The Christmas I Didn’t Christmas At All

Those of you that have been hanging out here for awhile may have noticed that I haven’t been posting much (or at all!) for this Christmas season. Which is pretty a strange decision given this is a lifestyle/design/home blog. I mean, Christmas, is big right?  Crafts, meals, decorating, and gift guides. I tried. I really tried this year but I couldn’t do it. Here’s why.

The year I didn't Christmas the shit out of everything. Or anything at all. 24cottonwoodlane.com

 

First, I went back to social work/teaching. Actually teaching courses in a traditional Aboriginal healing/counselling program. For the longest time after leaving my child welfare job I swore I wouldn’t people anymore. Then last winter my friend asked if I would fill in at the college where she works, teaching a counseling course. Turns out I loved it. Not right away, of course. Social anxiety had me in a bit of bind until I got over myself. But once I did, I hit it hard and this fall I actually taught 4 courses to an amazing group of college students on the Reserve (Reservation for you American folks) near where I live.

Just like that, I tumbled back into the real world after almost 2 years of working at blogging. Not that blogging isn’t real. It’s just a different kind of real than the trauma, PTSD, Aboriginal legal issues, Native psychology, and the reality of life for most of my people and the people I’ve worked with as a social worker over the last 20 years deal with on a daily basis. Suddenly creating Christmas recipes, design ideas, and Pinteresting the shit out of everything had a whole lot less meaning. Every time I sat down to create an article or something for the season, I just felt blocked and resentful. So I went with that.

The disconnect I was already feeling really  hit home in November when America elected a child rapist, misogynistic, racist, pussy grabbing, hate mongering president. After the shock rolled through me, I had a hard time putting together a link party about cookies, crafts, and design. It felt silly and trivial given what had just happened.

Earlier that fall, my people had been gathering in Standing Rock to make efforts to protest, pray, and protect the water that we all need for life to continue. Again, I struggled to come up with ideas for or creating DIY gift tags while I watched those gathered in Standing Rock (including some members of my friends and family) deal with law enforcement shooting them with rubber bullets, grenades, and hitting them full force with freezing water in frigid conditions. In an effort to push forward with a pipeline that would only benefit big oil and their bottom line at the expense of everyone else. If you’re looking for an understanding of the issues at Standing Rock, here is an excellent and quick background read.

water-cannons
Source– Police use water canons and tear gas on unarmed protesters in sub zero temperatures in Standing Rock.

At the same time, I was driving to work in the mornings to the Reserve where we don’t have drinkable water and haven’t as long as I can remember. My own people don’t have water they can cook or drink with. In 2016. As an aside, there are 133 water advisories in First Nations communities across Canada and most of them are in Ontario.  That’s why Standing Rock became more important to me than making 16 kinds of cookies this year. My waist line was also pretty happy about that, just as an aside. Not that happy since you can buy really good cookies from a bakery, but still.

And of course America now has a president that invested in that Dakota pipeline. We’ll see how that plays out, I suppose. But I don’t imagine, given this guy’s refusal to believe in climate change and his history of racism against anyone that doesn’t look like him, including Native Americans, that the temporary cessation of building that Pipeline on traditional reserve lands will be anything but temporary.

Meanwhile back in the classroom, I was teaching a course called Aboriginal Psychology which looked at our history of colonization, residential school, and the child welfare sixties scoop*, and the inter-generational trauma that Native people continue to experience. We looked at domestic violence, addictions, and the astonishing rates of suicide in our communities and again, I couldn’t get into writing a gift buying guide or blogging home tours for the holidays. I spent 4 classes teaching about PTSD, multi-generational trauma, and the psychology of forgiveness. And I just kept on ignoring that it was December completely.

The final piece that hammered things home for me was that my word for 2016 was INTENTIONAL. I was really trying to live with intention vs reacting to things. Major good things happen when I let go of reacting and start asking how we want to live and if this is something I really want to do. So Christmas was a big fat no. Just like Easter (when we went to Cuba), June (Dominican Republic) and Thanksgiving (Cuba again!). Not celebrating the holidays in a Pinterest worthy fashion made for some really intentional living. (Hello, beaches! Goodbye, family drama and craft overload!)

