Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Christmas with the fam, 2016.
As I'm typing this, it's 10:19 PM on Christmas Eve. Per Robidas family tradition, I've been banished upstairs so my parents can do their last-minute wrapping in the living room. No matter how old you are, some traditions never die.

To be honest, I've been hot and cold when it comes to Christmas this year. Before Thanksgiving, I was super excited and brimming with ideas. Over the last month and a half, though, work has become super stressful, I've had to have some tough conversations with my managers about changes in the new year, and my weekends have been full due to a second job (which I love!). On top of that, the rest of the family has been juggling school and multiple jobs and everything, too...so our whole house has been dragging a little going into Christmas.

But. This weekend, we are home. I went to church this morning and got to go to lunch with my amazing church family after. We spent Christmas Eve at my aunt's house, celebrating with my dad's side, which was fun. Tomorrow, we get to have a quiet morning with just our family, and then head out (in the forecasted snow!!) to my uncle's house for my mom's side's Christmas. It will be loud, and crazy, and filled with lots of running around and good food. I love big family holidays.

I love this time of year. I love Christmas and everything that comes with this season. But, every year I get a little sad, too. I always end up with a little knot in my stomach that won't go away. On the surface, I'll get a little sad about all the things I didn't end up getting done or thinking of. But, the root goes deeper than that. I get weirdly nostalgic; I start to miss times that I've never lived. I can't walk through a store without thinking about how weird it is that I'm so close to so many people at that moment and yet am never, ever going to meet them again. I get lonely for not just the people in my life, and the people who used to be in my life, but also the people who will never be in my life. I start to want to know all the alternate paths and random people and opposite lives I could be leading. And, I start to miss them all.

I don't hate these Christmas aches. They keep me grounded, I think; they help me see a little deeper than all the commercial stuff. But it's not comfortable to feel it. I start to miss life when me and my cousins were younger, or at least the times before girlfriends and boyfriends, when there weren't those family outsiders to talk around. I miss future us, too: I think about the inevitable day when this whole family unit won't be together, I think about my aunt and  uncle's divorce, and even though they both still do holidays together, all that unsaid tip-toeing. I think a lot about my friends, too; sometimes about how I wish I could spend Christmas with them, like when they all sing around the piano in You've Got Mail. I think about all those awkward family conversations, and how on earth we can become so disconnected to our own flesh and blood. I think a lot about what I wish I did during the year to make these talks better, whether it's spending more time with family or fixing my life so I have better things to talk about.

Personally, I feel (am) on the cusp of some pretty big things. I am hoping for them, praying for them, and so ready for them, to come true. But, it's also heart-breaking to think about future me not being here, so close to family, with the churches I've grown up with and little cousins everywhere. If I get what I want, and everything changes, it won't be the same again. How scary is that?

Since yesterday, I've been so uncomfortable with how cluttered the house is, and the piles of stuff everywhere and a planner I can't even read, that I've been dreaming of skipping over Christmas and getting a head start on my week off work to re-set and re-group. I am so looking forward to 2018: not because 2017 was bad, or just that I'm super excited for some cool opportunities, but just that I need a fresh start. But, these Christmas aches have made me slow down a little. Christmas Day, I want to make a point to take my time. Really talk and listen. Enjoy some good food and not sweat the small stuff (because let's be honest: at a family holiday, there'll be a lot of little things to possibly sweat over). Regardless of what does or doesn't happen in 2018, I do know that Christmas 2018 will be different just because it's a new year. 

I'm okay with taking a step back from a couple of traditions this year. We didn't have the time, and that's okay. Not every year is the same. My goal is to soak in all the wood stove, twinkling lights, loving family, giving spirit, stupid jokes, and snow falling New England Christmas vibes tomorrow. No matter where I am or who I'm with, today, tomorrow, and next year, it's special to have this day to relax and reflect and enjoy. I may lean into the Christmas aches for some perspective, but I'm excited to soak up the unique joy that every year brings with it.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Praying that you and yours have a safe, warm, joyful holiday.

