Blessings in a Bittersweet Christmas

In this week leading up to Christmas, there have been several thoroughly unfestive incidents affecting me personally, or indirectly through friends, family and other bloggers, which have left me desperately endeavouring to keep my holiday spirits high.  I’ve been shocked at how much death and illness has surrounded us at this time of year; lives of friends, relatives, and celebrities have all recently fallen into cessation, leaving behind heartbroken families at a time of year when goodwill and festivities are supposed to eclipse the worries of the rest of the year.

But it’s tough, when life insists mercilessly on throwing lemons, on a schedule inconsiderate of Christmas spirit.  I’ve been reading blogs of friends who are going through loss, grief, infertility and sadness, and all I want for anyone right now is to be able to enjoy the holiday season.  It’s just so hard to raise a shield and feign holiday joy in the face of adversity’s relentless persistence.

My heart goes out to anybody whose Christmas this year is tainted.  I’ve spent more than enough Christmases dealing with breakups, surgery and divorce, and everything at this time of year seems exacerbated by the inherent expectations of festivity and merriment.  I want you to know that if you’re going through something challenging this year, my thoughts and prayers go out to you by hundredfold.

In the last two weeks, the incident with my mother exploded as a result of her determination to maintain vendettas, as opposed to recognising someone in need and having an actual heart.  After years of disproportionate efforts, I’m finally done with her negativity.  She knows where to find me, should she suddenly grow a conscience, but until then I made it very clear I was done, and she was not going to be coming to my wedding.

My dad, who I love dearly, got laid off from his job.  A pretty high-end management position, two weeks before Christmas.  Luckily he has a few interviews this week, but in this economy and at this time of year (especially when you’re paying spousal support to someone who refuses to recognise the difficulty in actually paying when you don’t have a job…), I just hope and pray he gets something soon.

Because his mother, my dear Nan back in England, is in hospital.  She gets dizzy and has falls and lives by herself in a 2-storey house which poses more of a danger these days than a home.  Recently she had a fall, and fractured her arm and a rib, and is being kept in a hospital until at least the New Year.  The hospital is out of town, and the only relative who’d actually visit her doesn’t have a car, and hasn’t been able to take her up some clean clothes, or even visit.  My dad and I are totally helpless from halfway round the world, and it’s just so disheartening that we have other relatives over there who, for the sake of maintaining grudges, won’t go and visit.  And my dad can’t go over because he has interviews all week.

Last week I just broke down.  Things are supposed to be happy at Christmas.  And so I did everything I could to try and refocus my thoughts on how much I actually have.  I have wonderful friends who come round with hugs and cake and amazingly thoughtful gifts (we even got each other the same present!).  I have coworkers who send me emails, invite me to their holiday parties, and get together and pray for my Nan. I have you guys, who despite being miles away, read and write to me,  offer your support and even send me cards in the post. And I have my dad, who’s been there for me my whole life, and I’m trying to be able to do the same for him.

I put up decorations, hung the cards, downloaded a bunch of Christmas music and cranked it, singing at the top of my voice while I did laundry.  I made little snowflake cupcakes and bought stuff to make my first mince pies since I moved here ten years ago.  I dug out Love Actually and the Polar Express and my next two nights are full of plans of cat snuggles, movies and some Hot Butter Rum. (Seriously, make some – it’s the best Christmas drink ever, and it’s the only time of year you can drink it and not feel guilty about the calories!)

I’m really thankful for what I have, for my little cat, for my friends and family, and for all of you I’ve found this past year. I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to personally grow, the wonderful conversations, and the chances I’ve had to give back.  If you’re going through something tough this Christmas, my heart honestly goes out to you.  I hope you can take a moment to count even the smallest of blessings; those of friendship, of the work you do, of the gifts you have.  And I sincerely hope and pray that 2010 brings good things for all of you.


