By popular request..... (Thanks, by the way, to those of you who commented or emailed that I should not be afraid to put the "real" out there.) It's a bit rambling, but again...it's really for me, and a few of you who have been helpful in this process. But the rest of you are welcome to peruse if you like.
As a fair warning, this is no short, light post. But I want to remember my process in this journey, so allow me the opportunity. Please feel no obligation to hang around for it if you've got better things to do. As an FYI though... the next post will be a counting of the blessings, so happy things are on the horizon!
It's no secret that I've been less than giddy about this Christmas season. I keep saying I don't know why, but that's not really an acceptable end to the story in my book. Things don't stay in the "I don't know" range around here very often. I have to figure things out. Things happen for a reason. I firmly believe that. We often make choices that cause consequences and we like to blame others...anyone, really. OR we just deny the reality of those outcomes. But in the end, there's no simple "chance" to this stuff. And I have learned that the lessons that are out there in the midst of such things are very valuable.
So I've been pondering. Looking around for reasons why I'm reacting or feeling like I am. And once again, when I take the time to look realistically at things that threaten to be disturbing, I gain insight, even if it is sometimes hard to do.
As far as Christmas goes, it's always been my favorite holiday, along with the whole winter season and Thanksgiving too. I have boxes and boxes of decorations. Not just for the tree, but for the whole house. I used to take down everything in the house, on walls, shelves, counters, the whole thing. Everything got replaced with Christmas decor. The whole month of December was spent enjoying lights and music and parties and wishing everyone merry days. We gathered with friends, work events, church concerts and plays, and spent hours driving around "light-looking," as we called it. Our first several Christmases when we were dating and then married were great, filled with silly fun and memories.
There's a romantic element to Christmas that is a big deal to me. I had actually forgotten that until recently. I love the surprise of what M would get for me. Not that it was big or elaborate, but I'm all about the thought behind presents. I've never been one for expensive presents, but I like the idea that he thought of something I'd want or had mentioned, or even just some silly thing I wanted to do, and he took the time to act on it. The little things like sitting in front of the fireplace and watching White Christmas, dressing up for dinner with friends, coming home to hot chocolate and Christmas music playing after I'd been out shopping...those were big and I looked forward to them.
The last few years have been different, though. Life changes, and we grow up. Priorities change and sometimes we let go of things that just seem less important, not knowing that the ripple effect will be felt for some time to come. As I've been looking back to find where things took a turn, I found that it's been longer ago than I originally thought.
It turns out that 2004 was the last Christmas that was what I'll call my "old normal." It was our first year in our first house. I remember a few specific things about that year, but overall, it was a good holiday season. There were many friends, family came by, and Christmas was merry. In 2005, we had a big trip for Christmas, and though we were looking forward to it, and there WERE good times in there, there were things overshadowing that time that made it less than a happy holiday. I didn't realize it at the time that a major shift was happening, but to look back now, there were many signs. There were things that made me very uncomfortable, and I see now why, but then I only felt uneasy and concerned. And I learned that it's very dangerous to ignore problems and pretend that they don't exist. That helps no one.
Braska was born at the end of November 2006, and after spending 3 1/2 weeks in the NICU, and alot of adjustment as a family, she came home 11 days before Christmas. We were happy about that. But the absolute last thing I wanted to mess with was Christmas decorations and such. Friends came over, at M's request, to put up the tree. It was very nice of them to do, but I wasn't in the mood. I wanted to focus on Braska's health, which was fragile at that point, and I wanted to learn what our "new normal" was. In addition, there were once again things going on in the background that I didn't fully know about but deeply affected our little family. We didn't travel that year for Christmas at all since we were keeping Braska very secluded in an attempt to keep her healthy for surgery soon after the New Year. Family came to us for short visits, and that was nice. There were good times, but again there were clouds that hovered.
Last year, in 2007, by Christmas many things had calmed down after a painful time. But there was drama in our families, and I struggle with too easily remembering years gone by, as you can probably tell, so things from the previous two years seemed fresh again when it got to the holiday season. We had nice family time and it was great to experience Braska's reaction to lights and things of Christmas. But there were still a few issues that lingered and made me feel less than "in the spirit" of the season. Improved? Yes, but not quite there yet.
So what's the deal with this year?? 2008 has been busy and sometimes dramatic for us, but we've done well with it. As a family of 3, we've been in sync more than in the previous years, which is great. Overall, we've been blessed, as with the other years, and we've had alot less of the painful times. So that should make for a very happy season, if I use my old equation for how it works. This is the part where I've been stuck. Why is THIS year not merry at Christmas?
Here's where the growing part comes in... it's taken alot to bring me around to several realizations. I won't be laying out those realizations specifically, in order to be fair to others involved, but the lessons are still valid. The bottom line is that it's now time to do something novel...learn tough life lessons by dealing with the issues that those around us are facing. It's not that all these situations are bad, or at least truly detrimental, but I'm finding as I look more closely that we are in a unique position right now. Many people close to us, family and friends, are dealing with things that could have been avoided or can now be resolved if the right choices are made. We are not thinking or claiming that we can make those choices or that we know best in those situations. It is more that we know that by watching these circumstances we can have the opportunity to talk about our own values along these lines, we can clarify to each other as husband and wife how we see these scenarios and how we would hope to handle them if similar situations arose in our lives.
Another opportuntity has been to learn alot about where we came from. We love our families. We value them and their place in our lives. We are appreciative of our childhood teachings. Parents, we are not blaming you. The truth still holds, though, that it's important to realize how our upbringing has affected us and what to do to parent even better with our own children. Hopefully each generation improves, of course. But ignoring things that are hard to deal with will not help anyone, and often becomes part of our downfall. So we have taken the chance to observe and learn from our respective families and their experiences in the last year, especially.
But how does this all translate to Christmas grouchy? I think part of it this year was being a little sad that we're away from "home," in that we were in C-U for almost 8 years. Though we think this move was the right decision, it still left us a little bit lost socially. We like being near our families, but we've not made friends who are in our stage of life, people to just hang out with, so that makes this time of year a bit more lonely. Another element is probably that I struggle with letting go of old things, I call them "ghosts," that haunt me around this time of year from the last few. Every month that passes helps, but recent events like this pregnancy and the holiday time re-opens things a bit. It doesn't help that I've been sick for most of the last couple months...that puts a damper on holiday spirit, too.
I believe, though, that the biggest problem with my attitude this year was that I failed to stop and realize that the chaos *around* us doesn't have to infiltrate our home. We have to observe and learn from these situations, and we do have a responsibility to help when we can, but we cannot take on the stress of the poor choices around us. I struggle with resentment toward those who acknowlege bad decisions but won't take help offered or make changes to improve things. That's an unfortunate part of life. I can't change that. So I have to let go of it. NOT ignore it, I won't do that, but I must let go when I don't have ownership of a situation. But it has always been hard for me. I would rather not be around than watch people who know better make decisions that cause pain and stress on themselves, and more than that, I can't stand to watch them ignore the effect it has on those around them who want to help.
It's hard to watch people that you love do dumb things. This isn't new to the world, and it's not unique to us. This is happening in our families, our friends' lives, and a few acquaintences. I'm just going to have to pray hard, be consistent in doing what's right in my own family, and focus on what I *can* change.
So Christmas grouchy... it's no fun, but I feel like I have a better understanding of where it flowed from. And now that I've taken quite a bit of time to hash things out in my mind and work through the realizations that came through, I consider it a growing experience. And as I've said many times, the hardest times I've lived through have brought the most important lessons. I hope those that are living in these hard times around me now are learning. I really do.
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4 months ago