Friday, December 5, 2014

A Newly Seperated Girl's Guide to the Holidays

I went to the mailbox yesterday and received my first holiday card. 

I used to adore this time of year - both sending and receiving cards - picking out that perfect picture (always taken as a family at Thanksgiving) and running to the mailbox every afternoon to see it chock full of those non-bill-shaped envelopes bearing updates from friends and family.

When I saw that first green and gold envelope with a little heart sticker on it, my stomach plummeted.

This year there will be no holiday card from our family, because our family is separated.

I suppose I could send a card with just the kids on it. But what would the message say?  Joy?  Merry Merry?  Happy New Year?

I don't feel any of those things this year. 

Over the holidays, even more than usual, there are reminders of what-isn't-anymore all over the place, like little bomb-lets that explode in my face when I least expect it.

Holiday commercials of intact families celebrating over a Thanksgiving meal. Magazine ads of Moms and Dads kissing under mistletoe, or grinning conspiratorially to each other as they stuff holiday stockings or wrap gifts. 

The holiday cards with smiling Mom-Dad-Kids, their arms slung around each other, wearing goofy Santa hats or matching outfits.  All together, just like they were last year, only one year older.

The holiday season makes me glare at the wedding rings of the Moms in front of me in the grocery line, their chubby babies' drooling grins taunting me.  I used to be them, I think.  My stomach twists with regret and jealousy.  Why didn't I pay more attention when all that was mine.  

The changes are coming at me fast.  Our beloved dog, Casper, died last week.  She was thirteen years old, lived a long, full life, and it was time for her to go.  My husband and I got her when our marriage was only two years old.  As I mourn her loss, I find myself thinking: my marriage began and ended with her life.

I don't want to put up the tree.  I don't want to decorate.  I don't want to celebrate.  Every step of the way I'm haunted by traditions past:  he cuts the trunk, I hang the ornaments, a crackling fire blazing in the background. 

I want to curl up in a ball and unfurl on January 2nd.

Friends mock-complain about all they have to do: the in-laws coming to stay, prepping meals, planning trips to see family, grumbling about what to buy their husband or what their husband will get for them.  All of it sets my teeth on edge, but I just stand there and smile, feeling like I have a blaring neon sign on my forehead that says:  separated.

I gazed at the smiling faces peering out at me from that first holiday card.  Then I closed my eyes, and I prayed. 

May they have a happy holiday season. May I find joy in the blessings I have, instead of all I do not have.

It helped.  A little.

Here's the thing, though: none of these emotions have any bearing on our separation specifically, on the circumstances behind it, or the reasons why.  I don't regret the separation itself, I realize, although it's confusing and hard and sometimes I just want to get in my way-back machine and start all over.

What I'm grieving is the loss of The Dream, the one that is shoved in our faces over-and-over-and-over during the holidays.  If you were an alien from another planet and landed on earth on December 14th, or thereabouts, you would think we were the happiest-smilingest people in the Universe.

At least that's how it feels to me, newly separated for my first holiday season.

Our society commercializes happiness, and it's never more glaring than in November and December.  I'd like to see a magazine ad, or a commercial, of a single mom and her kids sitting down to Thanksgiving, or buying a Christmas tree. 

They'd be smiling, I know they would, because my kids and I smile together. A lot.  I am not unhappy when I'm able to live my life as it is, and not how I feel it should be.  Most of the time I am content, and I'm able to grow and learn from the hard lessons life is teaching me right now.

But, dammit. It's almost impossible not to lose myself in comparisons when family-and-togetherness is everywhere.  Logically, I know that we're still a family, just in a different form. I know my kids are over-the-top excited for Christmas, and that they had a great Thanksgiving with their Dad.  I had a great Thanksgiving, too, with some amazing sober friends. 

I would be okay, most of the time, if that damn cookie-cutter family wasn't grinning out at me from my television, Facebook stream and mailbox. 

That's not how the world works, and I know this.  This is hard core life-on-life's terms. When I'm in a good head space, I can find peace in chaos.  When I'm not, I find chaos in peace.  I fall into the 'shoulds' - how my life should be instead of how it is. 

Don't Should On Yourself, my friend would say.

