A dear friend sent me a note in a Christmas card and I can’t get it out of my head.
May Christmas be extra special as we celebrate our nomad Savior who was always beginning again.
Maybe it’s just my little corner of the internet, but it seems like many of us are struggling. We’re weary, wounded, numbed, and needing. We’ve been through a hell of a lot in the last couple of years and the shreds of hope many have clung to have revealed themselves to be just that: shreds, not solutions.
Progress these days might feel like one step forward, two steps back. Many of us are lonely, lying in the leftovers of relationships that didn’t ride out challenges the way we expected them to. Or maybe we’re finding ourselves in new beginnings, drowning in imposter syndrome and wondering if everything we’ve done is a big mistake. If we’re a big mistake.
Christmas brings birth. It’s not the birth of the New Year with sequins and confetti and sparkling promises. It’s the birth of sacrifice. It’s the blood, the doubt, the sweaty brow, the smells of humanity and straw. Birth is not shiny and perfect. There are fluids and animal-like noises, effort, and pain. There is an immaculate form drawn open, widening to the point of breaking, through which newness enters, the fragile newness of a slippery baby sent here just to die.
The birth offered by Christmas is raw and ridiculous. After all, who ever heard of a king being born in a barn, much less God Himself? It’s so absurd that the Creator would want us so badly, desire us so deeply that He’d take the form of a wrinkly baby with a face (most likely) like that of Winston Churchill. And yet He did.
This refugee King, working with His hands, humbly knocked the world on its ear and continues to this day.
Guys, I know things seem dark. I know that we’re all exhausted from the arguing and the anxiety. We’re worried for our countries, for our families, for our freedoms, for our faiths. We feel so deeply and struggle to understand our neighbors and to even want to love them.
But I keep coming back to the Christmas card. We celebrate a nomad Savior who was always beginning again.
If, this Christmas, you feel homeless, so was He.
If you feel misunderstood by the people who are supposed to love you most, so was He.
If you’re navigating a road that requires bone deep sacrifice, so was He.
If you’re wandering in the desert, wrestling temptation, so was He.
If you are unsettled by the way things are and the systems of power, so was He.
If you are misjudged and misrepresented, so was He.
Our nomad Savior, the wandering healer who found belonging nowhere miraculously belongs to us all.
And so we begin again.
Our circumstances may be less than ideal this Christmas. Our world is broken now just as it was at the very moment of Our Lady’s final push which thrust Divinity into our wounded world. We cannot fix our situations. We cannot wish our worries away or secure an easier path for ourselves or our families.
But we can begin again.
Every misstep, every sin, every failing is an opportunity to return to him. Every sharp word or resentful sigh is an invitation to cradle the Baby to our chests, to breathe Him in and let the soft Newborn held against our broken hearts teach us how to submit ourselves to the Father.
We begin again and again and again as many times as it takes to get us to holiness, daily chipping away at the things that rebel against Him.
We begin again and take comfort in a nomad Savior who knows all about new beginnings.
We begin again taking comfort that we already know the ending.
I’m thinking we’re divided into two camps here: those who are burying their heads in the sand and avoiding all thoughts of holiday celebrations because they’re certain to be decidedly not normal and those who are chomping at the bit to get to the new year.
“Just get through the year” has been the rallying cry for so many as 2020 has dumped load after load of challenge, pain, injustice, and illness on us all. I mean, obv it has been a doozy.
It is completely normal for us to want to embrace that feeling of “just get it over with” and wish the rest of the year away. But I worry that this mindset is misleading us.
While I think it’s important to find ways to mark the passage of time in a dismal year, I also think that we can’t delude ourselves into thinking that the moment the clock rolls over at midnight on January 1, 2021 everything is going to be fine. I mean, it’ll be fine, but it might be this kind of fine.
So, what’s the game plan then, team? How can we avoid putting all our eggs in the basket of the new year and transition into 2021 with better(ish) attitudes?
Obv I have *all* the answers so here’s my official 2020 Holiday and New Year Survival GuideTrademark Forthcoming.
Acknowledge that we’re in now now.
It’s fine to look back and it’s fine to look ahead, but we’re in now now and that’s all we’ve got. Carpe diem, live laugh love, etc, etc, all we have is this moment and y’all should probably print that out and hang it on your bathroom wall.
Like it or not, this moment that we’re in is 2020 with all the trappings of chaos and craziness that come with it, but wishing our lives away will not change any of that. No new year is capable of providing the happily ever after we might be wishing for, so we’ve got to do our best with what we’ve got.
