'Tis the season for Christmas cards. Around this time of year, we go to the mailbox and find it stuffed, not just with a gazillion flyers for things we probably don't need, but also with cards. Our mantles and fridges are decorated with images of angels and reindeer and bells, covered with red, green, and gold, and bedecked with photos of families in their holiday best, smiling in a meadow or in front of a Christmas tree. Doesn't it put a smile to your face?
It doesn't. Not to me anyway.
You might wonder why I am such a Grinch? People take time out of their busy lives and pay for postage just to wish me a happy holidays, and here I am, tossing their handiwork in the recycling bin. Am I just a horrible person who hates children and families and the true meaning of Christmas?
I've posted in the past about how difficult holidays, and especially Christmas, are to me in my infertility journey. There seems to be a societal consensus that Christmas is for the kids, that we're supposed to find the magic in watching our little ones open their gifts from Santa and experience the joys of the season. All of the radio and television ads are about children. They feature happy families putting up a tree. We all know that Christmas is about families, and those of us without children - who may never have a little one to spoil in the name of Santa - well, we can just sit back and watch everyone else share the magic.
It's no secret that this year has been extremely difficult in many ways. There were joyful moments, like when I graduated and our brief holiday in Spain, but overall, 2016 has been a hard year. Our infertility treatment failed. Our cat died. I suffered anxiety and depression. I feel like have been mired in sorrow, fighting so hard just to get one foot in from of the other while I am up to my knees in the mud and muck of loss and grief.
One of the saddest parts of this journey has been the lack of support from loved ones. When you lose a family member or get sick, people rally around you. They bring casseroles and send flowers. This has been one of the most profound grief experiences of my life, but no one sent flowers or brought around food. Very few people have acknowledged it at all. Many of our friends have faded quietly out of our life, unable to face us in our sorrow. It hurts.
So what does this have to do with Christmas cards? Well, everything. This time of year, the cards come in. People who never acknowledged our pain, who never sent so much as a two-line email telling us how sad they are for our situation, are now sending us cards with their adorable children. Maybe they think this is helpful and their way of sending love, but when you've been silent during my grief, a photograph of your happy family makes me feel like you're rubbing it in my face that you have a family and I don't. It doesn't say "I love you" to me; it says "LOOK AT MY BEAUTIFUL CHILDREN." If you haven't reached a hand down to help pull me out of the pit, then I don't want your family on my fridge. I don't have time for superficial friendships any more. I want to invest in the people who will invest in me in return. I want to spend my time and emotional effort with people who will make me feel loved and supported in my darkest days.
This Christmas, maybe I am the Grinch. I'm okay with that. I've been asking myself the hard questions this year, like why do I bother sending cards anyway? Is it out of habit, or because I truly love these people, and if so, how am I prepared to invest in those relationships in the coming year? I ask you, too, to think before you send that card. What are you trying to say with it? Is this person going through a hard time, and have you reached out at all? How are you investing in that friendship in other ways, or is it just a once-a-year, Christmas-card relationship? Let's not just do things because we think we should. Let's make gestures that are meaningful instead.
Merry Christmas. This year, let's love harder and better.