How Do You Do It? Part 4: Recognizing Joy
I walked the aisles of Target searching for the perfect gift for my nieces and nephews. I was still living in Iowa at the time and my family remained in Nebraska. Although I made it home fairly frequently, the interests and needs of the children in my life changed too quickly for me to keep up. I didn’t know what to get and honestly, it was causing me stress and anxiety. “Call mom,” I thought to myself. Yeah, call mom, she’ll obviously have great ideas…
Before I could stop to dwell on that thought my feet started to move. I shoved the items I held in my hands on a nearby shelf and walked quickly toward my car, praying I would make it out of the store doors before the tears could travel from my eyes, down my cheeks. I cried. I sat in the front seat of my 2010 black Ford Focus and cried hard. Not for the first time in my life, I was emotional during the holidays; but for the first time, I felt like I had a real reason to be sad, and sad I was.
Mom had died not a full two weeks before. That Christmas was hard. Really, really hard. Yet, even then, I never really contemplated how difficult Christmas might be for others each year. It wasn’t until the next year when a coworker of mine mentioned how tough December and January were for many of our students that I began to realize that I was not alone. It was my first year teaching at that school and I found myself shocked not only at the idea that some kids dreaded the idea of Christmas break, but that I had never thought beyond myself to consider how the holidays affect so many of the people around me in such diverse and beautiful ways.
For many, the holidays are merry and cheery. The decorating and gift buying begins months in advance. The presents are wrapped, the perfect Christmas dinner planned, and family pjs have been pre-ordered for weeks to ensure that everyone matches. For others, it’s last minute shopping, walking into the department stores just days before Christmas, and wrapping Santa gifts on Christmas Eve, praying the kids will stay in bed while the parents noisily traipse around the house preparing. Then for some, there is the void of cheer. No one to present with gifts, no table to set, no money for special frills or fancy Santa treats. Others may find themselves full of hope; a hope that will remain unfulfilled as they sit and wait patiently for family visitors that will never come, for smiles that will not transpire. And really, beneath all of these all of these things, are the feelings. Feelings that can strike without any notice. Feelings that are neither good or bad but possess just enough power to transform your day into one of solace or angst.
As you reflect on the end of another years’ Christmas festivities, I pray you ask yourself, what are your feelings this Christmas? What are the ones that live deep inside, far beneath the holly jolly “normal” feelings your supposed to feel this time of year? Take the time to reflect on those feelings and consider their source. Too often I find myself anxious about getting the right gift. I get saddened that I won’t celebrate midnight mass with all of my siblings or be able to enjoy the holiday goodies that I too often overindulged in over the years. I find myself saddened for apparently no reason only to realize the Christmas carol on the radio has taken on the sound of my mother’s voice, and I realize my negative reactions are stemming from some stuffed down, compartmentalized feelings I’ve chosen to ignore.
It would be so easy to allow myself to hate the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas especially, as they represent the last moments with my mother, and the first I lived through without her. I could, and sometimes want, to wallow in self-pity. I’ve been persistently reminded of this as of late. Five former students/athletes have either lost a loved one or lost their own lives in the past three weeks alone. It’s devastating and the emotional toll is one I’d rather ignore, than acknowledge. Yet, I ask myself, “Where is God in this?” The answer is not always obvious. Sometimes it requires me to search deep within; to listen, to question, to reflect, and yet I cannot ignore His presence. Whether felt or simply understood, as sometimes I feel nothing, I know that HE is with me in it all. That simple realization makes the new traditions a little sweeter. It brightens the smile on my children’s faces a little more. It encourages me to take refuge in the comfort of the things I do have rather than want for the things that I do not. I am able to allow myself to find joy in simplicity. To go without wanting.
Whether you enjoyed a day of peace and joy, or found yourself longing today, know that you are in my prayers this Christmas season. As Ignation prayer asks of us, better your frustrated self and choose to see the light in all that you do. If you look back on the life you have lived thus far, you will always see that God has been there with you through it all. Find a way to celebrate the gift of his love he so graciously sent to earth so many years ago. Take a minute to appreciate the greatest love story every told. The one where God knowingly sent this ultimate gift to a world where he would be rejected. The one where a mother, with so much to lose, embraced difficulty. Choose any character in the Christmas story and you will find a million reasons they should have given up and wallowed in the self-pity. Yet, they rejoiced. They trusted the present of God’s presence and they chose to see the joy. Your joy awaits you too. Your someday does not have to wait. Challenges are inevitable as are failures, hurt, and sorrow, but you can choose to trust that God is at work behind all that He allows, and you have the choice to rise above your circumstance… Merry Christmas from Someday Wellness.
Know that we are praying for you to take control of your Someday as you learn to see the joy that God has so preciously placed before you. The greatest love story ever written was one of truth, and it was orchestrated just for you.
Much Love, Ky