Faith vs Fear

Faith vs Fear

Monday, December 14, 2009

I'll Be Home for Christmas

For the first time in nearly 35 years I get to spend Christmas with my dad and siblings. I am beyond excited, even to the point of being giddy. I've been thinking about traditions while enjoying the holiday season and counting down the days.

Christmases when I was young were sweet, low-key family gatherings. We gathered around the Christmas tree, listening to carols playing in the background, while we laughed and talked together and enjoyed the goodies my mother prepared. The evening always ended with my dad reciting "Twas the night before Christmas," and reading the Christmas story from Luke 2.

Marriage to my first husband brought new traditions. His family had a large, very lively, fun Christmas dinner and party on Christmas eve with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Our twin boys were born the week before Christmas (what a surprise that was: "You've got another one in there," the doctor said ten minutes after tiny (5 lbs.) Ben was born. We looked at each other in blank astonishment. But sure enough, after ten more minutes, Brian (also 5 lbs.) arrived!) Christmases then became high-energy, lively affairs as I struggled to figure out how to be in charge of my new family traditions. My mother-in-law had the right idea: she went all out for Christmas Eve, then had a wide variety of finger foods and treats for Christmas day. She would say, "If you go hungry, it's your own fault." I still miss the close association with his family, especially during the holidays.

When I remarried, traditions changed again. Because both of our former spouses had big family gatherings on Christmas eve, we sent the children to their parties, and stayed home. We learned early in our marriage to be flexible with holidays, and most of the time we wait until it's convenient for everyone to celebrate. For example, we go separate ways on Thanksgiving day and then get together on the following Sunday for a pie party. It works well; no one feels stressed about which family they should spend the day with, and we still have a family party after everyone has recovered from the day of feasting.

David has struggled with depression during the Christmas season most of the time we have been married, and as a result I have learned to lower my expectations.  I remember several Christmas seasons when he was severely depressed and refused to take part in Christmas activities at all. We learned to carry on without him, but it did lessen the pleasure. Sometimes I couldn't wait for the holidays to be over with.

The challenge has been how to adapt to his need for quiet (he doesn't like all the commotion and socializing that goes with the holiday), and my desire to enjoy the season to the fullest. I learned to do things to keep the spirit of the season with me. I read the Christmas story and other holiday favorites, with David or by myself. Sometimes I would take the children to look at the lights and go to a Messiah sing-in without him. It also helps that the building where I work goes all out with decorations and music which adds to my enjoyment of the season.

And now that we are officially empty nesters traditions are bound to change yet again. This year, because of changing circumstances, I get to spend the holiday with my Dad and siblings, while David is going to spend the time with his mother. We debated about what to do, but he felt strongly that I should have this trip with my family. He doesn't travel well or like cold weather and lots of people, so we felt that he should stay home. He says he can handle me being gone for a few days since it's with family, and that this trip is his gift to me. He's also looking forward to being able to choose how much socializing he does. And I've let the children know what the plan is so that they can check in and spend some time with him.

David's mood has been reasonably sunny with only occasional blue days so far during the holidays. He even insisted that I put up the Christmas tree earlier than usual and he strung lights on the tree and house with only token amounts of protest. I think it's because of reduced stress and a better understanding of his disorder and triggers. I don't know how long this mood will last, but I am grateful for his efforts to stay upbeat and involved. That is the true gift, not just to me, but to himself.

I hope that the traditions that you have for this season will bring you joy.


  1. Wishing you a blessed Christmas season:)

  2. I am so enthusiastically wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season! I so appreciate the things you write here, and the comments on my blog as well. Your "things to remember" I have re-posted today because they spoke to me so clearly... I wish for as many to read as possible.

  3. Journey: I'm so glad they help you! I hope your holidays are joyful.


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