December 13, 2011

Maybe It's Me: Those Christmas (Un)Feelings, or, Powerful Stuff

It’s Christmastime again.

I know this, because a calendar tells me so.  Because stores are advertising for it. Because people have begun to wish me a “Merry this” and a “Happy that,” and they ask me what I’m doing for the holidays this year.

So, I know its Christmas.

I know it, but that doesn’t mean I feel it.

Christmas is a spectacular time to be alive, especially when you’re a Christian.  What’s there not to love about . . . well, love?  Which is entirely what the season is about: we were so loved that a baby was born for us purposefully to grow up to die for our sins.  All because He loved us.

That’s powerful stuff right there. 

But I’m worried for myself.  I’m worried for the one’s I love who seem to be going through the motions of the season effortlessly.  I wonder if they’re actually feeling the holiday in their heart and soul, or is it just a cognizant thing to them as well?  Maybe they’re just better actors than I am, or maybe they really do feel something I’m not.

And if it’s just me “unfeeling,” than I’m especially worried.

I can’t figure out why I’m having this strange disconnect mentally from emotionally, though. I’m not “celebrating” any less than I have during past holidays.  And sensorically-speaking, I’ve done everything and more . . .

My house is decorated with all my favorite things, including the crèche I received when I was first born, a stunning poinsettia, and a very large tree with quite a lot of character (it might be my most ill-behaved fir, yet).  I see Christmas, but I don’t feel it.

There is an undercurrent of pine in the air.  And whenever I visit my parent’s house, I’m enveloped in the scents I’ve especially come to love at this time of year, like baked goods and cinnamon.  I smell Christmas, but I don’t feel it.

I’ve listened to all my favorite songs (I even got to hear actual carol singers on the street!).  Alright so I’ve avoided one or two because they make me especially emotional, but still . . . I even have jingle bells on my front door!  I hear Christmas, but I don’t feel it.

Gingerbread men? Check. Muddy buddies? Check. Soynog? Check.  Dinner menu ready? Check.  I taste Christmas, but I don’t feel it.

I’ve tried to think back on Christmases past. Have I ever truly “felt” the season as it was happening?  The exaltation, the wonder, the fellowship, the worship, the thanksgiving, the holiness, the love: did I embrace those glorious emotions letting them permeate through me, through my day?  Did I recognize and celebrate, not only the breathtaking moments of the season, but the ordinary moments as well – those which are small miracles in and of themselves, and while they go underappreciated all yearlong, seem to be magnified and undeniably beautiful during this season of tenderness and appreciation?

Or did I simply get swept up in the unsurprising yearly flood of obligatory yuletide merriment, expectation, anticipation, the unavoidable angst that accompanies both, and traditions which are becoming so traditional, so repetitive in nature that they’ve actually begun to lose their meaning?

I don’t remember.

I do recall that last Christmas was one of the best I’ve ever had.  There was something in the air - some sort of undulating, unconditional joy between every exchange, every interaction that was had.  It was truly a hopeful season.  And maybe I just felt this way, because I was in such a good place in my life – professionally, financially, romantically, etc. - that all I could see was the beauty in everything.  Absolutely everything.  But, even more gloriously in the background of everything my significant other was becoming a faithful man, submitting his heart to the Reason we celebrate Christmas. And that’s possibly the best gift he could have given me . . . given himself . . . given to us.

I’m one of those people who habitually get the post-Christmas blues.  And I know why: despite my attitude towards the humanity (which is generally a pretty negative one, because let’s face it – we can be quite wicked creatures), I really do want love for us all.  I think loving and being loved is healing, comforting, and empowering.  And during Christmas it just always seems that people are a gentler, more thoughtful, more loving version of themselves. And I hate that everyone reverts back to their darker shades as soon as the annual celebration of the birth of Christ as come and gone.  Why can’t these feelings be sustained all year long?  Is it really that much more work to be compassionate and kind then to be self-serving and bitter?

You know, maybe it doesn’t feel like Christmas because there isn’t any snow.  Not that I want any, but during this time of year, my geographical world is usually covered in it’s seasonal blanket of white, glittering snow (which is pretty now, but becomes depressing and suffocating quite quickly after the New Year.)

Or maybe it doesn’t feel like Christmas, because I’m beginning to lose sense of time. It seems the older I get, the quicker the days, the weeks, the months . . . the years . . . tick by. I can remember every day of this past year like it was yesterday and yet somehow: it wasn’t.  Those memories take place months ago.  It’s like time speeds on, and I’m struggling to play catch-up. Oh, it’s the holidays already?  Again? Wasn’t it just Christmas . . . a year ago? So, here we are at the end of another calendar and I’m not sure where the time went.

My frustration and confusion is mounting. I have no control over the weather.  I have no control over the passing of time.  And I’ve done absolutely everything “right” as far as sensory overload, celebration, involvement, and tradition goes.

What more can I do to make it feel like Christmas for myself?!?

You know, maybe it’s me, but perhaps “more” isn’t what I, or you, or any of us should be doing during this season: perhaps we could be doing “less.”

Less obligatory yuletide merriment, less expectation, less anticipation, less of the unavoidable angst that accompanies both, less forcing traditions on ourselves if they aren’t meaningful, less “stuff” if it has no sentimental value, less white noise with songs or specials that don’t move us, less gifts for people we feel we have to buy and don’t genuinely want to buy, less of us getting in the way of ourselves from celebrating one of the most important days of the year.

I know that inevitably something will trigger a surge of emotions that will propel me into the here and now, warming my soul with Christmas “cheer.” It happens, it always happens, and I need to stop worrying in abundance that it hasn’t happened yet.

Perhaps what I need to do is to sit quietly with my tree, and tea, and thoughts.  And without agenda or demand, allow myself to soak in an ordinary moment – appreciating the small miracle that is being able to afford a tree, or taste delicate flavors, or have the time (a luxury few of us can afford in these hurried, dark times) to simply be still in His presence in an otherwise unremarkable moment.

My hope for you this season is that you’ll remember to let go. And breathe.  Breathe in the exaltation, the wonder, the fellowship, the worship, the thanksgiving, the holiness . . . and breathe out – even if for just one December day – the doubts, anxiety, and fear that keep you from being your most gentle and thoughtful both to others and to yourself.

My hope for you is love.

Because that’s powerful stuff right there.