On my commute to and from work each day, I like to listen to Sirius XM Today Show radio. It pales in comparison to actually watching the show, but I’ll take listening to it if I can’t watch it like I used to. This evening as I was driving home, I was listening to the Hoda Kotb show, and she was apologizing for discussing “depressing” things on the program during the Christmas holiday season. I kept listening, and she talked about the year she lost her father, and how every Christmas brings up so many memories – mostly happy ones. However, she said that the year she lost her father, there were only four chairs at the table instead of five, and how she felt that loss very specifically.
The Cully family is having a strange and unusual Christmas this year. In the past, we have been late getting our tree up, late buying gifts, and late getting cards out (and if you don’t get one, please don’t take it personally – the algorithm should be one created by GA Tech graduate students – or I simply don’t have your recent address which is more likely). In fact, if we are not addressing cards on New Year’s Day, it would be a Christmas miracle. Christmas cards should be called January cards in our house.
Let’s call it a phase in life. Let’s blame it on a lack of soccer tournaments the first weekend in December that happened for years and years on end. Let’s say it is because we have one at university and one embroiled in his junior year, so we are not attending to the needs of our children as much. But we aren’t crazed. We aren’t running around like chickens with our heads cut off. We have become “those people” – you know the ones. The ones who have gifts actually wrapped before Christmas Eve. The ones who have their cards out before Valentine’s Day. Who are these people? We have become them. My husband and I keep looking at each other and asking, “how did this happen?”.
I have to say, I miss some things (gifts thanking teachers, coaches and people who make a real difference in your family’s life), and not others (the pressure I put on myself to make things I thought were important come to fruition).
One thing that broke my heart a bit tonight, however, was finding a basket of cards. When my mom died in 2016, as when my dad did in 2013, it was a difficult year – and a very difficult holiday season. I had a hard time doing my thank you cards for all the gracious friends and families who offered Masses, meals, and meaningful consolation after my mom passed away. I still owe some thank you notes to friends, even this long after. But I realized that in 2016, I did not open most of my holiday cards. I still had them in a basket, laying there unopened. I was grieving too much to open them at the time. My mother died in August, and I was still pretty raw in December.
I have to say, it was a joy to open some of the cards tonight. To see my friends and family members just a smidge in the past. I know what they are doing now and where they have come, and it was fun to see where they were just a bit ago – kids grow so fast! I felt like I was going backwards, in preparation for the next round of Christmas cards this year, where I can go forwards. I still have a pile to open, and I’m thankful that I’m in a place where I can open not only the ones from 2016, but the ones from 2018 with gratefulness in my heart for the friends and family who have stood by me during times of difficulty.
There is such focus on the joy and happiness of the season, but for so many, the season can also be a time of isolation and sadness. Not to bring you all down, but I encourage you to reach out to one person who might find this season difficult or challenging. Tell them you love them, even during this joyful, albeit difficult time.
My co-worker Sharon noticed I was wearing a necklace that said “Joy” for our office Christmas luncheon. She asked me if I knew what it stood for. She said, (and I paraphrase) “The word JOY, stands for Jesus-Others-Yourself. If you put Jesus and others before yourself in all that you say and do, you will find the path to true joy. This is a joy that does not come from the world but comes from faith and from our hope in Jesus.” Even as a cradle Catholic, I had never heard this description, but it makes complete sense.
Wishing all of my friends, family and loved ones JOY in this season. Real joy, real peace. Whether you still feel like you are running around like a maniac, or whether you feel as if this holiday is “under control” (as if), I hope and pray that you feel a true sense of joy this season. Love and peace to you all.