Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas to You and Yours - May It Be Good and Full

Whether you are spending Christmas with family, friends, on a bus, on a plane, in a snow drift, or solo like me, I hope you all have a wonderful fulfilling day.

Christmas (and I confess, I'm not religious) is very much a state of mind IMO. My childhood was super stable in terms of Christmas traditions. We always knew where we were going to be and when. Christmas eve at maternal grandparents. Christmas morning opening presents with mom, dad, sis and the dog. Then on to paternal grandparents for early afternoon Christmas dinner. My daughter's experience with Christmas is quite the opposite.

In the six years her father and I have been divorced, she has experienced numerous configurations of scheduled celebrations. This year is no different. Early on after the divorce I had great difficulty experiencing big holidays like Christmas without her. I'd frequently feel sad, lonely, embarrassed, guilty that I couldn't give my daughter the same stability I had as a child, jealous that my ex had immediately created an instant family before our divorce was final and just generally feeling like a bad mother and an undeserving person. Undoubtedly I was grieving the loss of family that accompanied my divorce, nursing a bruised ego and mourning the loss of my expectations. Fast forward to now.

My daughter went to her dad's today at 5pm to celebrate Christmas day with him. We have had this arrangement in the past but never before has it gone so smoothly and with me feeling quite incredibly happy with my situation. Last night, which was our Christmas Eve, we watched The Sound of Music. This had always been a tradition in my family. Back then on of the big tv networks always broadcast it Christmas Eve. Prior to watching the SoM, w watched the Wizard of Oz because that's a little bit of our own tradition in the making. Then the next morning I awoke at 6:30 am when I heard the girl get up. Told her to give me a minute, then after turning on the tree and hearth lights, told her to come out for presents and stockings, then breakfast (the routine I had as a child, except I would invariably awaken around 2am and stay in my room until the family was ready to do presents 5-6 hrs later....those nights were soooo long).

It's funny because I have had to continually remind myself that this was really Xmas eve, not Xmas day, because for me it felt completely like Xmas day. My mom came to have an early afternoon dinner with us (our family Xmas won't happen until after New Year's) and even a cousin and her husband stopped by to visit as they drove through town.

Given my ex was scheduled to pick up the girl at 5 pm, my mom was concerned about my having something to do tomorrow. I explained I have plans for tomorrow. The reality is, I *feel* like today was Xmas proper. It's taken me a number of years to cultivate this perspective and to just accept the time the girl and I have together on holidays which sometimes means being flexible with our idea of holidays. I don't feel ashamed at spending Xmas day alone like I used to, without a significant other or without being surrounded by my daughter and other family. I feel like we had a day that we made into our holiday and filled it with our traditions and we can put those traditions into motion on any day of the year and it will be our Christmas.

It's not about what the calendar says or what other people think you are doing on that specific date. It's about spending your time the way you want to spend it. I may not always get to be with my daughter when I want to be, but I can certainly spend the time that I'm away from her making the most of it. I'm looking forward to a wonderful day on my own tomorrow browsing through the three dozen decorating library books I brought home earlier this week, watching movies, piddling around the house and doing whatever feels good at the time. I'm also much better able to make the most of my time with the girl so that when she is away, I feel like that aspect of my life is good and full.

It is the knowledge and acceptance that my life is good and full, just as it is, that allows me to enjoy holidays on days the calendar claims they don't exist, and to feel great joy at spending official holidays in ways that defy convention and expectation.

So whatever you are doing, whatever holiday you are celebrating, whether it be Christmas or Friday, do it to the best of your ability and enjoy the experience!

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