Funny how I can be thinking of what I want to write and no sooner do I sit down and start typing, something else comes out. Sometimes it sucks to come face to face with ourselves, but some times that the only way we can truly grow. Being transparent isn’t easy…especially in the mirror, but it sure is enlightening. Oh, well. Guess this was what I was suppose to write about. So…here goes.
Oh, the holidays…joyous days filled with frolick, family, smiling faces, and cheerful music. Sounds great, right? But oh, how I’ve grown to despise this time of year. Over the years, all holidays have done for me is add weight to an already overflowing mind. I try to look at it as any other day. And I think I’m over it until I start writing about it and the emotions just start flooding back. I know other’s have this holiday heaviness. So…I guess it’s time to be transparent and just write about it. I tell people bits and pieces of this story and then shrug off the implication that it was really ‘that’ bad, but it was…it impacted me for a long time…and it still haunts me on occasion. Holidays – and my childhood – have been instrumental in teaching me that if you don’t expect anything, when you don’t get it, it won’t matter.
Growing up in a large family of 10, you would think this time of year is naturally full of family memories and traditions. But. It’s not. Sad, but true. We do spend Christmas’ together but Thanksgiving, that’s another story. I do good to even speak to a family member during this time. It all started many years ago – I’d say mid 1990’s – I hugged each of my kids as they piled into their dad’s car for an extended weekend stay. Back in the house, I bounced over to the phone to call Mom and check what time I should come out for Thanksgiving dinner. Inspecting my contribution to the festivities in the oven, the phone rang and rang. No answer. That’s odd. I called my sister who, to my shock, informed me that they were in New York visiting my other sister. WHAT?? Why didn’t they tell me? And more importantly, what now??
My mom had vocalized her growing detest for Thanksgiving. Starting on the eve of the holiday, my mother would toil away for hours in the kitchen making the best of the best, only to have everyone come out solely to eat and then move onto their inlaws house. She wanted more time for visiting, a small concession for sweating over the stove. I can’t blame her. Yet, I didn’t have inlaws. I couldn’t imagine our family not breaking bread on a day such as this. Besides, without my family Thanksgiving…where would I go?? Well, that year, the unspeakable happened and the answer was Shoney’s…a popular buffet just down the street. Table for one please.
It was hard watching all those families interacting together. I would’ve given my right arm to fight over the last biscuit or to have my brother give me crap about how much I could pile on my plate. For the life of me, I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that my parents didn’t tell me they were going to be out of town. Could I have really been forgotten?? Surely they didn’t decide to fly out the night before. Knowing my Mom’s innate ability to squeeze a penny, this had to have been planned for quite a while. Nothing hurt more then the reality that I had been forgotten by my own family…not one sibling called me that day…or even that month. Which isn’t out of sorts to begin with. But not even my sister who delivered the blow thought to soften it. I’m sure they were busy with the bustle of their own holiday merriment. And I am sincerely happy and thankful for all my family, however, the little girl inside me was left scared in solitude, screaming in silence.
For a couple years, another lone neighbor of mine and I would cook an elaborate spread for our kids and invite other ‘loners’ to join in our meager festivities. That made me feel awesome, like I was just another toy on Misfit Island; flawed but not alone. I most wanted to be with my kids, if possible, and others who could appreciate life’s simplest blessings. That’s what Thanksgiving is about to me. Always has been, always will be. And a couple years I did accept invitations to dine with other families. It was nice to be a part of someone’s celebration…even if they couldn’t remember my name, yet it was never the same. I actually didn’t expect it to be. I was grateful to be there but honestly didn’t mind being alone. What I craved most was my immediate family. Not turkey, not dressing, just me and my kids.
Being alone can be tough on any day yet the holidays can serve as a proverbial diving board, plunging us head first into an inescapable confrontation of how we really feel inside: that little girl that absorbed all of life’s blows. There, it is easy to drown ourselves with the ‘what ifs’ and ‘poor mes’. Each cheerful melody on the radio, submerging our frail inner child deeper into the suppressed darkness, cutting off our breath and compressing our lungs. It’s hard to breathe there. The ability to mask this saddness become an art. We pretend to be grown up on the outside. Yes. Certain songs, events or whatever can set us back even on regular days, but the holidays…they are almost impossible to conceal with a smile. …but you know what? That’s just the devil coaxing us into a pit of self pity using what he knows will hurt us the most. We have to remind ourselves that we all have that inner child, and we all have a right to be sad. God said overcoming our trials would be worth it, yet He never said it would be easy. Our most pronounced growth comes from taking the time to learn about ourselves, connect with that inner self and relearn how we have come to percieve things as a result of our experiences. This process can be downright painful…it’s hard to look that little girl/boy inside of us eye to eye, but we must. Some times we need to do an overhaul on our perception. Change the lens in which were percieve life. Some times we even have to change our surroundings completely, least it drain us of our ability to enjoy even the simplest things in life. We have to do what we must in order to understand how we got to thinking one way before we can redirect that idealogy and start creating new, more fulfilling memories. We have to hold that child inside of us and let them know it’s okay to feel bad.
I honestly don’t think we were designed to be alone. It is natural to long for a closeness with someone, even our families; but in life, that just isn’t always possible. Things don’t just happen because we want them to, we all know that. And some times it’s darkest before the dawn. We were not made to never be sad. We were not built to always hold it in. It has to come out at some point to avoid errupting as anger and hostility. That child inside needs to be held. They DEMAND it. Once we realize the cause of our pain, we can work on understanding it and letting it go for good. We need to enjoy EVERY moment we are given and use each opportunity to make memories, even the simple ones – whether it’s on a holiday or not. We have a right – no, a duty – to allow ourselves to ability to feel and validate even the most painful emotions. It’s ok to admit that you are hurt. No one has to agree with you or give you permission. No one has to say they are sorry. The key is remembering that we cannot permit ourselves to STAY there. Lay it out to let it go. And I’m not saying you should call your best bud and just start laying out all the boo-hoo’s of your life; we should go to a private place, give our worries, disappointments and fears to God. Let that child inside of us feel what they feel. Give ourselves time to mourn. Tell Him what we are feeling and ask that He help us understand and let go of the saddness. Ask that He just hold us. In time, it will happen. That little child will smile.
So, I guess the bigger lesson life has taught me is that if you fall 10 times, get up 11. Life will continue to try and knock me down, but I refuse to let it knock me out. I will continue to expect things, and when they don’t come true, I will just chalk it up to timing, but I will never give in. I will find the lesson in every trial and make the most of everything opportunity in which a new memory can be created, however trivial it may be. And if that little girl inside need to cry again, I’m just going to hug her, give her permission to cry, and remind her it’s going to be alright. I’ll hold you, and one day, we will both smile again.
“If you live your Life fully, you will die only once. But if you are scared of every step, fear will kill you everyday.”~Paulo Coehlo
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” ~ James 1:12