“To be honest, the holidays have always been a mixture of joy and a healthy dose of trepidation and anxiety. There’s still a little girl inside of me that wants to believe there’s a Santa Claus.“ – Catherine Grace O’Connell
Are you holding onto Santa Claus like me? I know there’s a little girl inside of me that clings to the Norman Rockwell version of the holidays and the myth of Santa Claus. Yet, if your life has been anything like mine, those picturesque paintings don’t exactly ring true.
I don’t actually recall the moment I learned there wasn’t a Santa Claus. The sound of Christmas Carols echoing through my satellite radio brings with it a sentiment that’s both happy and sad at the same time. Christmas is presented as a time of joy and elation, yet if I were to be brutally honest (which I usually am) one moment I’m uplifted by the joy that “should” be Christmas. Another moment, I come crashing into reality and the truth, and the paradox of worries that tend to be part of the holiday season.
Somehow, I sense I’m not alone in a powerful mix of emotions that are stirred within, this time of year. There’s that perfect picture of what Christmas is supposed to be. Family and friends gathering round, an abundance of laughter and joy filling the home, while the crackling fire burns and visions of sugarplums dance in the hearts and minds of little ones. Over the years, I’ve rushed around desperate to create something that resembled Norman Rockwell although I always seemed to fall short.
What I’ve learned about the holidays having reached midlife is that it ain’t what it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes I wonder if Mr. Rockwell was on a psychedelic acid trip. I don’t know about you, but if I’m honest, the holidays have always been a mixture of joy and a healthy dose of trepidation and anxiety. That little girl inside of me that wants to believe there’s a Santa Claus? That’s the same little girl who’s waiting for her white knight on a horse or her Prince to arrive via chariot. She’s still missing a glass slipper and her daily transportation more closely resembles a pumpkin rather than a sparkling carriage. Her Fairy Godmother must be under Harry Potter’s spell of an Invisible Cloak as she’s nowhere to be found.
I sense I’m not that different from many of you as there’s this intense pressure in our culture to continue to pretend it’s all perfect. We’re surrounded by constant advertising everywhere we turn. The media is filled with what the holidays are supposed to look like. We not only pretend it’s perfect, we end up on this desperate quest of perfection to keep the façade up at a huge cost. A cost to that very joy we are desperate to find. The joy that exists deep within and can only be found in the present moment. And I do mean the present moment…not the “gift” present moment. Presence rather than presents is where joy is found. The magic of Christmas isn’t what we’ve been sold through paintings, Christmas movies or commercials on TV. The magic of Christmas is found in the celebration of a birth and a new beginning. It’s found in the hearts of little children and the innocence we hold onto.
One thing I’ve learned is that my Prince or White Knight probably isn’t going to show. I’ve also learned that Santa Claus isn’t real, yet that doesn’t take away from the real magic and meaning of Christmas. Embarking on midlife has taught me a lot. It’s taught me that there was a lot of wisdom in the Velveteen Rabbit and being real means being authentic. It also means letting go of perfect as we are all a bit tattered and torn which only adds to our value. When it comes to the holidays, I’ve let go of the fairy tale and the desire and quest for perfection. That quest only took me out of the present and kept me focused on the presents that ultimately were forgotten. Most of my Christmas’ past are a blur. A frenzied time where the present most was lost. With age, oftentimes comes wisdom that’s hard earned. This year, I’ve let go of the sleigh bells and the visions of sugar plums. I’ve let go of the compulsion for perfection and the facade that represents it. I’m being open and honest about the mixed emotions that surge from deep within and I let them be. I let me be. I sense there will always be a little girl within who’s still waiting for Santa Claus. And, this year, I’ll sit with her. I’ll hold her and let her know it’s ok. This year, I’ll listen to her…really listen. This year, my presence will be her present. May the true magic of the Christmas season be with you!