A Safe Space for the Low in Spirit

December 2, 2019

As we plow full steam ahead into the Christmas season, I have been thinking a good deal about my very conflicted, ambivalent feelings that seem to arise without fail at this time of the year. For probably close to two decades now, there has been a dark little cloud that wants to hover overhead when all around the insistence is there to be filled with joy and wonder and peace and love and all that good stuff. For entirely too long, I’ve tried to squelch those feelings and muddle through as best I knew how, reveling in the little pockets of joy I’d stumble across here and there, but lately I am realizing that while it is perhaps not productive or healthy to wallow in a depressed state, it is nevertheless important to recognize and honor the painful emotions that arise for me during the holidays.

Perhaps you feel similarly. Maybe you find yourself in the midst of the hustle and bustle and you’ve pasted on your best smile and are continuing to put one foot in front of the other, but inside you feel sad and more than a little empty.

Can we consider this a thread for those of us who are grappling with emotions? Can this be our safe space in which to be honest and share with one another without judgment or platitudes or Pollyanna-isms?

The holidays of my past were idyllic. Magical. I’ve long thought that was such a wonderful thing, as I simply did not know what it meant to be disappointed or unwanted or anything less than cherished, but now it seems that possibly set me up for unfulfilled expectations in adulthood. The beautiful, twinkling, warm and cozy magic of it all just dissipated years ago, and try as I might, there is no getting it back. And I have tried in an at-times tireless giving and doing for others, which does bring its own reward, but it’s still just not the same. Nothing can ever recapture what I knew in my younger years, so I just remember it as it was and mourn its loss. It’s like a very real thing that fizzled out and died over the years.

My parents are elderly, and they too mourn the loss of their youth and what once was. My father is especially vocal about such things, and it tears my heart out because there is absolutely nothing that I can do to make it all better. As the eldest child, I have long been a nurturer and a “fixer” in my family; or at least leaned heavily into such a role by my very nature. I have realized, perhaps for the first time with such clarity, that I simply cannot be held responsible for someone else’s feelings (especially since I did nothing to cause them), and while I would move heaven and earth to enable those I love to experience the joy and happiness of younger years once again, I cannot do so. My family is geographically scattered. The children are rapidly becoming young adults. The adults are aging rapidly. This is, of course, the natural flow of things and yet I feel powerless much of the time since it is still within me to long for what once was. I’m coming to terms, however, with the fact that now “it is what it is” and also with my utter inability to fix it. It’s humbling, to say the least.

I know I have much to be grateful for, and I am grateful. Being grateful and experiencing melancholy or even downright seasonal depression are not mutually exclusive, I have learned. And I think there is something important in recognizing the darker side of this spirited season that I’m sure many of us grapple with. Perhaps it even matters that we find ways to honor it without the immediate need to try to fix it all and redirect our sadness and emptiness into jollity.

Is anyone with me?

Comments (67)

  • Zalco/bring back Sophie!

    Bpath, my grandfather died three decades ago and I still sob at O Holy Night, his favorite Christmas carol.

    Hugs to all.

  • IdaClaire

    We have a number of opportunities for socializing and soaking up some of the traditions of the holidays, but DH tends to not want to go to such things, and that colors my enthusiasm. I usually don't want to go alone. Oh, he'll go with me to an office party and we'll continue with the regular church-going routine, but he won't want to go to the musical extravanganza that our church produces (citing the crowds, and he's right about that -- there are a LOT of people, and a fair number of them don't seem to know how to conduct themselves on such an occasion), or to other similar special seasonal events, and my introverted nature will undoubtedly kick in, meaning I'm more likely than not to be found on the sofa watching The Bishop's Wife for the umpteenth time.

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  • bac717

    Oh, Ida, the timing of your post is perfect! I truly thought I was the only one who felt this way around the holidays. Yes, as you said, I paste on my best smile (I've described it as being a good actress) and move forward, but inside I am feeling just the opposite. I've had time to only glance at some of the responses. I want to read each one and hopefully, contribute more to this thread. In the meantime, tho, I want to thank you so much for creating this safe place!!

  • littlebug zone 5 Missouri

    Add me to the list. Christmas is my least favorite holiday. buy! Buy!! BUY!!! (My favorite holiday is Easter, which holds much more religious meaning for me.)

    As far as the joy: you can't lose what you never had. Christmas never held any joy for me. I've said this many times here before that my siblings and I always knew there were no surprises, no Santa, no joy. My family was Christian, but sporadic church-goers and very, very poor.

    It is my job now to do my Christmas duty for my grown kids and grandkids, putting one foot in front of the other, and then getting on to the serious business of suffering through the long cold midwestern winter.

    Well, actually I do have one joy: I sing in my church choir and enjoy it tremendously. Our annual Vesper Service is the holiday highlight for me. We had a guest soloist a couple of years ago and her Ave Maria was spine-tingling.

