Live a Life Worth Celebrating!

 In Weekly Forum Discussion

It was 1965. I was 8 years old, my sister was 5 and my brother was 7 months old. I believed in Santa Claus and there was a lot of hype about how Santa was going to bring us presents in the middle of the night when we were sleeping. In my child-like mind, I did not figure my parents into this equation around opening Christmas presents. So, when I woke up at the crack of dawn and woke my sister to go open presents, there was nothing malicious about it. We were opening presents and giggling and playing. When my mother woke up and found us and saw we had opened the “Santa” present of doll clothes that she had made for my sister, she went ballistic. She made us reenact the opening of the presents so my 7-month-old brother could see us open all the presents again.  She also told us we had ruined our brothers first Christmas.

Before I go any further, I want to say that I don’t fault or blame my mom. There is a lot of back story about the trauma and loss in her life and how this moment of seeing us open our Christmas presents was probably one of the high points in her life at that time. She was 33 years old and had lost a child a few years earlier and we were her whole life. She had worked long hours sewing all the doll clothes and she was excited to see the first reaction when my sister opened the tiny suitcase filled with clothes. So, I get it and I forgive that 33-year-old young woman for the harm it caused me. And at the same time, I can tell you that it shattered something in my magical, tender heart that has taken me years to come to terms with and understand. I was devoted to my mother’s happiness and the fact that she could be that angry with me crushed my spirit.

It is really in the last ten years that I have been unraveling thread after thread that is connected to that Christmas. The rest of my childhood was about always being the perfect gift receiver. I have another Christmas story that exemplifies that. I was 12 years old. My grandparents had traveled from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Minneapolis, Minnesota to spend Christmas with us. This was a rare event and they probably took the bus. A long, bus ride! When I opened my present from them on Christmas morning, I saw the words, Christmas Tree Stand on the box. You know, the thing that you place the Christmas tree trunk in, so it stands up and you can water it to keep it hydrated during the holiday season. Without opening the box, I said, “I love it. It’s what I’ve always wanted!” Go, ahead. Laugh. I do whenever I think of that moment. There was definitely laughter in the room until someone said, “Open the box.” Well, it wasn’t a Christmas tree stand. That would have been a really strange present for anyone, especially a 12-year-old. It was a Ukulele! I loved it and had fun with it. But, over the years, I received many presents I didn’t like and I was conditioned and expected to gush over them. That was one moment of many when I gushed over presents without really caring if I liked them or not. The point was to always put on a show of g-r-a-t-i-t-u-d-e. Super, long stretched out gratitude. Be grateful!!!!

Geez! So much pressure around the presents! Personally, my love language is not gifts. Physical touch and acts of service are my love language. If I am inspired to give you a physical present, I will. But, I’m more likely to help you with something, like bringing you food when you are sick, or listening to you., celebrating you, holding you when you are sad. I give myself to you fully. (If you have ever been in a Heal My Voice writing program or coached by me, you know I am ALL in, ALL the time. Thinking of ways that I can support you and give to you. That is how I give love.)

So, in the filtering through all of this wounded angst over the holidays, I look for ways to connect with the holiday season. Because I do love the magic. In my heart, I still believe in Santa Claus. I am excited as soon as the fall weather arrives and the leaves of the trees to orange, yellow and red. Pumpkins growing on the vine. Apple cider warming on the stove with a pinch of cinnamon. That rolls over into holiday music, eggnog and spritz cookies. Food signals the start of the season, even if I am not eating sugar that year. The smell of it. The packaging. The memories it brings up are all special.

As the sun begins to set earlier and rise later in the northern hemisphere, the dark sky makes the moon and stars shine brighter. That is the true beginning of the holiday season for it signifies candles and light. That is my favorite thing about the holidays. The light. I look for ways to celebrate the light. Hanukkah, Advent, St. Lucia, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa and more! I create and attend ceremonies. When my kids were growing up, we celebrated each of these special events and I still do that today. Lighting a menorah because I love the story of the miracle. Going to a church to witness the lighting of the advent candles. Attending a solstice meditation. Writing stuff on paper and lighting it on fire for the burning bowl ceremony. The light reminds me to reflect, to remember, to tune in, to find simple pleasures and to spread that love and joy, as the new year arrives. A fresh start. A new beginning. Filled with infinite possibilities with community gatherings and introspective time all 12 months of the year.

Live a Life Worth Celebrating!

Written by: Andrea Hylen; Heal My Voice

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