Christmas 2009, the best of times, the worst of times

It’s taken me a while, but I am truly feeling the Christmas spirit.  I’m going to spend much of the holiday with my family, and the good news is we all get along great.  We’re not planning huge gift exchanges, just a chance to spend time together.

I’ve become aware lately that Christmas can be an especially stressful time for many people.  I have friends and family members who have communicated to me that this season is the most difficult time of the year for them.

So, in the spirit of being even-handed, I thought I’d list some of the things I like most about Christmas 2009 and then also list some of the concerns that others have passed on to me.  Please feel free to add your own thoughts — both blessings and burdens for this season.

 

  • Any time that is spent talking and thinking about the Savior is calming and reassuring.  My youngest kids are seeing movies/Church shows about Jesus, and His birth is a constant features of Family Home Evening.  His spirit seems to permeate our house, which is a great thing.
  • The weather in Colorado, where I live, has been incredible.  We have gotten a lot of snow, and there is more on the way, just in time for Christmas.  A white Christmas indeed.
  • Our ward has been doing a lot of work for the needy.  The young men and young women have been very active, as has the Relief Society.  I have participated in a lot more charitable acts than usual.
  • This Christmas I will see a lot of family members.  I am struck by how well we all get along.  We have really been able to avoid contention, which can sometimes plague family events.
  • I am grateful to be alive in 2009.  I love all of the technology of our day.  One small example:  I just connected via Facebook to a guy who was my best friend in my youth.  I hadn’t heard from him in many years, and this wonderful technology allowed us to “get together.”
  • I am grateful for being able to fly around the country and the world in a few hours.  I love all of the global interchange that we now have.  It creates incredible opportunities for getting to know different cultures and finding areas of mutual benefit, both in business and on a social level, and of course in terms of spreading the Gospel.
  • I am grateful to live in a country where I can practice my religion as I please and where I have a tremendous amount of freedom.  I am always reminded of this at Christmas time.

AND ON THE OTHER HAND…

  • It’s worth remembering that for many people the holidays can be incredibly stressful. 
  • For many widows and others who have lost family members, this is a time of remembering the cheery times of the past.  We should be sensitive about their loss and reach out to them with support.
  • Single mothers and fathers are under a lot of pressure to create the “picture perfect” Christmas.  I think a lot of them feel guilt and stress this time of year because they can’t live up to expectations.
  • Let’s not forget that unemployment is still at 10 percent, and there are a huge amount of people struggling with feelings of inadequacy because they cannot provide for their families.  Christmas is especially difficult because neighbors are buying new stuff and those who are struggling cannot.
  • Many people feel there are simply not enough hours in the day to do all of the things expected of them.  Shopping for family members, baking cookies, sending out Christmas cards, buying a tree, setting up lights — the whole drill can cause a lot of unhappiness.

So, it really is the best of times and the worst of times.  I hope we can be sensitive to those who are struggling while at the same time concentrating on the “reason for the season.”

Merry Christmas to all!

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

11 thoughts on “Christmas 2009, the best of times, the worst of times

  1. For me this Christmas is the best of times, because my soldier husband is on a plane right now, home for R&R after 8 months (and one week, but who’s counting?) Our 9 year old daughter didn’t even make a Christmas list this year, because, as she tells anyone who asks: “all I care about is getting to have my dad home.” It’s amazing what perspective this has given our family. My husband has been deployed over Christmas before and we tried to over-compensate with gifts, which of course didn’t fill the hole in our home. This year he was able to get the coveted Christmas R&R slot, and we’ve learned first hand how unimportant gifts are. Gifts are fleeting (who even remembers what they got or gave last year?) but the old saying is true – families really are forever.

  2. I’ve felt a bit assaulted by Christmas this year and it’s been very hard for me to get excited about things. I’m coming to the conclusion that gift buying and giving is at the heart of this.

    As for White Christmasses..no thanks! I’ll take picking an Arizona Orange off the tree anytime. I had to actually BUY citrus today…for shame! For shame! The Arizona girl wants to be warm.

  3. The period from Thanksgiving to January 2 is the hardest part of the year for me and I’m never quite sure I’m going to survive it. I don’t begrudge anybody’s jollity, but it is very hard to appear cheerful and interested in others’ plans when you have none of your own.