  • tinam61

    A timely thread. The thing that gets to me during the holiday get togethers is the fact that our family is getting smaller. My husband and I each have one parent and he has no siblings. I have two, a brother and a sister. My brother is not here, but not too far. He is going through a hard time in his life, which of course affects us, his family. My father will be 90 in a few months and is not is good health. So, I see my family getting smaller, bit by bit. We have a great group of friends, especially our best friends (a couple) and we are very close to their children and grandchildren. After Thanksgiving dinner with our family we went that evening to spend some time with their family. I don't feel so much that Christmas is for children, although they probably enjoy it the most! Christmas has deep religious meaning to me and our family celebrates that. Presents are not a such a big part of our Christmas. In fact, recently there have been a couple of friends who have asked that we drop that part, and just celebrate the holiday, appreciating the time together. I find myself thinking of years past when my grandparents were here. They lived very close to us during my childhood and often came for Christmas breakfast and then Christmas dinner was at their home later. I remember many of their siblings (both came from large families) and their children and grandchildren - my aunts/uncles, cousins and again, I think that is what brings about any sadness/nostalgia I feel. Part of getting older I am sure.

    Springoz, do you think it's possible that others may have done for that family before you got there? I hope that might be the case. It's hard to realize/accept you've been deceived. Your heart was in the right place. For several years, I have chaired a community "angel tree", and I will say it certainly lifts my heart to be able to help fulfill a child's Christmas wishes.

  • IdaClaire

    I figured there would probably be at least a few of us who weren't exactly in a joyful frame of mind. Thank you all so much for what you've shared thus far. It's not so much that misery loves company, but I think it helps immensely to know we aren't alone when all around us there are expectations that we'll be filled to overflow with happiness. It ain't necessarily so.

    I guess one of the things I keep coming back to is how much this time of year calls to mind loss, either losses that have already taken place or losses that are on the horizon. I mentioned my father above. This Thanksgiving as we were saying our goodbyes, one of my parents - can't remember which one - said, "Well, cross another Thanksgiving off the list of 'things that must be done'." (They're feeling the loss of gatherings among the larger part of our family which is scattered out of state. I understand that, but it still makes me feel like I alone am not 'enough', and it rankles.) Anyway, right after that, my father stated that he likely didn't have "that many more" Thanksgivings ahead of him. We sort of jokingly bounced it around, told him not to be so morbid, but I left there feeling like there's yet another sadness, a focus on an impending inevitability, that I just don't know how to handle. I mean, what IS one supposed to do when elderly parents begin to talk more and more about issues of mortality? I can never find anything that seems even remotely appropriate to say, so I end up saying nothing. Or laughing it off somehow.

    I feel like we're wading into uncharted waters, and I don't like it.

  • bpath reads banned books too

    Tina, I feel the same way about shrinking families. I grew up with bunches of cousins. Now that we are grown, not all of us are or have been married, not all have children, and not in the same 8 year age range that we cousins are. Not to mention, most of us cousins‘ fathers worked together, so we were together a lot.

    My kids have no first cousins in this country. My oldest is 10 years older than his closest second cousin here. There’s just less connection. That’s one reason I feel bad about NOT hosting, it was the one opportunity to be together. I’ve toyed with a summer party, but i forget or we can’t find a date when enough could come. My mom used to have a nice outdoor summer party for my dad; maybe next year I’ll have a kind of memorial party.

  • aktillery9

    Christmas is a very difficult time for so many people. Society puts a heavy weight on having a happy Christmas and now with social media and the internet it gets pushed down our throats long before Christmas even arrives.

    Ida, your post is beautifully written and hits the nail on the head regarding the mixed emotions of it all.

    It is definitely not an easy time for me either. My parents have been gone for a very long time now. I have no siblings and all of my aunts and uncles etc having passed away as well. I am very much alone on Christmas and haven't liked the holiday in some time. I completely understand the dread of mortality. I am not sure which is harder being completely on my own or when I was watching my parents decline.

    So, I have been working on Christmas which helps to make the day seem almost like any other. I am thankful I have that option. It is hard sometimes to come to the startling realization that I am completely on my own and solely responsible for myself. I guess we all are responsible for ourselves but it is always nice to know someone loves you so much and always has your back.

    One great aspect to being on your own is you do not have to buy anyone any gifts! I guess that is a blessing in many ways.

    Thanks so much for posting and sharing your thoughts and feelings. It helps us all to know we are not alone in feeling melancholy during this time of year. I am sorry you too have these feelings. I am feel terrible for anyone who does. At least we know we are not the only ones to have such emotions. Big ((((((HUS))))))) to you all! I personally would be lost without all of you. Such dear people on this site. It is a wonderful and safe place to vent and get such wonderful feedback, sympathy and empathy.

