Thursday, December 4, 2014

Dear Santa, just get me through the season!

It's that season again, the one where we are supposed to feel joyful. Excited, as the commercials on TV tell us that new cars and diamonds bring happiness. Festive, as recipes for desserts circle social media. In love with our extended families, even though we haven't spoken to them since last Christmas.

But what if you just feel blah?

The problem with feeling like Scrooge is that we think we're alone. That's because few are brave enough to step up and admit, "I hate this season." "I want to sleep it away." "I don't care about any of it."

My psychiatrists friends are busy this season, not with baking pies and going to parties, but with clients who ask for help. "Just get me through Thanksgiving and Christmas," one of my friend's patients said.

When the season presents itself as a huge undertaking and there is no energy for it, sometimes that's all we ask: Just get me through it.

Forget the shopping, the sales, the glitter, the fun.

I remember feeling like that for the first Christmases after Daniel died. Take a dirty rag, wipe the sky and everything around me with it, and that was how I felt. To avoid the usual Christmas tradition, which Daniel would no longer be part of, we left Durham. Our first Christmas was in Greensboro at an Embassy Suites. The next was in the Outer Banks, the third without him was at a beach in Virginia. We left the house where Daniel had celebrated four Christmases and did something different.

And we lived through those early agonizing holidays without him.

Those experiences help me to see that others also find Christmas to be hard. You don't have to have had a death of a precious child to feel distraught during the season. You might be going through other calamities----the loss of a marriage, a job, declining health, or the loss of even hope.

Perhaps deciding not to believe the myth that everybody else has great plans or is happy will help as you make your way through December and into the new year. Perhaps journaling will benefit you as you pour your frustrations and fears onto paper. A meditative walk might give you new focus.

Others might suggest reaching out to those who are less fortunate is the answer. But when you're trying to hold your life together, you may not have any ability to reach out to anyone. Praying might even be more of a wrestling match than a time of solace and mercy. You might just want to put on a slow song, set the timer and give yourself permission to cry for five good long minutes.

This season could be just plodding through one day at a time. I'm no psychiatrist, but from my own sorrow, I would say: Allow yourself to plod. Not feeling joyous at Christmas is not a punishable crime. Besides, to be honest, no one is experiencing every day of the month with bright smiles and sugary bliss, even those who appear to be.

The season will end, and at the end, you can say that you survived. It might not seem like a big feat, but deep down, you will know that it's a big accomplishment. The skills you discover might come in handy for other times when life is tough.

After all, life is all about adjusting and adapting. To live is to struggle. Don't believe anyone who tells you that life is meant to be a bowl of happiness.

Even the son of God, whose birh we celebrate at Christmas, came into a suffering world to suffer. He knows just how dismal being human can be. And He reaches out to all, offering peace, love, and hope.

Struggling with getting out of bed in the morning? This little devotional might help.