If you’re anything like me, Christmas time can be so stressful. As a codependent and people-pleaser, I always want to do the best I can for those I love and it truly hurts my heart when I feel I have failed. No matter how much recovery I think I have, I still struggle with this at Christmas. It no secret that Christmas has become my least favorite holiday but I have to sit back and wonder, “why?”. Sure, I’ve had some life struggles around this time over the years; lots of disappointments and heartbreak, but is that really the reason? My ex-husband told me he was thinking about returning to the “other woman” on Christmas Eve. I kicked my ex-boyfriend out of the house two weeks before Christmas. I spent Christmas alone and lost a baby.
When I really dig into it, they’re all just excuses; excuses that keep me from focusing on the true root of the issue. These things happened so long ago and really have no hold over me. I have worked through each and every one of them and grown through each process. They are lies I tell myself when I begin to feel the anxiety that the holidays bring. Yep, they are lies.
My truth (the real truth) can be found in this little story…
The first Christmas my children and I had, after I left their father, was so very difficult for me. I was now a single mother with very little money and I just didn’t want to do Christmas at all. My plan was to have a tiny, little fake tree and that was it. No lights, no other decorations, and only a couple of presents for the kids. My daughter was 6 and my son had just turned 2 at the time. My heart hurt that I could not get them anything special for Christmas so my plan was to keep it as low key as possible.
My friend Nola stepped in and offered to help but, as usual, I turned her down. However, this was one time that she didn’t take no for an answer. One night, about two weeks before Christmas, she showed up on my doorstep with her teenage children and their friend, and brought us a Christmas tree and lights for the house. They all went to work setting up and decorating the tree, putting lights on the house and playing with my children. My little ones were so excited and all I could do was cry.
About a week later, I went to visit my aunt. She took me shopping and bought each of the children the one special gift they wanted from Santa and a few smaller ones. My daughter was hoping for an Easy Bake Oven and I was so happy to have one to put under the tree for her. I knew they were going to have a wonderful Christmas, all because of the generosity of my friend and my aunt. I, however, was feeling like a failure because I could not do it for them myself.
Christmas morning came and the children were so excited. They were up at 5:00 am, waiting impatiently for me to get out of bed. My daughter ran in and told me that Santa had brought her an Easy Bake Oven (Santa doesn’t wrap his gifts) and the excitement in her voice was music to my heart. I got up and off we went to enjoy our Christmas morning. Then the day went to hell in a hand basket.
My daughter went to play next door with her little friend. About 30 minutes later she came home crying. I asked her what was wrong and she explained that she told her friend that Santa brought her an Easy Bake Oven. Her friend told her that Santa brought her “something better”; he brought her the Easy Bake Oven Kitchen Set and it was better than hers.
My heart instantly shattered. Here I was, hating Christmas and feeling like a failure as a mother all over an Easy Bake Oven. Trying hard not to let my daughter see the pain I was feeling, I sat her down and explained that her friend didn’t have “something better”, she had “something different”. I asked her, “Do you like your Easy Bake Oven”? To which she replied, “I love it”. So I explained that her gift was picked specially for her and her gift was no better or no worse than anyone else’s gift. I reminded her why we celebrate Christmas and what it truly means. Thank God that explanation worked and she was happy again. With that she went and told her friend that her gift was NOT better.
Anyway, all that to come to the truth, that it’s not what has happened during past Christmas seasons that makes me dislike the holiday so much. It’s me and what is within me. Fear of disappointing someone I love. No one has ever been disappointed with anything I have given or done for Christmas. Ever. It’s the expectations I put on myself that I feel I don’t live up to. I’m the one with the high hopes. I’m the one thinking it has to be the best gift I can buy. I’m the one trying to please everyone. I’m the one setting myself up for failure.
Now there’s an eye-opener. I try so hard not to have expectations of others so why do I put such high expectations on myself? And really, why do I feel the need to? This shit has got to stop! And so it will. I will not spend another Christmas living in fear of disappointing others and Christmas will once again be my friend.