One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is sharing Christmas stories. From the time I was very young I looked forward each year to magical stories that fired my imagination and warmed my heart. Stories of shepherd boys, other magi, angels, understudy angels, stars and gifts; stories of magical reindeer, snowmen, elves and shoes; stories of visits from Christmas ghosts and jolly old elves. Each was so real I actually lived the scenes that unfolded with the turn of every page. Even today I find myself transported as I read stories to the children in my life.
Our Depression Stories
Those of us who deal with depression have other stories we continually deal with, but often more acutely at holiday times. While others are celebrating and making merry, we find ourselves battling sadness, darkness, pain and regret in various forms. We tell ourselves, “This is a time to be happy and celebrate.” But even our best efforts at cheer don’t always remove the underlying sense of lack that seems to put a damper on everything.
Christmas Lights - Re-writing the Story
A few years ago a connect-the-dots light went on for me. After enjoying an imaginative story, I returned to my dark world, and realized I had entered another story. It was my story, and in many ways not a story of my choosing or one I was totally in control of; but it was a story just the same. And it was a story I was stuck in, that kept replaying the same sad scene over and over.
The thought came to me, “Stories are written, and can be re-written. Maybe I can actually choose to rewrite part of my story to one that’s better suited to my imagination.” That experience led over time to re-writing much of my life’s story, and finding that while it’s a slow and sometimes painful process, we actually can choose to re-write our stories in a way that more accurately reflects our authentic, ideal selves.
This Christmas, Write a Story
This Christmas season, I invite you to write a couple of Christmas stories. Try this:
1. Write a daily holiday story. Write yourself into a short story of what happens to you or what you do that makes it a special holiday day today. You get to choose the people you interact with, the emotions you experience and what happens as a result. Read it in the morning, and then again at night. Note anything that went differently for you that day outside of the routine you normally experience.
2. Write a big, imaginative story. Make yourself a character or first-hand observer of an imaginative Christmas tale with no boundaries. Let your imagination go and write something totally fantastic. No dark, depressing reality. Just pure imagination. Make it come alive with tantalizing details and twists. Don’t critique it – it’s just for you.
Last year I undertook the big, imaginative story. I love music, bells, angels and reconciliation,
and ended up with a small book that includes them all, called Frederick’s Christmas Concert. It’s based on the real-life experience of a friend who escaped Nazi Germany as a boy, and returned to his hometown years later to find Christmas there very different than what he expected. Writing it was highly cathartic – I imagine I’m Frederick in the story – and it reminds me we can always choose what to do with the circumstances and emotions life deals us.
So, write a story. It may improve more than your holiday perspective. It might become a Christmas tradition that lifts your spirit all year long.
Mark L. Dayton is an author, speaker app publisher and mentor. His latest book Five Keys to Unlocking the Gift in the Wound outlines five keys that unlock our greatest gifts of confidence, accomplishment and joy locked inside our deepest life-wounds. Based on his seven-year journey from near suicide to a life of meaning and fulfillment, the book is available on Amazon and Kindle. Frederick’s Christmas Concert is also available on Amazon and Kindle.