I'm trying. I will get through this. I will say a prayer of compassion over every card I receive this year. I will pray for peace of mind, for acceptance of what is, and gratitude for all I have. 

But sometimes?  Sometimes I just have to get my truth out there, that this is hard. 

It just is.


13 comments:

  1. Thank you for saying what - as the holidays approach - I've been feeling for the last couple of months. The circumstances are different, but the feelings are the same.

    A product of a birth family where Mom was the abuser and Dad was the loving yet impotent bystander (he was scared of her too) I've always kind of had a wince (okay, more than a wince) of pain when I see and hear the talk about visits and extended family and leaving the kids with grandma, and even those stupid posters on Facebook that gush about how wonderful mothers are. (oh don't make me.) But over the years, my husband and I and our two girls developed holiday traditions that became important to us, private jokes that spanned the years. And then our youngest died at 21, in October 2013.

    So last Christmas it was survival, try to keep Dec. 25th from turning into a sob-fest as we kept realizing how our full-of-joy princess made the holidays special for everyone. And now this Christmas it's "do I really want to do this all over again?" and "I'm so sick of the holidays - and tear-jerker holiday music - I could puke."

    But I get Christmas cards to send to folks, and we try to make the season special for each other, and we reach out to this one or that one in our community, and we note in passing all the things we've suddenly become allergic to (for example - BS from those controlling drama queens in our lives). And we are grateful for the legacy our baby left us - live NOW, live FULL, live REAL. Every contribution makes a difference. Every person is important.

    And most of the time, we do live full and real lives "in the moment." It's just those damn reminders that ... things are different now. They just are. And they'll never be the same again.

    I keep remembering what Stitch said in "Lilo and Stitch" - he said, "This is my family. It is little, and broken, but ... good. Yes. Still good."

    So ... from our broken family to yours, have a good Christmas ... and cherish the time you have together. It's precious.

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  2. Scrolling through Facebook is enough to make anyone feel inadequate. It's rare that anyone posts about the hard stuff, the "real" stuff. I'm sorry about your dog. I've been through that too, it sucks. I wish you peace and strength during this holiday season.

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  3. Don't believe those fantasy Christmas cards! If you saw mine this year, you would think we were the most gorgeous, happy family ever. Meanwhile, this year my daughter had three car accidents and totaled one car (and I'm worried to death about her continuing to drive), we caught my 14-year-old son smoking pot and he was flunking math, so had to "lane down" which is a real scandal in our school district of Stepford children. And I can't remember the last time I had sex with my husband. Nothing that's the end of the world, but you never know what's going on behind all those perfect photos.

    Thanks for sharing these very raw feelings and I hope you find peace and joy where you can. I think that you have a rare talent for extracting the best in every situation. Also, very, very sorry for the passing of your dog.

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  4. For years I just wanted the holidays to disappear. Our son was lost in addiction and it was almost impossible to smile and pretend that I was happy. Not that anyone expected me to smile - actually it was just hard to exist, I wanted to just curl up under the covers too and wait for it all to be over. Our son is recovering now and we're trying to rebuild what we once had. It's not easy Ellie. Your kids are young - maybe make new traditions? You'll find your way - your one of the strongest women I know.

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  5. The year my marriage ended, I used my holiday newsletter as a means to tell folks that I hadn't yet told. I just took a photo of me (I have no children) and while I can't remember exactly what I said, it was something along the lines of "here's what happened; sorry I couldn't tell you in person, but life's been busy. I'm fine; life is changing; and I'm changing with it." And it actually felt good to check off my list all the people I'd been dreading calling to tell, because I knew the phone calls would be difficult, etc. Was it a chicken way out ? Maybe, but it was one less stressful situation on me.
    Hang in there, Ellie, and thank you for your truthfulness. Thank you for NOT pretending it's all okay.
    Trudy's Mom

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  6. I have had my share of shitty christmases. My ex husband walked out two weeks before, completely unexpectedly. I got diagnosed two years later on the same date with cancer. All I can tell you is yes, there is sense that everyone else is happy and you had it, but then I decided to create our own new traditions. Our charlie brown thanksgiving the weekend before thanksgiving for friends and others...Our christmas gingerbread/craft party the weekend before christmas. These have become our new traditions, and how we got our footing and timing and tempo and cadence back to life. Several years later it occurred to me that we were in fact happier than most families, perhaps because we found ways for joy to find us despite it all. I won't lie and say at times I still don't feel that sharp pinch, even 12 years later, but it fades. Good times prevail, you don't feel like this fractured little wagon train making your way anymore; you don't feel limbless anymore. Create something new for you and your kids this year, a new tradition that includes friends. It feels really good when you realize joy is there, you just have to make it happen, and it doesnt come wrapped like you thought it would.

