I've developed a certain relationship with the month of December over the past decade and a half. I won't deign to pinpoint when it started exactly, because I don't think that it can be measured that precisely. It's been more of a gradation; a slow setting upon over time that, when fully realized, can bring surprise that anything had ever changed at all.
Many people rely on the magic of this time of year to carry them, even to renew them. All the music and traditions bring a transcendent, spirit-brightening feeling that may float them through the month and into the new year, and then the anticipation slowly builds over the next 11 months until it may begin again.
For me, the magic went in the opposite direction. There was no single cause. Some of it was the death of loved ones that caused yearly holiday trips to fade away. Some of it was the weight of needing to create magical moments for other people via my vocation that there would be none left over for me.
And so, come mid-October when the decorations and ads began their annual early overtaking of anything related to autumn, I would groan inwardly at the impending weight re-asserting itself, with crumbs of magic falling from the table I was charged with setting so that I could collect them and save them up for when I could enjoy them the most.
This would be my inward reaction every year, without fail, for the better part of 15 years.
And then this year, I wandered into a store to pick up some items. It was the later part of October, so I already knew what I would see: rows and shelves lined with all manner of knick knacks and wall hangings proclaiming the merriment of the celebration to come.
This time, however, an inward shift had occurred. I did not greet this sight with the usual despair or resignation or anger or annoyance. Instead, I felt a certain indifference, and even anticipation at what the appearance of these items signaled.
So much of this year has not been what anyone has wanted. For my own part, I've lost vacations and work trips, I've had to readjust my expectations for settling into and performing my new position, and I've had to figure out how to balance work and family in a new way. I have little doubt that I have been alone in this recalibration of...basically everything, really.
There is a good chance that many people who already anticipate this time of year are leaning into it even more heavily than before. So much else has been upended, but the magic of this season has not abated. Instead, people need it in even greater abundance.
I not only noticed the shift within myself, but embraced it. If the shackles of some previous way of relating to this season have finally fallen away, then I would receive the new freedom that would replace it with gratitude.
I would receive hope, which had been there before, yet now seems to come as a full meal rather than crumbs, at long last.