  • 3katz4me

    Yes, this time of year brings on a few moments of sadness and melancholy. I just go with the flow and don't try to fake holiday joy. I have no one I need to fake it for. My sadness is mostly because I have no immediate family left - parents and siblings have passed, no kids or nieces/nephews on my side. We also aren't all that close to DH's siblings/nieces/nephews. I didn't have idyllic holidays as a kid though I have plenty of fond memories and that is all a thing of the past. I think this age/stage of life (early 60s) is a time when you are trying to come to grips with how life has changed and what has passed and will never be again.

    I imagine if you have kids/grandkids you can be favorably caught up in their excitement but perhaps have more unpleasantness related to all the commercial emphasis on gifts/excessive stuff. We don't give any gifts so all that pressure is a thing of the past which I appreciate.

    I have come to accept that I can be happy with just DH and I for Christmas. It's far more pleasant than facing his family members who invite us (sometimes practically at the last minute) but make us feel unwelcome while we're there. I think they'd rather just be with their kids/grandkids and I honestly wish they'd quit inviting us. DH feels guilty if he gets invited and doesn't go. Then it makes it awkward if I don't go though last year I didn't because I just did not want to spend Christmas like that.

    The really distressing thought that arises, that I try not to dwell on, is what I will do if DH passes before me and I'm on my own. I guess if I end up in that situation I'll figure something out as I have done with life's other difficulties I've faced.

    Overall though I find joy in my life every day, whether it's holiday time or not. Life is far from perfect and you have to allow yourself time for the joy and the sadness.

  • jmck_nc

    Thank you for this thread. I have many issues with "the holidays". I remember going to an employee assistance program about stress and the holidays 30+ years ago and it is still with me. Mostly my issues have to do with my difficult mother and I've been waiting to be released from that duty for a long time....alas, she will probably outlive me (she's 94). I had a "discussion" about all this with her recently as she was insisting that she would be coming to my home on Christmas for the day. A year ago she broke her leg and now she cannot do any stairs and there are 5 stairs to any entrance to my home. Also, my bathroom is not handicap accessible. She insisted that she would be able to get up the stairs with help from people pushing from behind, etc. She is not a small woman and though my son, husband and I are strong, that is a recipe for disaster. Also, she has always had unrealistic expectations of what will happen on the day. Our lives are NOTHING like a hallmark movie...never have been and yet she persists. When she was able to come to my home for Christmas Day 2 years ago we actually kept a tally of all the rude and hurtful things she said. It is impossible to make her happy and I have given myself permission to stop trying...but it is really hard. I wish I could just wake up in January and it would all be over!

    Ida's parental issues bring to mind the question "what do we really owe our parents...and for how long?". I feel like I have been putting my preferences on hold for my entire life and I wonder if it will ever be my turn. It is just so much pressure to be the one solely relied upon for every holiday (however minor...flag day anyone?). I have weaned her off expecting me to provide entertainment for all but Thanksgiving and Christmas, but really I'd like to skip those too.

    Well, thanks for letting me get that off my chest! There's plenty more and some of our stories have become funny with the magic of time.

  • aktillery9

    3katz, I completely hear where you are coming from. Good for you in recognizing the simple joys in daily life! I too thing it is important to face the sad emotions that overwhelm us sometimes. However, I try to face them and move on. It is never good to wallow and dwell for too long.

  • aprilneverends

    (Here was a long post I was bored to read myself so I decided to delete it as in hold myself to higher standards, well once in a while lol)


    Goodness all this was to share a Christmas song with you. I really love it, and I think it captures the mood, well at least mine. No idea whether appropriate, in this thread, so forgive me in advance..

  • bpath reads banned books too

    Thank you for sharing that song, April. I knew Children, Go Where I Send Thee, but never heard Jane Jane. Written by Peter Paul and Mary (and Okun) In ‘64,

  • Fun2BHere

    @jmck_nc, I guess we owe our parents our support until death, theirs or ours. I would feel differently if the parents were physically abusive or life-threatening. Too bad we can't divorce parents for irreconcilable differences the way we can divorce a spouse.

  • IdaClaire

    I like that, April. Very evocative.

  • Feathers11

    Thank you for starting this thread, IdaClaire. 2019 has been a difficult year for me, and I learned just today that a dear friend has cancer. I'm really not in a good frame of mind to face this holiday season. And, it's OK. I told my friend today, "You have to make space for everything you're feeling." This stems from the following passage from Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart...

    Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don't really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It's just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.

    Make space for it all.

  • l pinkmountain

    I'm low this year too. I long ago gave up trying to make my Chistmas holiday time match anyone else's expectations, particularly commercial ones. Sometimes I've had lovely holiday experiences, but on a few occasions life has handed me some bitter pills. Last year was great, this year everything has changed for me, and not for the necessarily better. I don't think it is holiday expectations that are bringing me down, the holidays just coincidentally coincide with a downturn in my life right now. But the contrast between happier holiday times and right now is a factor. But I will fully support anyone wanting to break away from the standard script when it comes to this time of year.

