Thursday, December 11, 2014
Christmas makes me feel emotional
I absolutely love Christmas music! So many of my holiday memories involve the wonderful songs of the season. When I was a teenager, I would always play “Joy to the World” on the piano on Christmas morning when I heard the rest of the family waking up. On Christmas Eve my grandpa would often TRY to play carols on the organ and always had his 8-track player (which he piped through the house) playing music when all 30+ of us gathered for our family celebration. “I just go nuts at Christmas” is a silly song that ALWAYS brings a smile to my face when I hear it because it reminds me of those Christmas Eve’s so long ago. “Away in a manger” always causes me to choke up because it was my mother’s favorite carol. “Silent Night” evokes the same feelings because it was Fr. Sauter’s favorite. I miss them a lot, especially during the holidays. For the most part, the wonderful songs of the season remind me of happy days preparing my former students for the Christmas program at school/church; special parties and celebrations; and other joyful times of long ago. Yes… I love holiday music…..even if it does rouse deep emotion.
Actually, the entire Christmas season is very emotional for me….on both ends of the spectrum. Most of the time feel joyful and happy when I think about how different and wonderful my life is now than it was just a few years ago. At other times, I feel melancholy and nostalgic when I think of my childhood/young adult days when my parents/grandparents were still with me and how joyful those celebrations were and how much I miss those days. I feel hopeful when I think of what my life might be like a year from now because God continues to bless me and I know He has great things in store for me. I then feel sadness when I think/hear about or witness the pain and heartache of others who are struggling to find even a little bit of peace and joy this year. Yes, an emotional girl like me with a heart that feels deeply often feels like she is on emotional rollercoaster during this time of year!
The past two days have been wonderful ones in terms of the Christmas Spirit. On Tuesday night I was overwhelmed with the holiday spirit because I was able to take my gal-pal Marcia shopping to purchase Christmas gifts for her children. She struggles financially and for the first time in many years (maybe EVER) she was able to purchase some things so that her children will have gifts to open on Christmas morning. She was literally like a little kid in a candy store as we shopped. I’ve never seen anyone so excited….and overwhelmed…..and joyful at the same time. Oh wait….YES, I have. I’ve been THERE before….every time I was able to do something for the first time in many years….or EVER….because of my journey to change my life. That same JOY on her face as she picked out a toy that she says her little one is “GOING TO LOVE” is what I felt when I walked to the mailbox for the first time a couple of years ago. When she said, “Theresa… I never thought I’d be able to do this… I’ve NEVER been able to go to a store and just buy something I wanted without having to figure out how I’m going to pay the bills”…. I KNEW what she meant….not because I shared her financial struggles…but because I KNOW what it feels like to climb to the top of a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan or sit on the top of a dune and be overcome with emotion as I said to my friend… “I NEVER thought I’d be able to do this….I NEVER thought I’d be able to see this… I NEVER knew that life could be like this!” Yes… I knew her joy; I felt her excitement; I shared her hope that her life can/will be different one day and that more of these empowering experiences lie ahead for her as she continues her studies and grows in confidence and strength. As we cried together in the parking lot of Kmart, I told her that I don’t think that ANYTHING….any song; any gift; any Hallmark moment; any Christmas ANYTHING could have given me more of the Christmas spirit that being able to be a part that little shopping spree and experiencing/witnessing the joy of someone who is working to change her reality. It truly was a moment of joy…..
So…yesterday I was floating on air….and filled with Christmas joy. This morning, that joy dissipated quickly and I was overwhelmed with complete disgust when I listened to the morning news. The coverage of the interrogation tactics used by the CIA has made me absolutely sick….torture, waterboarding, body slamming....simply horrific. I typically don’t get political and don’t want to “go there” or debate the war on terrorism or anything like that because each side can make their own case. I just literally hate WAR…death….hatred….destruction…..violence….prejudice, etc…and for whatever reason, the news coverage this morning THREATENED to take away my peace
I almost….almost…..gave in to it. I ALMOST let it rob me of my joy. I ALMOST let it ruin my day. It is horrible….it makes me sick….it makes me sad to think of those all over the world who suffer for ANY reason…..it breaks my heart to hear of heartbreak, sadness, oppression….but I recognize that many of these things are ‘out of my control” and I cannot change them, but I can let it change ME….either positively or negatively. I have a choice. I always have a choice. I can dwell on the darkness/evil in the world…..or I can choose to make a difference to those around me by being a LIGHT and a source of love to each person I meet today. I can give in to the sadness and feel depressed that the world is a mess or people suffer needlessly and walk around gloomy…OR…. I can choose to try to make someone smile today by telling him/her that he/she looks nice; did a good job; that I’m proud of him/her. I can say “Thank You”, “I’m sorry”, or “You’re awesome.” I can appreciate the blessings around me and say a prayer of gratitude. I can work to make others feel peaceful; happy; empowered; and hopeful. I can’t change the entire world or make people stop hating and fighting….but I can change MYSELF….and I can make a difference to those around me. And mostly…. I can CHANGE the channel! I could sit and listen to this stuff on the TV….and the other bad news…..or I can turn it off or on to a different station. The bottom line is that the choice is MINE how I react; what I choose to feel; how I want to spend my energy. You, too, have a choice on how you want to spend this day.
A few years ago, I would have dealt with things much differently. I would have turned to food. When I was shopping and had a moment of joy like I did earlier this week, I would have stopped to McDonald’s and Marcia and I would have celebrated with a milkshake or apple pie. I would have sat here eating cookies as I listened to the horrors or torture on the news. I would have ate a bag of chips when I looked at old Christmas photos and felt the sadness that loved ones have passed. Food would have been my way to deal with the emotions of the season….either happy or sad.
I was… I am….an emotional eater and this time of year is a challenge and I must make choices every single day to give in to the temptation to cover up the emotion….or to feel it/ experience it/give thanks for it…..or CHANGE the channel; leave the situation; fast forward through the song; or focus on something else. I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum….and bounce back and forth several times a day from joy to sadness….but it is much more pleasant to be joyful and hopeful than melancholy, sad, or lonely. It’s a lot more fun to be peaceful than depressed/anxious. It’s a lot better to be grateful rather than angry. I CHOOSE today…. to seek joy…..to seek health……to seek peace. What about you?