Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Joy and The Sorrow of Christmas

Today is the Eve of Christmas Eve. We're two days away from the "big day," and around here my spouse, kids and I are feeling cozy and relaxed. We had a nice visit with family last weekend, and we've another family gathering to look forward to later in the week. Household stress is wonderfully low: presents were purchased and wrapped with plenty of time to spare; an assortment of goodies have been baked and enjoyed; and there's been enough snow for cross-country skiing. All in all, I feel grateful, thankful, and happy.

But I've had enough years on this earth to know that Christmas can be, and often is, a terribly hard time for individuals and families to get through. The ubiquitous artifacts of the season surround us and set impossibly high happiness expectations even as they unearth sadness, disappointment, and loss. "Life is made of ever so many partings welded together," wrote Charles Dickens, and to my mind these include not just partings from loved ones but also partings from our former selves, our expectations, and our dreams. At Christmastime, seasonal lights can shine harshly on landscape that doesn't look a thing like we used to imagine.

If this year your Christmas does not seem merry; if you are feeling sad; if you feel very much alone -- please give the ultimate gift of the season by being kind to yourself.

Nurture yourself, the deepest part of you, with gentle words, gentle thoughts, and gentle actions. Tend to yourself, and to your vulnerability. Know that you are not alone, neither in your feelings, nor in your world. Every single person on this planet matters, including you. Whether we know one another or not, whether we've ever even met, you and I, we are all connected.

As best you can, reach out. Anchor your life in some small way to those around you. And don't be afraid to be honest about how you're feeling. Support can come where and when you least expect it.

If you're feeling desperate, at any point, remember that there are people you can talk to even if you don't know where to turn. Most communities have a crisis hotline and can help you with your situation. There is also a national number if you, or someone you know, is in suicidal crisis or emotional distress: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You do not have to be alone with your feelings. Help is available. And with it, hope.

I'll be back to this blog on the other side of Christmas.
Until then, all who pass here, take care of yourselves.

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