This year I had a welcome change to my usual grinchy holiday routine. For quite some years now, I’ve completely rebuffed Christmas and all of its trappings. The season has always been a mixed bag for me. While I love the idea of gift exchange and the image of warm, meaningful family time, the reality of that never seemed to match expectations.
In my family this lovely ideal had, over the years, become warped into a whipped-up frenzy of obligation, stress, and emotional chaos. It usually ended with fights, someone in tears and/or someone seriously depressed. So much for Christmas joy and connection! I’m not sure if any of you can relate to this, but I have a feeling mine isn’t the only family with these kinds of experiences.
My response was to step away from it all. I’d had enough. It was mainly an emotional reaction, but over the years I’d convinced myself that it was for far more practical and noble reasons – like getting away from the materialism of it and the automatic pilot of buying into what is supposed to happen over the holidays. While that was all true, I hadn’t realized the emotional toll that my resistance to it had been taking on me.
Not until this year, when that resistance finally cracked. For some reason, this year I had an overwhelming urge to make lots of Christmas cookies, which I have never done before. I had to make my all-time favourite – the sprinkled butter cookies that my grandmother used to make.
There was something about making and eating those Grandma cookies that seemed to be working a strange magic on me. Every bite of those damn cookies took me back to some happy memory from holidays past – memories I’d long forgotten, minimized or neglected.
That was when I started to realize that the personal growth work that I’ve been doing these past years, especially since my grandmother passed away two years ago, was really paying off. I do practice what I preach with respect to EFT and healing modalities – I do self-work and regularly have sessions with other practitioners (something I believe that all good therapists/practitioners need to do to be effective and present for their clients!).
Over the next few days, I started to be filled with a sense of gratitude, love and forgiveness. The painful family memories – all those holidays and every Sunday evening spent at my grandparents with our family and my father’s sister’s family – 12 of us in total – well, I began seeing something a little different.
Instead of the perspective from which I’ve been viewing it for years, of a prickly and tough group of experiences that I’d endured throughout my childhood, it was like a beam of light shining through to show me some of the beauty.
I was filled with the memories of seeing my grandparents working so hard for weeks every year before Christmas. My grandfather would go out and gather bags and bags of laurel and then he and my grandmother would set up in the basement or the cold garage and stand for hours on end, working their fingers to the bone making gorgeous hand-made laurel garlands.
They would sell this by the yard to pay for everything at Christmas. On Christmas day, besides the huge feasts, each of the five grandkids (and our parents) would be given a pile of gifts as big as we’d received earlier that morning from our parents at home. It was Christmas morning, round two!
Every time I remember this, even now, brings tears to my eyes. They really loved giving to us all. I mean, in a really big way. I feel so grateful to be able to have such an awareness about this now. It was something that had been so blocked for years due to the painful memories that became attached to it all. Not that these memories weren’t real and valid, and not to minimize all of the difficult things that did happen, but for some reason, for the first time, I’m able to see so much more than just that.
It’s kind of like a big fat forgiveness has settled in and cleared the air, in such a way that gratitude, love and the ability to see a much larger perspective now has space to exist.
Now, this doesn’t mean I’m going to run out and go hog-wild over Christmas any time soon. But what it does mean is that instead of resisting it so much – which I hadn’t really realized I’d been doing – I can just be with it, enjoy the parts that I like and choose how much I do and don’t want to participate. I feel like I’m not reacting to it or the past that it represents. It feels like freedom.
Is there anywhere in your life that you’re stuck in an old perspective that’s holding you back? Anywhere that resistance is lurking about which you might not be aware? Anyone you haven’t forgiven, including yourself?
Give yourself a gift and do a little digging. Take some time and notice that holding-onto feeling. Stay with it. Ask yourself what it’s really about. Do whatever work you need to do to shift it. Maybe you’ll use some EFT or other healing modality. Perhaps you can just be present with it. Or maybe a simple act like making cookies might bring about an entirely new perspective. What would it take for you to relax into seeing a bigger and more gratitude-filled picture?
I wish you all a very happy new year!