The holidays were never hard until they were hard.
Christmas was the season where everything felt right. It was magic when I was little, consistent and comforting in my teens, it mean home when I lived far away, and maybe what it meant most was same. Same traditions, same foods, same movies, same family. No matter what was happening in life, Christmas could be ordered up similar and same. It was never perfect, always arguments about politics that my dad would catch on the camcorder and things never went according to plan. But, all this was to be expected right along with the Polish sausage and sauerkraut my grandma made and I never would taste.
Of course, there is change. My grandparents are gone. We’ve grown. Have kids of our own. Monkey bread has morphed into chocolate croissants and camcorders to iPhones.
Change is inevitable. I struggle with it, but I accept it. Same is different (think about that one). There are things in your power you can choose to keep the same. My grandma is gone but the Polish sausage and sauerkraut continues Christmas upon Christmas.
For me, same left five years ago when my parents spilt. Christmas and every other day seemed to split right down the middle, too. And, while everything felt shockingly different I lived on in the shell of same, living in my childhood home. Some days it is comforting and some days it makes me crazy.
I’ve dreaded the holidays for the last five years. Every day between has been hard, if I’m honest, but, I never thought I would dread the day we all call merry and bright. The first two years I tried my darndest to keep things as close to same as possible. And, every year after, Christmas was the day where change was crushing and would mock me the most. Being a nostalgic and sentimental person can be overwhelming.
Christmas is a week away, and this year I’m determined not to dread it. Somehow, this year feels transitional for me. Although same is gone, gratefulness is gluing it all together like chunky white pre-school paste.
I don’t have the answer on how to deal with the holidays when they are hard, because I don’t think there is a set answer, a “do this” “don’t do that,” 5 step something or other. I just know it to be a going through. You just go through it. The day. The season. The year(s). And, you find you survive. For me it’s been a grieving process. The death of a family. I’ve been grieving what was, what I thought would always be, and what could have been. Whatever or whomever you have lost, you have to give yourself permission to grieve.
I’m coming to a place of being grateful. I’m grateful for what was. I had so many magical holidays and I live in a home that tells the story of two parents who did everything they could to give me a childhood with memories bigger than my 80’s sized barbie dream house. These are things I give thanks for. It’s a starting place rather than an ending place.
Maybe I’ve taken longer then most to find a new normal. I’m steeped in tradition and home is my heart. And, I can’t say we’ve reached a new normal yet…that may be another five years away. But, for now, I don’t want to loose any more Christmas. I want to be expectant and experience some magic, again.
Things won’t be the same this year. Not for me. And, likely, not for you. In one way or another same will be different.
This year, when I sit under the tree, in it’s same spot since 1989 (pictured above), I’m going to try my best to make peace with different. And, when a memory escapes through my eyes, I’ll wipe the tear of “not all being all together” away and whisper thank you. Thank you, that although we are not all together at the same time, we can give thanks for what was and have hope for what could be. It won’t be the same, but it will be something. And, after that I’ll eat Polish sausage and sauerkraut.
If your holidays are not quite as you always pictured them to be, you are not alone and you are in my thoughts and prayers. My prayer is that gratefulness will be your glue and hope will hold your heart through.