  1. First of all, I’m so sorry that so many awful things have been happening to you; Second of all, that’s amazing that through all the crap, you’re able to find things you’re grateful for. That’s really admirable. Merry Christmas!

  2. I think that there’s something about the Christmas period that attracts misfortune for those unlucky enough not to avoid it (wow, that’s a grammatical minefield). Last year, my mum was just out of hospital after surgery, and while it was great having out again, it added additional stress to an already chaotic time, and while none of us showed it to her, the family’s patience definitely started to wear thin. Now, I’m not going to try and compare it at all to your situation. But what I will pass on to you, what I was told, and you actually seem to have grasped already:

    Think about what Christmas is, a time to appreciate what we have and the best in our family, friends and other people. To appreciate all the little things that make the holiday period and the little joys that it brings. The bad telly (haha, I know you’ll be equally stoked about the Dr Who specials :P), the food, and songs and the fact that everyone tries to be a little happier.

    I had a massive pang of guilt today, I was working my way through my Christmas songs and for the first time in a while ACTUALLY listened to the words in the Band Aid song. We take so much for granted, and for all the problems we have, big and small, others have it MUCH worse off than us. And while our problems are the biggest thing in the world to us (and you have got it pretty bad this year I will admit) we should try and make the most of what we do have. On a personal note, I feel like I have come to know you a bit more from reading your blog, and I actually do feel for you. E-hugs from this side of the Atlantic, and I hope you find the joy somehow. I was going to suggest Love Actually from the beginning actually, haha, but now that’s gone, I prescribe “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Ties in nicely to what’s been said, and I wish you one too 😀

    1. Awwwww thank you – yes, it really is important to not take anything for granted and I hope more people really listen to the words in that Band Aid song this year too. And yes!! I am very stoked about the Dr Who specials 🙂

  3. I feel so funny commenting on your blog, like I need to start off with “Further to the hours logged on this topic earlier this week” =)

    It just makes it better, don’t worry.

    I think that at the bottom of it this season – or any holiday season or birthdays or special occasion – is really just about being together and being there for each other. Your nan knows that you’re there for her. Your mom isn’t able to be there for you so, she doesn’t need to be here for you – and while sometimes you can have a picture in your head of what you want this season to look like, it doesn’t have to be perfect, and sometimes I think it’s easier to appreciate when it’s not.

    When you really know that you really need the people you love around you, being able to have them around you is amazing. You can just bask in their glow. I hope you guys have that kind of a Christmas and that I can be a part of it too =)

  4. There is no such thing as the perfect Christmas. I hope you can embrace the small things and have a wonderful season. I’ll keep your grandma in my thoughts.

  5. Your grandma is in my thoughts, sweet friend. I am so sorry things aren’t perfect—I have to agree with Mandy, though. I don’t know if there’s ever a perfect year. I think finding the joy you can is most important. Big hugs. xo

  6. I am so sorry about your mother, and especially your grandmother. I send nothing but good thoughts your way for a healthier and happier new year.

    My mother and I also have an… interesting relationship. Maybe one day I’ll write about it. Regardless, you aren’t alone.

    I read back on the original entry you wrote about your mother, and your fiance helping you out of debt. I think it is so wonderful that you have such a STRONG support system through him. Not just financially, but emotionally as well. 🙂 And you clearly have tons of support here!!

    I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and happy New Year!! xoxo

    1. Hey thanks… I know I have so many good things in life as well as the unfortunate ones that rolled around this Christmas, and I’m just trying to focus on what’s most important 🙂 I’d be interested to hear your story sometime, too – let’s talk!

