Holiday spirit

Nearly every morsel of me wants to title this blog…bah humbug…but that little light of hope I carry around won’t let me do it.  The holidays are upon us and well, they are bringing me down.  At least I think it’s the holidays.  I’ve had so many changes this year. The largest one, taking a new job hasn’t been what I had hoped. My personal life, well, I’m not sure how much personal life I have because I work a bunch and it is catching up with me. My boys just aren’t themselves.  Is it really as simple as we are back in the midst of the holidays again and our broken hearts surface again in a more distinct way?

I really do have a hard time some days sorting out which is which.  Are some of the things that bring me down just normal things or am I taken down more deeply because of my widowed soul.  I know many people struggle with work, children, balancing their lives every day. Is the acute pain I feel because down deep, I know my life would have been very different if cancer hadn’t knocked on my door nine years ago and taken the only man that could put up with me?

It has been a very long several weeks.  Really, it has been a long semester.  The new job I took, shuffled our lives around so much.  That coupled with the fact that it was necessary for me to take on coaching for extra income the last six weeks has exhausted me.  I was already feeling pretty guilty about how much time I am with my boys, but add coaching and I only see them for three or four hours a day, if that.  I feel like that out of touch parent.  They spend more of their days with other people.  The time we are together is not quality time because it’s catch up time.

I’ve been trying over the past several years to let my social life back in too.  I’ve had a bit of success, but I think the more I let it in, it compounds the loneliness. Once a month or so, I have a night out and then the nights home feel quieter, lonelier than before when I was just used to being alone at night. Does that make sense? I think again, changing jobs has a huge impact here too.  Teaching in high school is a much different beast than teaching in an elementary school.  I’m not sure if it’s just this particular place or high schools in general, but the apathy runs deep and I finding myself disappointed in my choice.  I love the kids and the teaching, but miss collaborating with colleagues.  I keep telling myself that it takes time to build new relationships in a new workplace, but now I’m not sure if that’s it.  I miss my former colleagues very much.  I miss a work place that fosters building relationships and models it.

I also had very sweet, dear friend let me down in a way I never thought would happen.  I trusted this friend with a very vulnerable part of me.  A place of respite and safety for me has disappeared.  I am so hurt by this and what appears to be a lack of care for the disappointment that my heart is broken.  It really makes me wonder if it’s worth it to put that trust in someone, anyone really.  So, I don’t know if it’s just a normal disappointment that’s hurting my heart or is it my own abandonment issues that make it impact me more.

All these pieces of my life march into the holidays with me.  I see the spirit around me rising, but I’m feeling more broken this year.  My fragmented heart is feeling its scars. I am thinking about my boys and another year without their dad has passed.  My little one is always so angry.  I’m not sure if it’s a phase or if it’s his grief coming out sideways.  My big one had his heart broken by a girl.  He appears to be handling it ok, but again, that anger comes out.  I wonder if he’ll struggle with the same abandonment issues that I struggle with as he moves into adult life.  I wonder if we will always be waiting for the other shoe to drop when we have happy moments.  We did know happy.  We did know safety, security.  We did know love. The other shoe dropped though.  I really don’t know if I’ll ever be able to buy in completely again.  I want to, I hope I can, but I don’t believe I’ll be able to get there.  Well, because I know nothing really lasts forever.  Nothing.

Yet, despite nothing lasting, the light of hope, the memory of love, and the longing to feel safe again will propel me into the holidays the way it always does.  I will go through the motions and hope they become reality. I’ve come this far, I can’t give up now. I know I will hit moments when it feels like life is miserable. I know this.  I know I will hit moments that scream at me that I’ve made the wrong decision, trusted the wrong person, or let myself and my kids down.  I will pick myself up and try again.  I have survived.  I will continue…holidays or not.

That damn hope.

That wonderful hope.

That undying hope.

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It all adds up

I’ve been in kind of a funk the last week or so.  It’s not a full on wave of grief.  I’m feeling reflective again. I’m not sure if it’s the beautiful weather here or that the spring events are beginning again, a series of events causing me to remember, or perhaps that I’m still doing all this solo. I’m guessing it’s a combination of these things.  I’ve been considering how I will lead a fulfilled life as a single person…a new idea for me.  I’ve been reflecting that I am who I am today, for the most part, because he died. I’ve been struggling with the gratitude I feel because I do feel like I’m the most authentic me that I have ever been…but I wouldn’t be here without the fact that my husband died.

