Friday, December 21, 2012
On Pajamas and Other Dilemmas
One of the last gifts my mother gave me was a piece of sea glass (or lake glass, in our case) that was set in sterling silver and hung on a chain. I don't know what it was about this that prompted me to behave like a spoiled child. But I told her I didn't like it, that it represented all the garbage that washes up on our beloved beach, and would she please return it. She did. She was disappointed though she'd become a master at disguising it. I, however, knew her well.
My mother died unexpectedly a month later.
What I wouldn't give to have the piece of glass – a gift she was sure I would love – hanging from my neck. Of course, what I really want is my mother back. But I'd settle for the necklace because I can now see the love it represented. I couldn't, however, see it then.
One of our club members, Liz, just posted a comment on this post asking for help getting through this holiday season. I directed her to what I just posted...but her reference to the gift her husband gave her (pajamas, despite an agreement to not give each other gifts) got me thinking about giving and receiving...especially in the wake of betrayal.
We attach so many stories to gifts that we render the act of giving/receiving something of a Shakespearean play. There's love and betrayal, treachery and longing, life and death. All to a pair of pajamas. Or a necklace. Or...in my husband's case once...an office chair (needless to say, THAT one went back too). We look behind the gift for what it all means. And we search our own hearts for what our receiving of the gift signifies. ("If he thinks this means he's forgiven, he's WRONG!").
What if, for this holiday, we detach ourselves from all those stories? What if we simply look at the gift for what it is? As if it was something we found along the road. ("Oh look, a pair of pajamas. And in my size!") Think how much less drama there would be around the Christmas tree or fireplace or coffee table if we gave our poor aching hearts a break from trying to figure out what this all means and should I stay? and what if he does it again? and is he really texting the office right now or HER? and on and on.
Tell yourself you can take up the fight again the next day, or the next week. Tell yourself that it's just for today that you won't feed into the stories that are compounding your suffering. That you won't compare this holiday to last. That you'll try your very very hardest (snap an elastic on your wrist each time you mentally go down this road) to not try and figure out exactly-down-to-the-second what you were doing when he was with HER.
Give yourself the gift of peace-on-hearth (okay, that was a stretch, but you know what I mean). Give yourself the breathing space to take a step back from the maelstrom in your head and heart, and accept the pajamas.
My mom hadn't betrayed me for a long time when she gave me that necklace. But I certainly had viewed her alcoholism when I was a child as a betrayal. And I'm not sure I'd completely forgiven her. Certainly my husband's betrayal, which I discovered only months before my mom gave me the necklace, dredged up a whole lot of buried pain in which I was, once again, terrified that I was going to be abandoned.
And so I rejected her gift. A gift that simply showed that she loved me, however flawed that love had been over the years.
Pajamas you say? In the words of my cherished Cheryl Strayed, just say "thank-you."