How I Stopped Hating Christmas

It's been a very long time since I've been able to enjoy Christmas. It's supposed to be a magical time full of lights, anticipation, and most importantly, eggnog. And I couldn't agree more. I loved Christmas as a kid, and I still love all of the traditions that come with it. I just haven't been able to take any joy in them.

The joy of Christmas died for me sixteen years ago. I had been warned about the year 2000 and it did not disappoint. Christmas Day was the highlight of my life at that point as I had just received my first bass guitar. But the very next day, I experienced what I can easily say is still the worst day of my life.

My parents walked me into their bedroom saying that we needed to talk. They sat me down on their bed, and I glazed over as they explained to me that the marriage counseling hadn't worked and they were separating.

The years of unrecognized childhood anxiety imploded and I began to sink deeper and deeper into I knew not what. The world outside had become muffled, like sitting at the bottom of the ocean during a hurricane.

Nothing was the same after that. The annual trip to my grandmother's a few days later wasn't met with the usual ear-splitting laughter. It felt like a funeral. We were greeted at the door with welled-up tears and somber embraces. No one knew what to say.

We couldn't keep it a secret at our church either because my parents were respected leaders. I could feel the eyes on me as I played that brand new bass on Sunday mornings. Everyone knew us, so everyone knew what happened. But no one knew what to say.

Even when my dad took my sister and I out for lunch at Burger King, none of us knew what to say. We came, we ate, and we left. It was only a couple months later that I confided to a few friends my first thoughts of suicide. They wouldn't be my last, but they marked a transitional moment in my life. I had lost my joy.

No, I haven't been a Scrooge all these years since, but I stopped looking forward to Christmas. For more than half of my life, it has been a painful reminder that I am not a whole person. If children are the physical manifestation of their parents' love, then their separation renders us divided souls, forever pulled in discordant directions by the one becoming two again.

I'm not alone. And my story is not unlike many others who have faced tragedy and heartache around Christmas. Breakups, divorces, layoffs, injuries, and deaths have a way of suffocating the delicate flame that is joy.

Would that I could reignite my own flame, but joy is something that when snuffed out requires the help of another to rekindle. I tried for too long to weather the storm of my depression, but that only feeds the cycle of despair. If we can't take the action needed to break free, then someone else has to.

For me, that was my nearly three-year-old daughter. She's been singing Frosty the Snowman since July, so she couldn't wait for Christmas. We put up two trees, one big one and one little one just for her. And we got her her own ornaments which she couldn't wait to put on.

But the look of wonder in her eyes while decorating her tree was nothing compared to seeing "sparkles". Sparkles is what she calls Christmas lights. Every time we'd drive somewhere, she would gasp, "Oooh, look at those sparkles!" We'd take walks, even drives just to see new sparkles.

Something happened when I saw how my daughter looked at Christmas lights. I missed Christmas. How I used to feel was suddenly alight and now I'm actually looking forward to December 25. It took my own child's joy to rediscover my childhood joy.

Indeed, a child's joy is like a spark that can light even the dampest of spirits. May you too rediscover what you've lost this holiday season. And may your home find its own sparkles.

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photo credit: haslo Christmas Lights via photopin (license)

Comments

  1. This is a really moving post, Alex. Children help us rediscover joy and wonder. And they remind us that we don't have to live our parents' story. We can write our own. Blessings to you and your beautiful family this Christmas!

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