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Sunday, December 5, 2010
It's the Most Difficult Time of the Year
What can I say about the...holidays. I live suspended somewhere between the fantasy of what I think they SHOULD look like. And my reality of what they've – with few exceptions – always been.
If something lousy was going to happen to me (and it usually did), it happened around the holidays, ensuring that my Christmas stockings were largely filled with bitterness, resentment and tears.
And somehow anything bad is magnified by the holidays. Because we expect everything to be wonderful, when it's not.... Like, for example, you just found out your husband has been shtoinking his assistant for...well...far too long to insist that it was a "mistake"...it seems sooo much worse.
And yet, this year, after a lifetime of disappointing holidays, still has me thinking it's going to be wonderful.
And the strange thing is, after my D-Day on December 10, 2006 which had me driving around the OW's neighborhood on Christmas morning – sobbing, incoherent, suicidal – the holidays have actually become better than they ever were.
The thing about hitting bottom is that you've got nowhere to go but up.
So after that Black Christmas of 2006 (which was my last Christmas before my mom died, and I spent it barely functional), I let go of any expectations of ever having a greeting card Christmas. Ever. Indeed, I was ready to declare a moratorium on Christmas altogether.
My childhood holidays were notable for the drunken fights between various relatives, including my parents. My young adult holidays were notable for the dismissive way my boyfriend's family treated me. And my married holidays were notable for my husband's distinct lack of enthusiasm and my in-law's distinct rudeness.
So when D-Day came and went, I simply waved the white flag. I gave up. I decided, without telling a soul, that I would go through the motions for my children. But, as far as I was concerned, the holidays were just more days to mark off the calendar.
And that's when my own Christmas miracle occurred.
Christmas 2007 was...nice. I made sure that we marked D-Day by being together (I knew I'd be a mess if we were apart and my imagination was free to create an entire demon fantasy world) and going...Christmas shopping. Something we'd never done together. And since we were both surprised and grateful that we were still together after all the past year had held, it was...nice. Maybe not greeting card material. But nice. Even with my mom gone. Even with my father grieving.
Christmas 2008 was...better. By this time I'd freed myself of any obligations that did not serve myself or my marriage well. If my husband wanted to spend time with his dysfunctional family, that was fine with me. But I had decided that it only led to resentment and bitterness. And I was done with holidays defined by those two nasty elves.
Christmas 2009 was...better still. By this time, we had developed some of our own traditions based on what worked for us as a family. Based on what we felt fed our family's value system and definition of a great holiday.
This year? Well. Remains to be seen. We have a beloved dog battling cancer and a house undergoing SERIOUS renovations. The place, frankly, is a mess. So my love of a beautifully decorated house has had to give way to an acceptance of a sorta-decorated house.
But I can look back to four years ago, when I thought I would never again experience joy. And certainly NEVER peace.
Yet here I am. Joyful. And filled with peace.
D-Day is now woven into the fabric of holiday memories. Most bad. But some, more recently, quite...nice.