I’m Giving Myself the Gift of Grace This Christmas
Columnist Jennifer Powell lets go of past traditions to embrace new ones
The ballerina twirls in the late afternoon light. As if on cue, Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” suite begins to play. I’m lost in the dimly lit ornaments as my mind wanders. I fall into a deep nostalgia.
My mind is a montage of Christmases past. My 6-year-old self follows my dad as we search for a tree. My pigtails flap in the wind as my boat shoes leave muddy imprints. I squeal with delight as we find our tree. We cut it down, strap it to the top of the wagon, and take it home. The aroma of fresh pine needles permeates the air. I’m joyful.
A fresh tree has been a part of my Christmas tradition for 53 years. I look back at the past 10 years with wonder. How did I manage to get a giant tree into my house? Given my increased pain and disability, the more important question is, why?
Traditions are difficult to let go of, even when they’re unhealthy or impractical. The emotional toll is staggering and can increase stress. But we hang on for dear life and often lose sight of what the tradition means. These celebrations root us, but we must make sure we can grow elsewhere.
Change is inevitable with multiple sclerosis and in life. I have to be malleable and open to change to survive. I create new traditions that bring joy and accommodate my disability. The time has come.
I was taken off of my disease-modifying therapy (DMT) 18 months ago due to dangerously low immunoglobulin levels. The absence of a DMT has taken its toll. My body has set its limits, and I choose to honor them. Change is difficult, but it’s an opportunity for growth. Pain and loss are undeniable, but the joy of possibility is present.
I look at the tree and smile. I know it’s had a good run. Next Christmas, I’ll have a beautiful fake tree. The ease of setup, take-down, and storage is a gift to me. I am giving myself the gift of grace I so readily offer to others.
In doing this, a new tradition is born.
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