So, this is Christmas. – John Lennon
Its the most wonderful weekend of the year.
No, seriously. Forget your fowl and your favors and your fragrant festive evergreens. You can have your soirees, your shopping malls and your savory sweets.
Even those joyous reunions of relatives from near and far on Christmas Day – which has traditionally been my favorite thing – can’t beat this weekend for me.
Call me a sentimentalist.
Call me a stage momma.
Call me a minivan-driving (yes, it’s true!), behind-the-scenes cheering, every-cliche-you’ve-never-hoped-to-be soccer/hockey/school-scheduled thirty-something crazy lady whose entire life revolves around her children.
I won’t care.
I must be all of those things, or the Kids Choir Production wouldn’t be my favorite part of Christmas.
Which is why I was more than just a little disturbed when the cold I thought was finally finished came storming back in the wee hours of Friday morning.
(Christmas colds – now truly they are the gift that keeps on giving.)
Saturday evening I bundled up my miniature minstrels and tiny-shepherds-with-Katniss-braids in their winter coats and gloves and boots and said goodbye as they went off to perform and I went back to bed.
It was tragic.
It was lonely.
It was the best thing I could have done.
See, what the perpetually healthy don’t know – and what most of us fail to acknowledge – is that being sick is our body’s way
of slowing down
and taking notice
of the things that need healing.
Just as cars sputter when in need of some work, our physical tents demand attention when
or sometimes just
So in those hours of
surrendering to the fog that is a sinus headache,
my mind stilled enough to let me
turn things over
and reflect on my love-hate relationship with this season.
I asked a dear friend about this today.
Why do I find this time of year so hard?
Her answer was filled with such clarity and composure that, even as her words came out, I felt my heart letting go of some things I didn’t even know were there.
It’s not just the enforced busyness.
It’s not the lure of materialism.
It’s not even my strong dislike of the pressure to keep up with the Janzens
in the latest and greatest
or cutest new family tradition.
It’s deeper than that.
I love my family.
I have one of the good ones, you know?
They are beautiful, funny, caring people.
They know how to have fun and be kind. They are thoughtful and deep, careful and reflective, respectful and honest.
But when I’m with them, I can become something I no longer am.
Let me explain.
Christmas is that time of year where, in some capacity at least, each of us is encouraged to go back to something.
Back to the people who raised us.
Back to the people we grew up with.
Back to the people we used to know.
Back to the things we used to do.
And in going back, we think we will find something we’ve lost in this big, scary world of change and the growing knowledge of our own adult ineptitude.
We think we’ll find grace.
We think we’ll find hope.
We think we’ll find some section of the happy parts of our childhood and reclaim that person we used to be that saw the whole world ahead of them and limitless possibilities of all that could happen to them
and we could be
And sometimes that happens.
When it does, well… That’s what all the movies are about.
But the moments it doesn’t happen – and maybe its at your office Christmas party, or your cookie-baking day with your best friend or your shopping trip with your long-lost Aunt Nellie – those moments leave me confused.
A little betrayed.
And I ask myself if I remembered it wrong.
But some of the things I lost in adulthood … I lost them on purpose.
There’s so much of me that I never want to see again.
I never want to be that again.
I never want to do that thing again.
I never want to be that person who was capable of such meanness or impulsiveness or harshness or unforgiveness. I don’t want that. Ever. Again.
And the best part?
Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. Some of you have experienced a radical life change in a cataclysmic moment, or even just a series of painful-but-profitable tweaks and snips and prunes that have softened some of your rougher edges and carved beautiful patterns in some of your uglier bits.
Some of you have also had the incomparable beauty of a vibrant and vulnerable community
that may or may not share your DNA
to whom you’ve chosen to attach yourself.
And, if they’re anything like mine,
they’ve become a witness
to everything that is new in you.
And while our families of origin
know how we started
and love us anyways,
it is our spiritual families who see everything we are becoming and call it beautiful.
