|photo by Jennifer Upton|
For the 2013 holiday season, I am hosting a blog series called Hurting for the Holidays. Twenty-six amazing guest writers are sharing their hearts, hurts, and helps to help those of us who carry an internal ache to navigate this celebratory season. Find all posts in the series here, and participate via social media through the hashtag #HurtingfortheHolidays.
The next person to be an asshole and then tell me, "Merry Christmas. Jesus loves you," is getting punched in the throat. For the most part, I am kidding – but also at the same time, I am so serious. Working retail during the last two months of the year is not for the faint of heart or the thin skinned. Aisles upon aisles of every retail establishment in the country will be stocked and restocked for your shopping convenience by the brave souls who may or may not get to see their family this holiday season.
Holidays have the potential to bring immense amounts of joy, but unfortunately for many, the opposite is a terrible reality. For me the latter is true. Coming from a broken home, the holidays have historically been not much more than brutal. Christmas day fights about whose house I would attend first and for how long to Thanksgiving being reduced to a long list of how thankful I am to leave. Managing in retail has done nothing to improve upon my current uneasiness with each holiday season.
Sometimes, for close to 10 hours a day, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, I stand face to face with all the crazy that humanity has to offer. People scream at us when we are sold out of a certain product or yell at the person in line ahead of them who is just “taking too damn long” and don’t we realize they are “late for a very important dinner party?!”
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I got the phone call on a Wednesday night. It was my sister. Having just recently settled on a course of action for my Christmas day plans, I was surprised to find out that my mom and dad would be in the same room, at the same table, eating the same food for Christmas lunch. This may sound completely normal for you and your family, but let me assure you, for my family, it is not.
You see, my parents separated when I was eleven and the divorce was final sometime around age thirteen. Since then Christmas has been almost everything but enjoyable. I can’t remember a time when my parents were together. I think back on things that I KNOW we did together and places I KNOW my parents faces should be – but I can’t see them. I can’t remember if we had Christmas or family traditions. I can’t remember if we did the Christmas pageant together or if we opened presents on Christmas eve or day. I want to see them.
But it has been too long and the years of hurt and confusion seem to have washed them out.
In just a couple days I will walk confidently – or not so confidently - into my sisters house and my parents will be there. My dad has been remarried for 10 years and my mom will be bringing her new boyfriend. My parents. My sister. Her fiancé. Me. All in the same room. To say that my anxiety levels are through the roof would be a dramatic understatement.
I have played this scene over and over in my head since I was thirteen. My parents back together. And, I get it. That is not logical. My dad is remarried, and I absolutely ADORE my stepmom and my siblings. But its kind of one of those things you can’t shake when you are thirteen. Or twenty-six, I suppose.
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Not one of the 500+ customers I come in contact with each day will ever look into my eyes and know that I have the same Christmas wish as a thirteen year old girl – for her parents to get back together. They will never know that my family is broken and holidays are difficult. Retail employees are much more complex than the products they are selling. They are so much more and their hearts rejoice and get broken the same ways your heart does. But we paint on our happy faces and we say “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays”. We tuck our hurt and heartache away, for sometimes close to ten hours, in order to make sure that your Christmas is pulled off without a hitch and you come through looking like Supermom.
But the ache remains, even when hidden.
So, if you are out shopping this season, if you are out eating at your favorite restaurants, please be kind. Look into the eyes of your waitress and know that this could be the toughest season for her. Realize that she may just be keeping her head down and plowing forward just to survive this time of year.
Christmas is hard. It reminds us of all the broken things and then, for me, forces all the broken things into the same room just to highlight the fact that no matter how hard I try, the broken things will never fit together again. So for those of you coming in contact with the poor exhausted retail employee, remember that she is a person who has a soul and you could be the brightest thing in her day.
Don’t just not be an asshole, be over-the-top kind.
Oh man. I love Alison's writing. And I love her reminder, too. How can you be over-the-top kind to others and yourself this year?
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Alison Luna, born and raised deep in the heart of Texas, is learning what it means to press in to the places that hurt in order to fight for joy. She loves her last name and finds promises written in the stars. You can find Alison wrestling with the idea of hope at http://aluna13.wordpress.com and tweeting it out in real time at @luna1387.