My Gift This Christmas: Learning to let go of past mistakes

by Charlotte on December 23, 2011 · 19 comments

Sorry, couldn’t resist! Is this not the saddest holiday card ever? Blue Christmas indeed. And they made Kim stand next to an empty chair!! 

“It’s the hap- hap- iest season of all!” Unless, you know, it isn’t. The holidays can be a wonderful time but for a lot of people they can also be a difficult time made even more poignant by all the well-intended cheer, gifts and hippopotamuses getting thrown around. And this year I’m one of those people. For reasons I’m not quite ready to go into on here (mostly because I haven’t got enough distance from them to articulate them in a non-hysterical way), the past few weeks have been really hard. A constantly churning stomach, clenched jaw, nightmares and PTSD-induced panic attacks have been de rigeur. And crying. Lots and lots of crying.  (And not just because I bought a Costco-sized jar of kimchi that exploded and I can now smell in every single room in my house.)

At first, I’ll admit to a bit of Grinch-i-tude. When you are suffering, the holidays can make you feel like a stained glass window… that someone threw a brick through. But I’ve come to realize that both the pain and the timing of this are a wonderful gift. Indeed, while I’ve always been a Christmas person in the past - I love giving gifts! I love my kids’ excitement! I love junk drawer cookies! – this year the ache has made me profoundly grateful for it in a way I have not been in the past.  While I can’t tell you the why yet (I’m sorry! I hate it when people do that too!) I want to tell you the how. Because I know I’m not the only one hurting this year.

My gifts this season:

1. Understanding that pain means growth. Sometimes you have to be broken down before you can be built back up. And this destruction is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It means holding up every thing that I believe about myself to the light and willing myself not to look away, even when it hurts so much it takes my breath away. But I can’t change to be the person I hope to become if I don’t get rid of the dysfunctional parts of the person I am now. While these growing pains have been far more intense than I had expected, this needed to happen.

2. Being surrounded by loved ones. At first, I didn’t want to tell anyone – not in real life and not on the Internet – because something triggered an avalanche of difficult memories and I felt buried under the weight of the shame and guilt that I’ve been holding on to for years. I’ve always thought that if people really knew me they wouldn’t love me and so I tried really hard to hold it all together (must! control! everything!). But I’m a terrible actress and I wear all my emotions on my sleeve so now I’m just embracing falling apart. And you know what I’ve discovered? Whether it’s the spirit of the holiday season or that they’ve always been there and I just haven’t trusted them enough – I have a lot of people waiting to catch me.

3. Being on the receiving end of a lot of service. Part of opening my dark places to the light means letting other people see them and I am overwhelmed by the compassion, understanding and love people have shown me: My husband who loves me unconditionally, the bishop at my church (in LDS parlance a bishop is similar to a pastor or rabbi or other clergy person) who spent a gut-wrenching hour and a half listening to me, my fantastic therapist who knows when to push and when to listen, my friends who have rallied around me even though I can’t answer their questions yet, my sister who calls every day to check on me.  Even my children help. Yesterday sweet little Jelly Bean came and sat on my lap and asked “Mama sad?” When I nodded, she brought me her favorite doll and blanket and then did a little sympathy whimper. And their sacrifice means even more to me because it doesn’t get any busier than the holiday season.

4. Being able to give a lot of service. The best way to put our problems in perspective is to help someone else with theirs and this year I’ve been given some amazing opportunities to be that person for others. It amazes me how quickly I can go from heart break to joy and how thin the line really is that separates them. You can’t have one without the other. Somehow just realizing this is part and parcel of the whole human experience makes me feel less alone in it.

5. The baby in the manger. If you are not religious, feel free to skip this part but I would feel remiss if I didn’t give thanks for my most precious gift of all this Christmas: the miracle of a tiny baby born in the humblest of circumstances who grew to be the greatest man who ever lived. And then who chose to die, for me, so that I would not have to pay for my mistakes the rest of my life. This year I’m accepting that gift. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. A lot. And I have a hard time letting them go. (Because it’s so much fun raking myself over the coals? Dunno, still trying to figure this one out.) But it’s time to give them back to the One who has been waiting to carry them for me all along so that I can move on. And make more mistakes to learn from, yay! I love doing things the hard way!

Life is messy.  And I’ll admit I’m a little afraid to show you my messy life right now but here it is. If you are having a rough go of it this year too, know you are not alone. My heart goes out to you and I hope you find comfort and peace, even if it’s just in knowing that I too have refused to listen to any carols because I’m just not feeling it. And if you are having a wonderful holiday, know that I love you even more for it – your happiness gives me hope and makes me smile. I love you guys and I am ever grateful for all the love you’ve given me back!

Anyone else have a hard time letting go of past mistakes? What is your favorite gift (given or received) this holiday season? Anyone else laugh themselves silly when they saw the Kardashian Family Christmas Card?

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Jody - Fit at 54 December 23, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Thx for this Charlotte. Yes, I have a lot of past things I have trouble forgiving myself for BUT I do try to move forward & that is all we can do – try!

You have a lot of great tings like your family & those gym friends & so much. You share with us & that makes us better!

Have a wonderful holiday!!!!!


