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This time of year can play tricks on us all. We feel desperate to make it all we think it should be. Maxing out credit cards so people won’t think we can’t afford to buy our significant others everything the commercials on television tell us they want. If we’re estranged from people or have lost loved ones around this magical time of year, we hate it. We’re down, we’re sad, we ache all the way to our toes, and nothing can fix that except January.
But is that so?
We need a reset where expectations are concerned. A time of year can’t negatively influence us unless we want it to. With all the bad in the world, this time of year, Thanksgiving and Christmas time, should lift us up to see all the good, but if you’re stuck in the rut of what should be or what could’ve been, nothing is going to elevate you.
Do you want it that way?
I know that some people aren’t happy unless they’re miserable. They want to feel justified in sulking and hating every good thing around them, but I’m not like that. I don’t think you are either. I’ve had to change my way of thinking a couple of times and it’s made all the difference.
I’ve been estranged from my family most of my adult life. We spend years not talking, then someone calls or shows up and things straighten out, for the time being. I’ve spent many holidays either alone or with the family I have now. Husband, three sons, some rescue dogs, and no drama is my usual holiday.
But when my youngest brother died from bone cancer a few years back, something had to change.
I couldn’t stand it. He lived long enough to see his last Thanksgiving and died that Monday, leaving us all to reel in our tragedy, to agonize and die inside.
But I have three sons who I won’t allow to watch me self-destruct, so I had to change my attitude and my choices.
As a grown woman who just lost the only brother she cared about, I was over. I remembered his second birthday party where he grabbed the fire on the candle because it was pretty. I remembered climbing trees when Grandma said we were specifically not to. I remembered being idiots and shooting arrows, over two rows of pine trees, back and forth at each other, thankful now that we didn’t die back then. His laugh, our phone calls, his smile, his ability to rival me in the use-of-profanity-department. All of it.
I flew out to Vermont, where he’d come to live, to see him when he called to tell me he had cancer and we spent five days laughing and talking. His wife was thrilled when we’d call it a night at four in the morning so she could get a bit of sleep before work. I don’t care if it was rude to keep the house awake. He was going to die on me at some point and I was going to laugh with him every second I could until then.
When I got the call on that awful Monday morning telling me that he was gone, something broke in me, something died with him and that was the way it was.
It’s still that way. I’m different.
But a bit of advice from an unlikely person changed a lot of my thoughts.
Steve doesn’t need you to suffer for him. He’s gone, he doesn’t need you to cry or feel bad for him.
It might sound disloyal, but it was true. I was going to kill myself forever over his loss. I was going to live my life in anguish because his life was taken and I could only sit by and watch, helplessly.
I realized that this was as stupid as anything I’d ever done.
He wouldn’t have wanted that. No matter how cliché that sounds, he wouldn’t have. He would’ve been angry with me if I had thrown away my life because my heart was broken.
There are times I believe he’s near and I feel his presence strongly. I’m usually in the kitchen attempting to burn dinner and assault his sensibilities. He was a chef. Or I start to feel particularly low and I get this voice in my head telling me to stop being such a crybaby.
I feel better because I allow it.
Sitting at home for Thanksgiving or Christmas is a surefire way to sink into a deeper depression. You need beauty, you need light.
You need something new.
A lot of people go out of town, whether for family dinners or for vacation and while some of those plans can be really expensive, they don’t have to be. I’m sure that within two hours of everyone reading this there is a destination of sorts that can bring you up and change your disappointment to joy.
My family and I go to Branson, Missouri. Everything is open every day. We go to museums, Broadway shows, drive little race cars around a curvy track, play cards and bicker about who didn’t throw trump and who cheated, and every single restaurant there has a Thanksgiving menu. It’s like magic. It’s a new tradition. It’s something we look forward to.
If you’re unhappy because your holiday is lacking the wonder you think it needs, it’s up to you to do something about it. Don’t wallow. Fix it. You’re able to do such a thing.
Traditions don’t need to be traditional.
I remember being a kid and going to my grandparent’s houses for the holidays and it was amazing, something I wish with all my heart that I could pass on to my children, but I can’t. It doesn’t exist anymore. I have to do the best for them that I can and seeing Sad Mom during the holidays isn’t going to cut it.
We all can rise to the occasion and be the bringers of our own traditions, our own happiness. It’s not always easy to make ourselves take that first step out into the unknown, but it’s usually always worth it. Something, anything, is better than the sadness that we bring, trying to hang on to something that isn’t there.
We need to also look at people who are lonely. As I write this, a dear friend of mine died unexpectedly on the Friday before Thanksgiving, three days ago, leaving behind her husband, three-month-old grandchild, and two lovely daughters. The youngest daughter is close friends with my twin sons. All are just fourteen. My friend, Shara, loved my family as I love hers. Not this year, but in the years to come, I have to remember them and make sure that they have the holidays my friend would want for them. We’re responsible for others as much as we are for ourselves.
There’s no place to feel sorry for ourselves in this life. It wastes time, it wastes energy, and it wastes the precious years we have left. Mourn, struggle, suffer through but then love yourself and those around you enough to get back in there and participate. Make it all you can, for as many as you can.