    As a side note, I can't count how many miserable New Year's Eve parties I went to as a youth, buying in to the idea that you HAD to party that night, HAD to stay up at least until midnight, and should never be alone. Or else not being able to say, "No, just no." to other people thinking I had to be doing something so pushing stuff on me. If I can be with friends celebrating, great. But if not, the New Year still comes if you don't go to a party and turn in at 11 PM. I've gone with good friends to some "First Night" community celebrations and they were nice, but they were earlier in the evening. I can stay up until 12, but don't necessarily WANT to. The worst thing people do is sit at home alone and make themselves stay up because they think they should, and feel alone and miserable the whole time. That is my Dad's holiday tradition now, he stays up until midnight making himself miserable missing my Mom. I tell him to let it go, but he won't. And then I get into the issue of how much I owe a parent. Should I "party" with him even though it is no fun? Should I wear myself out planning a party to make him think better of himself just because he buys into the idea that it is pathetic to be "alone" on New Year's Eve even if you have tons of friends and spend plenty of time with them at other times of the year? To me, the answer is obviously no, but that doesn't stop my Dad from reminding me how miserable he is. I get it, he's mentally ill, but it does wear me down at times.

    I think a lot of us feel pressure to be the "family fun" instigators and planners. Just because we can do it, and sometimes have done it and done it well, doesn't mean we always want to do it or have to do it. Every year is not going to be exactly the same, which is something I get but not all the controlling people in my life feel that way.

  • blfenton

    I am the eldest of 6 and the youngest is 8 years younger than me. For the first 12 years of my life Christmas was my dad being drunk and by the time I was 8 I was responsible for keeping my younger siblings quiet as daddy has a "headache". My dad quit drinking the following year but damage was done.

    I don't like Christmas. I stopped expecting anything close to a Hallmark joyous Christmas decades ago.

    @jmck - Ida's parental issues bring to mind the question "what do we really owe our parents...and for how long?". I feel like I have been putting my preferences on hold for my entire life and I wonder if it will ever be my turn

    That is a really good question and could be a separate thread. Both my DH and I are responsible for our mom's and we're 66 and have been retired for 6 years. We're still waiting to enjoy that time.

    Don't get me wrong as I do and did have joy in my life - Raising my two sons was a constant joy for me and I so love them as adults and I have a great group of lady running buddies who are my inspiration.

  • whatsayyou18

    "I mean, what IS one supposed to do when elderly parents begin to talk more and more about issues of mortality? "

    I think it's his way of showing he wants to discuss it. I'd acknowledge his comments and give him an opening to share what is on his mind.

  • whatsayyou18

    Re obligations to our parents, I feel we are obligated to insure they are safe and well cared for. Not by me, mind you, but some one/place. My mother was terrible to me but my sibling and I put her in a place where she was comfortable and happy. I was relieved when it was over. I also said she was so mean/evil that she'd outlive us all but, shock!, she didn't. ;) Made it to 97 a year and a half ago.

  • patl8

    RE " I mean, what IS one supposed to do when elderly parents begin to talk more and more about issues of mortality? I can never find anything that seems even remotely appropriate to say, so I end up saying nothing. Or laughing it off somehow. "

    Ida -there is a book called Being Mortal that I found so helpful when my parents were facing their mortality. (They both passed in 2018 at 93) I noticed that my Dad tried to bring it up a lot, my mom did not, but I felt sad for him that no one was willing to discuss the obvious. I thought that must feel very lonely. My husband died at 56, five years ago, so I thought --well I can talk about this if no one else will! I had a few chances but I didn't think I could do it in front of my Mom, as I knew I would bawl and I didn't want her worrying more about ME. After one such visit I wrote my Dad a letter telling him how I felt and that I would be happy to talk to him about anything. After I sent it I had a little panic attack thinking maybe I overstepped. But I received a lovely letter back from him thanking me for it and we promised to talk in future.

    Back to the book-it helped me talk to him about his end of life, like what is it that scared him etc. And how could we make his days the best they could be while his body was failing etc. I became very comfortable talking about death with him, and our final conversation was wonderful. (I did not know it would be the last at the time)

    My Mom on the other hand did NOT want to discuss her future and I did not push her at all. My husband didn't either, he thought he would get well until his final week. Take your cues from them, you will know what to do. Just don't be scared to let them talk about it if they want to.

  • Arapaho-Rd

    Thank you, Ida, for opening this topic. So much comes to the surface during the holidays. I can't seem to get my thoughts out but hope to come back and post. I agree that the people here make such a difference. They have in my life without really knowing it. I will always be grateful.