    I have two brothers and two sisters-in-law and acres of nieces and nephews, but I have no one to spend holidays with. They are so busy with their own lives and self-contained within their own family units that they forget about me. I don’t suppose either family would kick me out if I knocked on their doors (but that’s not likely, since they live in another state), but they don’t want me there to the extent of inviting me, or sending a card, or even answering my letters, or telling me about the marriages of their children or the births of grandchildren — I learn about those by monitoring the online public vital records from their county. (That is not unexpected. Neither brother remembered to invite me to his own wedding, my little brother didn’t tell me his son had been killed in a traffic accident, and no one — neither brother, nor father — bothered to call me when my mother died. I had always thought we were a close family, and I always traveled home for graduations and family events that I did hear about, and I always went laden with presents even though neither family ever gave me a gift in return, ever. But since Mom died, I realized that my feelings of closeness were because she always included me even if no one else ever did.)

    People will tell you that the secret to curing loneliness is to go do something for someone else. Maybe, but I can tell you that no matter how much you donate to various charities at this time of year, no matter how many Angel Wishes you fill from the tree at the mall, no matter how hard you try to take part in ward parties or service projects or ward choir caroling, when you wake up alone on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day and remember that you have nowhere to go and no one to expect all day, none of that “doing for others” keeps you company at all.

    People in the ward and at work are full of plans. My effort to be cheerful despite how I feel must be working, because they all seem to like to tell me about their plans at great length, and I smile and nod and make happy noises. Yet no one has ever, even once, asked me what my own plans are, so that I can drop a hint that I’d be glad of an invitation. Once in a while someone telling me about their holidays after the fact will think to be polite and ask me what my day was like, and when I say I spent it at home alone they sometimes say, “Oh, you should have told me. We could have made room.” Yeah, well, sure, but you didn’t want me there enough to think about me before the fact, and you don’t remember from year to year that I’m just as alone today as I’ve ever been!

    I hope this doesn’t sound like whining. I don’t intend it to be a whine or to unfairly criticize anybody. I know it’s largely my own fault for never having learned to make the kind of friends who want me around, although I won’t accept any blame for not having done everything I could to be a part of my family. You just asked a question, and I’m just giving you one answer to it. The holidays are the worst of times.

  4. Name Withheld, I wrote this post partly for people like you. Your story must be heard. If you don’t mind, I have a suggestion for you: start inviting yourself to events. What do you have to lose? You could even ask the bishop to get people to invite you. I know it’s an incredibly delicate issue, and nobody likes to do that (I certainly don’t), but given a choice between being by yourself and maybe embarrassing yourself by butting in, I would choose the embarrassment.

    Always remember the Savior is there and knows your trials and loneliness.

  5. Thanks, Geoff. That’s probably the right thing to do; it’s hard, though, when what you want more than a nice Christmas dinner is to feel like somebody wants your company, and asking to be invited kind of defeats the purpose. But you’re probably right.

  6. Name Witheld…I’m sorry. If I knew you, or where you were, you’d have an invite to our little Christmas anytime. :)

  7. Name Withheld–while my situation is different from yours, I’ve experienced much loneliness myself as a single woman without a family of my own, and so my heart aches for you. You seem like a good person with a good heart. I wish I knew you. Or maybe I do–your comments have made me think about how I treat the people I associate with. It’s far too easy for all of us to get wrapped up in our own lives. Thank you for expressing your feelings–at the very least, those who read your words may be a little kinder and more aware of those around them.

  8. Wow, this post definitely hits home for me.

    I have an extremely difficult time feeling the spirit of Christmas on this and most any other year. There is always the stress of buying gifts, baking, gifts for neighbors (ward members and friends), etc., etc., etc. Couple that with the year-end activities associated with work and I suddenly feel overwhelmed.

    This year, my wife and I set a strict budget for gifts and stuck very close to that budget. I avoided the malls and most large retail stores and asked for one small, simple item–a wallet.

    I am now in complete Holiday/vacation mode and am ready to enjoy watching my children open gifts.

  9. My wife and I sometimes feel that getting together with family at Christmas makes a lot of work for us and gets in the way of things we’d like to do. But we’ve decided that we want our children coming to see us and each other when they have kids of their own, so we do it. God bless all the lonely.

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