It’s 1 am and I just got home.
I went to….wait for it…a Christmas Eve service at my old Church.
And my own little version of a Christmas miracle happened.
Here’s the thing…I have hated Christmas the last 7 years. Hated, dreaded, neglected, felt put upon by, stumbled and tumbled through with tons of emotion and angst. A far cry from basically every other year of my life. Growing up my parents held a wild Christmas Eve party every year, and I mean every year.I have a picture of Tom at one of them, although I think it may have been the last one they had. I lived away from home from age 19 on (with a quick year back at home in my 20’s to reconfigure my finances) and I looked forward to this party, and Christmas. Then I met and became involved with Tom and things got real. I mean, that man WAS Christmas. He loved it so much, the whole Holiday season. Here’s a little factoid….the year that we got engaged (1988) ON Christmas Eve (yes, cue waterworks), he was working as Santa Claus in a show at Disneyland. Roger Rabbit’s Christmas, or some such nonsense, but he did innumerable shows a day and LOVED it. Complained about it, but LOVED it! As a matter of fact, that Christmas of 1988 he had the Eve off, but actually went into work on Christmas Day. AND, that was the last Christmas day I spent at my parents because from then on we hosted Christmas Day for my family every single year. We also had random Christmas parties with friends, and when we bought our house we had HUGE random Christmas parties. In 1999 we started making our own Christmas CD compilations and giving them as gifts as well as having the party, AND sending cards, which we started when the boy came along. In amongst all of this were Christmas concerts that Tom sang in and working at the Christmas tree lot…we celebrated Christmas well, and at a level I never had experienced before.
Seriously, can I be excused for hating Christmas since he died? For being a grinch? For resenting giving or receiving gifts, for still hosting a damned Christmas get-together for my siblings and the kids? For cringing at christmas lights, for running out of Costco crying at the first Christmas display up, unexpectedly, in August? I mean, I tried, a little, to keep up appearances. The boy was still young, but we were both so broken, and Christmas bore the brunt of our sadness.
This year was no different. I dreaded the approach. I warned anyone and everyone that it was a tough time for me, that I didn’t care, that I just wanted it over. And it was true, it was absolutely true.
However, there were a few cracks in the veneer. Like Monday night when I decided I wanted to buy some Christmas gifts. Of course, it was around 9pm and it wasn’t going to happen but, still, the urge was there. And regret. I felt some regret that I didn’t. I always feel guilt, because I have been given gifts and I don’t reciprocate. I mean I say Don’t buy me anything! quite vehemently but then there’s a gift. My sister is good at this. I think she enjoys my guilt. You know,as sisters do. Whatever, too late, a regret, a crack. It was compounded by an array of Christmas cards I have received and placed lovingly around my apartment. I had the thought that others might like a card from me. It was fleeting, but it was there.That was also on Monday….a big day it seems.
Today I hosted my siblings and there kids for Christmas, in my new apartment just like, but nothing like, old times. It was kinda great. Everyone liked my place, we all laid around and talked and ate and laughed…the kids got presents and there was even a toddler again running around, thanks to my niece’s young son. It was really fun. When they left I started cleaning up and got really sad, crying sad. And I got frustrated, I had the thought “is this it? is it going to be like this forever?” and there was none of the usual acceptance in that thought. For the first time it felt not OK. It was weird.
I had a plan of action for the day which included seeing the Toluca Lake caroling truck, but my family left too late for me to make that and get to a meeting I wanted to go to , so I opted for the meeting. I then came home and decided to go to Church and hear the choir.
There were many people I knew there, lots of hugs before and after the service. the music was lovely. But what happened was a shift in my perception. I looked at the choir that did not contain Tom and it was ok. I enjoyed the music. the sermon was based around one of Tom’s favorite Christmas songs, and that made me smile and feel a little wink. Then the thought passed through my head…what if I chose differently. What if I chose to enjoy, even love Christmas again? because, at this point it is coming clear that this is a choice, and I may not be making the best one. I can be stubborn as hell, I can hold onto a resentment and anger for a long-ass time if I want to. But I am told I do not have that luxury any longer. That if I can’t let go of my need to be right, my stubborn refusal to let things be as they are and hold on to what I want them to be, that the inevitable conclusion will be that I will be drinking again. I believe that…Christmas makes me want to drink. Or my refusal to let go of a resentment of a whole time of year,of everyone around me’s happiness, of my jealously and self-pity, that is what makes me want to drink.
I have the choice to change that. I can look at it differently. Sure I can be sad at what I lost when Tom died, but Christmas didn’t do that, Christmas is just a victim of circumstance, much like I feel I am. Yet I let it get to me every year. I don’t participate in a joyous and loving time out of, seriously, stubbornness, holding on to old ideas that do not serve me anymore. Can a sermon centered on a favorite Carol be an admonishment to stop, just fucking stop it!
I feel a bit like Scrooge..will I wake up tomorrow joyous that I didn’t miss it? I can’t undo the things I haven’t done, but I can change from here on out. I can embrace the season once again, with no guilt for anything, including the overriding guilt that I get to be alive and Tom doesn’t. I can enjoy it for both of us. It’s such a simple thought, yet, for me, profound. The process has taken what it took to get me to this place.
I want to be free of this…these feelings of guilt, self pity, sadness that ruin everything big for me, that stop my life, that stop my going forward into the world. I have done a lot of work and will continue too, but I have to work to be free of the sense that it can’t get better…it already is better.
I want to be free from misery, free to give, free to love, free to enjoy. I enjoy and live fully most days, but have held on to hating the holidays so long that I am just through. Just through. I can’t do much about this year, but next year I can.
I can practice Christmas. I can practice life….that’s what it all is, a practice. A choice.
All of this came clear to me sitting in Church tonite, so clear, Everything was off, nothing as it should be. And yet, everything was absolutely perfect the way it was. Jut as my life is today. Off and yet perfect….practically perfect in every way.
How free do I want to be?