Decide how you want to handle the now that you’re in. 2020 has been hard. How do you want to spend the last months of it? How do you want to enter into 2021? Do you want to spend this time jumping into bitterness, envy, remorse, and fear like Scrooge McDuck jumping into his vault of gold? Or do you want to spend this last bit of the year cuddling up to gentleness for yourself and others? (I did a little exploring along this vein over at The Living Person if you’re interested in that little tangent.)
You’re not required to figure everything out, but I’d venture to suppose that the rest of the year won’t feel so empty and wasted if we circle the wagons and put forth the effort to guard our hearts. (Shout out to all my fellow bible college graduates who were told to guard your hearts in every chapel message ever of all time but kinda didn’t know what that meant.)
What this looks like is setting boundaries and identifying which things we want to give space to. I don’t weigh myself without checking in with myself first to make sure I can emotionally handle whatever that number says. (Haven’t weighed myself in months for this very reason.)
So, guard your heart. Check in with yourself before you look at the news. Are you willing to give head and heart space to the potential negativity you may find there? Check in with yourself before you read the comments, before you entertain that potentially intense conversation, before you head into that zoom call with that one person. Even if you can’t avoid the conversation or the meeting, you can set boundaries within it and make sure you’re giving space in your life to people and things that matter and respect you. It’s totally fine to say, “I’m sorry, I just can’t talk about (fill in the blank) right now. I’ll feel more peaceful if we stick to other topics,” and then you take a sip of your OceanSpray and move along down the road.
You’re not required to consume all of the media. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to read it or watch it or engage with it in any way. You’re allowed to step back. Odds are you’ve already developed your opinions and your mind isn’t going to be changed by a stranger on the interwebs. Odds also are you’re not going to change anyone else’s mind. (Insert cringy face and also please keep not shooting the messenger.)
I’m not saying we shouldn’t engage in challenging conversations and discourse with people who think differently than we do. What I am saying is that we’re not required to do that if we’re not up for it emotionally. If you walk away from a conversation, account, news outlet feeling furious, depressed, or hopeless, maybe don’t engage with that shiz in the future.
Curate your social media feed to be a place that fills you up and reminds you of the decency of humanity. Mute, block, snooze, unfollow until you achieve a peaceful scrolling experience. I suggest anything having to do with the Hebrides and/or following this guy. You’re welcome.
Don’t fall victim to the pressure of turning lemons into lemonade. I predict that there will be a ton of reflecting on “what we’ve learned from 2020” and “what the year from hell has taught us.” While I think it’s great to look back and see how we’ve grown, it’s also important not to put too much pressure on ourselves. It’s okay if all we accomplished this year is survival. It’s okay if we look at 2020, take stock of how we’ve coped, and realize that we struggled hard and are still struggling. We’re not required to come out of this year battered, bruised, but carrying earth shattering self-knowledge and a kickass sourdough starter. We’re allowed to come out just plain battered and bruised. We just are. The sooner we give ourselves permission to welcome the uncomfortable truth of our own unique experience, the better able we’ll be to heal.
Also I threw my starter away because sourdough is too much work and I’m not sorry.
Send 2020 out with a bang. Do something drastic and fun you’ve been wanting to do for no other reason than you can and it’s 2020 and I’m bringing YOLO back. Dye the hair, get the tattoo (Mom, don’t comment on that or I’ll send you a video of how far my eyes are rolling), run the race even if you have to walk it. Decorate for Christmas whenever the hell you want to and wear an old bridesmaid’s dress to eat Papa John’s on the couch and maybe also paint your front door orange? Surprise yourself by having a stupid amount of fun just because life is short and you should. Spontaneity is fun and it’s still a thing we can do even if things are weird or kind of hard.
It’s not about you. 2020 has been a year of isolation which has led a lot of us to do some serious introspective thinking. A little self evaluation can be helpful at times but can also result in us becoming a little too preoccupied with ourselves. We can all agree that we have been personally victimized by 2020 and if this year had a name it would be Regina George. But it’s super important to remember that it’s not about us. Anything we can do to draw ourselves out of our own self-focus is a win.
Make New Year’s resolutions, but not shitty ones. One way to remember that things are not about me is to make some New Year’s resolutions. Now, I’m no fortune teller and I’m going out on a limb here, but I don’t think 2021 is going to be the year that I start drinking all the water, or lose the weight, or whatever. But, it can be the year that I make it a priority to love others more! Here are some fun resolutions I came up with to remind myself that it’s not about me.
Adopt someone to love each month. Send them coffee money, mail a card, or text an inappropriate gif that will startle them into laughter when they’re hiding from their job in the bathroom.You don’t even have to know them! You could just pick a random residential address each month and send flowers to that house. Or send flowers to a nursing home with instructions that they be given to a resident who needs some happy. Whatever you decide to do, just pick one person each month to reach out to and remind that they matter.
