When I got sick, I threw so many Christmas parties my neighborhood watch team should have added my address as an “unusual activity site.” I built a 7-foot Christmas wreath for my front porch, which was logistically impossible but incomparably satisfying. There was fake snow sprayed on the hedges, spiked eggnog flowing, Pentatonix Christmas albums blasting, and as much red lipstick as I could muster. I was bringing joy to the whole freaking world.

I have been thinking about that first Christmas vividly this week because I was recording my audiobook version of Everything Happens for a Reason (and other lies I’ve loved)which was, for the record, THE HARDEST PART about publishing so far. I realized two minutes into Recording Day 1 that I had written everything down in a book because it was too hard to say most of my honest thoughts out loud…and now, here I was, saying it out loud. Oh wow, I didn’t think that through in advance.

Here’s the truth: it’s hard to say true things in the darkness. It. Just. Is.

One of my favorite things about Christmas parties was that they helped me say something a little louder than usual: that I was so effing glad to be alive. Hope springs up in the gloom. Not everything is lost. Even if every horrible thing about empire and injustice and cancer cells is true, a little baby is still about to be born who will crack open the world.

My Dad, Mr. Christmas, always likes to remind me that feasting has always been a part of the Christmas season. The harvest had come in, food had to be eaten or preserved, and the cattle had to be made into sausages because the night is dark and full of terrors…or something like that. But winter was coming—thank you, Jon Snow—and Christmas was like lighting a candle before the deep dark settled in.

So for those who like parties and those who prefer that everyone else go to parties so you can have the house yourself, I will say this now and all month long:

Merry Christmas, my dears. Light a candle, one way or the other. This life will ask everything from you, but for now, there’s a little something to celebrate.