Christmas ornaments are more to me than pretty pieces of glass to hang on a tree. In our house, they symbolize the story of our lives. This is part of the story I saw today when I looked at our tree:
I grew up with a set of ideals and beliefs passed on by my parents. Those beliefs helped me understand the world, for a time. As I got older, I learned there were other beliefs equally valid to those my parents held. Learning this was disorienting to me; akin to learning the truth about Santa Claus.
I started evaluating and decided to challenge what I knew. The more beliefs I challenged and shed, the more I felt like an outsider in my family. And it didn’t bother me that I didn’t fit into that place any longer.
I also recognized that no matter how hard I worked at it, home was no longer the place where I grew up. Instead, it was any place where I was welcomed as I was. And it opened a whole new world to me.
I stopped feeling shame when I chose to have a drink. I learned that drinking and being drunk are two different things, and started to meet friends who were going through similar circumstances.
I found and sought out friends who cared for each other. Not lip-service care, but “call me when you find yourself in trouble” care. I learned how to receive and, more importantly, how to give care to the people I had chosen as to be part of my life.
That’s when I realized how lucky I was to be among people who let me be myself, cared for me regardless of my flaws, and helped me recognize the rewards of becoming a contributing member of their community.
I was free to live fully; to engage with the world around me, and to be among people whose joy and energy were fabulously contagious. I knew the best way to celebrate life and love was to be on the dance floor among the people who showed me how to be myself without fear.
Far from the evil place I was told about, the dance floor is what gave me the chance to meet the man I would marry. And we continue to dance every chance we get!
One of the biggest ironies of my story is that my parents’ fear of vices is what kept me from making terrible choices when I was younger. And I can appreciate that now that I’ve arrived at this age without being harmed.
This Christmas, I’m grateful I learned how to be resilient even before I knew what resilience was. I was fortunate to have friends who taught me how to care for myself and others, and who showed me the value of deep, loving friendships that transcend time and distance.
And I learned that work is what allows me to live the life I want, but play is equally important. It returns to us the simple gifts of laughter, fun, and joy.