There’s a soft snow falling outside my window this morning. It’s Sunday and, in a couple hours, I’ll be heading to church to celebrate the true reason for the season.

Like many, I often struggle with my focus in that regard. There’s much to do to prepare for festivities with family and friends. Presents to buy, decorations to arrange, food to prepare. Work doesn’t always slow down to accommodate. Add to that the fact that daylight is at its scarcest and feelings of heartache and loneliness or loss are amplified in the face of anticipated togetherness and merriment.

Several years ago, I was given a rather unexpected gift in that regard. I was diagnosed with breast cancer. No, the cancer itself wasn’t a gift (nor were the months of treatment and the medical bills which accompanied it.) But the illness forced me to slow down and ease up on myself. I couldn’t run myself ragged because I needed my strength. It may have been purely my imagination, but the world seemed to let up a bit in terms of expectations — I was forgiven if I wasn’t putting together a “perfect” Christmas. Looking back, I realize the severity of the situation gave me the gift of lessening my own expectations.

Either way, though, it enabled me to experience one of the most relaxing — and enjoyable — Christmas seasons in recent memory. It helped me to focus on the important things. And so, I thought I’d share again:

“Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Let your heart be light. From now on your troubles will be out of sight.”

Every morning when I go in for my radiation treatment, they have music playing. It’s been an eclectic mix – from Sinatra to Dave Matthews to Christmas music. Yesterday, as I settled in for my daily zapping, I was greeted with the above refrain.  And I found it unexpectedly reassuring.

In years past, when I heard it — if I gave it much thought at all — it made me feel sad and wistful. It felt like an empty promise. Or, at least, an unfulfilled one.

Not this year.  Oh, it’s had its share of troubles — more than its share, some would say. And I’m not naive enough to think there will never be more. But they don’t overwhelm me and weigh my heart down the way they once did.

And for the first time in a very long time, I am indeed having myself a merry little Christmas.  I hope you are, as well.