Sue December 23, 2011 at 5:28 pm

So sorry to hear you’re having a hard time!
I do regret a few things in my life, but as I can’t go back in time to change them, I’m trying to focus on all the great things in my life instead, and be grateful for them. I have an awesome family, lovely in-laws, a fantastic husband, and so much more.
I hope you’ll be feeling better soon! Take care!


Mandy December 23, 2011 at 8:16 pm

I’m sorry that you’re having a hard time but I’m glad you have your support system and you’re leaning on them as much as you can.

I am one who tends to dwell on things and The Boy keeps telling me to let go but it’s HARD. I’m working on it.

I hope your holiday season is a good one! Looking forward to more hilarious, thought-provoking and simply awesome posts in 2012.


Michel December 23, 2011 at 8:37 pm

I’m sorry you are having a hard time. Just to know you are not the only one.


Another Suburban Mom December 23, 2011 at 8:37 pm

I am sorry that you are hurting Charlotte. Yet, I know if anyone can power through, you can.

Thank you for the reminder of the season.


Sarah December 23, 2011 at 9:49 pm

My best thoughts are with you, Charlotte. I’m glad you are ok with embracing your inner Grinch though.


MJ_R December 23, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Love you, Charlotte! Wish you a season of hope, grace, love, and renewal,


Jenn (GH) December 24, 2011 at 8:57 am

Hugs and love Charlotte!! Digging out the roots is not a walk in the park esp if they’ve gone deep but once it’s done the walk is so much brighter and lighter. Merry Christmas!!!!


Tamara December 24, 2011 at 11:16 am

Big hugs, Charlotte. And a very merry Christmas to you and yours. xoxo


devin December 24, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Charlotte, you’re one of he strongest people I’ve never met. You can get through anything. Hug your children tight, lean on Gym Hubby & the Gym Buddies and let yourself be sad.


Terri December 26, 2011 at 4:43 am

Hi Charlotte,
I hope you work through what you need to. I did this two years ago and it was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done but it is worth it. I hope you get to that part really soon.

If there were medals for beating oneself up for past mistakes (silliness/actions/non-actions etc) I’d win the gold (if not the platinum !) so I know how that goes :) There are ways of shutting up that voice (I think Geneen Roth had something in one of her books about this)

My wish is for you this Christmas is to receive all the hugs and support you need {{hugs}}

I’d also like to thank you for your amazing blogs this year, I think I’ve said in previous comments that sometimes we seem to go through the same or similar things at the same time and I’m amazed at how many times I’ve opened your blog to read exactly what I needed to at the time. The time and effort that you put in and laying yourself bare (figuratively) is appreciated more than simple words can ever convey.

I’m a tad late but I wish you and your family all the very best for the holiday season.


Alisha December 26, 2011 at 8:34 pm

Charlotte, the hardest thing for me to deal with right now is that even when everything seems great, I still beat myself up for my lack of balance in eating and exercise.

Two years ago, health was my obsession, and it took me awhile to recover from myself. Now when everything’s different–I’m less stressed, I feel secure in my friendships and I have a better relationship with my family–I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum eating-wise. When I start to feel concerned about my weight, it’s hard for any good thoughts about the world or myself can break through that dark cloud.

There’s really nothing seriously wrong in my life now. I’m 16. I’m headed for an amazing adventure of a life. I’m not even overweight, but fifteen pounds hangs on my spirit like the burden of the devil that it is, and I can shake neither the weight nor my attitude towards it.

Thank you for spreading encouragement via your blog, and I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! :)


bjbella5 December 27, 2011 at 8:48 am

Sorry to hear your going through a tough time. I hope you are doing better now! Thank you for talking about it though, the joy of Christmas can also make pain more pronounced as you get the additional “I should be happy, it’s the holiday’s” guilt.
I have a horrible time letting go of past mistakes, something I hope one day to resolve.
Blessings to you and your family!


Robyn December 27, 2011 at 9:54 pm

I’m sorry to hear that you’re going through a tough time, Charlotte. I hope you are able to emerge on the other side of this darkness feeling lighter and at peace.

As for the Kardashian photo…they are standing in doorways (?) of giant boobs. That’s all I see. Well, that and the 9 giant boobs who are the subjects of the photo (I won’t include the baby. He doesn’t know any better yet.).


Geosomin December 30, 2011 at 8:48 pm

This might sound weird and corny (especially from someone you’ve never met) but I am really proud of you for taking the time to look at these things head on…to strive towards more…I am glad to know you are surrounded by people who care. :)
Over the last year you have made me laugh. This year I’ve been struck with the fact that I need to remember that in life there is always another change to step up to and when you let life carry you somewhere you never thought you’d go, you somehow end up being exactly where you need to be.
Blessings on you and your family this Christmas.


Lisa January 4, 2012 at 8:13 pm

“But it’s time to give them back to the One who has been waiting to carry them for me all along so that I can move on.” Amen sister! I know that you don’t really know me, but I know you because I went back to the beginning of your archives and have readreadreadread like crazy. So much of what you say hits home for me. You have helped me out, even tho you don’t know it. :) I hope that the struggle is short-lived! Hugs..


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