I never considered the fact that I would be single in my forties. When Dave and I married, I imagined as most people do…that we’d have each other for the duration.  Well, we did, but he left a little too early for me.  So, here I sit, well over forty, exploring what I want again.  I have had a taste of being out there again, but I chose a very safe place/person to start with and am not sure if I really risked too much. The thing I’ve noticed as I’ve been walking this single journey is that are plenty of folks out here living lives they enjoy on their own.  Inspired by a friend who really lives his life and enjoys it, I have opened my mind to the fact that single does not have to mean alone or lonely. As I began considering this, I looked around and realized that I was building a life that I am happy with even though I don’t have one of the things that I thought was essential for a happy life…it is really a paradigm shift for me to believe that I can be happy without being someone’s someone.  I have for much of my life measured myself by what others think of me, feel for me, and meeting my responsibilities to those others, not by what I my soul desires.

Most of who I am right now is because Dave died.  It’s a hard thing to measure though, because really, who knows if I would of done the things I have done if he were still living? I’d like to think I would have still had some of the same ambitions and achievements, but I may not have been pushed outside my comfort zone in the way I have been.  I have had to decide on my own who I will be, what is best for my family, and how to survive.  I have had to follow my heart without having my heart’s desires affirmed by another person.  It is very different for me. Every step I take is all me.  I hate it, but am invigorated by it also.  Maybe hate is a strong word…I am coming to appreciate it in new ways more and more as time passes.  I can truly claim  the direction I have gone was through my own ambition and motivation…for better or for worse.

Here’s the really hard thing to reconcile…I have only become this person because he died.  Of course, there is the element of how I responded to losing him, but I want to put that aside for a moment.  I have courage that I never had before his death.  I have a different self-confidence because I have survived losing the man I love so deeply. I am more comfortable in my own skin because he left me here to struggle through on my own, because he knew I could and would do it.  I don’t think he knew how I would do it, but he knew I would.  I knew I had to do it.  So, is it only through the obligation of “must do” that I am who I am? Maybe. It is so weird to be in a place that I am grateful to him for everything he went through so I could be the woman I am today…and yet, I would change it all back in a moment if he could live and be with his children, with all of us again.

I guess it all adds up.  Who I was before him, who I was with him, who I was because he loved me and who I am because and since he died accumulates into the woman I am right now. It’s a combination of experiences that I have loved, hated, and survived nonetheless.  It is the combination of walking through the darkest moments I have ever known and trusting that there would be a light when I submerged.  As I begin to sit in the light again and appreciate the warmth, I wonder who I would have been without the darkness, but just as I can’t know who I would be if he was sitting beside me today, I can’t know who I would be without the darkness.  Coming to appreciate the journey is an odd thing…something I never thought possible.  As the years pass, as I change, as my children grow and become more of who they will become, I really do appreciate this journey more…because it really does add up…and sometimes, just sometimes, the journey will take us to amazing places we never imagined.

Resolve

One of the things I find most difficult about writing is sorting out the thoughts in my head.  Blogging is a different sort of beast. With blogging, it’s a freer flowing median, more forgiving, more spontaneous.  Throughout my days, thoughts are constantly filling my mind with images that want words. Most days my vocabulary is limited in describing the images, the feelings, the expressions that linger.  The thoughts that are fleeting are so quick sometimes that I don’t have enough time to experience them and to put words with them.

The image lingering lately is about being in the dark.  Not being dim, mind you, but experiencing true darkness.  An image of someone experiencing such darkness that they cannot see their own hand only inches in front of their face.  This not seeing, this complete darkness makes this person question the very existence of their hand at all.  There are more images present.  There is a cool, chilly, gentle breeze that sparks the feelings of sensitivity to the skin.  There is coldness beneath the person, like lying on cool concrete.  In this darkness, the person begins question their own existence.  If I am not seen and cannot see, am I still here? If I can’t see my hand, am I still here?  Is the cool air that surrounds me really surrounding me or is it the absence of my presence?

Today, I started thinking about the New Year.  I am reluctant to say good bye to 2012 because of the unexpected gifts it brought to me.  It brought me warmth, meaning, and joy in ways I haven’t felt in years.  I found piece of me left behind so long ago.  I remembered things about me that had vanished with Dave when he died.  I surrendered to some of my own needs and wants.  I surrendered to not being able to see what would happen next.  It took me to places I thought I had to always see before I got there.

When I mixed my experience and the images that have been lingering and really pestering me to write them down, the word resolve surfaced.

In the complete darkness of my grief, I could never see my hand only inches from my face.  I could not see the moment to come. This darkness was so complete that I only wanted to stay frozen within it.  I questioned my own existence…who would I be without him?  The chill of sadness completely surrounded me only to let me know that I was barely there…I could feel the gentleness of life around me, but I couldn’t participate in it.  I could only watch, trapped in the complete darkness.  I built the darkness around me and it became a protection from the light around me.  If I surrendered to the light, the warmth, the joy…well, I wasn’t sure how that would turn out…so, I was happy to lie in the complete darkness.

