At this time of the year there are so many expectations. It’s as if we’ve bought into a collective fairy tale, and it goes something like this:
It’s Christmas morning. A large, happy, healthy, attractive, educated, polite, loving family gathers in tasteful bathrobes and slippers under a tastefully decorated tree in a tastefully decorated, expansive home. Beautiful little children are appropriately excited, and the well-behaved, well-groomed dog lazes nearby. A fire crackles in the hearth.
Let’s put you in the scene, now. Your handsome, loving spouse sits with you on the couch, your head on his shoulder, his arm around you. He pulls out the most beautifully wrapped box. You open it, eyes wide. It’s perfect. You kiss passionately. Your attractive and healthy parents link arms and smile in appreciation for such a wonderful son-in-law. His equally attractive and healthy parents beam smiles in their heroic son’s direction.
And everyone lives happily ever after, having had The Perfect Christmas.
Nice story, huh? But real life often fails to match up to this fairy tale, and we feel somehow cheated, disappointed, less than, or maybe even mad.
Because real life can be messy.
Maybe this is the first Christmas you’ve had to plan, organize and shop for — because your wife will be in Baghdad this year.
Maybe this year you won’t get a gift from your spouse — because his Alzheimer’s has robbed him of the ability to think of you as anything but that nice woman who visits him every day.
Maybe this year you’ll be alone on Christmas morning, because it’s your ex-spouse’s turn to have the kids.
Maybe there won’t be a perfect present under the tree because there’s not enough money for the tree, let alone gifts.
Maybe you’ll be missing your mother, who passed away in the spring. Maybe you’re, once again, the only single person in the room on Christmas morning. Maybe you’re in the middle of chemotherapy this Christmas.
There are plenty of ways your life is different from the fairy tale, huh? No wonder so many of us are snappish, moody and melancholy.
Because our lives don’t match the fairy tale.
And that, my friends, is OK.
Because if your wife is in Baghdad this Christmas, you can still give your kids the best Christmas you know how to. And your spouse with Alzheimer’s? His gentle wonder that such a nice lady is there with him is a precious gift. And when your kids spend Christmas morning with your ex-spouse, you are telling your kids that their own relationship with their dad is important — can you be more loving than that?
In all of our real lives, there are great challenges — and great gifts. When you feel angry or depressed or unhappy that your real life doesn’t measure up to the manufactured, unreal fairy tale — take heart. Just accept your own, unique life — messy, loud, fractured, silly, disorganized, untasteful. Because it’s all yours. And it’s perfect, just the way it is.
Honestly, would you have it any other way?
So, love it because it’s yours. Love it because it’s very real. Love it because love is what Christmas is all about.