“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future.” —Charles Dickens
It will come as no surprise to anyone reading this that one of my coping mechanisms is staying project-busy. It’s in my personality and so far, I’m thankful for it. Some cope by pulling inward for fear of getting lost in the wider world. Some throw themselves at the greater world so they don’t get lost in their heads. I go back and forth, but l am most comfortable living out loud. Staying busy works for me.
But the crash does come from time to time, an occupational hazard. It’s been a busy month, full of photo-shoots and art-making, Christmas parties and preparations, seeing friends, teaching class, fundraising, parenting, caregiving, and prioritizing payments. The busy-ness of the holidays is notoriously intense for grown-ups, but I haven’t wanted to give in. I don’t want to be one of those people that is annoyed and overwhelmed by the season. “Because it’s my FAVORITE!” I kick and I scream.
We had such a wonderful weekend. I have only really just come up for air from all that. At the end of it, I found myself suddenly very tired with nothing else on the immediate table, nothing new in which to throw my energy. I tried to take naps between school runs and Vernon-visits, but instead of feeling rested, I just began to feel SAD.
Sad and ANGRY because our lawyer’s recent news finally had some space to be processed. Feeling the imbalance in the world that that injustice shines its light on. What felt like an accident for 18 months feels like a personal insult now. Someone took our dad and husband away and we are being punished for it.
These aren’t nice thoughts to have anyway, but with Christmas decorations and post office stamps reminding us that we are supposed to be merry this time of year, they are especially surreal. I know many people have a hard time over the holidays because they are reminded that someone they once held dear is no longer with them. It’s also hard to be merry and bright when the news is full of hate and fear. It’s been a long year, and just to make it a feel a little longer, all the LA schools were shut down yesterday due to a bomb threat. It’s depressing that we have to accept it is normal for shootings to happen in public and our schools. I don’t like these new normals. I don’t want them! It’s climate change for the soul. We want what we had, but the damage is done, and all we can do is look forward and try to keep our balance in the now.
I miss the Vernon we used to have. I love him still, but its not the same. He’s not here with us, and when we are with him, we never know which side of him will emerge, what state he will be in that day. After a year in Mesa Verde and such slow recovery, I feel I can get an idea of who the future Vernon is. And he’s not that different from who he is now.
Jennifer, the new social worker, called me yesterday morning while I was running errands. You’ll remember she is the one who called out of the blue a few weeks ago to tell me it was time to move Vernon elsewhere. I reacted very strongly and when I heard her voice on the phone again, and told her I was nervous about working with her as there had been such a miscommunication before. To her credit, she apologized and gently talked me through what she was calling about this time. Once I calmed down, I told her what I wanted: “First priority: a kidney transplant for Vernon—if possible it will be Joe’s. And I want them both to move closer to me, but they need to come as a team.” She told me she would try.
It boggled me that this person whom I already was suspicious of might be the one who helps make our lives easier. Could I let that information in? A backwards glimmer of hope on a day that I was so terribly dark. I guess I could…because after that, the day got better. I took my packages to the post office, finished my Christmas shopping, cleaned the living room, and even baked cookies. Later, I got a call that Belle had brought a guitar into to the dialysis center where she sat with him—the first time ever that there has been a guitar in that place. I was surprised that they allowed it…but not surprised that they loved it.
I’m still trying to fold all these broken and confused bits into some sort of wreath that holds together this season. Hardship and loss doesn’t recognize the calendar…it happens all year. We just feel the unfairness of it a little stronger in December, maybe partly because its the end of the cycle.
But Joy comes wrapped in swaddling cloth, hidden in dark places. Hope emerges in the night sky, but we have to look up, even if we are feeling run down or hopeless.
Isn’t that the how the story goes? Isn’t that the point that goes far deeper than holiday lights and eggnog parties.
Justine recently announced: “I know what God wants for Christmas. He wants everyone to have a good time with their families. He wants everyone to be happy.”
So as my present to God, I am going to turn my focus back to what I do have. I want to give instead of take. I am going to have a good time with my family, whatever that looks like this year.