My son found the stash of extra Christmas lights yesterday and asked for permission to hang them around his room. He’s always liked decorating his own room for Christmas, down to one of those Charlie Brown Christmas Trees that plays an obnoxiously tinny version of the iconic Vince Guaraldi arrangement. He’s almost 16 but seriously digs Christmas as a magic time where cool doesn’t matter.
I turn 41 in a few days and feel the same way. But then, I never much cared for whether or not I was cool.
He drug me in to his room to show me that he had run the length of the room with icicle lights and I had an immediate memory to an experience that I had working at a partial hospitalization program many years ago.
The program (now defunct) had a large cafeteria room that also served as the group room for the evening program that was mostly comprised of seniors, as it was big enough to hold wheelchairs, walkers, and all of the apparatus that often become more necessary with old age.
Because it was also the cafeteria, it was rather sterile…and had a tendency to smell like boiled green beans and sloppy joes.
I decided, that year, that we would decorate for the holidays. I brought in a bunch of Christmas lights from my own garage and strung them around the room. Then the group members and I cut out snowflakes, using purloined paper from the copy machine.
Standing on chairs and tables, I strung them all off fishing line from the ceiling.
My thought, with the project, was to discuss how we all started with the same piece of paper and blunt scissors and all ended up with something entirely unique. But all came together as a cohesive group in the end.
Something like that anyway. When you ran a seniors group 5 days a week, you got desperately creative for themes and ideas.
After the room was done, we turned on the twinkle lights and turned off the overheads. The snowflakes glowed above our heads.
There was a collective intake of breath and everyone in the room, as once voice, breathed a quiet “ooooooh.”
When I asked group members what the snowflakes represented, I got an immediate answer I never expected.
One young lady told me “I am this snowflake.”
I was thinking…yes, exactly this, she knows where I’m going.
But then she shocked me.
"People see all the ugly parts, but they don’t know how beautiful I can be. I am this snowflake because I am not my diagnosis. I am so much more than that, and can be just as beautiful and magical as anything else in the world."
My favorite moments as a therapist have always been the selfish ones…when my clients helped me in my human journey, more than the times I helped them.
We all have so much more under our surface appearance. I think we know this, most days. But I also think that we worry that the things under the surface are dark and ugly, when the truth is anything but.
The things under the surface may be larger than anything we could possibly imagine. They may be raw and vulnerable and sometimes painful to bring up.
But it is also the place where we are our most beautiful. And magical. We aren’t just unique…we are uniquely worthwhile. Slowing down to make those connections in the people we love, and within ourselves, is what the holiday season is about.