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  7. Husbands are overrated! I wish I could be on my own. Being married is the biggest struggle for my sobriety. I am always trying to make HIM happy and am I so tired of it. Also so tired of being together for the kids. My decision to be a stay at home mom took away my earning potential and identity outside of being a housewife. I would leave but how would I pay for insurance, rent, etc??. It is so hard to get a good job being out of the workforce for 20 years. If you can manage on your own you are sooo lucky! Enjoy your freedom! When I listened to the Bubble Hour about sex I so didn't relate. I hate sober sex with my husand. I am stuck. Again, do not compare yourself to the ads, they also are always drinking wine. It is all BS.... Just breathe and be grateful for what you do have.

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  8. I am trying to get and stay sober. one of the best things I did? Got rid of Facebook

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  10. It gets better, sometimes it hard, some days suck but you get use to it and slowly you somehow find ways to enjoy the new life you carve out with the kids and yourself. Hugs and more hugs xx .

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  11. It is hard to complain about broken relationship when firstly you went in just for the money.I wish i stayed like that i wish i never fell for him in the process because now all i can do cry.I got married to my husband six years ago because he had a lot of money and my family needed that desperately and i was my parent only child or only hope to get a decent life outside Colombia.So when i got the chance, i took it without looking back and it was selfish on my part i now that i have always known that but he was crazy in love with me or with everything he did and just the way he looked at him alone, i knew he loved me. I do not know if it was karma coming back at me but i fell in love with my husband and it also turned out that he no longer had need for me.He was always never at home,and when he was around he would not want to touch me . He complained about everything i do good or bad and brought different type of ladies to our house.I forgot to say we had two girls and they will go on and on asking me why daddy has a lot of lady friends. Each time they asked me i was either confused or i just tell them daddy works with a lot ladies. My life that was suppose to be perfect was a living nightmare. I once thought money make everything alright only then did i know you can have it all and still feel miserable believe me he did not cut me off i had all i want but his love and attention. I just needed to know that he knows i still exist ,that he once loved me, that he once followed me all around the market square asking me to go on just one date with him, that i am the mother of the girls he claims to love that was all i needed. I remember he told me the only reason we were still married was because his parent wanted us to stay that way and his parent were already aged. Why would he tell me that? i was sure he was letting me know my days are number with him. This is a man who once loved me i wished then he told me were we went wrong or were i went wrong i was willing and ready to fix it but all he ever does is raise his voice each time i tried to talk to him or make a conversation and when he is not doing that he is making fun of me and everything am saying. I was frustrated and did not know want to do until i saw some testimonies on the internet about people with similar problem and all other kind of problem and how a (spell caster) or (witch doctor) call Metodo Acamu helped them with spells. Me being me, contacted him with the address that was left on the internet and like every (witch doctor) in know in Colombia he asked that i provide the materials needed for the work most of then were only found in India and Somalia i just gave him the money to get them for me because i told him i could not get them he offered to help me with his contact there. It was only after seven days he contacted with news of completed the work and sent me a package am not to disclose through some courier service underground that deliver thing like this. I made use of the package just as i was instructed to do and within a span of two week my husband attitude toward me changed to that i have always know loving and caring and committed to me . He stopped all he was doing to hurt me and our girls indirectly.If i am to advice anyone i would tell them to just go ahead and do what it take to help themselves this is this contact just like that i saw and used metodoacamufortressx at (yahoo) dot com *** use this in the usual email format just like your own email format***..

