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The Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day

A recent conversation with one of my office building neighbors changed my perspective on this whole holiday season.

The conversation was the run-of-the-mill ‘How you are doing?’ and so forth. When my friendly office neighbor said the year has given her more than enough strife, both personally and professionally, I expected her to say that she was throwing in the towel until the ball drops on 2021 (which has been my strategy since July). I was surprised when she said she decided to put up more than the usual Christmas decorations and embrace the holiday spirit.

You might think that a few red balls and some tinsel aren’t that earthshattering, but think about it. Her response to a very bad year is apparently to force herself to embrace all the good things that usually embody the season — joy, whimsey and hope. Another way to think about it is she decided to ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ when it comes to happiness.

Her forced cheer in the face of hardship compared to my head in the sand strategy was like a slap in the face. A seemingly casual talk with a friend turned into a harsh spotlight on how I’ve been handling my own very bad year.

I always thought of myself as a glass half full type of person on the whole — more optimistic than pessimistic. I guess 2020 showed me that perspective of myself wasn’t quite accurate.

So, what am I going to do about it?

Well, I guess I will have to put away the Grinchiness that has already affected by holiday spirit and get my head back into the game. This weekend I will put on my ugliest Christmas sweater and plan a month of holiday-themed activities — whether I feel like it or not.

I apologize in advance for anyone who will now be forced to eat my attempts of baking the most outrageously delicious Christmas cookies possible and for my neighbors who will have to look at the tacky display of outdoor decorations I can put together.

I will really have to kick this holiday season into high gear if I’m going to kick my 2020 blues by Dec. 31.

For this to work, along with the outward displays of holiday spirit, I will also have to dip into the Hallmark Channel-worthy mushiness of my emotions and focus on showing my family that I love them and find new ways to help those in need in my community. What better way to take my mind off my own internal struggles than to focus on others?

I can hear the crescendo of music in my mind that usually accompanies the epiphany of understanding of the true meaning of Christmas in those sappy movies we all love. I feel a little like Tim Allen’s character in the movie “Christmas with the Kranks.” After deciding to forego any of the usual Christmas celebrations one year to instead spend the money on a cruise, he and his wife have to quickly put together a Christmas Eve party to welcome the unexpected return of their only child and her fiancé. Allen’s character, Luther Krank, doesn’t really get the need to give his returning daughter the Christmas she’s expecting, until he realizes that you can’t take family for granted and every year you can celebrate together is a special gift.

That is where I’m at right now. I can’t let 2020 take away my opportunity to celebrate with my family because all too soon they may not be around when I’m “ready” for holiday cheer.

My advice to you this holiday season is to embrace the eggnog, tree trimming and sappy movies. Bake cookies, host Facetime caroling dates with your friends and most of all cherish your loved ones.