The kids and I were out and about yesterday. One kid flew in from the west coast, we picked the other up at school. We had some lunch. We headed to the mall.
Saints preserve us.
There’s precious little that will deplete you of the holiday spirit faster than a trip to the mall on Dec 23rd. We did some shopping, saw a movie, did a little more shopping. We weren’t done- still needed to make a quick stop at a store outside the mall. Before we’d left the mall parking lot, I’d criticized three or four drivers for their “bad life choices.” I checked in with myself, and decided to call it.
We went home. Shopping unfinished, but me relatively sane. That last gift may get purchased today. It may not. Either way, the world will go on, and I will not have ruined what precious time I have with my kids together by being a crazy person.
I chose presence over presents.
We give things so much weight at this time of year. We give joy more weight, we give despair more weight. For me, when I was drinking it was even more extreme- because I could only feel things at the poles of human emotion. When you are anesthetizing yourself, if your emotions aren’t registering at an 11 they don’t register at all- you are numb to them. I think that’s why so many addicts are surrounded by drama. It’s the only way they can feel.
There’s a second half to the Serenity prayer, you know. And in it, there’s this line:
“So that I may be reasonably happy in this life”
Before I got sober that would not have seemed an estimable goal. Reasonably happy? Why? Why only reasonably? I was a go big or go home kind of a girl. I didn’t understand that real joy- the kind that fills you up- is never manic.
I used to spend so much time focused on making Christmas the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER. Last Christmas was a standard to be exceeded- this year would be EVEN BETTER. It’s gluttony, really. It’s a gluttonous approach to joy, and any time you see someone indulging in gluttony it comes from a fear of scarcity- count on it. It’s behaving as though joy is a finite resource to be scavenged, hoarded and used up.
The past two weeks I’ve been really mindful of a few things.
I’ve focused on being rather than doing. Instead of racing around shopping, and baking, and decorating, and partying, I’ve been saying yes to different things. You need to talk? Yes, I have time. You want to meet for coffee? No, I’m not busy. You need a ride? Yes. I’m checking in on my people. I don’t care about attending events, I have relationships to tend. Instead of standing in a room full of people talking about nothing, I can sit across from a friend and listen to everything.
I need only celebrate the Christmas I’m in. It does not need to resemble holidays past, and it does not need to be a portent of Christmases to come. Just this one day. This one, reasonably happy, present Christmas with the people in front of me. My people.
My prayer is that this Christmas you love and feel truly loved. That you have moments of wonder, and understand that you’re enough, exactly where and how and who you are. That you see the people in front of you, and are seen by them. That you feel safe and held and not alone. That you remember that joy is not the same as glee and consumption. And that you are reasonably happy.
Love you so.
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