I had my first holiday break down this week. The shopping, the cards, work piling up, kids home from school…it all got to me. I resorted to wrapping presents until early morning hours to calm my frazzled nerves.
I thought wrapping the mountain of gifts would make the stress go away. Nope. I woke up yesterday with a knot in my stomach. What is it with this time of year? What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just be present with my kids and spread joy and cheer?
I did everything I know to do to calm my anxiety: yoga, shopping, quiet time, a long (really, really long) shower, food, distraction, friends. Nothing helped. The chaos of the season and my to do list were getting to me, until I saw it:
And not just any perspective…a perspective that hits really close to home and is probably a big culprit of my holiday angst.
“My newsfeed is blowing up with everyone so excited and grateful that the elf shenanigans are over tonight…. and all I can think about is how much Ari loves Jewel… and how this might be our last night with Jewel…. and it makes me so overwhelmed with sadness…
Meet Ariana Farragut‘s elf, Jewel. Santa and Jewel are praying for Ariana because she is fighting a rare brain cancer (Atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor: AT/RT). Last week, Ariana went in for what they were praying would be clear scans, but received devastating news instead. The cancer had spread and the new tumors are inoperable. Heart. Shattered.
Ariana’s sweet mother, Jenna, posted this picture of Jewel sitting with a bible. Have you ever thought to pose your child’s elf next to a bible? Maybe you have. I usually throw the elf in the tree as I am running to beat my kids to the living room every morning. I’m not the most creative elf mover.
But it isn’t about creativity – it is about the joy that we have right in front of us. Right now and in the present. There’s one thing I always say to others (and often to myself):
We are all doing the best we can with what we know.
Rather than beat ourselves up for complaining about the elf after seeing Jenna’s elf picture and post, we should be aware. Aware of our thoughts and mindfulness this holiday season, reminding ourselves what is really important.
No matter if you are the most creative elf mover or a tree thrower like me, let’s work together to be present with ourselves and our loved ones. Life moves and changes so fast. It can be shattered in the blink of an eye. Trust me.
Last night, I rocked Marjorie a little longer than usual, even dozing off with her heavy on my chest. My precious baby girl, healthy and thriving – something we hold so precious. We almost didn’t have her home with us on that first Christmas. She was discharged from the NICU in the nick of time and I sat up all night staring at the most beautiful Christmas present I had ever received.
I remember a Christmas when I was in treatment and only had six hours with my husband. Then just two short years later, I was in full recovery watching my precious baby boy crawl to see the magic of Christmas.
This Christmas I experienced my first bout of holiday anxiety. I am so thankful to brave mommas like Jenna, who share their heartache and perspective with us. I have shared my fair share of perspective and I am thankful to now be on the receiving end of it.
But no matter how many years pass by, the memories of being in treatment during Christmas and the fear of cancer still lurks. My heart still aches with my fellow cancer mommas. My soul is dented with them. My spirit sinks thinking of those in treatment and it aches knowing so many families who will spend their first Christmas without their child.
Maybe we can all take a lesson in perspective from Jenna and Ariana. We can work to be present with our loved ones rather than expend energy on stressing to create a perfectly decorated Christmas table.
There is no shame or guilt in getting caught up in Christmas chaos, as long as we can take a step back and remind ourselves about what is really important: faith, family, love and kindness.
Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Happy Holidays.
Sending you all love, peace and light,
For those interested in praying, supporting and staying up to date on Ariana, check out her website: Ariana’s Fight Against Brain Cancer