I’ve been beating my head against the wall for a few days trying to finish a blog about the holidays. Let me give you a feel for the tone of it how it was going — here are the first two lines:
Oh, fuck me. The holidays are upon us.
Now listen. I’m not just saying that to be a curmudgeon — remember, for me and my family, this is the First Holiday Season After the Split. I’ve been avoiding thinking about it, to be honest, but now that November’s here it’s starting to become unavoidable. Plans must be made. Survival strategy must be plotted. I was trying really hard to write the blog that would actually convince me to not only survive, but to prosper in a make-the-best-of-it sort of way. I was trying to find the right alchemy of words that would jump off of this computer screen and take off through the single-momma townhouse, sprinkling big, fluffly flakes of happiness all over our everyday objects and charming us into a state of holiday bliss. No, not a state of bliss. A stupor. That’s what I’m looking for. I want to paste a big, dumb grin on my face and stuff myself with hot chocolate and cookies and watch re-run Christmas specials on the couch until January 2. And then one of you blogmuffins can show up at my house, smack me good and hard across the face and pour the magical elixir down my throat that will restore me to my senses.
Man. I can’t even pull off the fantasy.
So I can’t write that blog. The hopeful one. Not that I’m feeling completely hopeless, because I’m not. It’s just that I’m looking at a calendar that’s very soon going to get weighted down with Joyous Holiday Occasion after fucking Joyous Holiday Occasion and I find myself wincing a bit and going, “Oh yeah. That’s gonna hurt.” Not that I’ve ever been in a physical fight (as I told a friend the other day, I come from the Taunt and Run School of Combat), but I imagine it’s like seeing a fist coming toward your face and having that split-second moment of realization that your nose is probably never going to be the same.
I was trying to write a blog that would be flowery and positive and big picture. I like Big Picture. I like to view things from the top of the room, from the top of the trees, from the sky, to see how it all inter-relates. That view is really interesting to me. But I think sometimes I take that view so I can distance myself from the things that are going on in a boots-on-the-ground sense (bloody hell … I didn’t even know that was true until I wrote it … writing SO rocks sometimes). The stuff that really hurts — the things that stick into my body like long, sharp needles that hit the exact nerve endings to make me wince or make buckle for a moment … that’s the stuff I try to dodge.
And so I sit here typing at the kitchen table with my head down and my hair hiding my face so Megan can’t see it while she’s playing in the living room. This fucking moment has been coming for weeks. The moment where I totally fall apart and get completely steamrolled by the suckiness of the situation. But I just have to breathe through it, like a contraction. It will pass. If I just keep typing in a few minutes it will be over. And if it comes again, maybe it won’t be quite so bad next time.
But there are other moments, too. Moments that have been so beautiful and raw and real that they defy category. Megan was Student of the Month for September and we were so proud that we took her to the Please Touch Museum to celebrate. As a family. The four of us. It was fine. It was a little awkward but it was mostly … normal. Then Tom came back to my house and I cooked and we all ate on the deck together and he took out my trash and helped put the kids to bed. And the whole day I kept thinking, “We’re doing it. We’re pulling it off. Look at us.” Like a mantra.
And then last week I was at the house again. The house I used to live in — the one where everyone else still lives sometimes, but not me. And that, my peeps, can be a real ass kicker. To be in my home that is not my home. So I ended up in the kitchen crying and Tom caught me in the act. And I told him that it was hard for me to be there sometimes. And he hugged me and I sobbed. And I thought of all the things that I just don’t know how to say. I’m sorry. I didn’t want things to end up like this. But we both know that it had to end. And we made these beautiful children. And they’re ours. And they always will be. And that is so beautiful that my heart can’t even contain the thought. And we don’t work as husband and wife but sometimes we can still work as a family if we try really, really hard. Let’s always, always try. I’m not married to you anymore but I honor your place in my past and the place you occupy now.
But as I said before on this blog, words can be clunky and heavy to express things as delicate as emotions. So I said nothing because I couldn’t speak anyway.
I got a great piece of advice after my dad died (forgive me if I’ve already rolled this out somewhere on the blog — I can’t remember). Someone, who may or may not have been a therapist, told me that you can’t bypass grief — you can’t go around it, you can’t dodge it — the only way to deal with it is to move through it. Because grief demands that you pay the piper — and if you postpone feeling it in the present moment it’s going to kick your ass later and then you wind up with panic attacks and other fun things like that. So I’m trying to remember that when the bad moments come. And you know what? I don’t even want to call them “bad.” They’re uncomfortable moments. They don’t feel great. I’m not always sure what to do with them. But I can’t escape the fact — don’t want to escape the fact — that this is exactly what should be happening right now. We got out of the marriage before it turned into something warped and twisted and bitter. We’re giving our kids the chance to know happy, fulfilled parents. We’re course-correcting our lives without completely destroying theirs — and we’re knocking it out of the park as far as still finding ways to work as a family unit (please, please, God, let us always find a way to do this).
The first holiday season must be dealt with, gotten through, entered into the books. It doesn’t have to kill me, or any of us. I’m going to do the best I can. I’m going to find those little pockets of joy and I’m going to do my best to notice them when they show up.
And now, I’m going to go make French toast with my kids. I will remember to laugh as I’m fishing eggshell out of the bowl. Then I’ll spend the rest of the day planning B’s birthday party. He’s turning two. There is much to celebrate.
Special shout-out to my readers who are going through this with me. There are a lot of us this year. Let’s link arms and get through it together. In January we’ll raise a glass and toast new beginnings. Love from me.