Deciding to Be Happy

Deciding to Be Happy

I just finished wrapping Christmas presents. I turned on holiday music, spread out all materials, cards and gifts and got to work..

I spent a lot of time shopping for and trying to figure out what on earth to get my grandchildren. I will mail the gifts in the hopes that they arrive on time. I feel like I’m in a vacuum: Will they receive the gifts? Will they like them? Will they be tossed aside, forgotten among the heaps of presents they receive?

So, Christmas music is playing, the gifts are wrapped and ready to be mailed. I am feeling detached from the festivities of the holiday season. When I look around at all the hustle and bustle, it seems a bit forced and disjointed to me. I see people running around, shopping feverishly or just looking exhausted. Yet, we do this year after year.

I believe that we continue to observe these traditions because on a deep level, we want to feel love and kinship. Ideally, the giving and receiving of presents is symbolic of the love we want to express to one another.

Inscribed in our neurochemistry is the need to feel safe in the social order. When we feel unloved or disrespected, we get surges of cortisol, creating stress in our bodies. If we feel accepted and loved, our brains release serotonin, and we feel more relaxed and happy. We are constantly trying to balance the two.

For those of us who have been alienated and are estranged from our adult child and grandchildren, the holidays are a time when our brain chemistry is on high alert. We are at risk for depression, even illness, because we feel disrespected and abandoned. Our bodies, minds and hearts are severely compromised. This holiday is supposed to be a day of connecting with loved ones, yet how do we have ourselves a ‘Merry Little Christmas’ without them?

Well, we just make a decision to enjoy the day in the company of those who love and respect us. We decide to be happy anyway. After enough time has gone by and there is some distance from the dysfunctional mess of alienation, we can allow ourselves some fun, laughter and merriment.

There are times when I feel like Humpty Dumpty who fell and had to be put back together again. Picking up all the pieces after our hearts have been broken is tough. Being unfairly alienated from our little grandchildren is heartbreaking and recovering from the shock and betrayal is no small task. Yet, we’re still here, alive, hearts beating, doing our best to rise above the pain. We are accepting life on its own terms. We are finding our way. We are coming back to life.

This is a magical season. Trees are decorated, the crisp smell of evergreen permeates the air, fires warm us. When I hear old favorite carols, I remember the thrill I once felt. True, that feeling has faded, but I have a new appreciation for this season: I have survived many Christmases without my family, which was difficult. I’ve come through a baptism of pain and hurt and have a new respect for myself and for my own inner fire.

While Christmas lights twinkle all around, the light within me twinkles and shines over the mantle of my heart. I have lifted myself up. I am alive and well which is the greatest gift of all.

I honor all parents and grandparents who are wrestling with alienation and estrangement. I honor your courage and wish you love, healing and peace.