This year, the best gift I have received is something I was given ten and a half years ago. When I decided to study abroad in Ireland for 3 weeks, I was thinking of the travel. I was thinking of the adventure of going to a place I had always wanted to go, with a favorite professor of mine. I didn’t know anyone else going, but that didn’t phase me. I was chasing a dream, and I went full speed at it with an excitement I haven’t seen in myself in years.
Back in a time where I didn’t doubt every move I made and fear every consequence, the joy of pursuing a passion erased any of those negative thoughts before they could even fully form. Now maybe that was just youthful ignorance, or the fact that I could take out student loans for this trip and didn’t have to worry that the mortgage and utilities would get paid, but I like to think that that girl knew what she wanted and went for it. Even if I’ve lost bits of who she was, or at least misplaced them somewhere along the way, I will forever be grateful that she jumped headfirst into that adventure because it led me to one of the greatest gifts, my best friend Cassie.
I don’t want to embarrass her and make this a whole sappy post about our friendship, but she is the gift I mentioned at the start of this post. You see, until last night, I had lost my Christmas spirit. This past month has been work and daily chores and none of the excitement of the holiday season. I couldn’t even muster the will to write out Christmas cards, though I promised several people they would be getting one from me. Tears seemed always on the verge of falling as I told myself, every day, that today I would find it and I would get back into the spirit, but it never happened.
My holidays became a blur of disappointments, not of other people, but of myself. I couldn’t even mail a card out, bake something for my coworkers, or watch a favorite movie. I was failing and dragging myself down even further with those thoughts. I was desperate for something, anything, to kick start that happy feeling you’re supposed to have during this time of year. I kept putting all my hopes and desperate wishes on this weekend, knowing that I would finally get a break from work and responsibilities and could throw myself into Christmas.
I got out of work at 7am Friday and after a nap, had my plan of attack. I would blast 90’s Christmas Pandora, wrap presents, which would finally clear off the table to do my Christmas puzzle, and then it’d be a holiday movie marathon of all the greats: White Christmas, Elf, Home Alone, and It’s a Wonderful Life to start, with more from Lifetime and Hallmark if I had the time. Halfway through wrapping my presents, my dear husband comes in and announces he’s decided to paint our kitchen. Yes, really.
Nowhere on my list of holiday activities was something as mundane and ‘you could do this ANY other weekend’ as painting the kitchen. Cue the tears, as I sat in front of our Christmas tree, alternating between texting Cassie and praying that somehow, Christmas would be what I wanted it to be. Dave started in on the kitchen, completely unaware of the emotional storm rolling through our living room. My tears silenced by the sound of the vacuum cleaner, I felt so alone, more depressed than I’ve been in a long while.
That’s when Cassie responded and in one text, cut through the darkness and despair and spoke straight to my heart. Her rational and positive outlook allowed me to get out of the moment and really look at the situation at hand. I could go in the kitchen and work side by side with my husband on a project for our home, and then maybe get a little Christmas in later, or I could sit and cry and feel even more alone as the night went on. I chose to get off the floor and pick up a paint brush.
Would I say it was fun and completely restored my holiday spirit? No. It did go much better than I thought it would and the time spent with my husband was every bit worth it, though. We have a great looking kitchen now, too, in a cheery blue that helps to lift my mood a bit. Did we get to do anything Christmasy afterwards? No, it was past this lady’s bedtime by then, but I went to sleep okay with that.
I sit here now the next morning, writing this by the light of my Christmas tree. Sitting in the quiet light has always been one of my favorite parts of the season and it’s a main reason our tree stays up until February sometimes. Because of the busyness of work, I haven’t had the peace of my tree time much this year, and I know that was part of the struggle. While some people live for the ‘go, go, go’ I live for the adventures, yes, but then the quiet time in-between to rest, restore, and reflect.
If you’ve been struggling this season, I wish I could tell you some magic cure, but I can’t. All I can ever do is share my story with you so that you know you are never alone, and maybe someday I can be that voice to someone like Cassie was to me last night, cutting through the darkness and speaking straight to your heart. I have no idea what the future holds for us in 2017, but for today, I wish you the peace and quiet strength you need to make today count. To show up, to get off the floor, wipe away your tears, and maybe even pick up a paint brush.
Merry Christmas, I love you all.