Do any of the rest of you have wildly varying moods during the holiday season?
Since just before Thanksgiving, I’ve found myself feeling all kinds of emotions – deep sadness, profound joy, overwhelming gratitude, debilitating listlessness, plain old grouchiness – a full range. Sometimes all in the same day.
I’ve been trying to be present to them all, because I feel each one has something to teach me, something I need to acknowledge and let myself feel.
I’ve been pondering a post about this for a couple of weeks, struggling with how to put what I’m feeling into words.
I can tell you some of the situations that have me feeling so deeply. Through the miracle of Facebook, I’ve watched two mothers be with their dying sons the last two or three weeks – all the way through death itself and memorial services and into the first stages of grief. Both sons were young – 16 and mid-30s. How in the world can parents bear this kind of grief? It makes my heart hurt.
Also on Facebook, I’ve seen photos of parents who gave birth to a child who had to have surgery in the first week of his life. I’ve seen photos of mesmerized toddlers seeing their first Christmas tree. I’ve seen people express how much they love the holidays and spending time with their families and friends. I’ve seen photos of celebrations and quiet moments, photos of shopping and baking. I see posts about good times – and those about heartache and pain and illness.
I’m aware of how the holidays can trigger unfelt emotions from our pasts, how addictions become sharper now, how we often feel weak, feel we need to escape, feel we just can’t bear one more moment of pain. I’m aware that many are feeling the grief of loved ones who have died, who leave an empty place at our tables and in our hearts. I’m aware of those who feel the emptiness of estrangement, that source of a pain they may have gotten used to – but that hurts a bit more sharply right now.
And I think of the contrast with how we all crave that “perfect” Thanksgiving or Christmas or Hanukkah, the ones depicted in Norman Rockwell paintings, the ones we see in movies and holiday television specials.
As in any season, at this very moment, we and those around us experience the breadth and depth of life and death. But during this particular holiday season, that breadth and depth feels particularly poignant to me. Maybe it’s because I’m a little further beyond my cancer journey and am feeling better and better, stronger and stronger. When I was in the midst of the journey, I felt a whirlwind of emotions, each overlapping the other, each mixed in with the other. But now I seem to be feeling each separate emotion, one at a time. I’m trying to be with each one this holiday season, honoring what it brings me, acknowledging the shared humanity within it.
And as I type the word “holiday,” I remember that its root is “holy day.”
And I think, of course.
Of course holy days involve all sorts of emotions. We’re in this sacredness together, honoring the holiness of being human. We’re each lighting our candles in darkness. We’re each looking for the Light.
So during this sacred season, I wish you the time and the fortitude to let yourself feel all of the emotions that swirl about and within.
And I’m telling you that you’re not alone. I’m right there with you. And I feel sure many others are, too.
And you know what? Together, within our spoken and unspoken sharing, the holy is present. As it always is. But in this season of darkness and revelation, we might see it more clearly.
If we look closely, if we are willing to be present, there is the holy and sacred. This holiday season.
And each day of our lives.