Three Christmases ago, some of these gathered around our kitchen island and ate pizza as our kids watched a movie in the living room. It was one of those nights that we were all so busy and a little bit broken that for a few minutes there was only eating, no talking. And then they caught sight of my recent Homesense find -
A slightly-broken, easily mended sign that now hangs in our front hallway:
A friend is one
that knows you as you are
understands where you’ve been
accepts what you have
and still allows you to grow.
A smile spread across their face.
That. Is. Awesome.
It’s fitting they were the ones to notice, since I picked it because of
who they were and
all they were already teaching me to be.
And while I had not a fraction of a clue what those words actually meant when I bought it,
I was soon about to learn.
And it was hard.
And one of the most uncomfortable experiences I’ve ever had.
I finally get it.
What if we could do that for each other?
What if we went into Christmas
ignoring the shoulds and the coulds and the maybes and the wish I coulds and the malls and the media and every single thing that called us away from
giving other people space enough to grow?
what happens in families
- even the very best, kindest, and most connected ones -
is that we organize ourselves
around who we used to be
and what we used to do together
and – hey, remember when you did this crazy thing? -
that we slip into becoming
storehouses for all of each other’s worst moments
cheerleaders for the best moments
still be yet to come.
What I’m suggesting isn’t easy.
It’s living in upside-down land.
It violates all of our natural tendencies
to reach out across the divide
- especially if we have become very different people with very different lives -
and desperately try to connect
to that piece of the other that we
had a part of,
or hope we still have in common.
The problem with this, of course,
is that we don’t allow
for the strong possibility
that the other person may have become something
we don’t recognize,
or fully understand.
What if we did something different?
What if we expected them to be different?
Parents, what if we looked at our kids, for example, and said, maybe instead of
you’ve always been that way or
so-and-so’s just like (Dad) or
don’t be silly, that’s not for you,
wow! you’re trying something different!
It’s hard to change. But also kind of fun.
tell me more about that, I’ve always wanted to try it.
What if we were curious people
who allowed others to be different
simply by being different ourselves?
It’s not world peace.
It’s not solving world hunger, or poverty, or the problem of evil.
It won’t always work.
And we won’t always feel up to it.
But what if this was our Christmas gift to each other? What if, instead of running ragged to all the pleas to give more or be more or do more or think more or read more or make everything perfect, or at least everything perfectly according to Facebook
and instead just let each other grow a bit?
Our family is headed into a season of uncertainty on several levels. Our girls are growing and time is speeding by. Our jobs are changing and growing and forcing us to grow in the best of ways. And in the middle of it all, we’ve been told
the cancer gene levels in my blood
It was only one test.
It’s possible it was nothing.
It’s might be just a blip,
an inaccurate reading,
or a number not all that different from my previous ones.
But it might not.
We won’t know until the next round of test results -
that take three months to get back.
For good news or bad, we’re not sure.
The one thing I am sure of is that
there’s nothing I can do
to affect the outcome
of a test I’ve already taken
take my little white pills,
and soak up the myriad of moments
that, for now,
I’ve been given.
And while I could be angry
and some may say I’d be justified in it
See, cancer has been a good friend to me.
It’s poked and prodded all of the worst parts from me and somehow made me
and more lightly accessorized with the baggage
of all my immature
of what my adult life would look like.
Friends, please hear me on this:
Cancer has been good to me.
(And no, I’m not making that up.)
The people who have been there in it
the people who’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly
know exactly why I’m saying this.
they can see
that I’m not who I was
and I never will be again.
As we enter this Christmas season,
I urge you
to resist that urge
to go back.
Choose to go on.
Decide to go forward.
And offer those around you the space to join you.
If we do it right,
that new land,
full of possibilities and
will be so appealing
that they won’t be able to help
but trip along
Hand in hand.
Giggling at the possibility of a second chance.
A new life.
isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
A very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. Let’s hope its a good one, without any fear. – John Lennon