Theresa Byrne asks how you see the Christmas season and if you changed how you saw it, would it change?
I’ll be the first one to admit I haven’t always been a big fan of the Christmas season. OK that’s an understatement.
Sure, I did the decorations (somewhat) and the candlelight Christmas church services. Yes, I focused on the giving of the gifts, much more than receiving them. And of course, I’d sing along with the Christmassy songs if they pop on wherever I was. Especially that one from about twenty years ago, “Do They Know It’s Christmas.” Loved that one, thank you Band-Aid. Reminds me to be grateful.
I remember my first grown-up Christmases. My best friend and roommate was ALL ABOUT CHRISTMAS, and every year the battles would ensue. The songs would start. The decorations would come out. It looked like the Christmas elves had descended virtually overnight. I’d never seen this much Christmas in my entire life. She was aghast that I’d never seen It’s a Wonderful Life, so we watched it. A lot.
“Time to get a tree!” She’d sing in this high sing-songy voice indicating some sort of merriment was afoot. And her eyes twinkled like a kid on too much candy.
“Oh.” I’d reply cautiously. Knowing it was going to be A Thing. Every year it was a Thing.
We’d go out into the cold and look at trees. Tall trees. Look AT them. And we weren’t allowed to pick the first one, as I found out the first year we went. “That one, it’s perfect!” I exclaimed with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. She looked at me with suspicion, “Are you just saying that to get out of staying out here to find the PERFECT tree?” I was busted. It’s Colorado. It was very cold outside. I wanted to be inside. But there are fewer trees there. We should change that.
Then there were parades, lights, zoo nights, and all kinds of Christmassy-type events. Most of which seemed to occur suspiciously in the very chilly wintery outdoors. And I was the resident grump that tagged along because my friend didn’t want to go alone. We did have several discussions about the fact that she wished I wanted to go, but that never went anywhere. I just didn’t want to go. I wasn’t raised to love Christmas, it always was this weird forced happy thing. And when I heard a few of my guy friends grumbling about their own Christmas Duties, I chuckled and commiserated. At least then they understood that not all women were inherently born with The Christmas Gene.
When my roommate got married, I tried to stifle the laughter that her husband was also “no fan of Christmas.” For her, the Christmas discussions continued. But at least this time she was dragging his butt around to stare at tall pine trees in the cold of a Colorado winter’s night while I was snuggled up safe and warm somewhere else.
Another friend of mine starts her holiday countdown right around November 1, and we’ve teased her about it for years. It seemed so many others had their holiday traditions but I was never brimming over with the holiday cheer.
Until I had the weirdest, hardest year imaginable. Until I was put on low stimulus darkened environment to heal my traumatic brain injury from a car wreck in July. Until I couldn’t listen to ANY music, work, watch any movies, or use screens for several months. I was not going to let that car accident get the best of me, so I decided I must stay positive NO MATTER WHAT. It wouldn’t win, I would. My soul would. I would overcome. Somehow.
I meditated. I walked. I got very still and quiet. I practiced healing. I meditated some more. I cleaned my townhouse. I purged my closets. I started recycling everything. I learned how to make soup in a Vitamix (best Christmas gift EVER). I learned how to be. I rested. I prayed an awful lot, pretty much full time. I pictured my brain healing beautifully.
Then Christmas happened, and all of a sudden I heard music that made my soul feel good. Literally it made me feel this sort of peaceful, easy feeling inside. It was the first music I could listen to! It was like nothing I can describe in words. There was something new in the music, something I’d never heard before. And what I heard behind each of these songs made me cry: peace. Hope. Love. And something about those bells jingling reminded me of angels. Not that I know what angels sound like but that’s what they sounded like in my head.
“Fall On Your Knees.” “Mary Did You Know?” “Silent Night” “O Holy Night”. Wow. Tears. So NOT like me.
Then I put up some Christmas lights, and they were beautiful! Like little candles and they didn’t hurt my eyes! My brain was trying to heal from overstimulation and overhead lighting was too much, but Christmas lights were perfect! My brain could relax in these lights.
I hadn’t watched television or a movie in months, but I happened to turn on Christmas movies. BAM. I was hooked. Happy endings. Hope. Wishes. Miracles coming true. This at the time I was praying for miracles coming true for myself, and hoping against hope for my own healing: you couldn’t have given me a better outlet. I felt hope for the first time since the accident. It wasn’t that “pie in the sky” kind of hope where you think, “I hope I win the lottery.” It was the hope of a better future, hope for my own miracle, hope of something bright to light my way and a belief that it was coming. In fact, I bought all my girlfriends the “HOPE” necklace from Made By Survivors, a beacon of hope for me.
All of a sudden the Christmas season was something completely new to me; it was suddenly full of warmth, laughter, wishes, miracles, and kindness.
I started seeing the good people were doing all over the world. The stellar couple that runs Durga Tree International in New Jersey working together with other charities to help them raise money abolitionist efforts, AND planning a trip to help rescued kids at a shelter in Guatemala.
I started seeing the way strangers were reaching out to help others in need. I believe in God and I don’t think Jesus would have been running his credit cards up to make sure everyone had the latest whatzit for a present, but I’d picture him in homeless shelter or a soup kitchen, helping out wherever an extra hand was needed. Giving people hope. And seeing the light in the homeless, like my friend Sarah does, who is the executive director at a shelter called Aurora Warms The Night.
I saw the energy and love behind every single kind gesture, I bet it was always there but I’d never learned how to look.
Thanks to my newly forming neural pathways, I started seeing Christmas as the time when people live as the givers they always could be. I saw Christmas as the miracle it is! And who doesn’t need a miracle every now and again? I will be forever transformed into a big fan of Christmas.
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