So, if I can’t even see my hand in the darkness, how do I see tomorrow?  I think this is one of my greatest lessons from my grief…are you ready?  I don’t have to see it!  I don’t have to plan happiness, the future…it will still come to me.  I think the key is just not giving up, having just enough resolve to wait in the darkness…it will all make its way to me whether I’m ready or not.  Did I only lie around and wait? Well, no.  I waited for stirrings, maybe those cool, gentle breezes to move me toward something.  I trusted my intuition, my soul and I kept my heart open and tried to keep it warm even when it felt like it would turn to stone.  Resolve kept me present even when I felt invisible.

I have always been responsible. At first glance, the survival of losing Dave looks much like the fulfillment of the responsibilities I had.  It may have been just that.  I think it was more about resolve though.  I knew he trusted me to find my way again and I resolved to do that…at first for him and for the boys, but eventually for me.  I look around in amazement some moments and am not sure how, why or when I got to where I am today.  As 2013 approaches, I may not be able to see where it will take me or what will be, but I do know that resolve will keep me moving toward the happiness and joy that I will know with even more depth than I know today.  I was able to lie in the complete darkness and I know it makes me more grateful for the experience of the light, the warmth and joy in every unplanned moment I am given.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before…
~
Edgar Allan Poe

Jingle, jingle, jingle

Let the season begin…

I am an Advent person. I am a wait in the darkness for the light person. I love the time of reflection, the darkness, the flicker of hope, the waiting and the resolution.  When I worked in church, I loved the scripture linked to the season and sharing it with the kids and adults I ministered with there.  I loved sharing it with my family.

I have at times in my life even been a holiday person.  I used to bake for Christmas every year.  I love the idea of gifts from my hands made with love and thought.  I love that the gifts taste delicious and when I returned each year with the treats, I was thrilled that I made someone happy with something I created for them. I love spending times with friends and family during the holidays.  I love the down time, the football, getting Christmas and holiday cards, the sparkling lights, and I so, so love a beautiful Christmas tree.

So, I think I’m a holiday person…well…but I’m not so sure sometimes.

I’m not so good at the gift thing.  I have never been.  It stresses me out to no end.  I worry, I plan, I fret some more and then I buy.  I don’t buy many gifts…because I’m not real good at it, but my boys…

My boys. My good boys.  My naughty boys.  I am it for them. I am their Santa.  For the first seven years of parenting, my very thoughtful husband considered my weakness and stress about gifts and did all the shopping.  He’d offer me ideas (to help me feel a part of it all), I’d concur, and he’d take care of it.  He just took care of it.  There wasn’t any stress about it, he enjoyed it.  He took care of the kids, he took care of me, of us and even hung the Christmas lights to boot!  Everyone was happy on Christmas morning and I was relaxed and thrilled with his choices and so grateful to him.

Well, he’s been gone for a bit now.  I’ve had several years to adjust and become the shopper of note.  In the early years, it was not too, too hard because the boys were little and their wish list was long.  They wanted toys…Legos, cars, helicopters, and all the regular little boy stuff.  I always still felt the vacancy each Christmas morning when we got up and opened gifts though…they weren’t the thoughtfully chosen gifts that Dave would have found.  They were just items off a list.  They would never make up for the one gift they wanted so dearly that I could never give them…having their daddy back…having their daddy here to set up the electric cars up with them every year or play with the new stuff with or…or…or

So, now my shopping challenge carries the added weight that daddy will never be here on Christmas again…hard to buy anything that will make up for it…

So, every year I agonize.  My guilt makes me want to break my very low funded bank.  My conscience wants my boys to be advent people, I want them to see beyond the darkness into the light, but I know that is not something I can force or wrap in a pretty box.  My heart wants them to be happy.  Every year we try new things.  Every year, we try to remember what helped the year before to make us feel better.  Every year, being the Advent person that I am, I wait for the gift of the light to warm my heart and bring joy back into my home.

The jingle bells have started ringing in the holiday season again.  There is much to do.  There are the regular everyday obligations and then the jingle bells bring the obligations of a holiday sort.  Although I know much of these obligations and expectations are in my head, I still feel, well, I still feel obligated to them.  It is hard to go to holiday parties alone. It is hard to Christmas shop alone, it is hard to send out Christmas cards.  It is really hard to face the holidays alone. I’ve done it by myself now for what seems like a lifetime.  It is still hard.

When I think about how lonely the holidays feel, it makes me glad that I am an Advent person.  I can sit in the dark and wait for the light.  I know that no matter how many Advents/Christmases come and go that there will be light someday.  If I wait patiently and trust, someday, the light will fill my heart with its joy again.  I know that if I am patient with myself and my boys, someday we will have a home that it filled with happiness on Christmas morning.  I know that for every time I remember and give thanks for the years of joy that I had back then, I light a spark of hope for the years of joy that will come.  I believe, no, I know that at the end of darkness there is a light.  I know that it will come back into our lives and fill us up again.

the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death a light has dawned. Matthew 4:16