Growing up, the holidays were always a hard time for me.

There was a lot of competition between my younger brother and I (he was three years my junior). We would count the number of presents under the tree to ensure we both had the same amount, to be fair. When it came to unwrapping, there would be some duplicated items and I always wondered why there was so much focused attention on being “fair” especially when I was the oldest.

We would spend Christmas Eve lunch with my dad’s family and then rush to Christmas Eve dinner with my mom’s family. I never wanted to leave the time with my dad’s family because my cousins were close to my age. There were more people, it was more fun, and the food was better. The focus was more on the connection between the family rather than the gifts. Christmas Eve dinner was not as formal but there was a lot of pressure to open gifts in order, to be fair and to let everyone see what you got. The focus was more on the gifts than the connection.

The holidays were hard when I was married too. Lots of family, activity, food, over-indulgence and pressure finding the right gifts for the boys – the things they wanted that were popular and sometimes hard to come by.
I always felt uncomfortable with gifts being the focus of the season – even with my own children.

We’ve gotten so far away from the reason for the season. It has become more about gifts, buying, shopping, receiving and over-indulging. We’ve lost sight of what is important. It’s not about things, it’s about people. I’ve always felt a little empty, sad and lonely during the holidays.

Just before the holidays of 2009, my ex and I had agreed to divorce. We agreed not to tell the boys until after the holidays which was better for everyone. We put the tree up, went through the motions and it was bittersweet, hard and emotional. As I was taking down the decorations, I began putting aside a few things that I wanted to take with me: the Christmas stockings I made, ornaments the boys had made in school, little memories and reminders that I wanted to help make my holidays better in the future. My ex was sitting in the room and kept telling me “no” to this and “no” to that. I could feel little parts of my soul disintegrating with each “no”. However, those few little things I did take became a focal point for the next 7 years.

Each year, the holiday season inevitably brought sadness, pain, desolation and emptiness. I felt alone and lonely year after year and knew only I could do something different so that I would feel different and have a different experience. In 2015, I began making a focused, purposeful effort to create a better experience for myself. For three years, I made turtle progress (turtle progress: so slow I hardly felt the difference).

Last year, in 2017, I made an incredibly bold move. I decided to throw away (yes, throw away) ALMOST all of my Christmas decorations. I kept some old-fashioned wooden stars I bought at Target and the stocking holders...and that was it. It felt weird and good, strange and liberating. But when I throw things away, there is a huge energy release that happens to me deep within my soul. I didn’t realize how impactful it would be until this year.

Halloween is my favorite holiday and once it is over, I slide into a funk that generally lasts until the new year. This year, Halloween was amazing – one of the best nights I’ve had in a very long time (and went out the weekend before and danced until my feet hurt). I felt a shift happen in the month of November. My outlook and perspective had readjusted. I no longer felt empty and sad. Thanksgiving was the best I’ve ever had, spending Wednesday night with both my sons, my dad and his wife and then Thanksgiving Day with close friends. I cooked, rejoiced and enjoyed every single moment.

Then I had a complete 180-degree change. I started listening to Christmas music, watching Christmas movies, bought a few decorations and decorated the house; simply, beautifully and meaningfully. I have a fresh perspective filled with love, self-care and compassion for myself. I have struggled for so long during the holiday season and I recognized only I could change that pattern and mind-set. I set the intention to do it differently, experience it differently and feel it differently. And it has happened.

Throwing away the decorations released the energy, the emotion and the heartbreak that was attached to them. I was able to create a new experience for myself by making the decision to start over, just like I did when I made the decision that I wanted a divorce. Starting over can be hard however the rewards can be incredibly powerful, healing and empowering. I also recognize, because I have healed in this way, I will be able to focus on my next task at hand...finding a new love, hopefully in the new year!

© 2019 by Amy Jones - All Rights Reserved

Author's Bio: 

Amy Jones is a personal growth visionary, international speaker and author who lives and breathes one simple philosophy: live in the moment.

For over two decades, she has inspired thousands of people; intent on helping facilitate their personal growth and self-healing process by creating opportunities for significant and lasting life changes. She is a self-taught space-planning and organizing expert who, from personal and professional experience, provides a 360-degree perspective to produce clarity, structure and achievable results.

Amy is a highly sought-after speaker and her series Getting Rid of Possessions: It’s Harder Than You Think has the highest attendance in the history of the Generations program at Methodist Health Systems. She is the author of Better for Being Broken and co-author of Break Through with Johnny Wimbrey, Nik Halik and Les Brown.

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Amy Jones