      Hope you have a wonderful Christmas too 🙂

  7. You know what I enjoy about you the most. That no matter what life throws your way, you always come out of it with a positive outlook on life and that is so incredible. I am sending you virtual hugs and I already know that your Christmas season is going to be filled with fun and happiness

  8. I am honoured and proud that I get to share life’s challenges with you. I hope you’ll look at your Christmas when it’s over as an enjoyable time that you got to spend with people who love you and want to be there for you through thick and thin, which is really amazing when you think about it 🙂

    Finally, in other Christmas-related news, we have the BEST news about Christmas…which is that in a world so full of chaos, illness, death and sadness, God still decides to make Himself fully part of this world…yes we celebrate the birth of Jesus 2000 years ago but the real celebration is that God is still with us…that He cares enough to be present amidst all the pain there is in life…not because He’s going to fix it, but because He wants to walk with us and help us through the crap…that is the real Christmas blessing 🙂

  9. What a nice post. There are so many things that just keep happening. Good things and bad things. You just have to do what you can and like you said, remember the good things in your life and deal with the bad things. Here’s to a happy, healthy, and safe 2010!

    1. Awww thank you so much!! I already feel heaps better, heard from my dad that my nan is doing better, even a friend back in England is going to try and visit her for me, so here’s to hoping it’ll all be okay 🙂

      Thank you so much & have a wonderful Christmas!!

  10. Hi Em! I cried when I read the story of you and your mom. You are right though, some relationships are just too toxic to maintain. The best thing you can do is take care of yourself first, before you can give of yourself to others.

    I will keep your nan in my prayers, and yes you have all of us readers (and friends) who think your awesome! 🙂 Happy Holidays chica.

  11. Oddly enough, we seem to have a similar parental situation, just switched. For me, it is my mom who has always been there for me and with whom I share a close bond. And my father has decided he doesn’t want anything to do with his children anymore and my brother and I have just given up on ever having a good relationship with him. This will be my 3rd Christmas without so much of a word from him. It’s sad but I can’t dwell on it too much because my mom is 100x the parent my dad ever was.

    I’m praying for your grandma and hope you have a wonderful holiday!

    1. Thank you so much!! Yes – I got a bit of a word from my mum over Christmas, in the form of a card with a patronising message… *sigh* but you’re right, Christmases should be spent with the people who actually care about us and who we love just as much back, and I hope you and your mum had a wonderful Christmas this year 🙂 Thank you so much for your thoughts and your prayers, too!

  12. I’m keeping your dad and your grandma in my thoughts and praying for the best for the both of them. Despite the down side to this holiday season, you’re such an inspiration for being able to maintain a positive attitude and still appreciate all the good things that are currently in your life. How you handle yourself in tough situations can really make all the difference.

    You’re in my thoughts, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your holiday! Wishing good things your way!

  13. What a sweet, heart-felt post. I agree that it seems like there are so many handling more curveballs than they should be at Christmas right now, and your reminder to recognize and respect that is a good one. I’m proud of you for standing your ground with your mother, no doubt that had to be extraordinarily difficult. I’m glad you’ve come into my life this year, and I daydream of the day when I can come visit your little prairie town and share wine and tea and lovely girl time with you and Kyla! Have a merry Christmas, lady – and keep counting your blessings – you/we certainly do have many 🙂

  14. Oh darling, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and that everything turns out alright for you. I’ll keep your dad and grandma in my prayers as well. Thanks so much for the Christmas card, I adore it, It’s on top of my fireplace.

  15. The night is always darkest before the dawn – I really believe that – that as many things as might pile up against you, so much good is on the other side. From what I do know about you, you have an amazing spirit and clearly have the ability to put things into perspective. And having your fiance there for support is huge – my fiance is always there for me, and she is the ONE person who believes in me, even when I don’t believe in myself – we all need that someone in our lives.

    It has been such a pleasure meeting you and I have no doubt 2010 will be a great year. Merry Christmas Emily!

    1. We definitely do, and we’re both so blessed to have that person in our lives 🙂 Hope you had a wonderful Christmas, I’m looking forward to chatting lots in the new year!

  16. merry late christmas! just catching up now 🙂 i like your attitude, maybe i will adopt it as a non-resolution (i dont’ make them) 🙂

  17. Pingback: So Far Away «

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