This year, Christmas has given me a lot to consider. Reminders to give myself ample time to take care of all that needs doing, so I don’t get overwhelmed. To give myself at least 30 minutes each day to myself, to do something that relaxes me, like yoga or taking a walk or drawing, in order to help me stay sane. That daily maintenance has been a Godsend. Not only has it kept me sane, it’s left space for me to actually enjoy the holidays… and maybe *gasp* be excited about the season for the first time in years.
It’s also given me more space to feel the loss. Not only of the people I love who have died, but also of the traditions I’ve lost with them. This has been one of the things my counselor and I have been talking about quite a bit lately. Loss of tradition. I honestly don’t think I’d even considered how significant that was until now. How much it has affected my Christmas experience my entire life.
When my mom died, all our family traditions ended. There was no more baking cookies and pies. No more piles of presents under the tree on Christmas morning. My dad simply didn’t seem capable of all of that, lost in his own grief and emotions. Instead it was taking me out to the store to buy me what I wanted. No more Santa, no more filled stockings, no more magic or surprise. He tried, and for that I am grateful, but still to this day I think I seek out magic because I lost it so young.
It has been over 25 years now since she died and it’s time. As my counselor has suggested, it’s time to finally make my own family traditions. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before to do this.
So that’s what I’ve been trying to be mindful of now. Amidst the holiday chaos and stress, trying to stay mindful of making beautiful, memorable traditions with my new family. While bringing in what little bits of tradition I can recall from my younger years and from years spent with Drew’s family. I never realized how much was missing from my own sense of Christmas without any traditions to carry forward.
So that’s what I’ve been focused on this year… how do I bring in pieces of my old life and create new traditions where I am now? It’s the usual things like baking cookies and decorating trees and hanging stockings - but with a twist.
We hang a stocking for Megan and Drew - above the rest of our stockings to honor their memory. This is something that Drew’s family does that I’ve chosen to continue.
We sing Christmas songs - and when Feliz Navidad comes on we have a special way we sing it - extra loud and extra off-key. And this one has no origin other than our own brand of silliness, and is one of Shelby’s favorite things all holiday season.
We make ninjabread cookies instead of gingerbread cookies… decorating them with broken legs and bruises and cuts from their holiday scuffles. We use the cookie cutters Drew’s best friend gave us one year - that he and I never got around to using. Shelby used to make these with her mom too, so it ties in to both our pasts.
I feel like I’m finding the magic again. And like I’m finding myself in Christmas in a way I never have before. I always felt a bit lost this time of year, without any traditions of my own. Having permission to create new ones - and to have a family of my own now to do that with - has been so healing this holiday season.
It will still be hard to be without those I love this next week. Tears will still come. It's still hard seeing the sadness in Mike's heart, or looking up at Megan's stocking and wishing still that she were here too. But maybe we're bringing them with us, a little bit more this year, with a whole blended mix of traditions from all of them that are gradually beginning to make up our way of Christmas. My way of Christmas, for the first time in my life.