Saturday, December 11, 2021

Review: Reclaiming the Childless Holidays

It snowed! I'm snuggled in my recliner this morning with a Xmas quilt and a cup of coffee, sitting next to the Xmas tree with its multicolored lights turned on even though it's not nighttime. Most of my ornaments are still in storage, but I ordered some cute woodland animals last year and added this year's ornament to our new growing collection. I sewed a tree skirt from vintage looking fabric last year and a few wrapped presents under the tree are waiting patiently until Xmas morning for my boyfriend and me.

I love it.

And I'm grateful. For so long I felt lost from Oct. 31 - Jan. 1, not quite sure how to celebrate.

When I was a kid, I was in a community production of A Christmas Carol. I was in the chorus and showed up in full cast numbers. I remember singing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," set outside in a snowy scene on the streets against a backdrop of Christmas shops masterfully built by the set crew. All of our movements were choreographed as we walked across the stage and back, acting out various scenes like visiting on the streets and peeking in shop windows. 

During my darkest years, that's how the holidays* felt to me. Like I was back in that play, peeking into windows of shops and homes and watching Everyone Else's holiday celebrations. I felt alone and isolated. In a world of my own.

I don't feel that way anymore. I've reclaimed the parts of the holidays that I enjoy and I stopped putting pressure on myself to celebrate according to anyone else's agenda. Every year since knowing I wasn't going to have children has been different for me, so of course the holidays haven't been the same either as I've moved through the various stages of my grief.


This year I listened to Jody Day's webinar, Reclaiming the Childless Holidays. It was fabulous!! So much so that I took notes. Haha. Four wise and heartfelt women gathered online to share their thoughts and feelings about celebrating the holidays without children and they shared so much good stuff. 

In their introductions Jody Day shared, "I deserve the holidays too... I get to celebrate my life too." Another speaker, Sophia Andeh, said she took back the things she enjoyed and let go of the things she didn't. Catherine-Emmanuelle Delisle, a third speaker, said Christmas used to be a trigger but now it has become precious for her. Now she has developed a sensitivity for women around her who don't celebrate or for whom the holiday time isn't joyous or about gathering. She shared, "I tell [these women] they are in my heart and I feel for them." Then it was the fourth and final presenter, Karin Enfield's comment, that I most related to. She said that she loved Christmas but, in the past, also felt embarrassed and ashamed about celebrating it. (I'm not quite sure why, but embarrassment was always a strong feeling for me during my darkest years.) 

These women made sense to me. I kept listening.

Karin went on to say that she really did want to celebrate the holidays. She wanted to celebrate the light and she wanted to celebrate herself. She began creating new traditions.

A question was submitted anonymously: How do I change the holidays?
Jody answered, "Experiment." Her other strategies included always having an exit plan and alternating time with others with time with just yourself. She acknowledged that it can be difficult, that changing how you do the holidays is a work in progress.

That's when Catherine added, "It's all about accepting your feelings." She said acknowledging your feelings is key, as is asking, "Which way is best for us to take care of ourselves?"

Then Sophia added, "Have compassion for yourself." If you try something new and it turns out to be a disaster? "It's okay," she said, "you tried it."

There were so many good thoughts and one-liners in this thoughtful presentation. I don't want to give away all of their wonderful words, but I even learned about some new-to-me concepts like "internalized pronatalism" (where we believe the pronatalist messages we've been given) and "grief-tending" (a reminder that my grief needs and deserves to be taken care of). Also, an interesting book was mentioned: Set Boundaries by Nedra Tawwab. Most importantly, each speaker had a variety of ideas for how to celebrate the holidays and what kind of traditions you can create if you want.

I took their advice and ordered myself something special. I ordered a sewing-related advent calendar. It was a splurge, but I have really been enjoying opening a new notion each day this month. I also did some fabric shopping over the post-Thanksgiving holiday weekend when there were a lot of sales. Every package that arrives goes straight under the tree. Xmas morning has typically felt melancholy to me, but sleeping in and having some new fabric packages to open will bring me some good cheer that day.

Jody reminds us, "We are a very special group of women." And We ARE.

Please grieve and tend to yourself as needed. I hope you can enjoy parts of the holiday season, but it's fine if you can't or don't. No pressure either way. 

I don't care about the idealized version of the holidays.
I just care about you.

*The word "holidays" is meant to cover all important celebrations during this time of year including, but certainly not limited to, Christmas, Xmas (the secular version that I celebrate), Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, and Yule.

Also, P.S. If you were one of the few people that read my now-unpublished post from earlier this week, don't think you're losing your mind. (It's not you! Lol.) For the first time during my blog writing, I chose to remove a post after publishing it since it was about a situation that's still ongoing. Maybe I will republish it after the situation ends. Or maybe not. Either way, don't worry, you're not missing out on anything interesting. :)

1 comment:

  1. I think I love the term "grief-tending." I'm glad you're forging your own way through the holidays. They can be such a trigger, and the pronatalist messages abound. I love the holiday traditions that are ours. They feel more special for surviving the storm. 💜 Merry Christmas to you!
    PS I saw they order but didn't read it before it disappeared. Glad to know I'm not crazy! 😜 I hope things resolve, whatever they are.