Thoughts, Ideas and Inspiration by Melissa Earley

Category: Holiday

What Christmas Cards Don’t Say

I received a Christmas card from a friend. The front of the Christmas card was loaded with photos of happy, smiling people living their Best Lives Now! The family update on the reverse was peppered with exclamation points, jolly news, and travel destinations in bold.

Then we had coffee.

Though we hadn’t talked for several months, we are close enough friends for honesty over steaming mugs. No surprise, the card only told the tip of the iceberg of her family’s life. There were travels and a family wedding. But there’ve also been family fights, job anxiety and loneliness.

I wondered about all of our image conscious cards. Why can’t we just put it all out there in our Christmas letters? Why not write, “This will be the last time you get a card from this address, we’re going into foreclosure,” or “As I blew out the candles on my birthday cake, I was pretty sure I’ve wasted my life,” or even, “I don’t really like my kids this year. I’m a pretty nice person. How did I raise this bunch of jerks?”

Why not? Because not everything is everyone’s business. Secrets are how we protect those tender places that aren’t read for public scrutiny. We all know that if we put our dirty laundry on the line, someone will point at it and say, “Ick. That’s really dirty.”

There is power in bearing witness to the complicated truth of our lives. When we tell someone else about our struggles, insecurities, and personal triumphs, we each get a little less lonely. When we can unfold the layers of lives before another person without covering a part with our thumb we create a holy text. I have found healing when I’ve shared my hurt places with someone else.

But it’s okay for Christmas cards to have only the updates that are okay for other people to talk about in the grocery store check-out line.

This year, when I open  cheery Christmas cards and read the enclosed brag letters, I’ll celebrate the joyous news. And I’ll pray for the very real people and all the complicated, difficult, messy stories they’re not yet telling.




What Holidays Would You Invent If You Could?

We just celebrated Fall Back Sunday – one of my favorite Sundays of the year. I know not everyone agrees. But what could be better than extra hour to do whatever we want! It’s found time, like found money in my winter coat pocket, I can spend it however I want – working a quilt for a friend, watching a movie, vacuuming the stairs. Fall-back Sunday deserves to be an official a holiday.

Which makes me think about days that should be holidays but aren’t:

The first really nice day in the spring – this may be just for folks living in punishing climates like Chicago.

The first snow that sticks – when we still think snow is magical, and the world is quiet. Before the pollution has turned snow banks gray and my dog is constipated because she refuses to go outside in the bitter cold.

On that note, Ground Hog Day should be a holiday, but only when the ground hog doesn’t see its shadow and we know that spring is coming.

How about a “I just can’t put it down day” which should come on a Monday so that we can keep reading on Monday that wonderful book that we had our nose in all weekend.

We should each get at least two “I just can’t get my act together days” a year to use every shirt needs to be ironed, or every pair of tights has a run in the knee or the car is almost out of gas, we have no cash, and we’ve lost our credit card. Those should be days we can just go back to bed and not have to lie about being sick.

For these days to be true holidays and not additional stress days, they must be declared card, gift, special meal, and religious ritual free. The minute Hallmark, Betty Crocker or the church get their mitts on them they are ruined. They should be days free from work and to-do lists, simply days just to enjoy.

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