How It Feels This Year

This is the first year I’ve voluntarily felt like I could do Christmas.

Not the first year ever. The first after that demarcation point. The After Death Year.

There were years I faked it, and it was excruciating, and wrong, and painful.

There were years I literally stuck to the bed, pillow soaked through with tears, knowing a light would come, gasping for the air that would get me to that spot. That was last year. The fifth year.

This year I have half-decorated trees, bins strewn about the house, no gifts wrapped, company set to arrive in under an hour, and I’m the most at peace I’ve been.

I mastered the art of Fuck It long ago.

Next year could be different. I know that.

Depression isn’t predictable. Liar. Thief.

Grief is a cunt of another stripe. Curling through everyday life, popping in for inopportune visits.

But this year. This year I get to Do Some Things.

And I’m furiously happy about that shit.

Forgotten Spaces

There's dust here, my doing. Yes.

In March I'll have been coming here to this place for eight years, I suppose. Dates and numbers are and aren't my thing. They remember themselves before I remember them; remind my body before my brain.

When I started here—this place—it had no shape. That was its beauty and its innocence; my innocence, too.

People still come here looking for answers to questions about Tourette's and discrimination. And that's a story I wouldn't have told here without my husband's insistence that I not silence my voice in fear.

This became an unintentional blog about cancer, loss, and grief. Three times.

It became an unintentional blog about a lot of things—depression, rape, autism, stalking, marriage, dating, love, blended families, politics, photography, travel, homeschooling, cooking.

It became an unintentional source of support for others, but also for me during the most difficult times.

The world held my hand as I buried my husband. And held me up in the months that followed. My children and I know the love and generosity of a family borne from this place in addition to family borne from blood.

As my place here has bent and shifted to my life, it's form pushed and pulled to accommodate my story, its innocence has been replaced—mine, too.

What started as a hidden corner, once mostly my own, has become a marketplace—small, but frequented by regulars and occasional passersby. And I love that it's grown into its own, while at the same time I long for that hidden corner.

I find myself writing more and more in other spaces with varying degrees of public exposure. And I'm writing more pieces that I'm not publishing at all, which feels okay for now.

I've not been one to write for others. The few times I've toyed with it, it felt unnatural. The words and inspiration need to be mine. The story, mine.

Dust may gather here, but the stories and pictures will be mine.

How It Changes

I used to have themed Christmas trees. I had seven in the living room, and the kids each had one and I'm pretty sure a couple small ones were scattered about, too. A snowman tree, Santa tree, angel tree, and trees for just my ornaments, my husband's, the kids' ornaments—it was the only time I really decorated for a holiday. I have ornaments from every Christmas of my life, and it shows. My first Christmas, alone? I have at least five ornaments. And every year I greet them like old friends. Or I used to.

 

 


My Santa and angel from 1969 are something I know will be there in their cotton-candy pink glory each year.

 

But it's hard now. Because in between them are mixed golf ball Santas and Sponge Bobs who belonged to my late husband, and every time I unwrap that piece of paper that used to feel like an early Christmas gift, I now feel a mix of anticipation and fear.

 


Because I want to honor his memory, and I want my children to know their father is still part of our celebration of the holidays (and every day), but I also know that it's a painful reminder of loss with each unwrapped piece of our history.

 

That first year, I couldn't even bring the ornaments out of the attic. Last year, I got them onto the tree, but somebody else had to put them away. This year, it took me three tries and a meltdown in the shed to get the decorations into the house.

But it gets better. I was able to help hang some of his ornaments on the tree. And children are the balm of healing like no other salve of this earth. As I watched them hang too many ornaments from the tips of a single branch, it made me smile. Some day they will know that the branches are stronger toward the trunk, but right now they want nothing more than to make sure the beauty of their ornament is seen RIGHT NOW. RIGHT HERE. UP FRONT. And who can blame them for that kind of passion? Even the tree tries its hardest to support their dreams.