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  12. Hello every one i have just met with this priest of the reunitingexspell@gmail.com, when i read a testimony of a lady of his great work, and i finally find out that he is really a truthful spell caster and so powerful and he is the most powerful spell caster that i have ever see. i wish i have met him before. and my husband have just come back to me and every thing happened just the way he had said it i am so happy that i have met with him and now i have my husband back to my self and to our kids. if you all that are here have not tried him you just have to do so and get your heart desires fulfilled. stop been doubting i have tested him and i am now a fulfilled woman. REUNITING EX SPELL TEMPLE IS GREAT.THANK YOU FOR THE HAPPINESS YOU BROUGHT ON ME. you can reach him if need be at reunitingexspell@gmail.com Thank you Dr Magbu

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  13. BE CAREFUL HERE NOBODY CAN HELP YOU HERE OR EVEN SUGGEST HOW YOU CAN GET YOUR EX OR LOVE BACK,ANY TESTIMONIES OF MOST SPELL CASTER HERE MUST BE IGNORE.BECAUSE MOST OF THEM ARE SCAM I MEAN REAL SCAM WHICH I WAS A VICTIM AND I GOT RIPPED OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS BECAUSE I WAS SO ANXIOUS TO GET MY WIFE BACK AFTER SHE LEFT ME FOR OVER 2 YEARS WITH MY 7 YEARS OLD SON JERRY,I HAVE APPLIED TO 7 DIFFERENT SPELL CASTER HERE AND ALL TO NO AVAIL THEY ALL ASK FOR SAME THING SEND YOUR NAME YOUR EX NAME ADDRESS AND PICTURE PHONE NUMBER ETC WHICH I DID OVER AND OVER AGAIN AND MOST OF THEM WERE FROM WEST AFRICA UNTIL I SAW A POST ABOUT MAMA ANITA SPELL AND I DECIDED TO GAVE HER MY LAST TRAIL.SHE ASK ME FOUR THINGS MY REAL NAME,MY EX AND MY EX MOTHER NAME AND $380 AND SAID MY EX WILL COME BACK IN 24HOURS, I HAVE PAID OVER $3000 ON SPELL CASTING AND COURIER AND NOTHING HAVE WORK FOR ME AFTER 3 DAYS I WAS THINKING ABOUT HOW MUCH I HAVE LOST SO FAR SO I SAID LET ME GIVE HER A TRY SO I CALLED HER AGAIN AND SEND MY REAL NAME,MY EX AND MY EX MOTHER NAME AND THE $380 BECAUSE I SWEAR IT WAS MY LAST TRY SO I WAS WAITING AS SHE TOLD ME TO WAIT TILL NEXT DAY AND I COULD NOT SLEEP THAT NIGHT BECAUSE I REALLY LOVE MY WIFE AND WANT HER BACK AT 9PMTHAT DAY I SAW MY WIFE ON LINE ON FACE BOOK AND SHE SAID HI AT FIRST I WAS SHOCK BECAUSE SHE NEVER TALK WITH ME FOR THE PAST A YEAR AND 9 MONTH NOW I DID NOT REPLY AGAIN SHE SAID ARE YOU THERE? I QUICKLY REPLY YES AND SHE SAID CAN WE SEE TOMORROW I SAID YES AND SHE WENT OFF-LINE I WAS CONFUSED I TRY TO CHAT HER AGAIN BUT SHE WAS NO MORE ON LINE I COULD NOT SLEEP THAT NIGHT AS I WAS WONDERING WHAT SHE IS GOING TO SAY, BY 7.AM THE NEXT MORNING SHE GAVE ME A MISS CALL I DECIDED NOT TO CALL BACK AS I WAS STILL ON SHOCK AGAIN SHE CALL AND I PICK SHE SAID CAN WE SEE AFTER WORK TODAY I SAID YES SO SHE END THE CALL IMMEDIATELY I GOT OFF WORK SHE CALL ME AND WE MEET AND NOW WE ARE BACK AGAIN I CALL MAMA ANITA THE NEXT DAY THANKING HER FOR WHAT SHE HAS DONE IN FACT I STILL CALL HER AND THANK HER AS MY LIFE WAS NOT COMPLETE WITHOUT MY WIFE PLEASE BE CAREFUL HERE I HAVE BEEN SCAM THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IF YOU WANT A TRUE LOVE SPELL THEN CONTACT MAMA ANITA (mamaanita.lovespellsolution@gmail.com) or mama.anitaspellcraft@hotmail.com

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