Surviving December, #15-21

This is the last in my short series, Surviving December. I wrote it for a couple of friends facing particularly difficult holidays. If my list of 21 suggestions doesn’t help, know it was offered in love, out of my own experience. 

“West Wing” well. Last Wednesday night after I posted, my husband and I watched our two favorite Christmas episodes from the old TV show “The West Wing.” “In Excelsis Deo” (season 1) and “Noël” (season 2) address two not-so-happy topics—homeless veterans and PTSD. Even though I practically know these two episodes by heart, they never fail to move me.

Pet well. Do you have a pet? If not and your holidays are going to be hard, go get one. My best friend lost her father two weeks ago. Fourteen years ago she lost her mother during the holidays, so it’s not exactly her favorite time of year. After the funeral her husband and daughter surprised her with a dog, a 4-year-old German shepherd. Her Christmas will probably suck, but she does have someone to pet and love who’s already housetrained and can sit and shake.

Give well. I watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” again the other night. I’d never noticed the sign on the wall at the Bailey Building & Loan underneath the picture of George’s father. The sign says, “All you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.” The most important gifts you give this season may not be those under the tree. Give to someone who needs a card or flowers or cookies, just so they know you care.

Poetry well. At the moment my book, “The Joy of Poetry” is with the editor, getting much-needed attention. In a nutshell, the book is about how poetry gave me joy during a very, very bad year. It’s like the poet James Wright said, “Poetry can keep life itself alive. You can endure almost anything as long as you can sing about it.” The other nice thing about poetry? It’s short. When you’re emotionally devastated, you might not have the energy for a novel.

Friend well. Make time to have a meal with a friend. It can be breakfast, lunch, dinner, cocktails, a midnight picnic in the snow. Gripe to each other about your relatives or the lines at Walmart or whatever truly terrible things are getting you down.

Tradition well. Do you need a break? Take it. A family member who always hosts Christmas Eve decided to move this year’s celebration to our favorite Mexican restaurant. On the other side of the family, someone who never hosts is taking up the mantle this year so that the traditional host, who is grieving, doesn’t have to.

Joy well. If you know your holidays may not be merry and bright, be on the lookout for the small moments that will give you joy. Maybe it’s ordering a special holiday coffee at your favorite shop. Or walking your dogs under downtown Christmas lights. It could be a special church service. Give yourself moments like these, even if they happen on December 18 instead of Christmas Day. Oh well. No one can take away that wisp of joy. It’s yours.

Merry Christmas, friends!



  1. Hi Megan,

    I enjoyed your latest post, as usual. Thanks for sharing your inspiring ideas, quotes and memories. You’d make a very good Unitarian Universalist minister.


  2. “The wisp of joy….” I like the sound of that. S0 very much looking forward to your poetry book. Yay. Your the second person in 5 minutes whose posts included a reference to James Wright. Gotta go find that guy.
    Thank you, Megan. Merry Christmas!

  3. What a lovely list, Megan. Thank you.

  4. I’ve never noticed that sign in “It’s a Wonderful Life” (or if I did, it never sank in). And your advice to joy well and poetry well are excellent. I can’t handle a novel right now, but poetry? Not epic, but those of reasonable length, yes.

  5. I got to hear Margaret Feinberg speak at an Advent breakfast about her new book “Fight Back With Joy” in which she recounts her battle against cancer.

    She said the way to fight back with joy is one square inch at a time.

    I like that. A lot.

    Love you more.

  6. Loved this!