  • tinam61

    Jenn, perhaps you could do some other holiday things that might get you more in the Christmas spirit (so to speak) and keep you and your husband away from the crowds, etc. We enjoy driving around to see the Christmas lights. We live near a touristy area that we usually avoid, but there are beautiful light displays. There are several churches that have the drive-through nativity scenes/programs. You needn't leave your car! One thing we try to do each year - a little different from the regular Christmas light displays is in the big city near us, many businesses have adopted have a lit tree on their building. Plus there are two park areas that have huge community trees. I enjoy seeing those. We usually get together with our best friends and do dinner, the lights, and often come back to one of our homes for dessert. This week is the "Hanging of the Greens" service at our church and I can guarantee that I will leave there full of Christmas spirit. Beautiful songs and narration, the church is darkened and decorated with greenery and many, many white lights. The children will participate in setting up a nativity on the alter table.

    Also, someone mentioned accepting the sad times in our life. That is true. It is a part of each life. I am typically an upbeat, glass-half-full kind of person. I need to realize it's okay to be sad and to get through that.

    Jenn, as far as your father bringing up end-of-life, etc. I agree with the poster who said he may just want to talk about. Try to follow his lead and see where the conversation takes you. My father is older than yours but he will occasionally bring up things for the future, how he'd like to deal with certain issues, etc. and although it makes me sad to have the conversation, I end up appreciating the fact that we DID talk about it and I know what his wishes are.

  • bpath reads banned books too

    My father, I think was ready to talk about it, but needed someone who was also ready, to talk about it WITH. Being Mortal was helpful to me, to find ways to talk with him. I was halfway through it when he died. We really did not expect it, but then we didn’t expect that he’d have a hemorrhagic stroke two years earlier, either.

  • IdaClaire

    I so greatly appreciate the beautiful and heartfelt thoughts expressed here. Thank you for the encouragement to talk with my dad. I will return to this with more to say, but for now would just like to state that I found a little pocket of joy this evening. I attended a dinner at our church that I wasn't greatly looking forward to. I would've rather stayed home and put on my pajamas, but instead I dressed myself up and went. And I had a wonderful time. I ended up seated next to a total stranger, an elderly woman with whom I expected to have nothing in common. Wrong! She regaled me with tales of her many travels and listened with genuine interest as I shared with her some of mine. I actually came away thinking that I would enjoy having this little old lady as a traveling companion myself, because her eyes simply lit up when she talked of what she'd seen in Sweden and how it felt to walk the ancient streets of Ephesus and the magic of coming upon wild ponies in Scotland. You just never know where you'll meet someone interesting, with a fascinating life story to tell.

    So, yeah. A little unexpected pocket of joy. It was quite lovely and sparked a bit of hope that there are still such moments to be found.

  • whatsayyou18

    "She regaled me with tales of her many travels and listened with genuine interest as I shared with her some of mine."

    Oh, I just love this! I met an 85 y.o. gentleman on an overseas flight a couple of years ago. We had both gotten up to stretch our legs and ended up talking for at least a couple of hours at the back of the plane until the announcement was made to take our seats. As with your experience, he had a sparkle in his eyes, was enthusiastic about life, and interested in what I had to say. As it turned out, we were en route to the same cruise and spent time together onboard with our spouses. If we lived closer, I know we'd be great friends. I imagine your new friend came away with the same good feelings you did!

  • l pinkmountain

    Unfortunately, loss is a theme of late middle age and beyond. Not sure how one finds hope and meaning and a little bit of comfort in old age. My dad says he feels like he is just sitting around waiting for the bus of death to arrive. I tell him that it is unavoidably true, and all we can do is try to make the best of the wait. We seem to lose someone near and dear every six months or so, sometimes more often. Hubs and I have come to dread the phone ringing, it's often some fresh crisis. It's a real struggle when the holiday gatherings get smaller and smaller and you reflect on happier times past. It's not rose colored glasses, they were happier for some of us. The younger generation in my family is full of children with multiple sets of half and step siblings and parents and step-parents and everyone is angry and upset with everyone else, plus struggling financially and spread out all over the country. So no joy in seeing the holidays through younger eyes for us, it's a chaotic stressful time with arguments about everything under the sun. I'm with Ida, I just want to go to bed and pull the covers over my head!

    Even our church, which is full of wonderful caring people, there is a sense that we need to do more to help the community, so as nice as everyone is, there is a feeling of inadequacy when we try to come to grips with all the needs out there. I think a lot of folks there looks to me to step into the leadership role that my parents held in the community, but my circumstances are much leaner than theirs were at my age, there isn't the extra resources there for me that were there for them. I don't have the time nor money to support the many causes like my parents did. And that makes me feel guilty and inadequate. We love going to our new church, but reasonably now they want us to contribute more to the community, and then that just becomes one more thing weighing on me.

  • bpath reads banned books too

    You know, I’m regretting not asking my parents more about what their Christmases were like. My dad’s, I think I can assume, was not that different from mine growing up, since we were so close to his mother, siblings, and cousins. But I’d love to know from the different times, like what kinds of toys, whose house they celebrated at, etc.

