‘Tis the season for mixed emotions

Published 10:46 am Monday, December 17, 2018

It’s only a week-plus before Christmas (depending on when you’re reading this). And just as it’s never too early to do your shopping or decorating, I guess it’s not too soon to take stock of what should be the merriest time of the year. While there’s magic in the holidays, they can also be melancholy.

A friend of mine is going through her first Christmas without her mom; and it gave me pause to remember what the season was like the first Christmas without my own mother over a dozen years ago.

While everyone else’s stockings were hung by the chimney with care, at that time I was feeling mine were just filled with lumps of coal.

But still, I fought hard to preserve the spirit of the times; and I was determined, no matter what, not to be Scrooge. Yes, there were fewer brightly wrapped presents under the tree, and the lights didn’t blink so brightly on it. Tougher still was that empty chair at the table as you recognize once again that someone you loved sharing this time with is gone.

The constant advertisements of a happy family sitting around a beautifully decorated fir tree will remind some that they live alone and that there will never be a stocking hung by their chimney with care no matter what it’s filled with.

And it’s not all sadness; there’s the stress of how meeting those holiday expenses will strain the budget; wondering if enough will be left over to pay the other 11-month necessities.

Or how about people who’ll spend their Christmas in the hospital, either as patients or staying by the side of a dear one. There are many things that can cause emotional distress during the holiday season, and the twinkling lights, decorated trees, and even the blare of holiday carols have a way of highlighting problems and exacerbating things that can already be difficult.

Those who are having a holly jolly Christmas should be considerate of the ones whose days aren’t too merry and bright.

Did anyone ever hear as you were swept up in the throes of melancholia, “You have to be happy! It’s Christmas!” After one goes through their own empty experience, you have to encourage those who are having a hard time around Christmas-time, instead of trying to make them feel as if something is wrong with them.

How? Support them by trying to bring them some Christmas joy. Make some snacks, mix up some hot chocolate or cider, and invite them over to watch their favorite holiday movie, parade, or the endless day of ball games. Ask them to join you cruising the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights.

Before you know it, holiday cheer can be contagious, and you could be just that somebody to bring out that much-needed smile that could help their whole holiday season.

On the other hand, you need also be aware those who’re struggling with the season have to be willing to accept a little comfort and joy. Hiding until New Year’s, not sharing cards or presents, or being such a Grinch that others don’t want to be around you ain’t healthy either. Go to a Christmas event like a church recital and sing ‘Joy to the World’ like you really mean it, get up real early and attend a sunrise service, or accept an invitation to a Christmas party or Christmas dinner. All these can be beneficial.

Remember, there are things you can celebrate even when life’s not so easy. Someone close to you may be missing, but the friends and family trying to support you show that you’re not alone this time of year. Personally, I love singing ‘Silent Night’ along with the Temptations on the radio – especially the bass part. Sing “Here Comes Santa Claus” no matter what else is happening in your life. When you look for things to celebrate and focus on what you have instead of what you don’t have, it can help change your outlook.

So, get to work and try to make this holiday season a “most wonderful time of the year” for somebody. There’s no way you’ll have a Merry Christmas if you don’t try.


Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at gene.motley@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7211.