Holidays are a funny thing. Not so much in the ‘ha ha’ sort of way, of course, but more in the ‘hmm, thats bloody peculiar’ sort of way. This thought has continued to return to me over the past seven years or so, only becoming more frequent as the years go by. To be fairly honest with you, I have had the opportunity of experiencing Christmas in some, well, rather unusual/unique ways, and thus have had the chance to observe it from a different point of view on number of levels.
For example, six out of the past seven Christmas Eve’s (and some Christmas days) I have spent, for the most part, alone. Before you begin shaking your head and feeling sorry and pitiful for me- DON’T. For goodness sakes don’t. I assure you, it has been time well spent and each has been my own choice. I’ve considered it a sort of study on my part, a chance to observe what most are too busy to see during one of the most beautiful times we are given on this earth.
You see (and I’m going to get a bit more personal for a moment than I normally do here, so skip this paragraph if you’d rather not sit so close) I do not believe in pretending to live a life one does not have. The truth is that, for the time being, my own family is yet to be had….perhaps never to be had. God has me on this journey quite alone, and I’m ok with that. I’m ok to have the unorthodox Christmas, for I have what some may consider an unorthodox life. No children, no spouse, can’t really cook, I like to shoot guns more than I like to try on shoes, and if given the choice between a nursery and a dog shelter….well, lets just say I’m not your typical wanna-be-mom.
But this is not about me and my flawed self, fortunately. At some point I began to wonder why during the holidays everyone sort of begins to feel that they must set their unfinished, unique messy selves aside and suddenly stuff themselves in a box, tie a purdy ribbon atop and, ta da! Get in the picture, make the parties, do the gift thing, smile big, sing the songs, go to all the gatherings, and for goodness sake, it’s all about the closeness of family.
Even though inside they’re not there at all. Really, they are alone.
That is why I have spent the recent years quietly, sometimes entirely solitarily during Christmas. That is the truth of things in my life for the time being, and I’m not about to begin masquerading about like some ninny on holiday who is having the time of her life singing ‘I’ll be Home for Christmas’. First of all, that would be a lie (and a sad one at that) and secondly, that is not what Christmas is about. Christmas, to me, is about love in it’s rawest, most human form. It is about humanity and grace and truth, hope unrealized, yet on its way. The first Christmas didn’t look as the world thought it should either, so I don’t see why I should start celebrating it that way now.
Lest I be misunderstood, I do not at all mean to say that we oughtn’t celebrate what we do have and be grateful for our blessings in this life, during this or any other time of the year. Quite the contrary. I’m simply pointing out that we can do that whilst being honest with ourselves, accepting what it does and does not bring to the forefront of our hearts.
As I write this, I am keenly aware of that thought that continues to mercilessly return to me; that the holidays are a strange thing. I say the holidays, not Christmas, because it is what we have made of Christmas and not Christmas itself that I find so peculiar. This time of year seems to so clearly highlight what we value and love and treasure most…….and spaces in which our treasure and love once was. The joy becomes greater, as does the pain. Everything becomes so much more vivid somehow.
I think thats ok. Awful, but ok. As I’ve spent Christmasas alone in coffee shops, boat harbors, hospitals, watching waves crash onto empty shores, my heart has broken many times over. But somehow, there is something healing in turning to face it, something that makes you understand the world and God’s heart for it a little better. You begin to recognize others around you who may not be so merry as they first appear. Others who may be consumed by the death of someone they loved, but feel somehow they must now forget. Because its Christmas.
I urge you, don’t forget. Because it’s Christmas, remember. Let your heart beat fully and live as it is. Broken and all. I think that is how he wants us to celebrate Him anyhow.