    My mom didn’t really like to talk about her childhood except for a few stories, but I never asked her specifically about Christmas. And now she can’t tell me.

  • blfenton

    @pati8 - I read Being Mortal - Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande and really liked it. It really makes you think about what counts at the end of your life. This is from Wikipedia

    Being Mortal is a meditation on how people can better live with age-related frailty, serious illness, and approaching death. Gawande calls for a change in the way that medical professionals treat patients approaching their ends.

    It really requires a change in attitude and thought processes of how doctors treat those patients who are nearing the end of their lives. It isn't a sad book but rather one of hope.

  • jill302

    The original post and the comments that follow are hitting home with me this year. I am having a difficult time with the holidays. While my Christmas “magic” level has decreased over the years I had still managed to maintain quite a bit of joy in the holiday, even in recent years when a very close friend died right after Thanksgiving and my dad passed away. This year I just can not get going, and while I am not anti-holiday I just feel like Christmas is something else added to my already full plate. I do understand that this feeling or lack there of, may pass when my situation with family changes, this too makes me sad. My mom’s and my FIL’s health has changed dramatically for the worse in the last year. My BIL in his 50’s moved to Assisted Living a month or so ago due to health issues. Then to add to the fun my daughter is planning on moving out soon. While this is a normal right of passage, I am very close to her and this change just adds to my sadness. My husband is insisting that we still need to host the huge family Christmas party, that his mom has hosted for many years. I had wanted to opt out of it or at least change it yup to be more relaxed, perhaps cater the food but he is insisting that it be the same way as his mom has always done it. I think it is his way to hold onto his holiday traditions and feel that it is a gift to his mom, but it is just not something I want to do. Reading everyone else’s posts reminds me that I am not alone in feeling low, and actually this helps quite a bit. It made me realize that my expectations of the holiday magic may just be unrealistic. It is okay this year to just get through it, magic is not going to happen every year.

  • IdaClaire


    Just be.

    Just exist without expectation of any sort.

    This has become a meditative device for me, and at times is actually prayerful.

    It helps me, and it is such a simple thing. There is no conscious letting go or quieting of my mind. There is absolutely no work involved.


    Just be.

  • cawaps

    At the best of times, I feel overwhelmed by the holiday season. So many expectations, so many things to get done (Buy a tree! Send out cards! Buy gifts! Make candy! Parties! Gift fairs! Visit relatives!). Plus work almost inevitably seems to be crazy busy at year end (for reasons I don't understand, since nothing I do is particularly tied to a calendar year schedule).

    This year is particularly fraught, as I lost my mom last January, so this is the first Christmas without her. My daughter is traveling to China with her grandfather. I'll be flying up to visit my siblings, but not until after Christmas, since my brother works in retail and that works out best for him. So I'm going to be on my own on Christmas day. I sing in a church choir, and will be singing Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, health permitting, so I won't be sitting at home moping all day. But still...There will probably be a movie and maybe some Chinese food. It's good to embrace other cultural traditions.

  • 3katz4me

    A pocket of joy - tonight I listened to Christmas music, drank hot cider and put up my Christmas decorations. I don’t do a lot - just as much as I find enjoyable and enough to make the place feel festive. DH is away at a conference so it’s just the cats and me - very peaceful. I greatly enjoy peace and tranquility.

  • IdaClaire

    I've decided to invite the 90 year old woman I met last night to my home for a proper English tea, right after the first of the year. She told me she loves a good cup of English tea which "makes that Lipton stuff taste like dirty water in comparison." I do hope she'll come. And bring her trip scrapbooks!

    I'm glad to know that others are seeking a bit of brightness, wherever it can be found.

    I've also started planning a hiking trip to the Big Bend National Park area for later in 2020. It feels good to look a number of months down the road and think about what I want to be doing then. Like there's life yet to come after the holidays.

  • allison0704

    Like many of you, my family was much larger and their were cousins around at my paternal grandparents house. I had 11 first cousins. 2 have passed away, and 8 live out of state. The 3 that live in state are not nearby. I only see them on FB, and they have children I've never met. All of my aunts and uncles have either died or out of state. I only had 4 maternal side cousins, and 1 passed away last year and the other 3 lives out of state. I have such wonderful childhood memories of the many gatherings during the year at my grandparents house, and summer visits that lasted for months on the other side (Navy brats). I feel bad for my children that their cousins are older or younger, so they never connected with any of them. My sister has no children. My memories should make me smile, but mostly they make me sad because everyone is "gone," dead or alive.

    Then there is the loss of my parents. Dad's "anniversary" is around and involves Thanksgiving, and Mom's just after New Years. So many emotions float to the surface in the days surrounding his death. Three years have now passed, and the emotions change each year, each day. I swore I would not ever allow them to muddle my holidays, and I do a good job keeping depression away. I am close to our three children, and I love spending time with our grandchildren, so there are more happy moments than sad.

