins. It’s not until we face our first major holiday, until we approach a significant milestone, that we begin to process the depth of our loss.
I am proud, if I have a right to feel proud, that so many of you have chosen Governing Ana as your home for this month. Whoever you are and wherever you are in life, you are welcome and blessed here. Throughout the month we have seen connections made that have even turned into friendships. I hope that some of these connections will last, and that the warmth you have received and given will carry over into the next months and years.
No matter how tender your heart may be during these season, I hope you will find a way to nurture some Christmas spirit. No matter how small, no matter how private…I hope you will find it in your own way.
I grew up in Denver, where Christmas came with snowy mountaintops and white-tailed deer, and John Denver singing “The closest thing to heaven, on this planet anywhere, is a quiet Christmas morning, in the Colorado snow.” I loved Christmastime for the hymns and the luminarias. I truly connected with the spirit of Christmas in a real and meaningful way.
After I left home for college, though, I left organized religion behind, opting instead for my own brand of personal spirituality. My husband and I moved to the desert nineteen years ago, and I haven’t had a white Christmas since. I did not miss it. I’ve always been a bit counter-culture, so we adopted a casual “un-Christmas” sort of holiday–never putting up a tree, taking hikes in the beautiful desert on Christmas day. I blame it on the climate. After nineteen years, I am still always shocked when I realize there are only two weeks till Christmas and I haven’t done any shopping yet. It just never feels like Christmas here–I can’t seem to gear up.
On top of that, I get stressed by the pressure of gift-giving– the worry of whether I picked an appropriate present, whether it’s enough or too much. Who exactly I’m supposed to buy for and who I’m not. It’s not that I don’t like giving gifts– I just don’t like giving them at Christmastime. So I have turned into a scrooge of sorts. One of my dear friends is Jewish, and her memories of Christmas are all negative because she always felt left out of the hubbub while the other kids celebrated. Her husband celebrates Christmas, though, so she and I often grumble through the season together. For the past 20 years I have steadfastly maintained that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, because I like to cook, I love to eat and I don’t have to worry about presents.
This year I am discovering that was a lie.
Christmas does mean something to me.
As I approach my first Christmas without my mom, I notice how fragile I feel about it. I did not feel fragile about Thanksgiving. No–Christmas was the true holiday in our family. In my early twenties, I spent two Christmases living in Central America, and both times, my mom and brother flew out to be with me, perhaps not able to imagine me spending it alone in a foreign country. Or perhaps just wanting their own “un-Christmas.” Either way, it didn’t matter whether there was snow on the ground, or whether we had a Christmas tree. It was about being together. It was about family, and a holiday with deep spiritual meaning to us all.
I’m remembering other “un-Christmases” we had together as our small family of three– a hotel room on a ski vacation in Steamboat Springs, a hotel room in Santa Fe, the beach in Guatemala, my apartment in Costa Rica. I’m remembering it never mattered where we were, it was about being together.
Last year Ana wrote a post called “Blue Christmas” [Ana’s note: Also a post this year] recognizing that it isn’t always jolly for everyone–that our losses can make holidays painful. This Christmas, I too, honor anyone who feels loss, loneliness or pain. Not to wallow in it, but to honor that rituals and traditions have meaning in our lives, and they are a time to feel. There’s also no reason you can’t create your own perfect version of an “un-Christmas” to free yourself of that pain. Love and light and a huge healthy dose of Christmas magic to everyone.
Thank you, Ana, for inviting (challenging?) me to address my own emotions around the holiday this year. I love you!!