• pamradtkerussell

Christmas Cards and the Art of Curating the Lie of a Perfect Life


Don’t expect a card from me this year… or maybe ever again.

I never routinely sent out cards. But when I did, I went all out.

One year it was handmade cards. Another it was a drawing of our brand new house. Sometimes pictures of our vacations. The last cards I sent out — probably about five years ago — featured beautiful pictures of my daughters.


Not only was I possibly making someone feel a little bad about their own life, but I felt shitty sending it. I knew it was a lie.

Christmas cards are like an entire year’s worth of social media rolled into one or two paragraphs and featuring the absolute best photos.


Under the unwritten social Christmas card norms, this is what my curated life over the last year would sound like:


“The girls and I had a great year of togetherness. They are so excited to be back in in-person school and seeing all of their friends! We took a fantastic road trip up the East coast this summer and visited colleges along the way. I can’t believe my eldest is about to go to college! We’re so proud of her. I now have two homes and am enjoying some alone time every other week. I am swimming and biking regularly. We lost our beloved dog, Celia this year. I’m meeting new people all of the time. I feel blessed and fortunate and am happier than I’ve ever been."


Not quite lies, but definitely not the truth.


This is a more realistic summary of my life this last year:

“The girls and I had a great year of togetherness. (Well, at least I did, mostly. They spent a lot of time in their rooms.) They are so excited to be back in in-person school and seeing all of their friends! (Thank god they haven't had to quarantine because of exposure, I think I might have lost it if they had.) We took a fantastic road trip up the east coast this summer and visited colleges along the way. (It was in the middle of the East coast heat wave and we were so exhausted by the time we reached Boston, we couldn’t enjoy it. We drove 1,000 miles on the last leg home because we were so eager to get back. I got a rash.) I can’t believe my eldest is about to go to college! (My heart is breaking. Why is it that by the time we see what fabulous people they are going to become, they leave home? ) I’m so proud of her. (I am really really proud of her) I now have two homes and am enjoying some alone time every other week. (The ex and I “nest” so we rotate in and out of the house to an apartment instead of the girls moving every week. As soon as I get settled, I have to pack and clean and move out.) I am swimming and biking regularly. (When my knee doesn’t give out or my feet aren’t killing me or I am simply too lazy.) We lost our beloved dog, Celia this year. (We are all heartbroken.) I’m meeting new people all of the time. (Dating at 53 doesn’t suck as much as it could, but it does suck more than little. Sometimes I feel as if I am back in high school. I have, however, mastered the art of the selfie and have some great new friends.) I feel blessed and fortunate and am happier than I’ve ever been. (#truth)


This is life. Sometimes things are as close to perfect as humanly possible. Sometimes they suck. I realized at some point in the last year that the sucky times make the Hallmark moments even sweeter. I have to accept the bad to fully appreciate the good. Without sorrow, I can’t fully appreciate joy.

The Christmas card version of life isn’t life at all. It’s a trap that can make us all feel bad. It's time we start accepting all parts of our lives as beautiful.