All Things Holiday
At the beginning of the month, I promised to share posts that are Christmas related. That promise has been kept and there are still so many things we have not done such as fashion, food or the stress of Christmas. That is about to change.
Although not wishing to be Debbie Downers, especially now that we are just days away from Christmas, but it has to be admitted and discussed that not everyone enjoy this “the most wonderful time of the year.” For some, the stress level can be quite high. That could be due to all the activities, preparations and shopping related to the season and so little time, they feel, to do it all. For others, the stress is more about not being too fond of Christmas for whatever reason. This could include that this is the time that a loved one or friend made his/her transition, a relationship came to its end or simply not observing Christmas and all the celebration is just too much for them.
Over the now 50 years of my life, Christmases have been quite joyful no matter the amount of gifts that I received, what we ate over the celebrations or where I lived. There were times when my love of the season was outwardly visible – in the decorations adorning my house, the special outfits that we wore and the spread on our table. But there were times, a few years, when the opposite was true. The stress of my life, the ‘disappointments’ and even devastation were so great that I honestly did not want to see another Christmas.
I know that there are people in that exact place today. It might not be you who is reading this now but you might know someone who is living the stress that can come with Christmas. It is for you, if you are the one, or for your friend, that I share this story – one that tells the story of my loss and insight back in 2007. That was a truly trying time for me – it was one of those few Christmases that I was doing my best to be “normal” for the season. It was published elsewhere on this day – December 16 – and with some edits and revisions to make it relevant and somewhat shorter, I share with you today.
Don’t Stress, Mommy
“From the mouth of babes…” the Bible says and even though one cannot still describe my daughter, Abigail, a ‘babe’ given that she is a grown woman, wisdom indeed pours out of her mouth. Take the piece of advice she gave me as we spoke on Messenger early that December morning: “Don’t stress, Mommy.”
We had spent the previous day enjoying a couple of our favourite mother/daughter activities – shopping and making Christmas cakes. It was late when we were done and as we bundled up to go into the cold for me to transport her home, she noticed for the first time the trembling of my/our dog Angello that I told her about.
Side bar: There was always confusion about who is the true owner of Angello – the Shi Tzu/Pomeranian cross dog that my partner purchased for me years before. We had another Shit Tzu – Betty – who I had purchased about three years before that and gifted my partner. That is a funny story – the purchase of Betty.
I was driving home from our office – we ran a small and growing public relations firm back then – and came to a halt behind a garbage truck. I noticed a brown and white ‘thing’ hanging through the window and curiosity got the better of me. So I swung out and pulled up beside the truck and realized it was a mangy-looking, shaggy hair all in knots dog.
Without a second thought, I shouted up to the driver who was holding this thing, “How much do you want for it?” We “wheeled and dealed” and 15 minutes later, he was driving away with my cheque and I with the flee-filled “thing” on my front seat. I will never, never forget the look on my partner’s face when I presented this flea bag as an early Christmas gift!
Betty was with us for a few years and she got mixed reactions from me. I never owned a pet in my life until then – much less one that lived in the house! However, she and my partner were like peas in a pod and yes, there were moments when that relationship annoyed me – I readily confess.
Then one day, Betty was gone – stolen in a swoop by thieves who drove through the neighbourhood where we had recently purchased our house. My partner was so heartbroken and swore we would never have another dog. And we did not for years.
Until Angello and according to my partner he was mine – and his nickname actually became “A Fi Yuh It” (Translation:“He’s Yours,”). This was an unsuccessful attempt at not forming any attachment to him as well as trying to get me to housebreak him. Well that plan failed. Abigail, my daughter, was also in on this and pretended at first to be nonchalant about this dog – until she realized that she could score ‘dates’ by walking him through the neigbourhood. She was right. Her first boyfriend was as a result of Angello’s cuteness.
When the time came for us to migrate to Canada – there was no question in my mind that Angello was coming once I found out that he could. So, Angello was actually an immigrant to Canada along with the rest of us. He was the one who settled fastest. The first day of snow, he was out in the yard, rolling in it as if it was the most natural thing for him to do.
Five years after migrating to Edmonton, Alberta, he was dying. Watching him sleep on my comforter as I tapped away on my laptop, I wondered as Abigail did during our conversation on Messenger, “Is he in pain?”
“Death might not come quickly,” the veterinarian-specialist had told me. Angello had a rare type of kidney disease and so he did not know how long my darling had to live. “It could only be months, Claudette.”
I have sat many times with people making their transition into the next life during my Clinical Pastoral training and so my fear of death no longer exists. What I was experiencing as I watched Angello prepare to go was not fear. It was a deep sense of loss – one that was with me for over a year. In May 2006, my almost 19 year-old daughter moved out and my world started a downward spiral.
One after one, my most beloved ones were leaving my life and Abigail’s advice on Messenger –“Don’t stress, Mommy” was hard not to do. Her wisdom, however, challenged me to open my eyes (and heart) and see what was entering my life along with the departures. So I did and must admit they were “legion.”
Nevertheless, in the moment, I was grieving for a life that I once knew as Angello prepared to make his exit from mine.
Stress, Loss And Overcoming At Christmas
This was not and possibly is not the Christmas story that some readers might have expected, anticipated or wanted from me. However, always mindful that everyone’s lived experiences and realities are different, it had to be written and shared – to make even one who is experiencing stress about or over Christmas, who has suffered any type of loss at this time of the year, know that they are never alone.
“This too shall pass,” the saying goes and it is true. Angello lived for a few more years in fact but would eventually leave my life. My daughter and my relationship would go through the hills and valleys over the 7+ years since this post was originally written. A marriage would end and many relationships between would too.
At the time of writing this piece back in 2007, my healing was accelerated and stress level about Christmas reduced by following the advice from one of my greatest set of therapists – books. I did as Melody Beattie wrote in her book, Journey to the Heart, and not ignore my brokenness and pain. Instead, I gently held my heart in my hand and caressed the cracks as I continued to open it even wider.
That’s tough s..t ! (Sorry for the language, I will explain another day the impact that working in prisons had on my vocabulary – ha-ha). It is just as tough as my daughter’s sage advice not to stress. One decision I made, one of the legions of blessings that came through Angello’s preparation to die was however, to get a puppy from his first and last sexual encounter.
Should you need support or just a listening ear, make sure to check our local listings for therapists, counsellors and/or support groups to help you through this season. I am always here to be your friend and you can contact me through my Facebook page, sending me a direct request, or via Twitter. As well, when you subscribe and join this community, you will receive a daily email update of our posts and my FREE monthly newsletter that includes practical tips and a monthly affirmation poster. So, sign up today!
Blessings to all who are “going through” this Christmas. Believe me, one of the best antidepressants is a hug, a snuggle or a cuddle with a pet, so visit your local animal shelter over the season, if you do not have one of your own, and bring down the stress level.