This year, I did all of my Christmas shopping in two days. I made not a single baked good nor did I prepare our standard brunch or Christmas dinner. We had frozen waffles, bacon, and mimosas. (Much yum!) For dinner we ordered Chinese. And you know what? Not a single f#*^ was given by anyone. No one cared that we didn’t have our traditional meals, the cookies were store bought, and we snacked all day on frozen hors d’oevres.

For the first time ever, I wasn’t tearing my hair out trying to get everything done and trying to create some crazy fantasy Christmas miracle. I wasn’t blogging so I wasn’t creating, writing, and photographing everything I created and trying to make everything Pinterest perfect. I just sat and worked on my courses at night and read and graded papers and finals this year. While binging on Netflix, of course. Perfection. I didn’t yell or cry this Christmas. Not even once. I didn’t feel overwhelmed or exhausted or taken for granted. I didn’t feel resentful because I had done all the work while everyone just showed up for the party. I joined the party because it only takes a minute to order in Chinese food. Hell, I was the party this year. That’s what letting go of all the Christmas crap did for our family.

I feel a bit like the Grinch who realized that even after he stole all the Christmasy things, Christmas still came. Because Christmas really does come from something bigger than 15 different tablescapes, and 12 over the top handmade gifts for your neighbors. I think we may have had the best Christmas ever and I literally did almost nothing to prepare. No lists, no baking, no cooking, no posting and publishing. Not a one.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this blog because I really do love a good project and all things home but I know that this year, taking a big step back has been the best thing I could have done for my sanity and for my family. I’m sure I’ll get inspired again soon enough but I’m already pumped up for the winter classes I’m teaching which will probably hold my attention to the fullest. I love all of  you and I’m grateful you’ve hung in there with me for the last four years. Keep hanging…I’ll figure it out eventually. 🙂

NOTE

* The sixties scoop refers to the practice of child welfare professionals removing (or scooping) entire generations of Aboriginal children in Canada from their homes and communities and placing them for adoption with non-Native families. I was one of those children. This practice continued through the 1960’s into the 1980’s and some would argue that it continues to this day citing the over-representation of Aboriginal children in care compared to population stats. 

For more about Standing Rock, check out the facebook page. Show your support buy grabbing one of these T’s from Amazon (affiliate link included).

Support Standing Rock- Water is Life
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Comments

  1. Thank you for being brave and being honest. I didn’t Christmas this year either–didn’t travel, didn’t fake nice, just hung out in my home and chilled. 2016 sucked on many different levels for me. We stupid Americans elected the worst possible person as our future leader, which will taint the next four years (or more). My university started this fall with two student suicides which amped up the depression and anxiety among this “highly selective” university’s population. And, worst for me, my mom died in January after a short bout with lung cancer. Yesterday I felt I should feel guilty for not Christmasing–traveling to spend the day with family I don’t get along with, decorating, cooking, etc. But I didn’t. I felt relieved. And, reading your blog today adds another layer of “okay” to that relief. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for saying what I needed to hear. Thank you for standing up for aboriginal people in Canada and America. Just thank you.

    • Rebecca, thanks so much for taking the time to comment . I’m sorry you’ve had a rough year, too. 2017 is going to be a great year if we keep shaking off other people’s expectations and finding our own way. All the best and Happy New Year to you!

  2. I enjoyed reading your post. Maybe change your blog and write about things you are passionate about. I would like to read it. To be honest, I am more interested reading about your life with your boys than home decor/ craft stuff. And I would be interested in reading about your experiences working with and helping aboriginal people.

    • I’m still excited about design and pretty things but there’s definitely a lot going on in the world right now. I’m going to give it some thought about where we go from here. Hope you have a wonderful 2017

  3. I am so glad that you had a Christmas that worked for you! I’ve been feeling very much the same way, but went through the motions for my husband and other family members…it was exhausting and almost joyless. I feel like this year has brought me to my knees, between politics and issues within my family and business. Let’s all hope that next year brings some relief.

  4. I’ve been in a blogging funk for the last couple of months. Since the election, I think I’ve been too depressed to sit down at the computer and be clever. I am dreading Jan. 20 with all of my being. Thanks for being real, Jenna. It’s refreshing.

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