    Then the holidays also brings up the confusion and hurt from my SIL. We used to swap hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas each year. When we moved to our last house, I hosted Thanksgiving, then she did not contact me about Christmas, so I hosted it again (we are not close and have never talked on a regular basis). Her 4 children were younger, so I thought just not a good time for her to host (yet, no explanation?). The next October, not contact about Thanksgiving, so I hosted a third time. Then I find out the first Thanksgiving she had said to DD2 that our house was too nice, and she was never inviting us to their house again. ??? It's now been 13yrs. DH and his brother talk daily and used to see each other every weekend, until their mom died. So their current relationship is strong, and I guess it really doesn't matter since SIL and I were never close, and neither were our children. But it still bothers me, even though I know it's her problem, not mine. As long as there are not bugs and dirt on the floor, I don't care what your house looks like.

    Ida, I'm so glad you went and found a new friend. Inviting her over for tea and to talk about traveling is a nice idea. I think having friends of various ages is a good thing. Until I was 9yo, we lived on a block with no children. My "friends" lived in three houses on our street. I would visit and chat, and they were so patient and kind to that little girl. They were like family to me.

    Pinkmountain, whatever you do, it will never enough for some people. You are not your parents and they should understand, and not put that pressure on you to begin with. Who and where you spend your time and money, when there is either to be given, is your decision. So please do not feel guilty or inadequate.

    jill302, maybe you can get through it this year, as a tribute to his mom, with the help from other family members. Have them bring dishes, don't try to do it all yourself. Then have a talk with him after the holidays and explain while you enjoyed the traditions of the past, you would like to make your own traditions in the future. Maybe he does not realize how much time and effort (and stress) large gatherings take.

  • IdaClaire

    My memories should make me smile, but mostly they make me sad because everyone is "gone," dead or alive.

    I absolutely relate to this. I DO have family here, but for various reasons (some of which I simply cannot understand), they have chosen not to BE a family. My female cousin is a prime example. She got her panties in a twist years ago about something so silly as to be laughable now, and although apologies were issued all around and I thought forgiveness had truly taken place, she has cut off all contact. I have tried to rekindle our friendship a number of times over the past ten years or so, the latest being right before Thanksgiving. No response. I'm done trying, but it still makes me very, very sad to think that THIS is how it turned out, even after the decades of closeness, which were very special to me and I think should have meant something to her as well.

  • l pinkmountain

    Two updated thoughts:

    1. I got a meme post from a friend today on fb that read: "The older; you get, the more you realize you have no desire for conflict or stress. You just want a cozy home, food on the table and to be surrounded by kind people who make you happy." I found it ironic, because I know my dad has that in spades, (the surrounded by kind people part) but never can see or accept or experience the "make you happy" part. It's partly personality, and partly I think a biochemical brain issue (anxiety disorder) for which he refuses treatment. But it does confound me when some folks are so touchy about things when they have so much. But on the flip side, I think FB is constantly telling you to disassociate from people who disagree with you, are "toxic" or bring drama into your life of one form or another. Well, sooner or later you are going to be sitting home alone, the human race is quite a mess.

    For more of my .02, having experience with narcissistic personality disorder, narcissists crave constant validation. They want everyone to be exactly how they think they should be, and reflect what they want them to reflect, and think and say what they want them to say, 24/7. And yet ironically that is never enough, they have a bottomless pit of need for the validation that is never satisfied. IMHO (and this is just my opinion, feel free to disagree, I am not saying it is the only way to think about this subject), modern media with these kinds of sentiments blaring in our ears all the time, feeds narcissism. That sense of dis-ease, dissatisfaction with self or others, etc., creates a gnawing emptiness that more media, more buying, more distraction that is offered up is only too willing to try and fill. Again, just my .02.

    My example would be my brother, who is so busy nurturing the hurts of the world to him that he is oblivious to the hurt he is causing me. Actually told me "You and your petty problems make me sick." Well "ditto" is the sentiment saying something like that engenders. So while he suffered from a narcissist, he also became one. Of course he does not think so and would vehemently disagree and tell you what a horrible person I am . . . so there ya go! It's a slippery slope just typing/saying something like this, I'm just pointing this out as an example of how hurts get passed down if one is not careful. And to show that sometimes a person projects the hurt they are feeling onto others, without even realizing they are doing it. That helps with compassion. You don't have to take it, but also remind yourself that what they are projecting is often more about them than you, and often really nasty people are trapped in a hell of their own. You don't have to go there with them, but realize that there is pain in their lives too.

