Christmas Eve at the Nicasio Reservoir. She says, All I want for Christmas is rain.
T’was the night before Christmas, just me and the pets in the house. The only creatures stirring were foxes, bobcats and a house mouse.
I went to bed early. No sadness was lurking. It’s a date, just a day.
Important to Christians, important to children, but if it had to be postponed the world would remain.
The present I received first thing in the morn was said mouse dropped on my pillow, dead.
Right next to my freaking head.
But at that moment I saw with my own wondering eyes real Christmas magic!
I sternly directed High Maintenance Kitty to take the mouse downstairs. He jumped back on the bed. Grabbed the mouse in his mouth and fled. No sled required.
I fell back on my pillow laughing.
Merry Christmas to me. My cat is way smarter than I thought.
And I wasn’t broken in two by not being with The Dudes. Back East my family gathered around my Mom lifting her spirits. From afar I held her hand, feeling my Dad’s presence strongly. I rolled over and looked out my tiny headboard window. The sun was more golden than ever. The trees greener. Not a cloud in the sky. In the early morning hours it already felt warm.
Today was going to be as non-traditional as it gets, I thought. This was my first Christmas alone.
Last year The Dudes and I celebrated together. Being with them that first Christmas after being blindsided by infidelity was the best gift of all. I needed to be with them. I couldn’t be without them. My maternal urges were so primal. I had to have Christmas with my children.
Now I am more grounded; I feel comfortable in my skin and therefore not anxious. Some of it has to do with finalizing the divorce and the reduced exposure I have to my former spouse. But mainly I feel calm because of these three reasons:
– My Ego has retired. (Except for the occasional cameo.)
– I am filled with gratitude for every blessing, every moment and every encounter.
– I am fully present. (And when I slip out of the moment I recognize it right away.)
That’s some monumental growth. It feels good to celebrate it. And it makes me want to tell anyone who will listen, Don’t let the holidays get you down.
Just at this moment I received a text from a kitten who has become a close friend. I adore her. She’s full of light, just beams love and warmth. She is giving and kind and open. She is coming up on her one-year anniversary of discovering her husband’s betrayal. The divorce just days from being final. So much has happened so fast for her.
Many of us know exactly how she feels – gutted.
Sliced open from head to tail and gutted.
And all of it happened smack in the midst of the most wonderful time of the year.
With the divorce rate hovering around 50% and adultery far north of that figure, it’s a Christmas miracle in and of itself that people can still eke out a celebration these days. Nothing can get in the way of experiencing the magic of Christmas for most children, but us grown-ups are presented with a myriad of challenges during the holiday season. Whether its divorce or death or family fractures of another sort, many people need to steel themselves for the holidays.
They don’t celebrate them as much as get through them.
My Dad got sick over the holidays and died just after the New Year began. I discovered my former spouse’s affair just before Thanksgiving and learned the truth about his double life on January 2nd. His paramour’s husband found out on Christmas Eve. Although she doesn’t want to admit it so as to not dampen anyone’s holiday joy, my Mom is in a lot of pain as her body deals with the cancer that is within, diagnosed this year as turkeys were pardoned. Add to that personal snapshot the packages that never made it in time for Christmas and the accidents that plague the highways, the storms across the world, the people who feel so alone this time of year, those who take their lives because they just can’t stand it anymore.
Holiday expectations are hung by the chimney with care. And sometimes they are so heavy they bring the whole house down.
I wonder if such high expectations are the energy behind what seems to be a whole lot of holiday heartache.
The holidays are supposed to be about joy. But when everything is going well they often result in angst and stress as we rush around trying to meet everyone’s expectations, hit every party and get the perfect gift. And when things aren’t going so well, we are emotional, more prone to depression, even more stressed and anxious. Wondering if we expected too much while we overindulge.
The holidays seem to break open wounds, pull apart relationships, capture souls and bring them home. The end of our calendar year leaves us depleted and desperate for a fresh start.
Yet next year most recreate the traditional celebrations they have grown to love. And begin the process of dealing with the holidays just after we take off our Halloween costumes.
My Christmas this year was different from every other one I’ve had – a long, slow walk on Stinson Beach followed by an early dinner, the table set with a bowl of crab and a bowl of salad. The evening capped off with a few hours of quiet conversation.
That is what my Fairy Godparents and I did yesterday.
By example, they schooled me well in the beauty of a most simple life.
Nature was our focus. The birds clustered on the lagoon, the seals lined up on the sand bar. Horses, one ridden and one being walked, made their way along the water’s edge on the beach. The light, in the words of my Fairy Godfather, etched the hills. Even though the trees were way over there, high up on the foothills of Mt. Tamalpais, I could see each branch, each needle even. The sky was a bold blue above the evergreens, fading to pale shell blue as it stretched over the sea.
After dinner we took a drive to the edge of a cliff and watched the sun, a red and gold ball of fire, liquefy into the horizon. The waves grew during the day, cracking upon the sand as all faded to black. We watched the lights in homes dotting the hills flicker on. By the time we reached the Calmmune it was pitch dark and starlit.
At the end of the evening, as I walked to the cottage, I felt like I had just finished a spa day, not Christmas Day.
I spent the rest of the night alone, scratching the head of the dog and listening to the motorboat purring of the cat. The tree had no presents under it, yet. (Although I did open one from my Mom and brother – a GoPro so I can terrify my Mom with images of deep crevasses just before I leap over them while on Mt. Rainier. As she says, No good deed goes unpunished. But thank you for the killer gift!)
The stockings were hung but empty. I didn’t bother plugging in the tree. I spoke to The Dudes for a few minutes in the morning and a few again at night. I longed to see them, but not any more so than on any other day when they are not with me. I spoke with my family back East. I missed them, but no more so than at any other time. I shed tears for my Mom, which I will do frequently as I allow myself to experience her transition from this world to the next. They aren’t tears of sadness. They are tears that signify the importance of our relationship.
I’m not ambivalent about the holidays. I didn’t lose my Christmas spirit. I haven’t shut myself down to just get through them. I’m not hoping the holiday season fills me with joy – that’s my job, and I won’t let it fill me with angst or sadness or make me feel obligated.
These days are just as important, just as priceless, as much of a gift as any other day.
That’s how I feel today, but I remember Christmas past. That first holiday post marriage implosion has all the ingredients for a distasteful meal. It is hard. With it now behind you, for those of you in the midst of Year One, I suggest you begin the process of purging for the New Year. I will help you in any way I can – I mean it, if you’re willing to do the following:
Toss out the rules. The labels. The judgments. The must do, must be, have to. Drop expectations. Forget about pomp and circumstance and appearances. Tell fear you aren’t afraid. Strip off obligations, get naked, figuratively. (Literally, too if it helps.) Don’t look ahead or behind. Grab your attention and hold it right on the very moment you are experiencing.
Basically, I want you to do a factory reset on yourself.
For the next week accept that you have every reason to be happy because you do.
For the next week make gratitude your most overused word, because you have so much to be grateful for.
For the next week do nothing that makes you unhappy, because if you do you are CHOOSING to be unhappy.
For the next week every time you say the word I follow it with something positive like, rock or love or am so grateful, am so fulfilled, am so blessed, am so ready to accept joy, abundance, love, magic, gifts of all shapes and sizes.
For the next week smile. All the time. Even when you would rather do ANYTHING else.
By midnight on New Year’s Eve it won’t matter if there’s no one else to kiss. You’ll want to kiss yourself the most.
Don’t let the holidays get you down. And don’t rely upon them to get you up.