Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas surprise

Me in Aix-en-Provence
(but not at Christmas)
Surprised to find myself listening to Christmas music, all day. Enjoying it. I don't even want to watch a movie, because I don't want to break the zone that I am in. This would not be odd for other people, but it is indeed unusual for me.

More than that, I've been actually enjoying Christmas music for weeks, even having it turned on in the office when I am the only one there (!). But the music today on CBC is so lovely, what a lovely mix.

My relationship with Christmas has been through such ups and downs, such highs, and such miserable downs, to barely tolerating, to doing ok with it. But comfortable and relaxed, and listening to seasonal music is a new one.

It occurs to me that I am not grieving, as much, this year, as I was last year. What a difficult time the last couple years were, and having mom's passing coincide with the holidays made my grief just so pronounced.

In fact, I don't feel like I am grieving this year. Sure, when I think of mom, I tear up and I miss her terribly, but I mostly just feel the blessings of her love, and the gifts we both experienced spending the last stage of her life together. It was a good full circle. I miss her, but I don't mourn. Love you mom!

As a kid, family Christmases were good, and I have many fond memories. Lately, I've even let myself think about them.

In my 20's I was over-the-top into Christmas, I would make myself sick if I was like that today! People who knew me then would never believe that I stopped celebrating Christmas. Oh, and my poor family... I was a royal pain-in-the-ass, "making" everyone send me their Christmas lists weeks in advance, which I would reproduce and mail out (bleh), sorry about that.

Anyways, Christmas was something I loved, and was pretty central to my life, so when I started to deal with difficult family issues, causing me to step away from the family for a period, the "loss" of Christmas was like an open wound. I was a tortured soul, lost without an anchor, no idea of how to be in the world through the season. I bounced from trying to get in the spirit, to deep days of despair, totally lost. I just wanted to get to January. I've never been one to feel lonely, but I felt so alone, and lonely, that first year.

I remember walking the Stanley Park seawall on Christmas Day, forlorn and confused. Earlier that day, as my therapist was on vacation, I'd gone to see a new therapist, just the one time, for support, to help me get through the day. That turned out to be a be a bad decision. This new therapist knew nothing about me, and in the process of bringing her up to speed, she latched onto something and took me down a rabbit hole. I was already dealing with a lot, but that day she layered on a worry that I was an alcoholic (I wasn't). So, I walked that seawall with a great big cloud over me. Instead of helping me with a difficult day, I'd gotten myself more confused. It took a call to my regular therapist a few days later to get back on track.

From there, it didn't get better, but at least it couldn't get worse. Well, maybe it did. When I eventually dealt with my family issues head on, bringing skeletons out of the closet, speaking out about all that happened to me (for another day, or just ask me), the world shifted for me, and for my whole family. I don't regret how I had to deal with it - I wouldn't be myself today if I hadn't - I had to do what I had to do - I still regret the pain it caused others. So Christmases were hell for a few years, and not just for me. The act of saving myself left waves of sadness and loss all around me.

So, yeah, Christmas was pretty miserable for me. It became a season to just get through. I'd waffle between finding new ways to celebrate, to avoiding it all together.

Giving up gifting and giving to charities instead wasn't too hard. Figuring out what to do with myself was a different story. I often thought I would volunteer, but always checked into it too late, so I just had to get through it.

The pain was so much that from about October until January1st, I was miserable. And I got more and more miserable the closer it got.

So, yeah, no Christmas music, no gifts, no tree, no nothing... until I figured out a new way to be.

Eventually, I made peace with it, I guess, and I created my own private rituals: walks, reading, movies, treats, a day just for me. It was never really pleasurable, but I tolerated it.

Me serving Christmas dinner in Athens
The first time I sort-of celebrated Christmas again was when I was in Greece with my sister. We didn't make a big deal of it, but I got into the spirit, really for her sake, but was blessed to find myself warming, and enjoying the seasonal interlude.

Bringing Christmas cheer to mom in Glengarry
Fast forward to the very next year, and I was living with mom. She wasn't big on Christmas any more, but enjoyed having family around, fun treats, I made her a stocking, watched Christmas specials, and enjoyed turkey dinner from Chef on the Run. It was ok. I essentially put my Grinch in the closet, to make things special for her. A few family would come, which was interesting, being around Christmas and gifts again, but I seemed to get through it ok. Shed my demons and got into it with mom, and started to have fun. I remembering telling my sister that I enjoyed the Christmas lights that year, and she was pretty shocked. This leopard changed her spots.

Mom and I had a nice little rhythm with Christmas, both those years I lived with her, then later when she was living in residential care, where I'd bring things in, and join her for Christmas dinner. I never minded, because it gave her joy, and I was relieved to find I still had a heart in there. Ha. That's an  understatement. The last 7 years have made me into a softie (in a good way) ~ singing with mom, and playing with a cat who adopted me ~ I opened my heart. It was time.

So, last year, was ok, sad because it was coming up to the anniversary of mom's passing (she had died the previous New Year's Eve), but relaxing with my sister. Only a bit of a Grinch. Nothing outward to celebrate, but was ok with the goings on with my sister and niece, presents and pajamas, and all that. I got through it ok, but can't say it was a good year. Such a difficult time, did ok, but that's all I can say.

Now, this year, low and behold, I am enjoying Christmas music. Who knew?

My sister is in Vancouver, cat sitting for her daughter, so we both have apartments to ourselves for the season (bliss). Its been months since I had any time alone, so that's helping me get grounded again. And, surprise, here I find myself with my first Christmas alone in 8 years.

Didn't think about enjoying it or not, it just "was". Made sure I had lots of food, and a few treats, but that's about it.

Imagine my surprise to be actually enjoying my day. It's been decades, really, since I didn't have a cloud of darkness around me.

So, I like Christmas music.

I like Christmas lights.

I have been saying Merry Christmas.

I am not waiting for it to be over.

I am enjoying the interlude.

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