A Sensory Sensitive Christmas

Christmas tree

Both of my children have always struggled with sensory issues. It’s a hard topic to talk about, even with people who care about you. It seems that our culture values the norm and wants everyone to fit into an easily understood category. When you don’t fit into the boxes created by others, however, life can be more stressful than it has to be. We often ignore our own needs to try to please others. We try to fit into the boxes so others are comfortable. But in doing so, we often neglect our own needs.

I often struggled with how to help my children “fit in” with the expectations of others. I tried to teach them how to handle the stresses that come with holidays and social events and expectations and busy schedules. Until recently, I didn’t realize that I was taking the wrong approach. I tried to help them fit into the preconstructed boxes that I thought we all had to fit into. I was raised to conform and please others. I’ve come a long way in unlearning that, however. Now I’m a box builder.

This year for Christmas, my children and I designed our own holiday. So far it has been the best Christmas we have ever had together. What was different? We left all expectations behind and sought out peace and joy. We packed our bags and headed to a quiet cabin with our dogs. We brought along a few Christmas gifts and some craft projects. I brought my writing pads and pens.

We have given ourselves the gift of quiet and the gift of taking care of our own needs. We came to a place where our senses wouldn’t be overwhelmed with noise and rushing and pressure to eat what others asked us to taste and laugh at what others considered funny. We haven’t had to smile and pretend to be happy. We are happy. This fits us. It heals us. It grounds us so we can go back and face our jobs and school schedules.

It’s so quiet here. I can see the sun glistening off of the ripples in the lake. I hear squirrels  playing in the trees near the cabin. This morning I watched deer watch me as I stepped out front to greet the day. I watched them parading through the woods for their own Christmas celebration. We dined on casseroles we created when we got hungry. We ate on our own schedule. The best part of day has been choosing our own activities–choosing what felt right for us. One child has napped and built with Legos. Another is trying to learn to needlepoint and has journaled a bit. I’ve enjoyed just watching them…reading some…writing some…being lazy with my dogs nearby. We strung popcorn and cranberries last night. We watched part of Christmas in Connecticut (an old movie that makes me laugh every time). We have honored our need for quiet and for stillness and for a time to let our senses rest.

This may sound like a horrible to Christmas to some of you. You may love your traditions and busy schedules and large gatherings. But for us, this has been a healing year, and we are ending it with our own path to Christmas peace and joy.

 

The Rising

The Rising

I remember the

falling and

the feeling of

failing—the

flight down

took one word

to begin and

years to finish.

Tethered by shame

and pain, I stayed

down until that

one breath—the sigh

that turned into

a whisper …

a small call to

an identity free

from the chains in

the depths of defeat—

and I listened and

I whispered more truths

before finally speaking

my own hope aloud.

And I felt myself

rise first to my knees;

then in prayerful

belief that life awaited,

I felt the pain

of muscles straining

to stand and felt the

flesh tearing as

the chains fell.

But this pain was

affirming my hopes,

and I rose to my feet

and pulled myself

from the pits of your hell,

and as the air reached

my wings, I knew

I had survived.

I rose. I flew.

I began to thrive. 

                                     –Chris Pepple ©2017

Tell Your Story

Someone asked me once why I liked to write in first person. It’s because the story belongs to the person who lived it. The truth about a life should first be told by the one whose truth it is. Then we may share the story to bring it into the global conversation—to weave it into our communal history. I, as the writer, merely empower the characters to tell their own truths.

From Without a Voice:

first person quote

Redefining Family

The word “family” can stir up wonderful memories for many people. Thoughts of holidays with loved ones, family photos to celebrate one member’s milestones in life, or simple summer afternoons sharing a picnic or a game. That same word, however, brings up a longing in others—a hope to one day reunite with a loved one. A hope that a family member may change and become more loving. A hope to feel loved and connected to others. Some of us often grieve over the word family—grieve for members who have died, grieve for those who face hardships or illnesses, grieve for those who left, grieve for those who hurt us rather than love us.

When “family” is something we lost or must leave, how do move forward? Do we toss out the idea of ever being a part of a family again? Can we redefine what family means to us or redefine who we consider our family?

The characters in Without a Voice faced these questions as they struggled with the emotional challenges of losing family members and leaving family members. Some quotes from the characters give you a glimpse of how they redefined family as they journeyed forward:

“The images of my mother and father seemed like ghosts that I could see but not grasp. I realized that my parents were now just memories. The people before me were my family now. Together we had redefined home with each place we stopped along our way. We never said aloud that we loved each other, but, somehow, we knew the feeling was there.”

“Uncertainty still loomed ahead, but facing the unknown with loved ones seemed more hopeful. Love eases so many fears. Jane reached out and squeezed my hand as if she could read my thoughts. Together would be much better than alone.”

“I smiled at the thought of being a part of this group that had bonded like family. We were strangers thrown together by the sheer coincidence of location on our separate journeys—different needs on the same road.”

If you are part of a book club reading Without a Voice, discuss the theme of family and how the theme evolves throughout the book. If you journal, write down your thoughts of how we redefine family as we face the changes life brings us.

Love Heals

Thistle Farms in Nashville has a quote that they use a lot. “Love heals.” That is such a powerful statement even though it seems so simple. What does that mean? For me, yesterday brought two perfect examples.

First, my best friend in Nashville sent me a beautiful picture for my wall. She became my best friend because we loved each other enough to listen to the life story of the other. We are nothing alike and many times she confesses that my story is so hard for her to understand. She’s happily married-I was married to an abuser who still creates problems in my life. She lives comfortably. I struggle financially because of the past and because of current medical bills for my daughters. The list of our differences goes on. But when I am struggling the most, her “love heals” because she never gives up on me.

Second, when I sent out an announcement about my book, I had someone email back saying she had lost contact with me because she knew of some of the challenges in my life but had no idea what to say. It was awkward for her. But now the conversation is started. She told me what she knew, and I told her what would have helped. Silence hurt. Love heals.

I hope the characters in my novel, Without a Voice, help paint that picture of how love does heal. That includes loving ourselves enough to take the first steps to healing!