Merry Gentle Christmas

by Rachel Pieh Jones on December 15, 2020

This is the time of year when everyone who has an Instagram account or a website (like me) pulls out their “what you must buy” lists. From books to fair trade products, things you never knew you wanted but now you must buy because if you do you will feel good about yourself and be saving the world and what could be better than that. We hope the affiliate links work because for every dollar Amazon earns, we poor writers and bloggers make…I don’t even know but the answer is not much.

This is the time of year we (me) write sappy, funny, melodramatic Christmas letters and mail them or put them online in the hopes they will bring you Christmas cheer, earn us a lot of “likes” or “hugs”, or even find their way onto someone with a larger platform’s must-read list so that we can get more likes and hugs and clicks on those affiliate links.

This is the time of year we (me) recap everything wonderful and terrible that happened in 2020 and try to spin it in a positive light or a sorrowful light, depending on what kind of response we hope to evoke in you.

This is the time of year we (me) rethink the Nativity, disparage shoe boxes, and talk about Christmas in the desert.

This is the time we (me) write clever jingles about our own stories to the tune of Christmas songs.

I’m tired this year.

I sat down to write this essay and tried to find an old essay I could copy and paste and post instead. None of them seemed appropriate. I’ve linked to them above because I totally do all those things. I’m saying them with all the cynicism but I also mean them sincerely. I love sharing words and books and resources and I really do hope it blesses you and makes you feel less alone and opens up new vistas of understanding or generosity. Both/and. This is one of the hard things about being a human.

I don’t know what to say about Christmas or New Year’s this year. I just feel tired. I think other people will say it all and say it better and I’ll link to the articles and wish I had written them myself.

This essay is like a not-essay. Are those real things? Can they please be real things?

A not-essay about how I don’t know how to capture the grief, rage, loss, confusion, tension, anxiety of this past year. I don’t know how to write about the global things like pandemics, wars, racism, fires, and elections alongside the personal things like graduate school, publishing, cancer, family, and precious friends.

All I want to say is be gentle to yourself. I say that because I want to hear that, too. Be gentle. Be kind. Be patient. Be tender. Take a nap. Go for a long, slow walk. Cry. Laugh so hard it hurts. Don’t worry about your to-do list. Eat cookies, lots of cookies. Sing lovely and terrible Christmas songs. Know that every breath is sacred, every moment holy.

May you have a gentle Christmas and a sacred New Year.

Merry gentle Christmas.

Happy sacred New Year.

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About Rachel Pieh Jones

Rachel writes about life at the crossroads of faith and culture. Her work is influenced by living as a foreigner in the Horn of Africa, raising three Third Culture Kids, and adventurous exploration of the natural world. She has been published in the New York Times, Runners World, the Big Roundtable, and more. Check out her latest book, Stronger than Death: https://amzn.to/2P3BWiK Get all her stories and updates in the Stories from the Horn newsletter http://www.djiboutijones.com/contact/

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