Growing up, I was sick a lot. And when I say a lot, I really mean it. Epilepsy, allergies, lots of infections, double viral pneumonia, etc. I spent a lot of time with doctors and with my mom and dad waiting for doctors. It was just part of my life growing up. I got used to it.
Some of the time we were certain of what was going to go on when we walked into the office -- like the regular neurological visits when they would do an EEG to test for seizure activity (I was lucky to have outgrown my epilepsy). Some of the time I was hoping for a quick in and out, but it was a long wait and I got a shot when I was sick. Some of the time it was for tests, and they would stick my back and arms for allergies, and I would react to just about all of them.
One of the sickest times of the year was always around Christmas. I would be ill from late in the month of November to early January (the same time we had a tree in our home). We began to suspect that it was my allergies. When they tested me for about 500 items, I was allergic to more than 400 of them. And I was allergic to just about every type of evergreen there is. So we got rid of our live tree and evergreens and have had artificial trees ever since.
That solved the issue for the most part but it does not solve it completely. I still have to be in places with live trees and greens and they are not easy places for me to be. I visit homes that have pets and evergreens and come home sick. It is kind of hard to avoid at times -- especially around Christmas.
I take meds and precautions -- sometimes even taking too much just to survive. But still it is a miserable time of the year allergy wise.
This past Sunday I was at my church -- a church I dearly love -- and found that their method of hanging the greens this year meant no safe space for those of us with allergies. It was beautiful and miserable all at the same time.
As I sat there feeling sorry for myself and others who were suffering, I was reminded of all of the people for whom the holidays are especially difficult. Some due to illness, some due to the loss of a loved one, and some due to a dislike of the consumerism and greed that seems to have infected the season. There are many reasons why this time of year is hard for folks. Some of those reasons are very personal and private.
But there reasons are very real. We hear songs about this being the happiest time of the year, but for many it is a time of torment and suffering, depression and anguish. For some it is painful, dreadfully lonely, and a reminder of just how blue they feel. For some it is a constant drumming of joyful songs all around them in the midst of feeling very little joy themselves.
I love Christmas -- especially with artificial trees and greens, and live trees from a distance. When I was a pastor, my churches all switched to artificial greens and trees while I was there which was very kind and caring of them. My family loves their artificial tree now and we never miss the "real thing." Adaptations helped me a lot.
So I pray for folks for whom this time of year is tough. You don't have to fake happy for us. You don't have to say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays to us. Many of us will try to be sensitive to your needs and not push our love of Christmas off on you -- though unfortunately not everyone will be aware of your feelings.
You don't have to love the lights and carols. You don't have to explain that going to the mall this time of year is just too much for you. You have the right to feel and experience the holidays as you need to.
Just know that we see you. We know you are there and we acknowledge that this time of the year is tough for you. We feel it too at times. Know that you are loved.
Whether your Christmas is decidedly red and green or some shade of the blues, you are special and God's beloveds.
Feel that, if you can, and know you're not alone.