By Mary Cucarola – 12/25/19
“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.” – Alphonse Karr
Being up at 5:00 a.m. on Christmas morning isn’t something new for me. It is a habit I picked up in childhood – from my late mother.
When I try to look for the positive on Christmas day, I think of her. It’s quite paradoxical because my mom could be quite the grumbler. She saw the thorns, instead of the roses, on occasion. My brother and sister, on the other hand, mostly see the roses and are always looking for the fun in everything. I fall somewhere in between these two perspectives.
Both my sister and I have positivity as one of our top five strengths, so I know innately that I tend toward the positive side of things. But I often get sidetracked with taking on other people’s feelings and emotions, which can bring me down if I let them. In other words, someone else’s mood can affect my mood in a big way. It’s not always a positive trait, but it does show that I am an empathetic person.
Holidays intensify feelings across the emotional spectrum. For some, it’s their favorite time of year, but for others, it brings up feelings of sadness and loss. Again, I fall somewhere in between because of the loss of my son.
My family celebrates Christmas like no other family I know – over the top. We embrace it all – the decorating, gift-giving, baking, cooking, parties, music, Christmas Eve festivities, church service, and up early Christmas morning to open gifts. We were rarely allowed to open any gifts on Christmas Eve – it would ruin the fun at 5:00 a.m. on Christmas morning!
We inherited this enthusiasm from my mom. Christmas was her favorite day of the year – first one up in the morning, and after putting the coffee on, she impatiently waited for everyone else to awaken to her Christmas music.
It was so contagious; she passed the enthusiasm on to all of us in my family.
Like everyone else who has lost an addicted loved one or has one in active addiction, the holidays are an emotional rollercoaster. Staying in the present – not living in the past or future-tripping – just savoring the moment helps me. Staying neutral to all of the negative feelings and emotions floating around is about focusing on something other than them.
I think doing what brings joy is the key to surviving Christmas day.
Maybe it’s baking up a storm or decorating the house. Maybe it’s wrapping and giving gifts. Maybe it’s telling someone you love them and that they matter. Maybe it’s giving hugs or receiving hugs. Maybe it’s volunteering at a homeless shelter. Whatever it takes to stay off the rollercoaster, I say do it.
I love gift-giving, always have. I love taking the time to find a special gift for someone and wrapping it up all pretty. I am not keen on the idea Christmas shouldn’t be about gift-giving – what a killjoy attitude. Not because I don’t believe in the “reason for the season”, because I do. I’m one of those people who show their love by giving. So, is Cody’s dad – maybe that’s why Cody was such a kind and giving soul while on this earth.
If you’ve never read the book “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, it’s a good read. He writes that people speak different love languages and show their love in different ways – receiving gifts, quality time, works of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch. He theorizes each person has one primary and one secondary love language.
People tend to naturally give love in the way they prefer to receive love. A useful thing to know.
It’s better for me to embrace my mother’s enthusiasm than to focus on the loss of my son on Christmas day. I can still honor him without dwelling on his absence. What a gift of love and legacy she left to me and the rest of my family!
I can see her right now, with all of the other angels (including Cody), owning the moment and telling them a thing or two about how to celebrate Christmas. I miss her, and at the same time I am grateful she is with me in the spirit of Christmas day.
Mary Cucarola – 12/25/19