Donate to a different nonprofit each month. Doesn’t have to be a lot of money, fam. Even $5 is helpful and will make you feel a little less helpless in this big bad world. I suggest checking out Beauty 2 The Streetz and Abide Women’s Health Services as good places to start.
Invest in a service industry professional. Maybe you feel guilty about getting a pedicure. Guess what? You’re allowing a person to provide for her family by paying for her services. That’s a gift. Maybe you feel weird about paying to have your house cleaned. Same thing. Perhaps you see the same cashier at WalMart every time you go. Guess what? Working there probably sucks some of the time (lots of the time) so do something nice for that person. Take donuts to the Aldi on a Monday morning. Bring coffee to the post office staff. Jump on public transportation just to pass out balloons to the driver. Challenge yourself to see the people who slip beneath the radar and show them some love.
Participate in the new challenge I just invented. I’m calling it Random Acts of Silly and I we’re gonna have a hashtag (#randomactsofsilly) and go around spreading silliness. I’m starting by ordering a giant pack of googly eyes to keep in my purse so I can stick them on stuff when I’m out and about.
Take up a new devotion. Set aside time to pray for others. This could look like making a list of intentions or just praying for general ones (local, national, and world leaders, those suffering in other countries, etc). I’ve recently been praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy (a devotion I’ve avoided because I’m too hip to do the thing that everyone else is doing please roll your eyes at me) and it 100% lives up to the hype.
That’s all I’ve got, gang. What would you add? How are you planning on handling the transition from 2020 to 2021? We didn’t really tackle the intricacies of holiday celebrations in this post, so if you’re at all interested in the ramblings of yours truly on the subject, just let me know and I’ll take a stab at it.
Either way, friends, you are loved. However you’re feeling about this last bit of the year and the idea of a new one approaching, you’re loved. You’re precious and important. You matter so much. We need you, just you remember that.
I have this thing about New Year’s. I just love the newness of it all, for lack of a better word. Coming down off of the holiday high I always find myself caught up in the final hurrah of celebrating the past year – the births, the growth, the career developments, the hilarity, the crying, the dancing, the complete down-and-outs where we hated everything and everyone and sometimes each other, the fact that we pulled out of that muck and are better than ever…or at least better than the day before, which is really just as good.
A new year always unfolds like the pages of a brand new journal – full of possibility and excitement, waiting to be filled with hopes and dreams and disappointments and tears. And all of that is good. All of that has its place. It’s like my latest favorite jamgoes,
“Well you only need the light when it’s burning low Only miss the sun when it starts to snow Only know you love her when you let her go
Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low Only hate the road when you’re missin’ home Only know you love her when you let her go And you let her go…”
The bittersweet makes the good that much sweeter. And, for my part, I intend to make the most of both the bitterness and the sweetness in the coming year. That’s what this blog is for. I’ve been blogging here for two years now. It’s funny because I started blogging as a way to cope with the deep depression that surrounded me during one of the roughest years of my life. And writing has been the best medicine of all. I’ve felt so connected and loved by the little community this blog has knit together. I think it’s no mistake that one of the most popular posts I wrote this year was about postpartum depression. I’ve needed this blog, I’ve needed you to help me process my thoughts, my fears, the crazy lunacy that is my life. I’ve needed you to help me heal.
So, thank you for tagging along for another year. It’s such a pleasure to write for/to you. Sometimes I feel pretty selfish because I think I get more out of this blog than I really put in…you are such a loving and encouraging audience. You pour into me in such a needed way and I can only hope that I’m able to pour some of that love back to you in some small way.
Part of the beauty of a new year is that it allows us to dream and to plan and to get excited about what could be. I don’t necessarily get down with New Year’s Resolutions because I think it’s silly to resolve to do better only once a year. We should really be resolving to do better, to be better about a hundred times a day if not more. But I do like dreaming. I love planning happy plans and hoping for better things. I love the fact that, in a new year all things are possible; it’s a reminder that every day all things are possible.
So here are my dreams for the coming year, for the coming days, for the near future:
I’m going to yell less and play more.
I’m going to make time for art.
I’m going to flirt with my husband and make him hold hands in public.
I’m going to read Jane Eyre, because I do every year and I’m not going to feel guilty about skipping to the best parts.
I’m going to read John Muir and Wendell Berry and Anna Karenina (the Baby Lit board book was phenomenal, so the real thing must be great, right?).
I’m going to do my best to avoid getting caught up in negativity and to just love, love, love people regardless of my preconceived notions and prejudices. ‘Cause what do I know anyway?
I’m going to run at least one 5K, preferably one that gets me covered in powdered color that dyes my skin.
I’m going to get another tattoo (sorry Mom) and put some purple in my hair because I’m 28 and why not.