    1. Coincidentally, on my way home from work listening to "Fresh Air" on the radio, Terry Gross was interviewing a guy who had written a book about the end of life, called "A Beginner's Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death." He was a hospice physician and also had almost died himself and suffered serious injuries from this near electrocution. His name was B.J. Miller. Here's a link to the episode. I may have to get hat book . . . although my nightstand and every table in my house is overloaded with books I want to read . . . . https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/12/03/784401787/after-a-freak-accident-a-doctor-finds-insight-into-living-life-and-facing-death

  • l pinkmountain

    From the interview, and this so captures my Dad's discomfort, being as controlling as he is, "FOMO — fear of missing out. That's very often at the heart of people's
    fear of being dead — like all that they're going to miss. And this idea
    that the world is going to continue on without them, all the things
    they're not going to get to see, etc. But if you go there, then what has
    that done? That has pointed us very squarely to all the things we love
    and care about. And then that becomes a nice compass for our way
    forward, how we're going to live until we die. The fear there, the
    things we are afraid to miss, are the things we really should uptickin terms of our attention now."

    I often ask my Dad what gives him comfort, and also what kinds of things would he like to see continue on in his honor after he is gone, because I try to encourage him to donate some of his estate to charity BEFORE he dies, as a way of seeing good manifest itself in his name while he is alive, and then know that it will continue. Oddly it seems to me, he has zero interest in that process. What he wants is constant attention on him, praise for what he has done himself. This make him a very lonely person, even now while he is still alive. Irrelevance and obscurity are his big fears with death. And ironically, he has the ability to ensure his name will live on, and yet he cannot imagine it living on without he himself being in control . . . So some of our dis-ease is a control issue that we have to find a way to manage as time marches on and it becomes ever more apparent that carp is gonna happen and we can't stop that process.

  • patriceny

    Ipink, I love what you just wrote. I think this is particularly good:

    But on the flip side, I think FB is constantly telling you to
    disassociate from people who disagree with you, are "toxic" or bring
    drama into your life of one form or another. Well, sooner or later you
    are going to be sitting home alone, the human race is quite a mess.

    This is sort-of a carry over from the "what do you owe your parents" thread, but after 5 decades on this earth I finally figured out what works for me. Not saying it will work for others, but what I try to fall back on is intent.

    In other words, if someone hurts you but it wasn't intentional, then I try to accept none of us are perfect and move on. I will apologize if I am aware I have unintentionally hurt someone and I will mean it. Life is hard, we're all stressed and touchy (at least some days!), and I'm too old to want to sustain and nurture hard feelings. I'm too stinking old for drama any more.

    But if I become aware someone is deliberately being mean, or is looking for a fight, whatever....I'm out. I don't carry a grudge, I don't want to fight with anyone - but I also need peace in my life and so if someone is continually agitating, then they're going to be agitating elsewhere.

  • jmck_nc

    "FOMO — fear of missing out. That's very often at the heart of people's
    fear of being dead — like all that they're going to miss.

    This is totally my mother! She cannot imagine the world should keep turning without her in it.

  • mtnrdredux_gw

    I so agree with you Patrice. I cannot fathom people who hold deep grudges for years over unintentional wrongs

  • 3katz4me

    I completely agree - no grudges and patriceny you expressed my approach exactly. I just let insignificant stuff go and carry on. However if someone is a mean-spirited, hurtful individual I move on and don't spend time with them. I don't think negative energy is good for you mentally and physically so I choose to be positive and try to be good to other people and I prefer to spend time with others who try to do the same.

    I have a neighbor who was quite friendly to us when we moved into our current home. I thought how nice - a new friend in the new 'hood. In time there was something about her that made me think I probably would not become close friends with this person. As more time passed and we became more involved in our neighborhood it became apparent she is quite a mean and nasty person. Hence we no longer spend time with her and her husband. There's no grudge - I just don't care to be around someone who treats people that way.

  • chipotle

    This is a depressing thread. I had to stop reading.

    If you don't mind I'd like to contribute a little levity.

  • 3katz4me

    Perhaps oddly I don't find this thread depressing. It's the reality of some people's lives which are sometimes low in spirit. On the contrary, I find it heart warming that this cyber group is kind, caring and supportive of each other and that people feel comfortable sharing their difficulties as well as their joys.

  • Zalco/bring back Sophie!

    I think it's generous for people to share their heartaches with one another. It makes it a less lonely time to know others may have similar struggles. Not every season of our lives is filled with joy. Some times we have to work hard to see the light.

    That little girl in the video, wow, what a performance!

  • eld6161

    I agree with 3Katz and Zalco.

    This is life. Ups, downs and sideways. It's nice to share the good, but it's the not so good that often brings us closer.

  • pb32

    I'm going to 4th the same sentiment. It's nice to have people listen and try to understand, rather than judge.

  • IdaClaire

    The title of this thread really sums it up. Enough said.

    Please keep sharing.

  • aprilneverends

    ..I'll share an old Soviet joke with you.

    "An optimist is a well-instructed pessimist. A pessimist, is a well- informed optimist"

    So sometimes I'm well- instructed, and sometimes, I'm well-informed))

  • Feathers11

    Oooohhh... April, there's truth to that joke.

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