|My nephew, Atticus, accurately displaying |
my feelings about the Holiday season.
"I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I'm not happy. I don't feel the way I'm supposed to feel. I just don't understand Christmas, I guess." -- Charlie Brown
The holiday season is here, and I have to be honest, I'm not feeling the Christmas spirit. For starters, the temperature in Tucson is averaging around 75 degrees Fahrenheit with bright sunny skies. Sure, it gets chilly at night, but I haven't had to pull out my parka...wait...I don't even own a parka anymore. My collection of fun gloves and scarves that I wore during the cold Virginia winters have long been donated to Goodwill.
|The stockings were hung. |
A glimpse of Christmas past. 2011.
I haven't celebrated Christmas in the traditional sense for the past three years. In my old life, I took great pleasure in all the traditions that were handed down to me from my family. I loved spending hours hunting for the perfect tree with my ex and his family, then decorating it while sipping hot cider as Bing Crosby belted out "White Christmas" in the background. I planned the great feast for weeks, and even did my part in supporting the economy by shopping for the perfect gifts for everyone.
Christmas went the same way every year for nearly 16 years. Christmas Eve was spent with my family: Mom, Sister, Granny, aunts, and cousins. We usually had a big dinner and then exchanged gifts. In later years, we all met for a holiday themed movie and White Elephant gift exchange. That night, my ex and I would exchange gifts by the fire and make plans for the coming year.
Christmas Day was usually spent at my ex's parents' home. We would get up early and the gift exchange would take place as soon as we arrived, typically around 6:30 or 7:00 in the morning. After cleaning up the mountains of shredded wrapping paper and ribbons, we would spend the whole day helping prepare the dinner that we all shared around the festively decorated table.
That's the way it was. Every year. Until 2012.
In some ways, I think the Mayan prediction of the end of the world in 2012 actually happened. For me, anyway. By December of that year, my whole life was different. I was different. I had ended my 15 year relationship with my ex and moved out on my own for the first time in over a decade. I was exploring my newfound freedom and forging my own traditions.
|Me and Mama Price |
spending Christmas in the Bahamas.
It was during this time that my closest friend, Marsha, invited me to spend Christmas in the Bahamas with her family. We were all grieving the loss of her father, who had passed away the month before. None of us felt jolly or cheerful, and getting away to somewhere warm and sunny seemed like just what we needed.
It was bittersweet. While I was extremely grateful for the generous gift of this trip, we were all in mourning. Inevitably, the warm sunny days on the white sandy beach would give way to the dark cool nights and remind us that we were missing someone very dear to us.
I began to cherish every moment I spent with my friends and family. We are on this planet for such a short time. We will all be gone while the trinkets we have exchanged over the years will remain. I would rather hang onto my memories of time spent together than a keepsake dust collector.
That was the last time I ever exchanged gifts. When I returned home, I gathered my friends, and we hit the bricks delivering free hugs to holiday shoppers on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was so much fun to see people actually get a running start and jump into our arms to receive a hug. I can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon.
|My friend, Jason, was part|
of the Free Hug Brigade.
Surprisingly, most of the people
we encountered wanted hugs
Christmas 2013 was a little different. I had just moved across the country two months before. I was still getting settled in, but I wasn't finished traveling yet. I made my way to a beach in Honolulu, HI in early December to earn my Brown Belt in the Nia Technique. Once again, I found myself in a tropical location during the start of the Christmas season.
The shops were decorated in red and green. Christmas carols could be heard on the street corners as performers strummed their ukeleles. Every encounter with another person ended in "Aloha and Merry Christmas!", but it did not feel like Christmas to me.
One evening, I sat on a beach with my friend, Kristin, who had moved to Oahu just a few months before. As we watched the waves crash into the shore, we talked about how differently each of our lives had turned out thus far. Our conversation made me nostalgic for a Christmas with my family and friends, so I changed my travel plans to include a trip back to Virginia in time for Christmas.
As it turns out, this was not the best decision I could have made. In hindsight, I realized that I probably should have stayed in Honolulu.
I traveled for exactly 24 hours to get to Charlottesville from Honolulu. I was exhausted and freezing. The cold winter air smacked me in the face as soon as I landed on Virginia soil, as if to say, "You idiot. You could be on a beach right now."
I was met with a not so warm welcome from a certain special someone. I didn't have transportation, and getting around the sprawling city in the cold proved quite difficult on foot. The best gift I received during that visit was that of silence. For two days, I was left in a big drafty house, alone with my thoughts. That is exactly what I needed.
I reconnected with my mindfulness practices. I was able to forgive and move past my ideas of what I thought my impromptu trip home should have been like. I went to one of the best yoga classes of my life on Christmas Eve led by my friend, Jen Waine. It was a candlelit class, and as soon as I walked into the warm, dimly lit studio, I finally felt that familiar feeling I had been missing. It felt like home. It was during that class that I was able to move everything I wanted to say, feel, or scream through the gentle practice of leaving it all on the mat. What a gift.
The next day, my mother and sister picked me up and took me to the airport to fly back to Tucson. I spent Christmas Day in the sky. It was fantastic. I had finally let go of my attachment to Virginia as "home". I felt free. I arrived back in Tucson at midnight to find my friends waiting to welcome me home with open arms. It was a Christmas I will never forget, and I am grateful.
My memories of all those Christmases before 2012 are all blurred together. Nothing really stands out as truly memorable. They were ordinary by nature of the definition of the word "tradition".
So this year, while hoards of people rush to the mall to fill their bags with shiny dust collectors, I opt to head to the park and sit on a blanket with a borrowed dog or my yoga mat.
The only plans I've made is to spend Christmas this year with my new family in Tucson. We will make memories together and share precious moments. The non traditional Christmas is becoming my Christmas tradition, and it suits me just fine.