Laura’s disclaimer: I feel like a hypocrite posting this today, of all days–as we undecorated our tree and laid her to rest in the woods, next to the previous years’ Fraser fir carcasses. (RIP Gloria and Holly and Ivy and Carol…) Actually, my sweet husband tackled the project while I slept in (I haven’t been feeling well lately). He knows how this chore hurts my heart, and he had the day off work. He is my hero. Still, I emerged in my pajamas and proceeded to ugly-sob at the empty space in our den, setting off our twin 18-year-old daughters as well. Poor Luke.
My buddy Lanier will probably get after me for writing about The Thud before January 6, or Twelfth Night. But what can I say–I tend toward the snifter half empty. (Recently my mom unearthed some of my first scribblings from a box in her basement and declared some of them “quite dark.” This news comes as relief, proving I am, perhaps, dark by nature, not choice. I had a very lovely childhood–what else but an inborn propensity could induce me to write with an edge at such an early age?)
So even in the days just before Christmas, I start to brace myself. Soon it will all be over. Over, the worst word in the English language. (Unless you’re talking about a visit to the dentist or a football game. Or any sports event, for that matter.)
It happens every year—the passing of Christmas crushes. It’s like a bad break-up. (What to do? Cling to the relationship and torture one’s self with The Songs—or block the calls?) Last January, during one particularly nasty bout of sighing and pouting, Luke reminded me: Jesus still came.
I know. I also know this: the next few weeks=the real bleak midwinter.
(The above carol, with words by poet Christina Rossetti, is my all-time favorite. There are two versions, one by composer Gustav Holte, the other by Harold Darke. The difference in melodies is subtle, but the latter sounds–darker. Guess which version I prefer? Yep, the Darke.)
Over a few decades of getting dumped by December’s end, I’ve found a few ways to soften the blow. For those who struggle with reentry:
1. Have a good cry. This advice is universal, applying to all kinds of situations. I come from a life-time of stuffing it. But I’m stuffing no more! It’s my Christmas, and I’ll cry if I want to.
2. Don’t hit the sales racks. It’s depressing, my friends. What once looked sparkling shines no longer. The holiday section at Target looks like vultures landed and picked at the clearance merchandise, leaving only bloodied scraps. I texted Lanier this picture two days after Christmas:
WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO YOURSELF, SISTER? GET OUT OF THERE! she texted back.
But then I found this:
3. Plan something fun for the very near future. The spouses have promised to take us to a favorite old Italian ristorante in a few weeks to toast Golden Hours–and to give us an excuse to wear something fancy. (We have married excellent men.)
4. Clean your house (but don’t go crazy). Spruce up a room, rearrange the furniture, or sweep the porch. Put magnolia or boxwood on the kitchen table–or a big bowl of oranges. Your house will need a little love after your Christmas pretties disappear. Only don’t work too hard, because
5. It’s time to rest! Bring on the hygge! Cozy up, read a book in the middle of the day, and take a break from Facebook, because FB isn’t warm and fuzzy. And by all means, wear fluffy socks.
6. (Slowly) set goals. Dream impossible dreams. What will 2017 look like? I’m not talking resolutions. I’m talking about being intentional. How can you re-enchant your life? (More on this later.)
7. It’s winter, and the start of winter at that. Lean into it. (Easy to say from where I sit in Georgia, I realize.) Sketch a tree in its bare-branched beauty. Take a cold weather walk. Make soup, then make another pot for a neighbor. Buy a fern or four and nurse them through the coldest months. Take at least one steaming hot bath per day, with salts and one of the dozens of Christmas-scented candles you haven’t burned through.