Once again a Christmas Eve had come and gone. Now, as everyone else was tucked away in bed, exhausted from the festivities and rich holiday food, it was time for me to “play Santa”. In the reflection of the twinkling Christmas tree lights, I filled each person’s stocking with their favorite treats.

Since the children were now of an age when they appreciated sleep more than knowing the secrets of Santa, I would be the first one up on Christmas morning. Sitting in my favorite chair by the lit tree, sipping hot coffee, I was wrapped in the quiet hush of early morning.  I couldn’t help but reminisce about  memories of Christmases past when the anticipation of Santa’s magic brought a merry chaos to my Christmas morning.

One by one, the four children and their father wandered into the living room, sleepy-eyed and pajama clad, wishing me a merry Christmas.  And with that, I turned to them and exclaimed with my traditional Christmas enthusiasm, ” Oh look! It appears that Santa Claus was here”!  Each of them hurried to the mantel and took down their own special stocking: the toy soldier, teddy bear, snowman and Santa. My husband unhooked his red, ribbon trimmed stocking hanging next to my lace trimmed one. The stockings were emptied onto the floor with exclamations of delight and appreciation.

In the last few years when the children were all still living at home, eventually one of them would glance up at the stocking still hanging on the mantel. Turning to me they would ask ask, ” What was in your stocking Mom?”  Smiling,  I would shrug and repeat the same answer I had been giving for as long as it had been asked, “Oh, you know my gift is seeing the joy on all of your faces. I don’t need anything else in my stocking.”  The answer was met with a look of confusion and disbelief. I assured them that I was fine and so very happy to share in their joy.

The next year on Christmas Eve morning, a friend brought a small brown paper bag to the house, gave it to my eldest son and whispered something to my husband.  I didn’t think much of it at the time, as I was putting together the last minute packages to take to my parents’ home for our traditional Christmas Eve celebration.

Later that night, with my family tucked in bed, I set about once again filling the stockings hanging on the mantel before drifting off to sleep.

The next morning, as stockings were being opened, my husband stood up and walked over behind my chair.  Grabbing something on the floor, he turned to me and sheepishly shared that he had forgotten to empty the contents of the bag into my Christmas stocking last night.  I said I didn’t understand what he was referring to.  He told me that our friend knew that my stocking had remained empty each Christmas, and hoped to remedy that situation. The bag she had delivered to our home had come with instructions for him to empty the contents of the bag into my stocking for Christmas morning. My response was to once again reassure him, and the children that I was just fine with the empty stocking.

For several weeks the image of the empty stocking lingered in my mind. The truth of the matter was, it did cause me to wonder why it was that no one thought to put something in my stocking.  I intellectually knew it had nothing to do with a lack of love for me, or their gratitude for the many special gifts and traditions that came with our holiday celebrations. So what was it I wondered.

That question triggered the beginning of a long and often challenging journey to self.  I looked back only to see years of  [willingly] taking on the role of helper and giver. I was the one who could make all the dreams come true. I was the one who could soothe the troubled heart. I was the one who could right the wrongs that hurt those I loved. I was the one who made a point of knowing the special foods and gifts that brought the most joy to others in my life. Often to the point of frustration, it was me always asking others if they were alright.

The longer I reflected upon my past experiences, it became more and more clear to me that I had never given anyone else the opportunity to “fill my stocking”. Not only did I fill theirs, but I made certain they would never know I even needed mine to be filled!  I had in fact, deprived anyone else of experiencing the joy that comes from meeting the needs of someone for whom they cared about.

It was also becoming evident that I didn’t even know what I needed or how to ask for it if I did.  I sadly came to the conclusion that if I didn’t want to continue on this journey of martyrdom and self-denial, I had better start understanding myself and my needs.

Thus began a new journey to self and the commitment to filling my own stocking. I was going to do everything possible to gain greater  self-awareness, and the motivation to practice the joy of receiving as well as giving.

Our life journey provides unexpected opportunities and gifts if we are open to them.

The gift of gaining authentic self-awareness  was soon shared with me through an introduction to the wisdom of the Enneagram.  To say it was life-changing is an understatement!!

I hope you will follow my blog as I take you on a journey to greater self-awareness and the joy and satisfaction that comes from living authentically.

Till next time, enjoy your journey.