Love Under the Christmas Tree
“What do you want for Christmas?” my husband asks. And asks. Gently but persistently. All month long he has been asking. I have not answered. Except to say: “Nothing. I don’t want anything.” But that is not a satisfying answer. It is not a fair answer to someone who truly wants me to be happy and to contribute to my happiness. Being in a relationship means learning to receive gifts of love, however they may come, openly and appreciatively.
My first instinct is to wonder what SHOULD I want? What is the right answer to this question? What does he want to give me that will satisfy his desire to give me something, his obligation to give me something suitable for Christmas, without putting him out too much? (God forbid I should actually ask for something complicated.) I could pick out something and he could manage the transaction and have it waiting for me under the tree. Certainly, there are many beautiful things that would fall into this category. So many beautiful things that I am paralyzed with indecision. For my choice represents me. What if I make a mistake and choose badly, choosing something that is not who I am, not who I want to be, not who he wants me to be? What if that necklace is too conservative for the more free-flowing person I wish I were and maybe will become…someday? What if that red leather tote is not the right size or is too heavy and he spends all that money and I never use it? Why is stuff so expensive anyway? Besides, I tend to buy what I need and then not want to spend the money on the extra luxury enhancements. After being downsized and laid off, I have a new appreciation for being able to pay the mortgage. Keeping the house and sending the kids to college are my financial priorities. Skip the jewels and the luxury items. Just as the first bite is the most delicious, so it is with stuff. It’s shiny and beautiful at first and then…it’s just more stuff. It’s not what makes me happy.
Every year I feel the pressure to create a fulfillable wish list while fulfilling everyone else’s wish list by deadline. It’s exhausting and I am not very cheerful about the process. One season my husband had an aha! moment and announced that he had figured out why I didn’t like Christmas. (Aside from the fact that it is a burdensome amount of work especially if you are keeping up with Santa.) It was because I didn’t have anyone to play with and share toys with on Christmas Day as a child. Wow, that was a profound observation from someone I don’t always give credit to for noticing. But who knows me better (at least when I let him)? As an only child, I received many gifts. Many gifts appropriate for a girl of my age at the time. And after I opened my last gift one year, I remember having an overwhelming feeling of “Is that it?” Christmas was over. No more presents. No one to play with. Back to being alone. Indeed, why would anyone enjoy that?
So, what do I really want for Christmas? (And will I have the courage to ask for it?)
I want to be loved for me. I don’t want to be alone. I want to look into the eyes of my husband and feel love and the joy of having a partner. I want my children to be happy, healthy, safe and secure – in an increasingly frightening world. I don’t want my anxieties and neuroses to ruin Christmas for them. I want to feel there is purpose in my life, our lives, and to feel there is meaning in this world.
It is a strange holiday for me. I was not brought up to be Christian. I am not Christian. Yet I was brought up with Christmas. How can I create a holiday with my family that is a holy day? Christmas is beautiful. The music elicits goosebumps; the lights and the candles offer hope that the dark days will grow bright and long again; the cooking and eating of special food brings us together; and then there are the gifts under that magical tree, decorated with ornaments that we chose for our family life together. We want to give gifts that show our loved ones that we know them and delight in them and want to make them happy. Christmas is a time to pause from the relentless pace of our everyday lives and reflect on what is meaningful and to connect with the people we love.
It is not just stuff under the tree. There is love under the tree, to be given and received.
Here is what I want for Christmas this year:
- A family photo shoot
- Ballroom dancing lessons with my husband
- A sacred place in my house to practice yoga
- New pajamas (My favorite set has seen too many menopausal night sweats and is threadbare from being washed too many times.)
- Tickets to just about anything – dance, theater, music. I love all performing arts and don’t get to see enough of it.
- Free flowing jewelry, because someday, someday, I will be a less careful and a more free flowing woman.