A Change at Christmas*
In a panicked tone I say to my 7yr old daughter. “Put that down, don’t touch, you will break something!” I’m holding up a canvas with a painted flower on it, rocking the pram cradling my sleeping baby, with my other hand. My head is spinning, my chest is tight, and my heart racing as I hurriedly try to finish off my Christmas shopping. All the requirements to survive Christmas in an acceptable manner hang heavily over my head, but I’m not paying enough attention to notice how heavy they are. I am completely lost in the whirlwind of meeting everyone’s expectations and the ticking clock. I believe I am capable, I know if I push myself really hard I can outrun any possible guilt of failing to impress.
A million questions buzz around the racetrack in my mind, it’s anybody’s guess which one I will ponder long enough to be satisfied with the answer… if at all. ‘What do people really want for Christmas?’ ‘How can the gift appear worth something without blowing the budget?’ ‘What haven’t they already got?’ ‘Maybe I could make something?’ What if I run out of time and don’t finish it?’, ‘What if it’s not good enough?’, ‘What if I’m not good enough?’ ‘What if I ruin the meal and everyone will be left unsatisfied?’ ‘What if it falls apart and my facade drops and the quivering failure inside is revealed for all to see?’ ….
“I will just keep going, I have no choice, I will push harder, I won’t fail”… I will just smile and make it feel like a Merry Christmas!
That was me before my car accident…. There were moments I let myself enjoy the company of family and friends, of gifts and carols. There were times of joy, only they were tainted with deep insecurity that creeped it’s way into so many areas of my life.
After my accident I spent the next few Christmases, trying to stay sane inside a mind that didn’t want to play fair, trying desperately to resist the list of unmet expectations. I spent those years numb and defensive against the world with it’s mountain of pressure, which I could no longer push myself to climb. I clung frantically to my faith, begging the Lord to drag me out of bed and into the Christmas spirit. I was crumbling under constant migraines, anxiety, exhaustion, shoulder pain and self-condemnation, drowning in a sea of judgement and depression. Eventually I withdrew, I folded into the smallest version of myself, hoping I could fly under the radar so that no one would notice how useless I was. I took Valium and I slept….a lot.
To add insult to injury, smack bang in the middle of a grueling compensation law suit, and right before Christmas, my Dad lost his battle with cancer. He hadn’t been sick long enough for us to be truly prepared. We knew it would be quick, but even though we thought we were ready, we were kidding ourselves. So many chapters of the book left open and only half read. It sent shock waves through the family and I drowned my sorrows at a wake that lasted for weeks. The weight of his passing distracted me from finding true Christmas joy, so I fed it Vodka and sang carols loudly to the Lord, and I took photos of children opening gifts, like any good Mummy does. Each year has gotten a little easier, yet still carries a sense of dread.
And so here we are…. Has a change really come?…
This is the first Christmas since I began blogging, and the therapeutic evidence it has had over me is overflowing into my life. I have had a number of breakthroughs and a strange sense of peace surrounds me this year. I don’t feel as burdened with the grief of Dad’s passing because I feel him with me so much more since I began sharing our history with others online. I arranged all the extended family’s presents and sent them off early this month. I have taken some extra time off work so I can just relax with my girls and am looking forward to their company of cuddles and conversation. I don’t feel overwhelmed by the back-to-back gatherings and actually feel present rather than distracted, which is becoming a more regular, blessed experience for me.
Christmas has developed a reputation of chaos and anguish, at a time of year when a light might shine on forgiveness, love, acceptance and peace. There are going to be times when these things are overlooked, yet it is possible to discover a change at Christmas, the closer we get to our true selves and learn to put the expectations aside, to strip back the hoopla and reflect on the birth of our King.
I send up prayers for all to experience some peace on earth this Christmas, to focus on being present rather than getting presents, and to feel truly grateful and blessed for the gift of Christ to us, a gift of salvation to a world in desperate need of saving.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6