When I was a child, I hated the days after Christmas. I’d gotten all my gifts and had nothing to look forward to. Likely, it was a problem with ingratitude. I often thought I should have gotten something better or had missed out on something.

As an adult, I’ve had the same feelings of unfulfillment after Christmas and have learned to keep busy to fight feelings of depression. The buildup to Christmas is such a busy time with shopping for gifts, planning menus, cleaning house, and preparing for the big day that I can barely think about myself. People are counting on me, and I need to be strong. I need to be organized. I need to make everyone else comfortable.

But those first quiet days after Christmas, I find it hard to keep up all that positivity. I think I’ve grown out of the child’s ingratitude with my Christmas gifts, and it’s more about not taking time to listen to my own heart and give myself some attention. It’s exhaustion catching up to me, after all that energy poured into others.

Christmas reminds me of my youth, of people I’ve loved, of sweet memories and also some bittersweet ones, as I think about losses. So many Christmases have come and gone, as time has flown into the present day. So many Christmases filled with giving and receiving, family and loved ones, and remembering those present and those past.

But then, as I lovingly pack away my Christmas ornaments until next year and begin looking forward to the New Year, I get excited. I write lists. I plan my year. I clean out cupboards, cubbyholes, and my computer’s desktop. I purge my possessions, and it tends to cleanse my mind and prepare me for what’s ahead. I look at loss with eyes of gratitude for having lived and loved. I thank God for all the change that the coming year will bring. My after-Christmas blues turn into New Year’s anticipation.