This is the time of year that I have to start preparing for the holidays. There is no waiting until after Thanksgiving, or until Gaudete Sunday or anything else. It starts now.
I am not talking about putting up decorations. 'Tis the season to get my defenses in place. I'm actually behind this year, because Halloween caught me by surprise (with all the really cute photos of friends' kids in their costumes).
This is the time of year that everyone starts talking about getting family photos for the Christmas cards, maybe starts thinking about some of the baking, or shopping for Christmas presents. It is the time of year that everyone has to figure out how to make it to 2 or 3 (or 4 or 5!) family gatherings. It's the time where everyone commiserates about how. frickin'. busy. everything is. Bloggers and fb statuses are full of thanksgiving, the majority of which are about husbands and children. Later we can get into favorite Christmas traditions, right before everyone cuts out because they are too busy to blog.
All good and wonderful stuff. Please understand that these things should happen and they are good. But they are very isolating for someone like me. Family photos? N/A. I suppose I could send out cards with mountain pics, and there is certainly plenty to write a Christmas letter about this year, but it's hard to make myself care enough. I both look forward to and dread seeing all my friends' family pictures. Often with a new child in the photo, always with the kids looking huge. And me, still just me, looking older (and hopefully not bigger ;).
Baking? I used to dream of baking Christmas treats for a husband and children. I love some Christmas baking (but only one or two batches, because I get bored after that.) I can't bake for myself because I will eat everything I bake. No good. Baking is really best for the big family get togethers with aunts and uncles and cousins. We don't get to do that right now in my family. So far, we are a smaller gathering than before, not the larger one that I dreamed of being. And, yes, only one family gathering to go to. My parents are going to the bigger one for Thanksgiving. Since I don't get to go to that, it'll be just my parents and siblings (minus one sibling who can't make it). And Thanksgiving? Can't wait until it's over this year. I don't have time off besides Thursday, so I'll be hanging out here.
Being busy? Yeah, not so much. I don't have concerts to go to. I don't have tons of Christmas shopping or baking to do. Everyone else's schedules fill up to such a degree that mine ends up being emptier than usual.
Yes, this is the time of year that I begin to tense up for the emotional beating that is coming. The time of year that I thank God that He saw fit to create Netflix. Every year, I hope and pray the next year will be different, and every year my dreams seem farther away, not closer.
Some of the defenses are that I may have to give up facebook for Advent. We can call it an Advent sacrifice, but that'd be a lie. In reality, I'll keep checking it if it's not bothering me and stop checking it if it is. I will avoid much shopping. The list of things that I have to pick up is minimal, so Amazon can keep me out of the stores with all the Christmas stuff and reminders of all the perfect gifts "for him" or all the cute stocking stuffers for kids, etc. And I'll try to go to Mass often and probably should make a real effort to get to confession a time or two before Christmas.
I think I may have to try to go on offense this year, too. Maybe I could figure out what the baking supplies would cost me for things that I would think about making if I had a family, and give that to a food bank. And maybe prayer buddies would be another good way. When I'm sad about not having a family photo to take, I could offer it up for my brother and SIL, who have had 2 miscarriages this year. Or for others who have had losses that leave an empty spot in the family photo and a gaping hole in their hearts.
And for those somedays that might eventually happen? There are things about my holidays now that really stink, but would be awesome in other scenarios. Currently I've been forced to take a step back from the crazy whirlwind that is the holidays. But from back here, I can see that I would like to minimize some of that so that we have more family time. Ideally. I know that isn't always possible.
And for this year? So I can't create magic and memories for little ones, I'll still put up decorations for me (though they really will wait until at least the first weekend of December). I still haven't watched Downton Abbey, so I think I'll save that for later on as the nights have less to fill them up. I will make a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, even if I'll be eating leftovers all weekend. And Elf will be a must see, because it is.
I really hate to be the pathetic complainer about the holidays, but I hate even more trying to keep it in and putting on my happy face the whole time. There are many genuinely happy moments, but it's a struggle, too. Feel free to post a comment about what you may be struggling with over the holidays. I'll be praying for you AND I won't feel like the only Grinch in town since I can't be 100% happy about the holidays. Win, win!