I’m Re-gifting ChristmasDec 24th, 2010 | By Christina Enevoldsen | Category: All Posts, Christina's Blog
by Christina Enevoldsen
When I was thirteen, I wanted four children. The entire reason I wanted a family of that size was Christmas. I imagined that the perfect Christmas mandated a house full of family. My children would be dressed in matching outfits and my oldest child would play the piano as we gathered around to sing carols. We’d sip hot chocolate and tell stories around the fireplace. We would take turns opening gifts and laugh with surprise and delight.
I’ve celebrated in a variety of ways throughout the years, but that idyllic holiday dream was never realized. For years, I strove for that fantasy and compared every holiday to it.
I developed many more ideas about what Christmas was supposed to be. Christmas was supposed to be white with snowmen and glistening trees, though seventy degree Arizona winters made that unlikely. Christmas was supposed to be extended family gathering from the corners of the globe, though through feuds and disinterest, that never happened.
When my children were grown and I divorced their father, my ideas of the holiday relaxed slightly. It didn’t demand all family; cherished friends could make up the Christmas chorus. So my new husband and I played host to friends who didn’t have any other place to go. We ‘adopted’ orphans or those too broke to travel home to see their own families. I didn’t always have my own family around me, but we always had a full house that was alive with love and laughter.
Last Christmas, everything changed. I was estranged from my parents and I was in serious recovery from my sexual abuse. I didn’t want to host any parties or even attend any. I couldn’t tolerate the pressure to feel festive and I didn’t have the energy to wear a fake holiday grin. The rest of the world was celebrating, but I was in mourning. The day was forever changed.
The holiday only brought up more pain and there was no getting away from it, so I decided to make use of it. Instead of covering it up or running away from it, I faced it. Celebrating was out of the question, so I let the tears roll. It wouldn’t be what I hoped for, so I’d let it be an opportunity. Since my emotions were coming out in full strength, I wrote about my disappointment and my grief. I expressed my anger and sadness. I got it out and it was a relief.
This Christmas I won’t be with my parents, children or any other relatives. My children are making traditions of their own and I realized that I’ve been tied to holiday traditions for too long. I was tired of what Christmas was “supposed” to be. The “supposed to be’s” were killing any possibility of enjoying what the day could be.
My husband and I decided to spend this week on vacation on the beach in Malibu. It’s far from what I thought Christmas should be, but it’s been one of the best weeks I ever remember. I have the freedom to watch movies in my pajamas and have a meal of cookies and egg nog. I can sleep in as long as I want. I can bury my nose in a novel.
I don’t have to please anyone or worry about hurt feelings. I don’t have to take anyone’s tastes or preferences into consideration. I don’t have to conform to traditions I don’t like. I don’t have to cook or clean or go anywhere. I don’t have to pose for pictures or even brush my hair. As I’ve released my expectations of Christmas, I’m released from expectations on me.
I’m re-gifting Christmas this year. I don’t want the traditions that were passed on from my family, my culture or even from my fantasies. Someone else can have them. This is just a date on the calendar, not the defining moment in my life.
My gift to myself this year is to put aside any expectation of what the day should be and to embrace what it is. I’m not trapped in Christmases past or hoping for something that isn’t possible. If I need to grieve more, I’ll grieve. I don’t even have to be a merry or happy Christmas. I love serving others and I hope future holidays are spent with loved ones, but this is wonderful. I’m one of my loved ones and I’m serving me this year.
Christina Enevoldsen is cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse, an online resource for male and female abuse survivors looking for practical answers and tools for healing. Christina’s passions are writing and speaking about her own journey of healing from abuse and inspiring people toward wholeness. She and her husband live in Los Angeles and share three children and four grandchildren.
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