Well this was an unexpected result of the longest, most treacherous, most trying, worst ever year of my life.
I have caught the Christmas spirit.
I wouldn't exactly call myself a Scrooge (more just a Ouisa) but I haven't exactly been much for the holiday celebrations in a few years.
Okay, several years.
I don't put up a tree, because then you just have to take it down again. It's so much work.
("I don't see plays because I can fall asleep at home for free...")
I don't really shop. No young kids in our life. My only son is 27 and has a job and buys himself whatever he wants.
Last year, we went to NYC for Christmas. It was magical and beautiful. We saw tons of shows. We stagedoored for Harry Connick Jr, screaming, "WE'RE FROM THE NORTHSHORE!!" Lil Romeo stopped us in our hotel bar because I had on a Saints jersey. We cheered "L-S-U! L-S-U!" rope-side as Joey B walked the red carpet to claim his Heisman.
Those were the days.
This year has been difficult for everyone. Some more than others. And some of us who are less affected have had a hard time just witnessing the hardships of those in our community and our country. It's been exhausting. It's been awful, quite frankly.
So this is hardly the year one would expect me to suddenly find the Christmas spirit. But it's like some ghosts visited me in the night, or something. Such has been the transformation!
Chip decided he wanted to put up a tree. My non-practicing Jewish husband, who used to jokingly call them "Hanukkah bushes" decided he wanted a tree. "Okay," I agreed. "But YOU have to take it down. And you have to take it down in January."
When I say that I don't like packing Christmas decorations back up, I mean that we have, at times, had a Christmas tree up until nearly Easter.
But we got a little festive in the house, just the two of us.
I took off the last two weeks of December, since I had a bunch of vacation time to use or lose. I made lists. Organized my office. (I bought bins.) Baked Elijah's favorite cookies. Grocery shopped for Christmas day meals. Played my ages-old but still loved Christmas playlist as I baked and cleaned.
Got my hair and nails done. Began to feel more like my old self, in spite of the additional 2020 pounds.
My sister texted me: "I am trying hard for gratitude this Christmas and it's a struggle. Can we text each other one specific good thing from this year every day til the New Year?"
What a blessing my sister is in my life. I just needed someone to nudge me toward gratitude and away from this year's adversities.
I kept stumbling upon books that moved me. I ordered copies from independent bookstores and sent them to friends and family members who I thought would be similarly moved. Giving felt amazingly good. It's a wonder we haven't tried doing it all year.
I'm not religious. I'm not really even spiritual. I'm kind of a here-and-now person. And this year and this place have been neither a good here or now to be in. On top of all that, I have a tendency based on my family-of-origin history to descend into depression at the holidays. I half expected that tendency toward depression tied with the anxiety I've suffered this year to be exasperated this holiday season.
I found joy.
I found joy. In music. In Christmas lights. In giving. In cleaning and preparing. In cooking and baking for my family. In messages from friends.
Going against brand, this unexpected joy was welcomed. It blossomed within our home and it came from you - who texted and emailed and sent Christmas cards.
Here I sit on Christmas Eve-Eve, having baked all of Elijah's traditional favorite cookies, my refrigerator full, our Christmas lights on, my holiday playlist playing, my gratitude taking over despite my crabby tendencies.
It's the last thing I expected 2020 to bring me.
We can find joy...even in a year like this...if we look for it. And even if we don't, it might just find us anyway.