I’m Giving Myself the Gift of Grace This Christmas

Columnist Jennifer Powell lets go of past traditions to embrace new ones

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by Jennifer (Jenn) Powell |

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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.

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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.

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Leanne Broughton avatar

Leanne Broughton

As always, I enjoy you writing. I am also SPMS and body/brain changes occur daily or weekly. I am always making changes and adjusting.. This is the first year I have had an artificial tree in 44 yrs, since I sold christmas trees when I was 16 years. There is a shortage of real trees, very expensive and very dry.. i could not decorate the tree this year as i could not stand long enough to hang the ornaments. I will enjoy my holidays but more as a watcher than a participator.

Jennifer Powell avatar

Jennifer Powell

Hi Leanne,

Thank you for your kind words. It is nice to see you here once again.

I am grateful you are gifting yourself grace to accommodate your needs. I took this as far as I could and now I will enjoy the holiday as I am able. Your last line about being a watcher more than a participator gave me pause. Participate as you can. I don't want you to feel you are missing the holiday as a result of this disease. Only you can do that. Perhaps try a table-top tree with your favorite ornaments, or place some in an area where you can enjoy seeing them. It is up to you! Let's try some new traditions together, okay?

My very best,

Cindy Turner avatar

Cindy Turner

Thank for sharing your graceful writing & putting down my feelings,thoughts into words. We are all survivors one day at a time 😇

Sherry Bennett avatar

Sherry Bennett

Season's Greetings and thank you for sharing your lovely message of grace! I too have been reflecting on Christmases past and the tree search with my Dad and sister were a lovely activity. I switched some time ago to an artificial tree and guess what - this year it didn't make it! Look at the bright side no need to sadly take it down and stash all the ornaments away. This won't be a new routine, but I gave myself permission to take a break this year. Happy New Year!


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