Taking down Christmas

Note:  I won’t go into details about what happened two years ago that changed my life so radically, so please don’t ask. Thanks.

Today I took down the outside holiday decorations.  Wanted to take advantage of sunshine and no rain.  Tomorrow I’ll deal with the inside things like the tree and my Dickens Christmas Village.  Usually taking down Christmas isn’t quite as much fun as putting it up.  But I realized this year was different for me.

Two years ago I had the worst holiday season ever and only had decorations up because things had gone bad after I’d already decorated.  Otherwise, there would’ve been nothing up at all.

Last year, I chose to buy new ornaments for the tree so the decorations didn’t remind me of happier times and things I’ve lost, thus sending me into a major bout of crying.  The year before, December had been one long month of non-stop crying.  No desire to go there again.  I didn’t put up any decorations last year other than the tree.  Nothing outside.  No village on my bookshelf.   The tree with the new ornaments wound up being just right.  Festive, quiet, and not overly triggering.

Along came this year.  I didn’t feel Christmas-y at all.  When I saw ads for the holidays on TV, I felt like I was seeing something for other people, but not for me.  It was like Christmas had ceased to be something I celebrated.  About midway through December, I saw a cute little tree at the grocery store that needed a bit of love.  A Charlie Brown tree.  So I brought it home, decorated it with the previous year’s new ornaments, and felt happy to see the tree looking bright and festive and not in the least pitiful.  So there.  I had a decoration. A tree.  My tree.

Then I found myself thinking about the cute lighted deer family in my storage shed and remembered there were a number of new families in the neighborhood with small children.  Small children love holiday lights, so I decided to put up the deer.  The next night I decorated the bushes out front.  The next night I added lighted plastic trees.  Suddenly my outdoor decorations were the brightest on the street and it made me happy to be bringing a bit of holiday cheer to my neighbors.

So now I had a tree and outside lights and decorations.  I kept looking at my bookshelf that looked so empty without the Christmas Village.  I brought the village out of storage and realized if I set things up differently than I had in the past, it may not be triggering.   I left out some parts of the usual decorations that I knew would have connotations with people no longer in my life, and added a few new things.  And suddenly I was happy with my village.

Basically, I’ve learned this year, that now as a single older adult living alone, I can make my holidays about me and whatever I want them to be.  I can avoid things if they bring me grief.  I can embrace things that perhaps in the past I avoided for the benefit of others. Surprisingly, I found a sense of freedom this holiday season.

So taking down the outside decorations today was liberating.  Rather than feeling sad the holidays were over, I felt victory as I looked at each item and thought about the moments of joy each had given me during another sad and difficult holiday.

Remembering where I was two years ago and comparing it to where I am now, I realized how much progress I’ve made.

I remember thinking on the Winter Solstice, “We’re half way out of the dark.” It felt like a message of hope in a dark and difficult time.  Taking down Christmas today made me feel that way again.  That I’m on the upward path out of despair and darkness.

Hope.  Encouragement.  Light.  I wish you (and myself) these things in the New Year as we journey our way out of the dark.

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