Posted by: Judy | December 20, 2018


Another aspect of the holiday season the world would like to pretend doesn’t exist. The world thinks everyone should be happy all the time.


Just say no.

It isn’t healthy.

I grew up with a mother who expected me to be perfectly pleasant all the time. I wasn’t allowed to be angry, sad, annoyed, excited, or even too happy. Everything I did was subject to scrutiny and correction. Saying no was tantamount to mutiny.

The movie “Sleepless in Seattle” is on my black list. The guy who wasn’t right for the heroin included flaws like allergies. I have allergies. The girl who wasn’t right for the hero laughed like a donkey. I did that, until I made a concerted effort to change it. Really. I changed the way I laughed because I was tired of being teased.

My memories of Christmas are filled with conflict and sorrow. I love the holiday but am forced to curb my celebration because I may live here, but it isn’t my home. I like the tree up the day after Thanksgiving. My father prefers the middle of December, so the middle it is. I love baking, but my mother had to be the one making the bread to share with the neighbors; she made healthy wheat bread, while my white bread was “white death.” The clothes my parents bought for me were clothes my mother liked not what I liked. I remember my mother taking me to a clothing store meant for middle-aged women, when I was a teenager.

My one happy memory of Christmas morning is also tainted by ridicule. All I wanted was an Easy Bake Oven. Instead of wrapping the box, my mother decided to spread it all out… it gave her the joy of opening the gift. How sad is that? I was delighted but a little disappointed when I saw it. I saw the box later and cheered. You see, I thought they’d given me a toy one, like FisherPrice; it looks like it, but it doesn’t work. I used it until all the mixes were gone, and my mother refused to buy more mixes. Then she complained that I didn’t use it. Wait… what?

Presents under the tree are part of the decorations, but my parents long ago stopped buying presents and gave money. Nice to be able to buy exactly what I wanted but sad that they wouldn’t make even the slightest effort to buy one thing I’d like. I remember the year I said that I’d go out to take care of my horse before we opened presents. My mother replied, “What makes you think you’re getting any?” I was proud of myself for being able to honestly reply, “I was thinking of my gifts for you and Dad.” She felt guilty and bought clothes for me, clothes she liked, most of which I had to exchange because she also bought them a size too small, to encourage me to lose weight. For most of my adult life, I didn’t know if my parents would do anything for me for Christmas, from year to year. Would this be the year they chose to do nothing? I was born close to Christmas and often had Christmas presents for my birthday because they forgot.

Wow… I can depress myself. However, I also think it’s important to look sadness in the eye and accept it. Sadness isn’t a bad emotion. It’s a part of each and every person. Rejecting sadness is rejecting an important part of yourself. I remind myself to not get stuck there. Sadness is a part of me; it isn’t me.

Funnily enough, I’m crying less, but then again my life is so much better. Most of my circumstances haven’t changed. I’m still poor as a church mouse. My body is still a mess. My writing has taken a backseat to being a caregiver. However, fear has become a small portion of my life instead of the central focus. Anger is a blip instead of simmering under the surface. Frustration makes an occasional appearance stead of a constant companion. My expectations are more reasonable.

Give yourself the gift of acceptance, acceptance of your sadness, your anger, your hurt, your frustration. Accept that you’re not perfect. Acceptance isn’t about wallowing. Acceptance means you recognize things for what they are. Until you recognize these emotions, you can’t do anything about them because you’re pushing them away. They press in like the tide and will breech whatever sand wall you build. If you know it’s coming, you can start treading water. Like the tide, it will move back out, in time.

Perhaps the reason I didn’t like the ocean for so many years is because I couldn’t control it anymore than I could control anything else in my life. Once I let go of the need to control everything, I fell in love with the ocean.

It’s okay to be sad.

Reframe your expectations. I’d take my Christmas money and buy the things I wanted. I’d wrap them and place them under the 12″ artificial tree I had, in my room. No one saw it but me. I also changed from opening gifts on Christmas morning to opening them on Christmas Eve while I watched Christmas shows. My own tradition.

Give yourself permission to be sad and plan something you enjoy anyway. It’s all right if sadness visits and even hangs out for a while. Sometimes, there’s a lot of sadness to process. It takes time. It’s also okay to put sadness on the back burner for a little while. It’s important to not forget it, or it will boil over.

Someday, you’ll notice sadness visits once in a while without taking over everything. It becomes a friend that enriches your life instead of running it.


  1. Christmas can be a difficult time of year for many people. The expectations are so high for happiness, happy reunions, happy families, happy happy happy. Not so easy if you are not happy! I had some hideous Christmas times growing up. But that is the past. I am looking forward to this Christmas. It will not be perfect. It will be ok and I think it will be fun in its imperfections.

    • I hope your Christmas includes a few tears, a lot of laughter, and memories worth recall next year. 🙂

  2. Hopefully the happiness outweighs the sadness this year. 🎄

    • For me, it has. Thank you. 🙂 ❤

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