I’ve been melancholy these past few weeks, wondering if I’d ever again feel the Christmas spirit. For years, my husband and I hosted huge Thanksgiving dinners, and enthusiastically planned extravagant Christmas parties. For our five children, I made sure Christmas eve and morning were truly magical.
But then, life changed. After I filed for divorce, the first holiday season was a matter of emotional survival, and desperately trying to show my kids that we could still have a good Christmas. But no matter how hard I tried, it was dismal. We had no choice but to trudge through, leaning heavily on the promises of friends that there were brighter days ahead.
By the second year, the kids’ healing process was well under way, and I was on a freedom high. It didn’t bother me in the least that they would be spending Christmas Eve and morning with their dad and stepmom. I practically skipped through the mall, encouraging hard working cashiers, and taking selfies with strangers in Santa hats. I bought myself a beautiful bouquet of flowers, poured a glass of wine, and watched my favorite Christmas movies without interruption. And then, I luxuriously lounged under my new down comforter until midmorning, relishing the fact that for once I would not spend Christmas day exhausted.
So now, here I am in year three. Life has settled into a comfortable routine, the kids are happy, and I’m spending my time writing and planning my future. But for some reason, I couldn’t get into the spirit of the holidays. I’m grateful for my home, but right now, I really miss the house where I spent twenty years raising my family.
I’ve been on edge in other areas of my life, too. And to make matters worse, I couldn’t listen to any holiday music that involved religion or romance without feeling listless. I even downloaded the Chipmunk’s Christmas album so I could hearken back to childhood when my grandmother would play her records while we baked cookies. But once you’re pushing fifty, you can only laugh at Alvin’s antics so many times.
A couple of weeks ago, I made the mistake of watching Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel. Suddenly, I couldn’t shake the desire to participate in all manner of romantic holiday activities.
I texted one of my girlfriends: “I’m just a little melancholy because I want a Christmas romance, but I’d want the person to go away after the holidays.”
She responded: “LOL! You love being single!”
This is true. I do love my independence. So, I did what every normal, red-blooded, American woman does during the holiday season. Grabbed a beer, borrowed a dog, and curled up on the couch to watch “Love Actually.”
And then I watched it again, but mainly because the dog asked if we could.
Finally, I felt a spark of holiday cheer. I don’t need cozy, hot chocolate nights, after freezing my butt off in an ice skating rink, to feel loved at Christmas. I mean, I won’t reject the opportunity if it arises, but what I really need to do is look at the love that is already around me.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that my entire life has been punctuated with one show of love after another. Not always romantic. Not even usually romantic. In fact, I can count my Hallmark movie Christmas moments on two fingers. But I’ve always felt loved, even without the romance.
It has always been there:
My mother showed me that sometimes love means setting aside your goals for a while
My dad showed me what a quiet, gentle, and consistent love looks like
My grandmother showed me what it means to be loved unconditionally
My grandfather showed me that love is often expressed through actions rather than words
My sisters showed me that there really is such a thing as love at first sight
My mom’s best friend Daphne showed me that it is important to love oneself
My fourth grade teacher, Miss Purcell, showed me that love can be expressed in a thousand small ways
My first boyfriend showed me that young love can be remembered fondly
My second boyfriend showed me that sometimes love means letting go
My ex-husband showed me that love can be true, but sometimes fades
Shelby, Alex, Abby, Phoebe, and Hudson showed me that there is a protective love so strong that it would unflinchingly stare death in the face
My girlfriends showed me that love is fierce, supportive, and without judgment
My niece Katie showed me that love is an infinite emotion
My niece Toby showed me that love should not have boundaries
Samantha showed me that love can be felt from the other side of the world
My kids’ stepmom showed me that you can love another child as your own
My aunts showed me that love can last a lifetime
My former mother-in-law showed me that love can prevail over disappointment and hurt
One man showed me that love is something you can make
Another showed me that love can simply exist, without expectation or design
Diane and Jessica showed me that you can love someone you’ve never met
My childhood chums showed me that love can be built upon shared memories and experiences
Simba, Westley, and Lucy showed me that the love of animals can be just as rewarding as human love
Every day, I encounter love in one form or another, whether it’s in the warmth of a crowd reveling in our shared humanity, a funny text from a friend who wants to make sure I’m smiling, or the hundreds of social media contacts who’ve shown that love will encircle from afar if you simply share your thoughts.
This holiday season, I will be reflecting upon the profound amount of love that I have been shown throughout my lifetime. And I will extend love and warmth to every person and creature that crosses my path. Because, after all, “It seems to me love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there–fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge; they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion…love actually is all around.” -Love Actually