Merry Christmas! xoxo
~Gillian

PS-As part of their gift, I made a Christmas movie with my cousins as our virtual Christmas card. It's cheesy and super fun. It's unlisted on Youtube, but I'm going to leave the link HERE for a couple of weeks if you want to take a peek. :)

Friday, December 8, 2017

Petitioning the Christmas Cop-Out

Christmas tree shopping with little cousins in tow.
Pre-Thanksgiving, I was already wicked excited for Christmas. I had so many ideas for gifts and parties and decorations, so many things I wanted to do with the little cousins. I imagined weekends spent at craft fairs and candles burning and lots of family snuggled together to watch a Christmas movie. It's been a few years since I really, whole-heartedly felt Christmas-y that early, and I was thrilled.

But. In my idyllic Whoville-esque world, I'd forgotten that full family on-board-ed-ness is a key ingredient. Over Thanksgiving, both sides of the family talked over Christmas plans and brought up the ever-present question of how to handle gift-giving. I don't know why, but neither side of our family has ever figured out a Christmas gifting system that works year to year. Sometimes, we buy for everyone. Sometimes, we buy for just the kids and grand-parents, and no middle-adults. This year, we decided to do a yankee swap for my Mom's side, and no gifts at all for my Dad's side. And, I don't know. That's really sucked a lot of the fun out of Christmas for me.

It's not that I want a bunch of gifts, obviously. I hate thoughtless-consumerism just as much as the next person, and I find nothing more soul-sucking than a cellophane-wrapped Walmart gift basket. But, at the risk of sounding like a Pinterest quote board, it's not about what you get! The best part about Christmas gift-giving is that it has almost nothing to do with the actual gift that's getting wrapped. There's a lot of joy that comes from meditating about a person, deciding on the best gift for them, and then going out of your way (but making room in your budget or time in your schedule) to give it to them.

When I was little, I always got a present for every single person in the family. Granted, I was 11. Most of my presents involved photos stuffed in thrift-store frames, cookie dough for the freezer, a badly knit dish towel, or, if I was being spend-y, a can of mixed nuts. I spent months planning these gifts out, and painstakingly wrapping every single one. At Christmas, I was so proud that every person had a present from me. I remembered that I would worry if I had left someone out; I was terrified that they would think they weren't as meaningful to me if I hadn't found them the perfect gift.

As an adult now, whenever I watch my little cousins give gifts, I understand what it must have been like to watch me as a kid. They get so excited whenever they've been the ones to pick something out, and they always have a fantastic reason for giving it. One year, my cousin Ena bought my Mom white coffee mug with the Lucky Charms logo on it. One one side, over the Lucky Charm's guy's face, sat a huge, orange 50 cents sticker. Ena was so excited, "I heard you loved Lucky Charms!" she said.

And she's right. My mom loves Lucky Charms! And now, a good 8 or 9 years later, we still have that mug in all it's Dollar Store glory. It's one of our favorites. If we do a yankee swap, moments like that won't happen. Every one will have a sterile, $20 gift for the swap and it will pass without a ton of talking. Don't get me wrong, I love a good yankee swap. But they work best when you're doing it with a huge group, or at a church Christmas party, and everyone can bring silly gifts. Those yankee swaps are amazing, but swaps in a normal-sized family, with serious gifts, are just lame.

I just can't stand the dicussion that always comes with this. All the "we don't have money this year!" and "we never know what to get!" and "you're all grown up now!". It's just laziness. Most of the gifts I give are homemade baked goods, because I never have the extra money, either. But the point is not the what of the giving. It's the taking time out of your day to really think about a specific person, and do something that's just for them.

I think we bring out a lot of our insecurities as adults as Christmas. We worry so much more about how much money we spend on each person, and whether or not that was the 'right' amount for them. I think that's ridiculous. We think that we can't do homemade gifts any more, and that it's better to give nothing at all than to give a plate of cookies, or something small. These are our families! They love us and value us and are happy when we think of them.

I find that heart-breaking. These are our families, and we should be able to love them as the people we are in the here and now: simple treats if you're broke this year, a heartfelt card, or if you're on the opposite side and have been really blessed this year, then something they can't get for themselves. No one else is (or should be!) judging you, no matter what side you fall. I petition that we get over our egos this Christmas, and get back to the heart of the matter: giving of ourselves, to those we love the most.

Happy Friday! xoxo
Gillian

PS-Here's a look back at what I was thankful for in 2015 (hint: if I'd written a list this year, there would have been a lot of repeats!), and some priceless holiday family pictures.